Monday, 14 August 2017

Electro-Harmonix Pog (Big Box)

Following the Nano POG & POG2, here is the original big box Electro-Harmonix POG. The big POG has mostly the same set of features as the POG2 - it doesn't have presets and the filter has fewer settings, but there are separate detune sliders for the 1 & 2 octave up harmonies.

No slide pots were placed this time
In keeping with a trend I've noticed with EHX products, it's completely different on the inside than the other POG pedals. The POG2 and Nano POG use Analog Devices BlackFin DSPs, the OG POG is much more late 90s and has a DSP56364 and a 8051-style P87C52 MCU, just like some Line 6 products, or the Digitech Whammy. I have no idea why this cheap microcontroller family is so commonly found alongside the DSP56K series but I'm starting to suspect there is an application note somewhere that shows how to use these parts together. The AK4552 codec and 2272 & 5532 opamps are also very familiar by now. A TLV1543 ADC reads out the slider positions.


This pedal is also an outlier in that the complete factory schematic is online at Freestompboxes. The P87* series MCUs are OTP (but could be replaced with a compatible programmable part), so I have dumped this one. There is no other programmable part on the board so this should hold firmware for both the MCU and the DSP. The binary is here.
There are a lot of unpopulated parts in the PCB layout, some may be used for development and some look abandoned. There are footprints with silkscreen labels that indicate that they are for MIDI control and the schematic also indicates MIDI was planned at some point. I didn't experiment.

Trashed slide switch

No complicated fix for this one, once I had rigged up an 18V supply I found that the LPF mode switch was broken and a couple of wires looked like they were about to come off the board. After some solder touch ups everything worked fine. It sounds very much like the POG2, but as I don't own one anymore

I couldn't do a direct comparison.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Ibanez FL9

A quick one. I got this original 80's 9-series flanger that didn't seem to be "flange-ing".

Ibanez Fl9

When plugged in it gave out that tell-tale "whirr" sound when power was applied that some kind of delay was happening. It sounded like the signal was delayed correctly and mixed in with the clean signal, but nothing was happening with the LFO, so there was no "movement". First thing to check is if the Speed pot is wired up or broken.

Back of speed pot

Hey, are those two lugs of the speed pot shorting together? I removed the pot and separated them with some needle nose pliers. The speed pot now varies the speed of the LFO and everything works as expected.

PCB topside

A quick shot of the board while I have this open. The BBD and clock generator ICs are MN3207 and MN3102, manufactured by Mitsubishi. Build quality is pretty high for what was standard at the time. All the electrolytic capacitors are Nichicon brands, some have "8138" datecodes so I think this is 1981 vintage.

The flanger sounds great, but is much more subtle than the MXR I looked at recently. This does chorus-style sounds much better rather than screaming airplane sounds. 9V operation is a bonus.

Line 6 Echo Park

The other Line 6 green delay. The ToneCore series was released around 2004, after the larger 4x4 stompbox modeller series. The series looks like they were intended to be small factor versions of models from the previous series, the Echo Park is something like a refined DL4, smaller and cheaper and shares a lot of the same delay models. It has the advantage of running off a standard 9V supply but omitted the looper that made the DL4 such a success.

Echo Park

In an unusual design choice, the pedals are split into two components, the "dock" (containing the main chassis, DSP, switches, jacks, power supplies and input/output buffers & amplifiers) and the "module" (holding the knobs, switches, a microcontroller and the program code for the DSP). This is the same idea as the DL4/FM4/MM4 series using the same PCBs with different program code, but allows different pedals to have different numbers or types of knobs and switches instead of shoe-horning everything into one shared format.

Modules and docks were sold separately and marketed as interchangeable. Red Panda even made a third-party module. Line6 released a programmable Developer's Kit module in 2008 that allowed hobbyists to create DSP effects that ran on the platform. This is a very cool idea but it doesn't look like it ever took off, there are very few examples online of anyone actually building anything.

