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The Codtone

Expandra
Based on the Bixonic Expandora
The original Expandora was possibly one of the first 'boutique'
distortion pedals I ever saw, and on reflection, had many
innovative features. It was certainly unique looking, housed in a
circular chrome tunatin enclosure and, long before all the trendy
overdrives had them, had a pair of internal dip switches to select
various levels of gain, or the mysterious !forbidden" mode.
It found favour with many players including #ootsy $ollins and,
famously, #illy %ibbons. &e liked them so much he had a couple
built into a guitar and also flamboyantly used six of them hooked
up in series.
The original controls were knobs for %ain, Tone and 'olume with
two internal dip switches. The switches yield four combinations of
gain( !$runch", !)verdrive", !*istortion" and the !+orbidden"
mode. Expect +orbidden mode to be pretty wild after the first
third of the gain knob's range, this is normal, #eyond that point
it will oscillate and produce extreme gating.
The Expandra is configured to have the switches wired as external
toggles and the board also allows for the addition of a fourth
!#ite" control. This is a variation on the '-ue.' mod that will
simultaneously shape the presence and smooth the sound of the
distortion.
/lso in these notes are instructions for mods for variable
clipping, a foot switchable +orbidden mode and a way to revoice
it for a slightly more transparent sound.
So, what's so special about this one?
0ooking over the schematic, you'll notice that a good portion of
the circuit is based on the -at, but there(s a lot more going on.
1hat really makes the Expandora so different from all those other
!dynamic" and !touch sensitive" overdrives is it(s !expander"
circuit.
-ather than having a fixed gain level, the amount of gain is
controlled by input amplitude, pick gently and you'll have a clean
sound, but the harder you pick the more distorted it gets.
2ignal comes from after the first gain stage, goes through a diode
3*45, and is converted from an /$ signal to a *$ pulse. This pulse
is amplified by I$6# to trigger 74 to turn on. 1hen this happens
current flows though the led portion of I$8, the 9$84:;&44+6
optofet, generating a variable resistance of up to about <=>?
parallel to -4: @ -<> which are the values setting the gain of
I$<.
*istortion is created by the backtoback symmetrical clipping
diodes *< and *6.
+ollowing the clipping stage is a simple filter as a tone control.
+inally, instead of the typical voltage divider volume control,
I$6/ is used as an active volume control.
A/ll three pots are variable resistors, so unless you love offboard wiring,
you can get away with using only two wires per pot.
Bill of Materials:
(Values in the second colun are ore coon !alues "ou can
substitute#$
%bout that optofet
There is no discernible functional difference between the 9$84: and the &44+6
optofets as they both share basically the same 3very fast5 response times and
resistance ranges.
Surface ount tips
1orking with the surface mount 9$84: isn't really as daunting as
it sounds. /s far a 2BT goes, it's quite a large part, about 8mm x
=mm. It's 8 legs are widely spaced on each corner, and if you put
it on the board early it's really quite easy.
I use my ordinary pencil tip iron. +irst I tin it's four pads on
the board, then tin one leg of the part. &olding it with twee.ers,
I tack down one leg to keep it in place. Then do the rest. It's
really pretty straightforward...Cust don't snee.e.
Bake sure the circle marking on the 9$84: is
oriented to the 0)1E- 0E+T.
The Mods:
The Bite Control
The pads labelled D4 and D< are for attaching the #ite control.
This is a variation of the !-ue. mod", common in -at builds.
2imply connect D4 to lug 6 of a #4? pot and D< to lug <.
3AIf, like me, you once ordered some #=>>ohm pots by accident,
those will work very well here too.5
1hen the pot is fully clockwise you will have the stock Expandora
distortion. Turning the knob counter clockwise will simultaneously
reduce brightness and mellows the distortion.
If you wish to build a standard Expandora without the forth knob,
you must Cumper D4 to D<.
%s"etric&s"etric Clippin'
The stock clipping was a pair of 4E:48, but of course feel free to
experiment here...0E*s, %e diodes, mosfets sky's the limit.
