Why are old pedal internal components generally considered better?

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by DavideBassista, Mar 7, 2015.

  1. DavideBassista

    DavideBassista Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    121
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2014
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I'm sort of new to the world of pedal, but I've noticed a trend among analog pedals with regard to preference for old stock "chip" versus new ones (this argument applies to other electronic components found in pedals as well). People often advertise their analog pedal as having such and such old discontinued chip in it such as the LM308, or some old discontinued bucket brigade chip etc. My question is why are old chips, seemingly inherently better then modern manufactured chips? Is the electrics industry incapable of creating chips with the same capabilities and characteristics as back in the 80s and 90s?

    How similar is this phenomenon to the whole vacuum tube situation where old tubes are considered much better than new ones?

    Is it because there is no more demand for these type of chips outside of the relatively small guitar component industry that no one invests in making the same quality chips? Are the new chips just as good as the old ones but people value the old ones because of some sort of cork sniffing snobbery? Are there some new environmental regs that prevent companies from making chips in a certain way? Etc...

    Just curious what people's thoughts are.
     
  2. Boomhauer

    Boomhauer Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,007
    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2013
    Location:
    Michigan
    The EPA has put the kibosh on a lot of older, less-eco-friendly manufacturing processes stateside...The rarity factor, for some, makes older things a lot more desireable for the collectability of it all...Plus, the fact that all of the guitar heroes in the past used the older pedals, with older components, leads some to attribute that to the whole concept of older stuff sounding "better."
     
  3. RyanJH

    RyanJH Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    114
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2013
    It really depends on the component itself. Some of it is legitimate, some is utter BS. Some components just aren't Made anymore, as they've been replaced with cheaper or better (normally the former) alternatives. One example would be the MN3005 BBD chip used in the old Boss DM-2, or the MN3007 used in the CE-2. Both fairly sought-after pedals, but the supply of those chips is dwindling...

    Another example is Germanium transistors. You can find them by the bucketloads on eBay and other sites, but because of the nature of germanium, they're very inconsistent, and so you could waste a lot of money finding ones that are within spec for what you're building.

    And then there's probably the biggest BS...the "legendary" JRC4558 op amp...the one from Supposedly all the "good" Tubescreamers. The one that people claim went out of production and was reissued and isn't the same...which is an outright lie. They've been consistently produced since the beginning, in the same place, by the same machines, using the same materials. Silicon doesn't age. You can buy a few JRC4558's for under a dollar on the internet.

    And then there's the odd component where the older ones had Better tolerances than modern versions (I've personally found this with J201's; the NOS Fairchilds are much more consistent than the modern National Semiconductor versions).

    So, don't always buy the "NOS is better" claims. A lot of the time, it's mojo BS.

    -Ryan
     
  4. alainvey

    alainvey Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    590
    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    Location:
    London, UK
    I think it's a combination of all the factors you have cited.

    When people claim that old production chips are better than more recently-manufactured chips of the same kind (most villainously in the case of the JRC4558D), they are talking total bull. A 4558D is just a 4558D, it doesn't get better with age, and you can't have "good" and "bad" examples. The LM308, which you mentioned, is still available - ProCo doesn't use it anymore because it's no longer cost effective.

    There is a difference between guitar/fx components and amp components: valve amps use voltages of a much greater magnitude, to the point where things like caps and resistors start to matter. Valves are also totally different from solid-state ICs in their manufacture, in a way that tone can be affected more dramatically from case to case in the former type. When it comes to amps I really don't know very much, but I can assure you that it's a world away from pedals.

    But yeah, the main reason certain chips are now hard to find is precisely because they are obsolete in the wider context of their intended use, and the guitar industry is not a big enough source of demand to warrant the continued production of ICs that were designed to have an enormous range of implementations. It is definitely possible to reproduce such things, though: several bucket-brigade chips have come into production in the last 10 years - the famous Coolaudio chip, as well as Maxon's mystery BBs, for example.
     
  5. DavideBassista

    DavideBassista Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    121
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2014
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I noticed that the new Boss DM-2W pedal coming out has the Coolaudio 3205 Bucket Brigade chip in it. But I assume people would argue that the original 3205 chip is better than the re-issue.
     
  6. alainvey

    alainvey Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    590
    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    Location:
    London, UK
    People have been hating on the Coolaudio IC for years already :D

    Not sure if it's the same circuit or not though.
     
  7. Armo

    Armo Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    602
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2008
    Location:
    Wales
    "A 4558D is just a 4558D" - not so. The JRC and RC versions are audibly different. Subtle but different. Try to build an MXR Envelope filter with almost anything other than the original RCA chips and you are gonna have problems. Can be done but some of the resistor values will need playing with. Production is moved from one country to another. Quality control etc. All parts are built to tolerances and that might just be the difference. Also there's the question of fraudulent chips. The PT2399 had problems (tic tic tic). Is it that someone was copying them or batches that failed QC and doomed for the skip were nicked and sold on illegally? Who knows. Better or worse - well that's subjective.
     
