Do It Yourself

Amps for the Masses: Build Your Own Noisy Cricket Amplifier

Dano from Beavis Audio ran what could be described as one of the holy texts of the DIY world. His site—beavisaudio.com—was one of the digital outposts for DIY guitar effects in an era when DIY gear wasn’t nearly as en vogue as 2016. Dano provided fledgling builders with a wealth of information—some inherently useful, some very stream-of-consciousness—and many guys in today’s business owe the man accolades upon accolades.

In addition to many cool blog posts, such as the one where he fixed a rackmount digital delay from Frank Zappa’s studio, the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, Dano provided a glimpse into the mind of a person who knew what they were doing, having fun doing it, and writing for an audience with his own interests as the guiding light. In short, Dano’s writing made us not only want to build some projects, but to become the kind of person who could enjoy such projects with as much exuberance as he appeared to project.

It wasn’t just a pedal blog (though he did sell three products: the FKR, Devolt and Beavis Board, all of which were pedal related). Dano contained DIY projects on how to build all of the products he offered, as well as little circuit bits, some popular pedal schematics, some noisemaking 40106-based synth boxes and some hi-fi audio stuff. Some of Dano’s most popular circuits include the Heterodyne Peyote Space Explorer, a wild synth with many knobs and switches, the Trotsky Drive, which has been duplicated in large quantities, and the Noisy Cricket amp.

The Noisy Cricket is a half-watt solid-state amp based on the LM386 power amp IC, with a wealth of options available such as a bass boost, grit switch, switchable headphone out and more. There’s a lot going on here, and I have some news for you: You’re going to build one.

I chose to include all the options on this build. Some elements, such as the footswitch, are completely optional, as any footswitch can be replaced by a toggle. I opted for the footswitch, with no knowledge of the sound of the grit increase, and if I had to do it again, I would have opted for a toggle switch. I will still include the instructions for building the footswitch, but please note that I recommend the toggle, as the effect is marginal.

Disclaimer: Neither I, nor Tone Report Weekly bears any responsibility for any kind of personal or property damage that may occur as a result of the instructions provided herein. Legal mumbo-jumbo aside, we ask that readers be familiar with a soldering iron and its accompanying safety procedures before trying anything listed here. Furthermore, if you fire the pedal up and it does not work, it will need troubleshooting. Assuming the components are not damaged, the pedal will work. I built this very unit according to these instructions and it worked so I know the instructions are correct.
With that said, here’s what you need for the board:

Resistors (quarter-watt):
2x 10 ohm
1x 3.3k
1x 4.7k
1x 1m
Capacitors:
2x 47nF (film)
5x 100nF (film)
1x 47uF (electrolytic)
2x 220uF (electrolytic)
Potentiometers:
1x 1kB
1x 100kB
1x 10kA
Semiconductors:
1x MPF102 transistor
1x LM386N IC
Miscellaneous:
1x Veroboard (stripboard), cut and drilled
1x 8-pin IC socket (optional but recommended)
1x 3-pin SIP socket (optional but recommended, for transistor)
Wire
Let’s build that circuit board!
NOTE: I built this slightly different than my layout, to accommodate a footswitch. This is not necessary, or even recommended due to the marginal gain of the sound.

Step 1: Place the resistors in the board. Bend the leads and solder. Clip the leads and save them.


Step 2: Use the leads to form the jumper wires. One of the jumpers may be too long for a lead to work, so cut a piece of regular wire instead.

Step 3: Insert the film capacitors AND chip socket. The idea here is to align it so that you leave as much space as you can in accommodating the large electrolytic capacitors in the next step. On my board, I have some off-center capacitor placement for this purpose.

Step 4: Insert the electrolytic capacitors, bend leads and clip. It may be a tight fit, those 220uF caps can be kind of big.

Step 5: Insert the chip and transistor. I didn’t use a socket for the transistor.

BEFORE PERFORMING THE NEXT STEP, PLEASE SEE STEP 1 OF THE ENCLOSURE INSTRUCTIONS

Step 6: Cut wire for the edges of the board, place them in the board and solder. Attack the potentiometer leads to the appropriate lugs and solder those in.

That’s it! Now onto the enclosure!

Switches:
2x SPST (or SPDT) toggle (or one toggle and one SPST/SPDT footswitch, if making the footswitch)
1x DPDT toggle (two position)
Hardware:
2x mono quarter-inch jacks
2x stereo quarter-inch jacks (optional, for the footswitch)
1x stereo eighth-inch jack
1x enclosure for the amp, I used 125B size
1x 1590LB jack (optional, for the footswitch)
1x DC jack
3x knobs of your choice
1x 5mm LED + bezel

NOTE: I included an LED on my footswitch, but I decided not to connect it after hearing the marginal gain it offered.

Let’s do it! There aren’t many steps to this, mostly because the entire thing is subjective as to component placement, unlike a pedal. Most of the steps involve feeding the wires from the board to their appropriate appointments.

Step 1: Nice to see you from up above. This is extremely important: You need to make sure that your wires will reach everywhere you want them to, based on your hardware mounting preferences. This step involves mounting everything except the DPDT toggle in a way that makes sense to you. Mount these items first, then measure and cut the wires. Trust me, it will be much less of a headache.

Step 2: Install the board and mount the potentiometers. Wire everything in, except the headphone switch and jack. 

Step 3: Make the jumper wires on the headphone switch as noted. It might be best to leave the lugs unsoldered for now, as some lugs will share wires.

Step 4: Mount the switch and wire it up. Use this time to wire the jack to the switch. Also at this time, wire the LED’s negative leg to ground.

Step 5: We’re done! Now, for those of you who want to make the footswitch like I have, here’s how to do that, it’s quite simple.
Step 5a: Mount the stereo jack to the enclosure, solder the “dirt switch” grey wires to the TIP and RING lugs.

Step 5b: Mount the other stereo jack and the footswitch to the enclosure. Solder one lug to the TIP and the other to the RING.



That’s it! You can now use a TRS cable to switch the extra gain on and off.

After building this, I tried it on a 2x12 cabinet and it drove the speakers just fine, the volume is a hair low. However, on a 1x12 cabinet, it should work just fine. It doesn’t sound all that great with pedals (at least not any I’ve tried) but that’s not why you’re building it. You’re building it because you want an itty-bitty amp for trying out new licks, especially when the loved ones (or complaining neighbors) are sleeping; and it fulfills this quite well. Thanks, Dano!

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3 Comments

  1. Kevin Tester

    No schematic? Does seem like a interesting one to try out and a schematic would be useful.

    FYI: It appears as there is some code from the pedal board article entangled into the coding of this article.

    Thanks,
    Kevin

  2. RaymondLal

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  3. Adman Rad

    I like I like!
    Thanks for a future soldering tones,new friends and Michelob…. 0_0