The Gallolizer is a handmade multi-effects sound mangler, an array of dirty, delicious sound-destroying effects in a single handcrafted box. It’s the work of a Spanish engineering and art collective called MP19, an Arduino-loving, free software-using, open source group of artists who turn those platforms into the kind of grungy sounds that make them happy. (And that, of course, is what it’s really all about.)

But before we talk specifics, check out the video. We long ago departed the world of high-fidelity sound; this is digging your toes straight into the mud. I’ll wait.

Got it?

Good – now onto technical details. Part of what allows the various dimensions of sound in the Gallolizer’s repertoire is the sharing of schematics. Long before open source was even a term or fully-formed idea, hardware makers routinely borrowed ideas from schematics – it was hard not to – and apart from cases of gross abuse, the process was more or less a fact of life. Open source hardware and Internet sharing has since formalized that process, and made it a whole lot easier for beginners to try out making projects, thanks to ample and friendly documentation.

As a result, the Gallolizer is a window into a whole world of electronic sound ideas a tinkerer can try out. Here’s how designer Gonzalo Garcia describes the ingredients:

An Arduino Bitcrusher based on Kyle McDonald’s design (http://www.instructables.com/id/Lo-fi-Arduino-Guitar-Pedal/). We had improved the output for line level on all modes and a bit of warm in overall sound with some transistors in the output.

Ampeg Scrambler clone, based on 2n5306 darlington transistors for adding some darkness to bass and bass drums. You can transform hi-hats and snares in a more crispy sound.

Germanium fuzz is basically a NPN germanium transistors fuzzface for process sounds and add some germanium hiss.
LP Filter is based on Diego el de León’s design (http://esquemasnoise.blogspot.com/2008/12/wilson-low-pass-filter.html) for a low pass filter and based himself on a Ray Wilson’s design. Incredible resonance and a bit of analog distortion.
LoFi Delay, based on Rebote Delay from tonepad (http://www.tonepad.com/project.asp?id=51), with the infinite feedback mod and improved output for a bit of warm. We are planning to add a modulation mod to this nice delay.
Arduino Reverb based on lab3′s design (http://interface.khm.de/index.php/lab/experiments/arduino-realtime-audio-processing/), with an improved output for less noise and more warmth, based on transistors . We also add a mix control for controlling the amount of effect.

Kyle McDonald’s Arduino-based lo-fi guitar pedal.

You can’t buy a Gallolizer – it’s a one-off design, unless you want to try to make them an offer. But the effects unit component will be released as a PCB and as open source hardware. It’s funny, as I had also just been looking at Kyle’s design (Kyle is such a Renaissance visual and sonic inventor, it kind of makes my head hurt), so this could be ripe for exploration. And there’s no saying this is only for those who want to become avant-garde noise artists – everyone can use a little grunge sometimes, regardless of musical idiom.

Not open source hardware, but as it happens our friend Tom Whitwell (of the sorely-missed Music Thing blog) is doing beautiful DIY work of his own based on a project from musicpcb.com. He’s also exploring techniques for housing and is making some lovely, tasteful decals, too, as you can see in the picture. I’m hoping Tom will share some of his work.

Echo Base PT2399 Delay

Photo (CC-BY-ND) Tom Whitwell. Click through for some Flickr chatter, and Tom trying to make me buy a Eurorack or something. (I’m broke. Seriously.)

Echo Base PT2399 delay pedal on Hohner Pianet T by MusicThing

Got DIY effects projects of your own, or requests? I’ll also see if we can’t find a good beginner project for everybody. I wouldn’t mind an effects box to go with my MeeBlips.

Other wonderful projects:
http://mp19.wordpress.com/

  • http://www.glacialcommunications.com Sam Harmon

    My terrible (temporary, but still in use after six months due to debugging and a grand plan for the finished unit) Echo Base enclosure is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/glacial23/4718762789

    I've somehow managed to use it in live shows three times and it's still not destroyed ;-)

  • Stan9fos

    Terrible is the new beautiful. Destroy it, then make more terrible.

  • Andreas Wetterberg

    Seriously, Peter. You need to get into the eurorack scene. Can't you see all these lovely tendencies leading you there?