This Echo Park was bought used and needing repair. The LED would flash once on when power was applied, but it was otherwise completely dead. I was hoping that I could easly isolate the problem to either the module or dock.

Unlike the DL4, there are no service manuals online. However, Line 6 did publish a ToneCore SDK Hardware Guide which has block diagrams and some slightly blurry schematics for the dock and the programmable Developer Kit module. The Developer module is not the same as the product modules, but it should be close enough to make repairs possible.

 ToneCore Dock

Dock, backside. Note test points.

Dock PCB, topside.

The insides of the dock look familiar, there is a DSP56364 dsp and some power and analog stuff. I managed to connect the dock and module together lying flying flat on my bench using some right-angle headers and some jumper wires so I could probe the signals between them. I was getting power and some of the clock signals were present, but I couldn't see any signs of the module programming the DSP when applying power (as the module contains the "effect", the DSP code must be stored there and transferred to the dock on startup).
There are testpoints on the backside of the PCB for MCU, DSP and ADC/DAC clocks, this is the place to look with an oscilloscope if you are debugging one of these.

Negative voltage generator

One interesting feature of this series is that they were the first (possibly only?) Line 6 pedal to run with a standard 9V DC supply instead of shipping with a bulky AC supply. The dock uses the 9V power and one of the clock signals from the DSP to form a curde charge pump to create a negative voltage rail of about -7V. This is pretty smart! I'm surprised it isn't more common in digital pedals.

Echo Park Module

Module PCB, as found

After opening the module it was pretty clear that someone had been in here before. Some traces were damaged and a SOT23 package device (Q1) was missing. A red jumper wire has been added. There are a lot of similarities with the schematic in the SDK manuals, the MCU is different (it's a P89LPC935F, an 80C51 derivative like in the 4x4 pedals) and the product modules add an SST25BF512 SPI flash memory chip but otherwise it looks close enough to use as a reference for repair. The manual schematic shows that the missing SOT23 package is a PMBT4401, I didn't have one at hand but I did have some BC847C that should be a good alternative. The schematic also had enough information to replace the damaged traces with some jumper wires after beeping things out with a DMM.

After repair attempts. One of the switches was removed temporarily to help with following hidden traces.

So I added transistor and the jumpers, and... nothing. Just one short LED flash when it's powered up and nothing else. I suspected either the flash memory or the MCU in the module were bad, but the MCU was now expensive to replace and difficult to source, and I had no copy of the contents of the memory so there wasn't much that could be done. So this went back into the box and into the "fix" pile and stayed there for a year.

Second attempt:


The line-up

Eventually I got two more non-working Echo Parks to look at from Moose Electronics. Maybe I could mix and match modules and docks to figure out which were good, maybe I could even fix all three. I labelled these to keep track, mine is #1 and the new ones are #2 and #3.

Starting out, none of the pedals worked. The immediate good news from swapping parts was that my dock (#1) worked with the modules from #2 & #3. No other permutations gave me a working pedal, so I knew my module was bad and docks #2 & #3 were bad. I opened the bad docks and one of them had a battery cable pinched between some header pins and sockets. Nothing else looked obviously bad. When I tested it again it worked perfectly. Either moving that cable or reseating the header pin/socket connection must have restored power.
The other bad dock had no obvious damage, and looked like it had a dead DSP. None of the test signals on the backside of the PCB were present, and they should be generated by the DSP, which did have power. In this case it's actually cheaper to buy a less desirable ToneCore pedal just for the dock than attempting to swap out the DSP, so this Echo Park will be getting a replacement instead of a repair.

This just leaves my bad module, #1. Suspecting the serial flash or the MCU, I decided to desolder the serial flash and see if it could be read in my programmer, and what data was on there. The chip ID was correctly identified, but the contents were all 0xFF! Effectively this was blank and there was no program code for the pedal to run. I pulled one of the flash chips from one of the working modules and dumped it, and re-programmed the empty chip. After resoldering it, the pedal lit up and worked just like the other one. I can only assume that the soldering "accident" I saw either caused the memory to be erased or was an attempt to fix it, I can't be sure.