The clipping option I'm currently putting on my Expandratron is
two 4E:48 in series at *6, with a single 4E:48 in parallel on a
292T switch. 1ith the switch open it's asymmetric and less
compressed, closed the lower forward voltage wins, so this is the
stock, more compressed symmetric clipping.
A/nother, neater, way to do this would be to omit *< and *6, and
use a *9*T on;on switch with two pairs of clipping diodes.
Touch sensiti!it"
*4 has a large bearing on the touch sensitivity of the circuit.
Fou may wish to socket this position, especially if you plan to
experiment with clipping diodes.
/nything from an 0E* 3which will light up5 to a very low forward
voltage 4EG> will work here.
/s a general rule I would recommend using something with the same
or slightly lower forward voltage than your clipping diodes.
(e)Voicin' the Circuit
2tock, the pedal has a great and distinctive sound that works
particularly well with a bridge position humbucker. It rolls off a
little presence and shaves off quite a bit of bass, leaving a prominent
upper mid range emphasis that works well for a typical rock guitarist.
The following mod was conceived to return some of the lows and add some
sparkle to present a more !transparent" sound.
It's actually two mods, but I've incorporated them onto a single *9*T
switch. If you prefer you could use two separate 29*T's as !fat" and
!bright" switches too.
/dding a bit more low end can be achieved by adding a larger cap on a
switch in parallel with $8. 8H>E works for me, with the stock <<n on
the board. The bottom end will still be attenuated at $46 though. If
you're still not getting enough bass, increase $46 to up to 4u+.
The bright switch is done by putting a lower value cap on the board at
$=. The stock value is 4n, so putting a <<>p+ cap on the board and a
I<>p+ in parallel on the switch. This yields pretty close to the stock
value when the switch is closed, and less highend roll off with the
switch open.
To put it on a single *9*T switch, connect the bass boost to the top
lugs 34 and <5 on one side and the treble mod to the lower lugs3= and G5
on the other side. I Cust tack the wires to the rear of the board.
Stop into the forbidden ode
Eame something !+orbidden" and you know people will want to try
it, especially guitarists.
The forbidden mode is when both switches are open, removing both
-4: and -<> from the feedback loop of I$<. The values we're
dealing with are 4?4, =G>ohm and about 6H>ohm when they're
paralleled.
#y using an on;off;on switch at 214, with a =G>ohm resistor at one
end and a 4.<? at the other you can get the same result but with
only one switch, then by breaking connection to that switch with
a stomp switch you can activate the +orbidden mode.3)mit -4: and
21<.5 The best way to wire this is to run a wire from the
rightmost 214 pad to a 69*T stomp switch lug 4 and connect this to
the middle lug of one side of an *9*T on;off;on switch. The other
middle lug connects back to the board at the Cunction of $G and
-=. The left most 214 pad connects to lug < of the stomp.3see pic5
+or this all to work effectively there's one more thing we need to
address though. /s I mentioned earlier, the +orbidden mode gets
pretty unusable beyond about a third of the way up.
If we use a 69*T stomp, one set of lugs can activate forbidden
mode, the second set work an indicator light and we'll use the
third set to add some parallel resistance across lugs 4 and 6 of
the gain pot. / 66>? resistor worked nicely for me. Fou can even
add a 4B pot or trim pot so you can set the maximum amount of
+orbidden gain.
Than* "ou#
This proCect could not have been completed with out the work,
enthusiasm and contributions of many people.
+irstly, credit where credit is due, #ixonic for the cool design,
/lso to &oax Electronics and &arold 2abro for their interpretations.
/nd to my friends(
$aptain 9eyote 3Dustin #ills5 for turning me on to it and helping me
understand it.
Eff*ub 3+orrest 1hitesides5 for the layout and creating the ingenious
hybrid optofet.
Thanks also to the #F)$, %rindcustoms and Badbean forums.
The fourth pot, and so much else I've learnt, I first saw at
#eavis /udio -esearch, It's a great resource, thanks *ano,
%uitarmageddon 3aka #en -ogers5
www.codtone.com
This inforation is for +,- use onl"# Coercial use is forbidden#
Expandora is the property of #ixonic, codtone and the codtone Expandra
have no affiliation with #ixonic.
$opyrightcodtone<>46