    Can't you? Huh?

  • Jake Glockner

    I really want to get into building my own hardware, but I have no idea where to start. I think a fun beginning project would be some kind of stompbox, albeit a much simpler one than the gallolizer. Can anyone offer me some guidance as to where I might look for a project of this sort?

  • http://kcsblies.tumblr.com burdt

    @jake I'd recommend diystompboxes.com as a one stop solution for your pedal building needs. Register and use the search function and you could find schematics and layouts for anything as simple as a treble booster and as complicated as the aforementioned echobase or boutiquey tube effect.

  • Jake Glockner

    @burdt thanks so much, what a great resource!

  • Spazmatron

    @Jake. "Electronics Projects for Musicians" by Craig Anderton. It's like 25 years old, but still completely relevant, and informative for diy stompboxes, electronics basics. And Craig anderton is the man when it comes to technical music writing. 

  • Peter Kirn

    I would very, very badly like to convince Craig to do a new edition of that book… ;)

    Then again, maybe it's time for a new book entirely. Aside from needing to replace specific parts, a lot of it is relevant. But you can now add cheap microcontrollers to the mix, which was not true when that book was written.

  • http://www.alone-music.co.uk alonemusic

    I really tried to build that Bitcrusher.. I even had a dream where it worked, but I never did master it.. My proudest (and only) usable bit of hardware I've made is a MIDI thru box that doubles a clock signal has a cut off switch. 

    One day I'll get the foot pedal bit crusher I so desire…

  • reset

    @jake I’d recommend "Handmade Electronic Music" by Nicolas Collins, what a great book…
    http://www.nicolascollins.com/handmade.htm

  • http://www.musicthing.co.uk Tom Whitwell

    Can't believe I've made it to CDM! 

    Two sites have really helped me out: 

    http://www.beavisaudio.com/ Is a phenomenal resource – explains all the simple stuff that everyone else takes for granted, like how to wire up power, how switches & pots work. His 'Beavis Box' is a great prototyping platform (i.e. a breadboard and a dummy stompbox ) which you can buy or build. 

    http://www.diystompboxes.com/smfforum/ is one of the two big DIY stompbox forums (the other is&nbsp ;http://freestompboxes.org/ ) really active, friendly communities always willing to help out. Threads like this one:&nbsp ;http://is.gd/pvfgPW – that lead from an idea, via debugging, tweaks, mods, to lots of finished pedals. 

    Great thing about this kind of DIY is that it's cheap – you can get started for $200, and even the most expensive components cost a few $, and really simple circuits (fuzzes, boosters, noisemakers) can sound awesome. 

  • Random Chance

    There's a musical DIY wiki. Because it aims more at providing a set of building blocks and some relevant theory it might not be for total beginners, but once you start to design or modify circuits or simply want to know how some of those circuits actually work, it might be a useful resource.

  • Stephen Reid

    I have really got into DIY guitar effects over the last couple of years (you can see some of my pedals here: http://s1195.photobucket.com/albums/aa381/stevo83… . I want to branch out and start looking into filters and more synth/electronic music stuff now though. IMO the beauty of doing it yourself is that you can customize stuff to your own requirements, thus making it unique.

    Build Your Own Clone are a good place to start with DIY effects IMO as their instructions are practically fool proof and their forum is always active. I would start with a Fuzz Face with an adjustable bias control for all sorts of crazy sounds that are usefull for guitar and electronic stuff.

    I have also just finised my Fender 5F1 Champ amplifier clone with various mods and additions. I like it more than any of my other amps.

    DIY is such a gratifying hobby that I now spend more of my spare time making things than I do making music!

  • jh

    loving this … hardware is dead, long live hardware Etc

  • Theta_Frost

    Check out some of the DIY kits Gijs Gieskes has for sale. They're great!

    http://gieskes.nl/effects/?file=dep-1

  • dubm

    Should I wait for my electronics classes required in my college degree? I would love to start now… maybe its best to wait though..

  • http://www.billthompson.org prof_lofi

    +1 for Nic Collins Hardware Hacking…and Ghazala's Circuit Bending book_both good for starting out

    Bill