Do It Yourself

Friends Forever: Build Your Own Shin-Ei Companion Fuzz

  • By Nicholas Kula @tonereport
  • June 24, 2016
  • 9 Comments

It all started in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Fuzz, that is. In the mid-‘60s, Maestro brought us the FZ-1, otherwise known to the masses as “Satisfaction.” Yeah, that sound—it was supposed to be a horn-type sound, or so Keith Richards thought. Fuzz fever swept the world shortly thereafter.

It’s funny that an American invention made its way across the pond in 1965. Just 27 years earlier, the first ever transatlantic flight took place, and the Maestro FZ-1 had to voyage 3,800 miles within a traveler’s luggage just to arrive at the feet of Mr. Richards.

In the years that followed, there was a real Western fuzz corridor formed between the US and UK; Jimi Hendrix brought an English-made Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face back to Seattle, and Englishman Vic Flick procured an FZ-1 and had it modded to what became the Tone Bender MKI by Gary Hurst in the back room of Macari’s. For a while, the fuzz flowed like wine along the Germanium Road.

Around this time, the Far East was doing its own thing in the fuzz department, and its insularity worked in quietly subverting the West’s stranglehold on fuzz. The secret weapon: silicon transistors. After Gordon Teal of Texas Instruments invented the first commercialized transistor in 1954, it didn’t take long for Japanese semiconductor company Toshiba to start making its own. Toshiba transistors were manufactured in Tokyo and all bore the prefix “2SC” in compliance with the newly-instituted Japanese Industrial Standard. These transistors began showing up in Shin-Ei’s pedals including the Uni-Vibe, Super Fuzz and Companion. For those of you who care about that sort of thing, the part number was 2SC828.

The fuzz that came from this era was characterized by harsh, biting timbre that immediately made its presence felt. In contrast to the smooth, violin-esque sustain being trotted out by its Western counterparts, the Japanese fuzz boxes wanted to mess your signal up in a bad way. Sustain was often an afterthought, and the fuzz laughed as it tore your guitar sound to pieces. It wasn’t until Pete Townshend’s use of the Univox Super Fuzz that East and West met and shook hands. The Super Fuzz became the stuff of legends, and the Companion was almost forgotten.

Fast forward to 1992, when Wata of Japanese band Boris brought the Companion back into the limelight. Suddenly, used prices shot up, with the dust barely having a chance to be brushed off before the units started flowing out of bargain bins and into the hands of fuzz-crazed players. Today, the sound is recognized as having a completely unique tone, with just one specific buzzsaw sound; piercing, eclectic, and very indicative of Japanese Fuzz. Unfortunately, the older ones are plagued with two problems: They make one sound, despite having a “Fuzz” control that does nearly nothing, and perhaps most egregious, even with the volume all the way up, the unaffected guitar is louder than the fuzz. Today, you will build one, and I have fixed both of these problems by adding a JFET boost (Escobedo Duende) and a Mid Scoop knob that drastically alters the character.

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 fired up, first shot, so I know the instructions are correct.

Ok, that said, let’s build that circuit board!

Materials:

Resistors:

1x 5.1k
1x 10k
1x 15k
1x 22k
1x 47k
2x 100k
1x 1.2m
1x 2.2m

Capacitors:

2x 1nF/0.001uF
1x 2.2nF/0.0022uF
1x 3.3nF/0.0033uF
3x 47nF/0.047uF
2x 100nF/0.1uF
Transistors:
2x 2n2222a (metal can)
1x J20

Potentiometers:

1x 5kB (linear)
1x 50kB (linear)
1x 1mB (linear)

Miscellaneous:

Stripboard (veroboard) prepared to the specifications of the diagram
3x Transistor socket
Wire


Step 1: Insert the resistors as shown, bend the leads and solder them in. Clip the leads and save them.

Step 2: Use the resistor leads as the jumper wires. Save one more lead.

Step 3: Insert the transistor sockets and solder them in.

Step 4: Insert the capacitors, bend and clip leads, then solder them in.

Step 5: Cut the transistor leads and insert them into the sockets. Note: the tiny tabs on the transistors should face downwards. If using a different FET than the J201, check its pinout and make sure everything lines up correctly.

Step 6: Attach the wires as labeled, make sure you measure the length of the wires in adherence to your enclosure! Having to re-wire something because of miscalculation is no fun. Attach the wires to the potentiometers.

Now, let’s build that enclosure!

