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Snake Oil of Yesteryear

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I was talking pedals with a friend and something triggered in the back of my mind that I'm trying to track down evidence of, I'm wondering if anyone here remembers similar.

 

Back in the early to mid '00s (I think, could be earlier), when it seemed like ultra voodoo boutique tone sweetener BS was hitting peak, if that's possible, there was a "pedal" that people claimed made everything "better", cleaned your cleans, brightened your tone, did mystical {censored} to your mids etc... and it was passive. It was expensive, the builder was super secretive and the case was all sealed up with threats that opening it would void warranties, you'd be excommunicated from guitar land etc. I can't remember it it was basically just an enclosure with jacks or if there was a stomp switch too, but there were no controls.

 

Eventually someone got their hands on one, opened it up and found that it was just two jacks linked by hand soldered vintage cloth covered wire. Pure snake oil. But even after that, people claimed that it DID make a difference, and it had to do with the wire, or the wrapping, or who knows what else.

 

Does anyone remember this? Am I crazy? Was it an effects forum urban legend or an april fools joke that I'm misremembering? I swear that this was a thing that happened, but I don't even know what I would google for to search for it.

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Anyone who knows me knows I'm not afraid to call it like it is. I been an electronic tech since the early 70's and have kept up on allot of the music electronics. I own allot of gear, I bought used and refurbed and allot I bought new. Most of the analog pedals you find use the same old circuits with variations added to give them unique sounds, Kind of like buying a Mustang stock, sticking a different set of tires on it and calling it something else.

 

For the most part, the market keeps the people running scams and hoaxes in check. You occasionally get some who pray on ignorant people who simply don't know any better and will buy from the traveling medicine men who sell you miracle cures out of a bottle. Even when people know there's no such thing as magic there are always some who reward a good like of BS by buying something from them.

 

I haven't seen many boxed that have nothing in them. I've seen many boxes that do very little which are way over priced, like 2 hacks and a potentiometer. The jacks cost $2 each, the pot $4 and the case $4. $10 in parts, $15 for assembly and $25 shipping. Profit about $25 for $15 minutes work assembling and 10 minutes boxing and shipping. Is it fair? I suppose for low quantity builds.

 

Where you can begin to smell the stink of scams in electronics, specifically audio is when the sales adds include things like:

Hand Built - vs Hand Tweaked. Something can be tweaked by a person to sound its best, beginning with finding the best components in a batch and tweaking a circuit to get the most from it. This isn't the same thing and being hand built by unskilled workers who simply sticks a widget in a hole and solders it in place. The guy who tweaks the gear typically knows it inside and out and tries to combine the best components for the best outcome. The unskilled worker solders for an income only. All hand built means in this case is they are a small time operation that cant afford the modern assembly line equipment so they run a sweat shop with low cost workers. The high cost of human labor is what drives the price up and to get customers they paint a myth the human labor has some kind of improved performance to justify their high cost. That would only be true on Boutique gear that also tweaks the selection of components to be the best and tweaks the circuit to out perform a robotic build. Given the quality of computerized testing these days, that margin its pretty much paper thing any more so you can stick that snake oil where it belongs.

 

Vintage Tubes vs new tubes. It was probably in the 70's when I saw the first imported tubes show up being sold by Radio Shack under their own name. Prior to that most tubes you bought were USA made with the occasional gear that was imported to the US with its imported tubes. Many of those could be made to sound better with US tubes. That's where the majority of myths begin. Once those manufactures went out of business you only had New Old Stock or used tubes and I can guarantee you, when the mom and pop electronics stores and TV repair shops went out of business, all those tubes went with them. Some wound up being sold to hobbyists, some to end users and allot wound up on eBay. To get more then the few dollars they might have been worth, they inflated the prices for profit inventing wild claims about how good the old days were when tubes were tubes and men were men. 95% of it is total BS any more. There are decent reproductions of any coveted tubes that used to be made and with the aid of computer monitoring and computerized tube testing, the tubes made to day are just as good as anything made in the past, maybe even more so with the added ability to refine raw materials consistently.

 

Vintage Caps - This is the one that really gets me laughing. Most caps begin to break down the day you make them. How quickly really depends on the design and whether the component is in use of left on a shelf. When in use the aluminum plates re-oxidize and last far longer then anything left on a shelf unused. The difference can be as much as a 50 year difference. The only thing you can say about an old cap is its value has drifted way out of specs which can be quite extreme given the fact most caps used in audio start off with a 10~20% tolerance rate and therefore can have drastic tonal differences between one piece of gear and another. Any vintage cap use in a tone circuit has most likely drifted towards a tone you prefer or away from it. Electrolytic caps are flat out dangerous when they get old. They typically begin to pass AC hum and electrical noise if you're lucky before the plates short and physically blow like fire crackers. If anything, power caps sound much when new. They filter the DC better so there is less noise and they often have a reserve of DC which is going to recoil like a new shock absorber when large audio transients hit the power amp.

 

Used parts - When you think of it, why is someone selling used parts? Its because they were so best up they didn't work right any more. When you see stuff like Pots, Tuners, Jacks and Switches sold from Old Fender guitars for ridiculous costs, realize those parts sold for less then new ones today and the only thing being in a guitar for so long did for them is make them wear out. They aren't magnets that collect the talent of the original owner. You don't pass talent on through any physical object. Maybe for a Museum piece where the instrument is unique and manufacturing a new part is too costly, buying a used part at a premium is worth it. That's rarely the case however. I've seen the typical Kluson tuners which you can buy today and work like new sell for stupid prices simple because its old. If you want to get suckered into thinking old is better than go for it. I still have parts in my cabs that date back to the late 60's. Maybe I can retire on all that old junk when I eventually unload it.

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I was talking pedals with a friend and something triggered in the back of my mind that I'm trying to track down evidence of, I'm wondering if anyone here remembers similar.

 

Back in the early to mid '00s (I think, could be earlier), when it seemed like ultra voodoo boutique tone sweetener BS was hitting peak, if that's possible, there was a "pedal" that people claimed made everything "better", cleaned your cleans, brightened your tone, did mystical **************** to your mids etc... and it was passive. It was expensive, the builder was super secretive and the case was all sealed up with threats that opening it would void warranties, you'd be excommunicated from guitar land etc. I can't remember it it was basically just an enclosure with jacks or if there was a stomp switch too, but there were no controls.

 

Eventually someone got their hands on one, opened it up and found that it was just two jacks linked by hand soldered vintage cloth covered wire. Pure snake oil. But even after that, people claimed that it DID make a difference, and it had to do with the wire, or the wrapping, or who knows what else.

 

Does anyone remember this? Am I crazy? Was it an effects forum urban legend or an april fools joke that I'm misremembering? I swear that this was a thing that happened, but I don't even know what I would google for to search for it.

 

I remember something along these lines, but I don't recall if it was a "real" product or not... I'm thinking not; probably a joke of some sort.

 

I wish I could remember the name of it.

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"If I hadn't believed it, I wouldn't have seen (or heard) it". After plunking down some cash, you want it to sound better, and human mind is very easily influenced by wishful thinking. Maybe the vintage cloth wrapped wire makes a difference....

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remember pet rocks?

 

I'm sure a sensitive enough measuring device might see something due to a coupla' jacks and some cloth wrapped wire

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i was tempted

 

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2744_Talent_booster_pedal_1.thumb.jpg.02eaea8e06ee42c1e5af3f7c033920d8.jpg

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