Tag Archives: guitar effects repair

Emergency Room #12: The Silent ZenDrive

Espoused by guitarists like Robben Ford, Sonny Landreth, and Nalle Colt, the ZenDrive by Hermida Audio continues to live up to overdrive connoisseurs. This particular overdrive is an NE5532 Op Amp based drive, and the one ending up on the bench today suffered from an op amp gone awry.

ZenDrive Gut Shot featuring the NE5532 op amp, the heart of the ZenDrive circuit.

ZenDrive Gut Shot featuring the NE5532 op amp, the heart of the ZenDrive circuit.

The original complaint was that no output could be heard when engaging the effect, but when bypassed all was well. On opening the backplate and removing the circuit board I was surprised that the op amp used in this unit was seated in an IC socket. This made the repair much easier (thanks Hermida Audio!). I removed the op amp, breadboarded it within a simple buffer circuit and, sure enough, the op amp’s I/O terminals were stuck at the rails. Replacement with another NE5532 fixed the issue.

This fix was done for Buffalo-based guitarist Matt Fantini of Space Junk. Check them out at Funk n’ Waffles Rochester on January 10th with special guests SKYwalker!

Emergency Room #9: Delta Labs Super Timeline ADM2048 Battery Burst

This is quite possibly the most interesting circuit I’ve worked on so far. I’ve always wondered how a digital delay works, and this late ’80s digital IC-based technology allowed the opportunity to reverse engineer the general concept. (I’ll share those findings in posts to come!) But before I could reverse engineer anything the unit had to be repaired to a working condition, as it had suffered the results of a failed board-mounted 4.6V battery:

Figure 1: Showing the Damage from Battery Leakage

There is an SRAM chip (NMC6504) used on this board to store 4 preset configurations (A, B, C & D), this is obviously being powered by the battery and was confirmed when I replaced the blown fuse, powered up the device, and no presets were able to be saved.

I couldn’t find the specs for this battery model online for a direct replacement, so I had to dig into many forums to find information and, eventually, a schematic. For legal reasons I won’t post the schematic here, contact me for more info if needed.

The schematics yield a 4.6V battery, and the test point for the battery voltage is labeled +5VB after the zener. I settled on a Varta 4.8V NiMH from JLS Batteries on eBay. It’s a through-hole component, but doesn’t match the footprint of the original battery, so I soldered wires from the + and – sides to the appropriate vias. To secure the wiring to the battery’s body I used electrical tape and twisted the wires together to provide additional support. The electrical tape may also help in preventing a large amount of damage to occur in the case that this NiMH fails in the future. A square piece of Velcro was used to secure the battery to the main board.

The use of a NiMH is based on the color of the corrosion that occurred on the copper traces and component leads. NiMH batteries contain the hydroxide anion (OH-). In the presence of an electrical current and physical contact, the hydroxide anion and copper can react to form copper (II) hydroxide, which is blue in color.

Copper (II) Hydroxide suspended in a Test-Tube

Copper (II) Hydroxide suspended in a Test-Tube (WikiMedia Commons)

To reiterate, this reaction is corrosive and literally eats away the copper traces on the board. If enough corrosion takes place the board may become irreparable! (Or at least extremely hard to repair without re-engineering and rebuilding the affected circuit). Luckily, this was not the case for this unit.

Once the replacement battery was installed I powered up the Super Timeline and presets were operational!  The contacts for the presets, however, were extremely unreliable. They would make contact maybe 60% of the time, so I ended up removing all of the preset button switching actuators. I tinned a thin, even layer of solder onto each contact and reinstalled them; that worked very well.

Figure 2: Programmable preset switches. The switch to far left has its' actuator removed. This is done by applying a precision flat-head screwdriver to the plastic lip between the lug sets.

Figure 2: Programmable preset switches. The switch to far left has its’ actuator removed. This is done by applying a precision flat-head screwdriver to the plastic lip between the lug sets.

After tinning the preset contacts I took aim to the copper (II) hydroxide build-up near the power and LFO circuits. I cleaned a toothbrush with distilled water and started brushing the corrosion build-up off the leads. I quickly noticed that the component labeling was getting scraped off as if they were old stickers. From that point on I was very careful in removing the corrosive material and mainly focused on relatively open areas between components. It’s not perfectly cleaned, but the unit was working and I didn’t want to ruin the labeling scheme, as it may prove useful down the road. (If anybody has an abrasive-free solution for cleaning copper (II) hydroxide from PCBs I’d be highly interested!) To remove the distilled water I used some combination of paper towels, a hair dryer, and an air compressor.

Thanks for reading! Notes on the circuit’s operation will definitely be a topic for future Talk Theory To Me posts. Stay tuned if you’re interested!

This fix was done for DMS Productions located in Ransomville, NY!

“With over 22 years experience in audio, 16 years experience in photography and over 5 years in video, DMS Productions has become a true multimedia company.”