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Meet ‘The Raminator’

'The Raminator' finished

Recently I’ve been missing a certain guitar sound that I had at my disposal as a kid. It was a ridiculously scooped, buzzy, fuzztone that was nothing particularly useful by itself, but could be outrageously good in the right context. I mainly used it with volume swells to simulate low orchestral strings within thicker arrangements. Executed and mixed properly, it was indistinguishable from a quartet of cellos.

This effect was one of many I could dial up with my treasured old Boss ME-10 multi-effects – a heavy-duty floor unit made in the 90s. I evidently sold mine at just the right time given that most seem to have given up the ghost by now. Something about cheap electrolytic caps being slowly cooked in a particularly hot location, but that’s a whole other topic.

In the past few months I’ve whipped up a few ultra-wide, passive, notch filters hoping they could be combined with some of my existing distortion sounds to achieve the same effect, but to no avail. The sound I was seeking was indeed more integral to the signal than that.

By now I’m sure you’ve guessed that the only course of action left to a certifiable lunatic like myself was to design and build a new effect pedal based on the topologies most likely to deliver the desired sound. The result is… The Raminator

Raminator freshly drilled enclosureRaminator guts instalation'The Raminator' finished

Astute readers may speculate whether the name is derived from a certain EHX Big Muff variant, and they would be on the right track. However, I’ve made too many changes to comfortably call it a clone. This poor thing is more machine now than sheep. Twisted and evil.

It still features four gain stages with the two clipping stages in the middle, but with some pretty different components and values, particularly in the filtered negative feedback loops. Those probably account for my most significant alterations – to effectively widen the Q of the mid cut, scooping out much more of the fundamental signal on that foldback. And just for a little versatility, I added a switch that can effectively “undo” my gutting of the signal and produce something a bit flatter than an actual Ram’s Head would be normally. I figured between those two modes, the amp’s tone stack, EQ on my mic’s signal paths, etc., I’d end up with a fair amount of tonal range beyond the one trick for which this ruminant was built.

Those and some other minor but deliberate tweaks (including pot values & tapers, transistor models, diodes, etc.) seem to have achieved something just slightly unlike anything. It sure was a hell of a lot of circuitry to cram onto that little soup cracker, but does it work?

Well the proof would be in how well it fakes a chamber full of moaning f-holes. Personally I think it’s bleating brilliant, but you tell me. I’ve posted some test audio below.

Until next time, I’ll be ba’a’a’a’a’ck.

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