Desoldering U1

Dumping U1

So, if I had had a memory dump of this a year ago I could have fixed my pedal then. In the interest of helping someone out, here is the contents of the flash.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

T Rex Mudhoney II, Again

I'm in two minds about posting about repairs on stuff I've already covered, but maybe highlighting common faults will help someone else troubleshoot. I got another Mudhoney II to look at, and this had the exact same issue as the last one.

Bypass didn't work. No power at the flip-flop IC that drives the switching JFETs. The trace to this IC was broken in the exact same way as the last one. It runs right along the edge of the PCB and underneath the jacks so this is probably a common fault.

A jumper to the jack restores power and everything works.


This is kind of a shame, as it sounds great (dual RAT). If you have one with this problem then check this connection. If I had one that was working I would probably add a wire as insurance.

MXR EVH Flanger

Another eBay pickup. This is a slightly modified re-issue of the MXR M117 with an "EVH" button that adds a fixed preset for a Van Halen sound. Dead, as usual.

This pedal uses an 18V supply or two 9V batteries, like some of the original M117s. The insides however are the standard modern MXR stye - almost entirely surface mount, a red PCB and board-mounted jacks and pots. It's a very tight fit to the enclosure, but it looks fairly robust as everything lines up very well. Turning it on lights up the LED but there is no signal.

Before soldering the new DC jack

The fix for this one was fairly simple. The DC jack was broken, so that was replaced. Still no power at any ICs. The traces from the DC jack & battery harness run to a 15V linear regulator, which feeds a 9V linear regulator downstream. Replacing the 15V regulator (78L15) brought it back to life. The LED is powered from the unregulated 18V supply, everything else needs working regulators. Drop-out voltage on a 78L15 is usually only ~1.5 - 2.0V so if you use batteries you probably can't drain them below ~8.3V each before the pedal will stop working.

It's possibly that this was killed by an incorrect power supply, but there is a reverse polarity diode which is still intact and the 15V regulator should handle up to 30V

The insides are pretty packed but this is more-or-less a standard Flanger design. Here is an overview of the ICs used:

V3204. A Bucket-Brigade Delay chip, almost definitely made by Coolaudio, but they don't list it on their site. As the original MXR Flangers used a Reticon SAD1024 (dual 512 stages) this is probably a 1024 stage BBD. Coolaudio make a V3207 chip with 1024 stages though, so I can't be certain.
SA572D compandor. Compressing and expanding before and after the BBD for better SNR, Electricdruid has an article on how this works.
MC33178, MC33179, TL072: opamps.
MC14504b level shifter. I was surprised to see this, I think it's translating low voltage clock signals to the higher voltage ranges that the BBD wants. This could be done with discrete FETs but maybe this solution was cheaper.
HEF4013 dual D flip-flop. I would have guessed that this used for bypass, but looking at older 117 schematic this is used with an opamp LFO for generating the complementary BBD clock signals.
HEF4053 triple SPDT analog switch. This switches out some of the pots for fixed-value resistors when the EVH button is pressed. This is a neat solution, I think more pedals could use this for "channel switching" by having two sets of pots.

It sounds great, it's a classic design and the controls are broad enough to go from subtle to over the top which I always enjoy. I can't hear any clock noise or bleed-through. The EVH button may be a bit of a gimmick as it's not easy to activate by foot, if you bend down to push the button you could just turn the knobs.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Electro-Harmonix Freeze

The Freeze launched in 2010(?) and has been very popular. It's essentially a very short looper with some windowing to hide the "jumps", giving a smooth drone of whatever was captured. There is a decent claim for this being a genuinely new effect, even though there have been reverbs, delays and granular synth effects that can get similar results there is nothing that competes with it directly. I have never played with one so I've been looking out for cheap broken units.

