Music Thing: The ToneCrafter Universal DIY Stompbox


Each week, Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that's coming out, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment:

Last October, a man in South Korea paid $1,088 for a vintage Ampeg Scrambler guitar effects pedal. That's for a 35 year-old pedal containing maybe 30 solid-state components. One unsuccessful Japanese bidder pulled out at $1,000 and decided instead to visit and spend $99 on a ToneCrafter. It's a kind of universal DIY stompbox.

What you get is a big metal pedal on a wooden base, with a few knobs, sockets and switches pre-installed. Inside the pedal is one of those breadboard circuit boards that the electronics geeks played with at school. The kit comes with a bag of components and a CD of instructions. Slot in a handful of transistors, diodes, capacitors and op-amp chips and you can build replicas of classic and modern solid-state pedals like the Ampeg Scrambler and the Klon Centaur.


Building your own endlessly tweakable music gear seems very appealling in a world of $8,000 mega synths, and absurdly cheap Chinese kit. Plenty of people are getting into it. Circuit Bending has removed people?s fear of fiddling around with circuits, and a small hardcore are building their own synths from scratch.

The most popular kit is the SoundLab Mini Synth - a $30 circuit board and a list of components to build a tiny monophonic synth. More advanced punters have moved onto Paia Fatman, a $180 kit that, with a steady hand and a bit of luck, ends up as a MIDI controlled analog synth.