  8. ICTRock

    ICTRock Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,518
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Location:
    Tampa,FL
    I'm the one buying all the unobtanium and I'm not worried about it. As long as its available I'm going to buy it, use it, and enjoy it. I'll even miss it when its gone. My opinion is the effort is worth it and so are the results.
     
  9. waparker4

    waparker4 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    18,996
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2011
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    The LM308 for example isn't a good quality op amp... It is a bad quality one. But its drawbacks make it sound good for guitar distortion purposes. IMO.
     
  10. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Posts:
    11,259
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2003
    Location:
    Near BWI Int'l
    I won't necessarily dispute you on that, but I think the big discussion WRT the 4558 tends to be WRT the TS.

    ...So even there - you have subtle but different, but you have a circuit design that aggressively hacks out both the treble and bass. Then you have clipping diodes that IMO will assert more of their qualities than anything at the op amp itself.

    And this really begs the question of if it's subtle, why is that really relevant? Won't those subtleties be lost in most real-world playing situations? Is the difference always clearly better for component A and never for component B?

    Believe me - there are indeed instances of obsoleted components that really make it a PITA to replicate the sound w/something else. I just think that very generally speaking - there are typically lots of workarounds with op amps. Or if nothing else, there's no consensus over what's better - it's something that's been realized with the building of clones with super-conservative changes - maybe just an op amp and clipping diode substitution, for example.

    I also won't deny that when it comes to things like analog delays and such that the qualities of some obsoleted stuff will truly be preferable.
     
  11. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Posts:
    11,259
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2003
    Location:
    Near BWI Int'l
    I tend to see really two divergent perceptions with "better pedal componentry" - there's no denying the emphasis of older components, but then there's the other end of the spectrum - what oftentimes (IMO) amounts to nonsense with overkill new components that were designed for hi-fi applications, or even non-audio applications.

    I think it becomes kind of silly when you start to see a marriage of the two - "NOS" components from yesteryear, along with metal film resistors, or some other weird combo.

    Germanium transistors were mentioned, but germanium diodes have not yet been brought up. I think it's also kind of amusing that there might be some who are stuck on some germ diodes without really investigating what they really think is appealing about them. I don't want to go overboard and dismiss claims of a diode's "kneee" or its switching speed, but IMO the over-arching characteristic that is make or break for pedals is the diode's forward voltage. IMO, you can basically match that for the vast majority of pedal circuits with current production stuff.

    IMO, unless it's some kind of aesthetic/ethos/"branding" thing, I think it is utterly pointless to use carbon composition resistors in pedals. For that matter, it's actually been kind of analyzed by the tube amp fiends that even in those applications that the old CF's are really only beneficial for plate resistor applications.

    Another thing that amuses me? Discussion of "premium grade" capacitors. One one end of the spectrum (specific to pedals) you have the old "tropical fish" caps in the old EHX stuff, but all of that stuff was built with the cheapest components that could be obtained in bulk. The other end of the spectrum has this notion that certain film-types are clearly audibly better.

    ...So which is it? In most situations, the capacitors really aren't critical IMO (as far as being NOS/hi-fi/"precise"/etc.). Look at some of the most appealing pedals of all time, and they tend to have general purpose/"loose tolerance" caps in them. That's obviously how your TS is, that's how all of the Boss stuff is, and that's even how something super-popular like the OCD is, too. ;)

    How about the latest Klon Centaur? It's manufactured with mostly the same method as your smart phone or laptop. That means ceramic capacitors almost exclusively. I think Bill Finnegan even went to the trouble to insist that no electrolytics be used for the larger-value caps.

    I think if we try and remember that a pedal is a tool, and that it's a means to an end, that we can dispense with any fascination on the actual components just for components sake. A GOOD pedal designer will take all important facets into account, which is really much more than what parts to use. For all but the most crude effects, the actual circuit design itself is where it's at when it comes to "A sounds good, but we think B sounds so much better" IME.

    I think I also want to include "the individual experience factor." Some users or designers have ONLY experienced good sounds with a very small subset of potentially available components, and so they make it a point to just stick with those, even if there's really no logic to do that. If you consider transistor options alone to try with some pedals, there's just a ton of types that have yet to be used by builders or companies, and then embraced by users.

    So the hardest part becomes trying to divorce the mojo component factor from the actual TRYING part, so that the user's preference doesn't have to be biased before hearing a daggone thing. Easier said than done, but IMO well worth it.
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.