This one passes no signal, crackles a little bit and I probably overpaid for it. The insides are more simple than I expected, a 56k-series DSP (DSP56374), a PCM3052A ADC/DAC, a serial EEPROM for the DSP code, an LM317, a TLC2272 opamp and a tiny SOT23-5 package that I am fairly sure is a NC7SZ66M5X SPST switch. It's surprising to see the DSP56374 as these are fairly long obsolete now, and other EHX products are using Analog Devices DSPs that are still in production. This might have been a 2010 purchasing decision, or they may have large stock as the 56k series is also used in other older EHX products. The PCM3052A is also fairly old but I have seen pictures of other Freeze revisions that used different codecs.

This Freeze passed no signal in bypass or effected mode, just some crackling noises. The LEDs did light up according to the Slow/Fast/Latch switch, and as there is no microcontroller I have to assume that the DSP handles this and that it is probably working correctly.

I fed in a test signal and traced it with an oscilloscope. I could see it at the input jack, through the ferrite bead and then at one of the input pins on the opamp (U2). It appeared to be wired as a buffer (makes sense) and there was nothing on the output pin. So the digital end was probably fine, it was just not being fed an input signal. Replacing this opamp fixed it.

In process of replacing U2

 To be honest, sometimes the process of fixing stuff is more fun than playing with it afterwards. The appeal for me is a mixture of curiosity about the technical stuff and the musical/creative aspect, and it can be easy to switch the things off after testing if it's "just" another delay, overdrive or whatever. The Freeze has consistently been a lot of fun every time I plugged into it. On the day I got it I spent a lot more time playing with it than I did repairing it (that has to count for something). I have used loopers before and found that they need a bit of planning and practice to use well, the Freeze is very immediate and it lends itself to noodly bullshit in the first couple of minutes of use, especially in latching mode. Thumbs up.

I expected to see some kind of microcontroller as the DSP 56k series have usually been paired with one in the previous pedals I've looked at, usually some kind of 8051 core (Line 6, Digitech examples). As the Freeze is a single processor design it might make this an interesting one to reverse engineer, there should only be code for a single architecture in the EPROM. I would guess that the effect is fairly simple, but the magic is in the delay length and the filtering to avoid clicking or popping. There is an assembly language manual available from NXP, I've looked for a disassembler and have found that it is supported by Ida Pro (great, but the full version is out of my price range) and some pretty old 90s tools that I haven't tried yet. If there is a decent free tool please let me know.

First step is dumping the EPROM and figuring out if the code is on there or if the DSP is pre-programmed. OpenOCD does support the DSP56374, so the programming header may be another option.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Electro-Harmonix Pog2

Much like the Nano Pog repair, this one is also written up after the fact and I have probably forgotten a lot of important details. I sold this one on, so this is mostly based on blurry pictures I took.

I got this with one of the slide pots broken off, and dead on powering up. The picture below is out of order and was taken after it was repaired.

All good.

Inside, the problem was immediately obvious. FB3 near the DC jack is missing but the pads have visible solder on them. It's very common for high-speed digital pedals to have ferrite beads installed on the 9V input and ground lines, to keep high-frequency noise out of the power wiring and comply with EMI/EMC regulations.

FB3 is gone.
My guess is that someone broke off one of the slider pots and tried to remove the board for a repair. It looks like an attempt was made to desolder the 9V jack and FB3 was lost in the process. I added an 0805 ferrite bead and the Pog powered up again, everything working.

 The architecture seems to be similar to the Nano Pog, with a larger Analog Devices ADSP-BF531 DSP, and additional controls for filters, volume swells and presets.

After desoldering the broken pot.

Replacement slider pots are available from Small Bear, replacements should be 10 kOhm. They also sell the rubber slider tips.

Update: I came across a similar repair at this blog that states the pots are 5k. My order confirmation email says 10k, I'm certain I matched the new part to the old one. It's likely that these are just used as voltage dividers and both values may be used in different batches or versions.

Compared to the Nano, I much prefer this version. The additional octaves are nice but attack/filter controls really take this from being a novelty to something pretty inspiring. Fun!