More than a clone...
This is a tribute.
Nivicola has been retired. Thank you all for your help in raising some money for a good cause
Have you noticed the increase in prices of the Black Russian Big Muff pedals lately? They are getting up there. These pedals sound great, and in my opinion are just as good as their green sibling. But... there are good ones and bad ones, and each one can sound different. As often is the case with these vintage (WAT?! Vintage?!... yeah... 90's music is now on classic rock stations... crazy) pedals, they were built with lower part tolerances, and often, cheaper components. So, the result... there are good ones and bad ones, and all of them are questionable durability for gigging unless you modify them.
Nivicola is an exacting recreation of my own personal Black Russian Big Muff. I really spent a lot of time trying to achieve the tone of the original. Sure... I could have found a schematic on the internet and used those part values for the pedal, but it wouldn't sound the same. It wouldn't have same texture, the same low end, same grit, or the same compression. It wouldn't be a tribute.
Some years back I took the plunge and bought a Black Russian BMP. Nothing special, it looked to me like a v8 small box, but I figured if I didn’t like it, I’d have a cool enclosure to mess around with. I plugged it in and was completely floored by its gnarly, woolly, and thick fuzz sound. It even sounded amazing at lower gain settings. I got one of the “good ones”. I wanted this thing on my pedal board, but it didn’t seem road worthy. It’s not true bypass, which is fine if it was buffered, but it's not even that, so you get massive tone suck when bypassed. The pots were fairly flimsy, it’s big, and it only runs on a battery... not a fan. All of these issues were fixable, but I didn’t want to mess with my original. So, I whipped out the breadboard and began tweaking values till I was able to mimic the sound of my original unit. The result is not the same as the schematics you see floating around on the internet. That will get you mostly there, but you'll be missing a lot of the unique character that comes out of some of these units.
Another key element to the sound of this pedal are the transistors and diodes. Every transistor sounds just a little different, and every diode clips the signal just a little differently. One of the the really the fun parts about building pedals is finding out how different parts interact differently within circuit and then tuning the circuit around those parts to make it really sound great. In this case I was trying to emulate an existing sound and none of the diodes or transistors I was using really nailed the tone. I just couldn't get that nice smooth top end, it’s deep lows, and a pronounced low mid snarl. It wasn’t until I found some Russian KT3102IM transistors and some KD521A diodes that I was finally able to nail the tone. I'm sure there are some modern equivalents, but hey... why not NOS is up for extra tone snobbery? What good are parts that just sitting not being used?
So here it is... Nivicola. I did do some upgrades of course… high quality components, true bypass, DC power jack, LED with adjustable brightness, a Voice control which allows you to control the mids content of the pedal, more volume, better jacks, better pots, and a better switch. This is a tribute.
A Good Cause
50% of the sale of this limited pedal will go to the to the World Central Kitchen to support their own going effort to provide meals to the people of Ukraine.
More bass less highs
Less bass more highs
Controls the mids
Scooped mids - Classic
Boosted mids - Not at all classic but awesome
There is an LED brightness trimmer inside... adjust to taste .
9volt - Center Negative 2.1mm Barrel
Power Consumption: <5mA
For all you DIY enthusiasts, here is the schematic for Nivicola. As you can see, it's values are not exactly the same from the schematics you see of the Russian style BMPs out there. These components were tested and selected to nail the tone of my personal V8 muff.
For the transistors, you could probably substitute 2N5210s or even BC550C or BC549C to get a similar tone, though the BCs were a bit too dark to my ears. Remember higher hfe, in a BMP and in general, does not necessarily equal better tone and it will change the sound.
The diodes are a little more difficult, as I feel those are pretty noticeable. The diodes in my pedal were unmarked, and when tested them using my DCA75 I found that your classic 1N4148s had a different forward voltage to current curves than the diodes in my original pedal. Something about the tone wasn't quite there until I found the KD521As, which had a similar reading and ultimately were spot on sounds wise.
The weird resistor values? I picked them because they were closer to the values in my original pedal and cause weird values are fun. Let your ears decide.
You can use most DIY boards out there and populate them with these values. The only exception would be the added voice control which adds C11 in parallel to C10 which lets more mids through the tone circuit. Omit C11 and the Voice potentiometer for the classic sound, wire it off board, use a switch to add a C11 in parallel, or even change C10 to whatever value suits your taste.