The Real Gabagool
As the sun sets behind a broken, dystopian skyline of Comcast buildings, the unmistakable sound of the Laser Hoagie can be heard in the distance.
In 1984, it was hypothesized that in the distant future (2007), sandwiches would become self-aware and battle each other for supremacy. Of course, submarines have torpedoes and heroes have 97% of all new movies (which we neither need nor deserve). No one knows what a grinder is, but it certainly sounds aggressive. To even the odds, hoagies were forced to evolve laser technology.
This pedal is built using Tim Escobedo’s The Bronx Cheer circuit. I’ve mentioned him before in my writeup of the Synth Stick. He always had tons of ideas for fun things to build with a few common parts, and this is no exception, although what constitutes “common” is changing over time as there are fewer through-hole electronic components and fewer places to buy them. He called The Bronx Cheer an envelope waveshaper filter, and claimed that its sound was like “a resonant VCF fuzz, or, well, raspberry.” It sounds more like a laser hoagie to me.
This is the first pedal I’ve built (that I know of) with a Darlington transistor and definitely the first with a transformer. A Darlington is like two transistors running into each other, packaged as a single component. This makes sense to me in my “I’m not actually an engineer” way, since a bunch of pedals essentially wind up doing that with two transistors, although I guess you lose some flexibility in exactly how that cascade is implemented with a Darlington.
I don’t think the transformer in this circuit is used to “transform” anything, but as an inductor to simulate the signal coming from a guitar pickup. Some effects respond differently when the input is high impedance (like the signal coming directly from a magnetic pickup coil) or low impedance (like from a buffer). These are commonly referred to as “the pedals that I need to put first in my chain or they sound like crap,” such as simple 60s-style transistor fuzzes. The envelope filter in Laser Hoagie is also like that. I believe this circuit uses only the primary side of the transformer to provide an inductive load, which always presents the rest of the circuit with the type of signal that it works best with, even if the pedal is placed after a buffer in the chain. It’s cool to me that it still remains quite sensitive to input dynamics. I’ve been researching adding a pickup simulator in this style to a two-transistor fuzz, and I don’t think that Laser Hoagie takes it as far as it could possibly go, but this was a good first step.
The only controls are volume and a switch that either adds or doesn’t add a filter capacitor. The switch’s influence on the sound seems to vary a lot depending on the source. Beyond that, there’s no way to dictate what the pedal is doing, although subtle changes in the instrument’s volume, tone, and playing dynamics can have a large impact on what the pedal does.
It’s interesting. The Laser Hoagie has a lot of fuzz, but there’s also a synth-like quality to it from the envelope filter. Its behavior can be drastically different based on the input. In the following sample, literally everything has been sent through the pedal to one degree or another. That’s not a good recipe for a balanced mix, and was somewhat annoying to produce because I had to send a lot of things through a re-amper to get them into the pedal world, but I wanted to see what it would do. It will get pretty weird.