Six Sleepers For Your Consideration


Well-known member
This spring marks my three-year pedalversary and I recently crossed the 200-build mark. It’s been a while since I last posted a build report, so I figured this is a good time to share a few. The theme is “sleepers,” or pedals that I don’t think get the love and attention they deserve.

PPCB Blue Shoe Gai (JHS PG-14)


Despite the name and marketing, this is not a high-gain shredder, but a fuzzy, saggy, exploding Deluxe Reverb kind of overdrive. It's similar to the Son of Ben, but less tame and with more range thanks to the parametric mids and dual gain controls. I initially biased this using a multimeter and wasn’t too impressed. Then I tried again by ear with great results, matching it exactly to a real PG-14 I had at the time. With all the EQ and gain controls, it’s not an easy pedal to dial in, but when you find the sweet spots, it’s glorious.

PPCB Acer (Altero Kaede)


A mysterious Japanese YATS that I bought without any prior knowledge (for the free shipping). It turned out to be one of my favorites. It sounds a lot like the Mach 1, which is a favorite around here, but the Acer is superior. I A/B’d the two and the Acer does everything the Mach 1 does, and then some, thanks to its responsive two-band EQ. It has plenty of gain and excels at the “transparent” overdrive thing, but will also do traditional TS tones if you dial it in that way. Easy, straightforward build that just about anyone can use regardless of genre.

PPCB Mammal (J. Rockett Animal)


I’ve been on a long quest to find the perfect MIAB. I’ve built maybe a dozen others, but they all had too much gain and compression for my taste (e.g. Thermionic, Guvernator, Crunch Captain, M800 and many others). I like my dynamics intact, a semi-clean tone where the breakup and Marshall-y goodness show up when you dig into the strings or hit a fat power chord. This pedal does that perfectly, without the fizzy artifacts that the others produce at minimal gain settings. I still recommend the other MIABs mentioned above, but there’s no contest if you prefer your crunch as more of a light seasoning.

Aion Oceanid (Cornish OC-1)


Best parallel compressor in the game, just edging out the General Tso’s. Both are great transparent comps that magically make any guitar sound better, even though they don’t sound like there is an effect on at all. The Oceanid sounds pretty much identical to the General Tso’s in parallel comp mode, but with the added advantage of a volume control (the Tso can be hard to achieve unity gain with the desired blend of comp and dry signal, quite annoying if you turn the pedal on and off regularly). I actually built two Oceanids, one with true-bypass and the other with the “legendary Cornish buffer.” For what it’s worth, they sound identical to my ears, but I kept the buffered one for the extra cred and mojo. You can add a toggle to switch between the bypass modes, but I didn't bother with that since those switches weren't easily available at the time.

Effects Layouts Pocket Comb (Ibanez FL9)


Hands-down the best flanger I’ve ever built or played. Sadly, I think EL has discontinued this PCB, but you might still be able to find a PCB for it elsewhere. I’ve never been too into flangers, but I am a huge chorus junkie. This one allows you to dial in subtle modulation voiced somewhere between chorus and flanger, a lot like the guitars on The Cure’s Disintegration, of which I am a huge fan. Maybe not the best option if you seek those (tacky) jet engine sounds, but if you need a light, clean-enhancing warble in your toolkit, this is it.

FuzzDog Tri-Vibe (RunOffGroove Tri-Vibe)


Beautiful, versatile modulation without the hassle. No rare and expensive BBD chips, vactrols, biasing or transistor matching. But the ease of the build is not the point. It simply sounds great. My labels for the different settings are kind of general, as the modulation sounds in each somewhat overlap. This thing radiates late ‘60s psychedelic rock, but it sounds awesome with ambient type playing as well. Run it through a 100% wet reverb with slow phasing for some big, moving textures. If you're a beginner and want to build something other than a fuzz or overdrive, this is a great choice.
Damn! The graphics look so good on all of them. Maybe one day I'll try enclosure artwork and graphics. That area is where I've never really challenged myself. Beautiful work inside and out!

Definitely go for it!

These are all Tayda UV prints. I've probably done about 30-40 different designs at this point. I have a graphic design degree so I went into this with a decent amount of Illustrator experience, but anyone with the patience to self-teach pedal building through reading forums and build docs should have no problem picking up Illustrator after a couple hours of YouTube tutorials. The tricky part is getting everything to conform with Tayda's print requirements, and you will probably botch your first few.

But the rush you get from opening the Tayda box after a couple weeks of waiting to find that your prints look as good as they did on screen is equal to or better than when your build works on the first try!

Awesome builds! I’m a sucker for those retro aesthetics 🥵

My secret is a large desktop folder of '80s drum machine, synthesizer and rack gear pics used as reference material, plus a lot of time spent (wasted?) curating fonts!
Top notch build report! Like the recent “top five” thread, I love hearing about people’s favorite weirdo pedals and passion projects.

Are you keeping all 200 or have you sold some of them off? I’m at about 40 and am already wondering how I’ll feed and house them all.
When I first started building, I boxed and did graphics for everything. I quickly realized that was not sustainable, unless I wanted to start burying RAT clones in the backyard. Now I only keep the best of the best (it has to be really damn good, and preferably not too close to something I already built). Everything else gets sold off and the hobby pays for itself.

I'm down to about 40 or so keepers, and the only non-DIY pedals I own are a few digital delays and reverbs.
Great Graphics man!!!
I am not sure how to describe them. It definitely creates a nostalgic feeling.
I'm seeing this in my future. Do you just do Reverb/Ebay?

Reverb. It gets you the most eyes on your builds, but you will likely make less than minimum wage considering the time spent boxing extras, creating listings, shipping, dealing with the occasional jackass customer, etc. But I view it as a few extra steps that make my pedal building and other gear indulgences "free"
I'm excited to hear the Pocket Comb is good. The FL-9 was a slightly "different" flanger how I remember it. I have that one in my stack but keep putting it off. Do you happen to have the build docs? They don't appear to still be on the site.

I built the AionFX Tri-Vibe and love it. I wouldn't say it gets the classic sounds of a VB-2 or Phase 90 but it has all really usable and great sounds. Lots of versatility and as you mention, a straight forward build with now expensive parts or calibration.
Here ya go! Apparently the Pocket Comb a slightly modified FL9. Maybe that's why it's a bit less flangey than the rest. I've never played a real FL9, so I can't comment on how close the two sound.


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