What you’ll need:

1x Enclosure, drilled for three knobs, one LED, one footswitch, two jacks and one power jack
2x Mono quarter-inch jacks
1x DC power jack
1x LED
1x LED bezel in complementary size to LED
1x 3PDT footswitch
3x Knobs of your choosing
1x 2.2k resistor
1x saved lead from earlier
Wire

Step 1: Mount all the hardware as shown. I like to mount my jacks in this way to reduce the length of the wires running to the switch.

Step 2: Thread the negative (shorter) leg of the LED into the accompanying spot on the footswitch. If your LED isn’t close enough, use a wire. Attach the 2.2k resistor to the other leg of the LED and thread it into the DC jack, but do not solder it. If you have enough room, thread the resistor leg through both “alike” holes on the DC jack. These are the positive terminals.

Step 3: Make sure the entire circuit is grounded. You’ll start with the three linked lugs on the footswitch, then you will move on to grounding the DC jack, both sleeve lugs of input and output jacks, and you will attach the circuit board ground to one of these, depending on your own hardware layout.

Step 4: Use the spare lead and attach lugs 4 and 9 on the footswitch. Solder only lug 4. Then, mount the circuit board and attach wires to all relevant places (footswitch, DC power, ground). Attach the jacks’ tip lugs to the switch according to the diagram.

Step 5: You’re finished!
Some things to note: With 2n2222As, the collector pin is in electrical contact with the case. This means that if your transistors are too tall and touch the lid of the enclosure, the collectors will be grounded and you won’t hear a thing. You can remedy this by being extra diligent with your pin trimming, or by putting some electrical tape on the lid of the enclosure.

 

So, what does it sound like?

The JFET boost in place of the volume control really does the trick, as unity gain is now around 8 o’clock, with the potential to drive the front end of your amp. The mid scoop control we added really opens up the range of the pedal, as the original Fuzz control is something of a “flavor selector” but doesn’t appear to do much. The result is all the searing tone of the original Companion with a drastically increased range. Don’t believe me? Here’s Andy playing it through his Deluxe Reverb reissue. Until next time!

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9 Comments

  1. Bill o

    Great article, I would like try to build this.  Was wondering if the link to the video is missing?

  2. Andrew

    Am I the only one that can’t see the diagram for the veroboard? How do I know where to drill out or what resister goes where? Am I missing something?

  3. Nathan Butcher

    I wouldn’t mind building this but I’m not even going to attempt it without a board diagram and I doubt anyone else is going to either! Are we just supposed to assume there are no cuts, and try to guess from the pictures where each component is located and what the values are? This is not the first time that some pictures or text has been left out of one of these DIY articles but this is a deal-breaker =‘P

  4. Nicholas Kula

    Hi guys, I don’t know why it wasn’t conveyed here (it was in the mag), but here’s the vero layout: http://imgur.com/a/GrhIP

    Cheers!

  5. Justin Salmons

    I built everything to the exact specifications provided.  I have a bypassed tone, but nothing at all when the effect is engaged.  I have double checked all of my traces, wiring and everything.  The only mod I did was to put a stereo jack on the input so it can run off a 9v battery.  This was my first attempt at building a pedal from scratch.  I’ve modded a few other pedals and this build looked easy enough.  However, I am at a complete loss.

  6. Mungo

    I built this and it didn’t work. After a bit of frustration I realized the position of Q1 differs between the drawing and the photo. It is off by one place. (Its one row too low in the drawing). The position in the photo is correct. Also I couldn’t get mine to work until I rotated Q3 180 degrees. This is despite the pin-out on my 2n5458 being the same as the j201. Once I rotated it it worked.

  7. Jokin Albisua

    Hello,
    Thank you very much for your gigant work as journalist and DIY great teachers (specially Nicholas Kula).
    Im quite new in DIY and this is my 3rd not working project.
    I started trying to understand basic electronics this time.
    In the pictures of the project the Q1 is in the correct place but in the original picture of the Vero the Q1 is displaced one hole downwards so the base goes to ground instead of the emitter that should go to ground.
    Please, alert people on the next week tonereport of this change on the vero.
    I hope it works with this change. This way it will be my very first project working and I will be very happy and proud.
    Thank you Nicholas to allow me to start in pedal building

  8. Jokin Albisua

    In the issue 115 there is a project for a SRW EQ Exciter.
    Thanks again for these incredible pedal circuits!
    I find almost cant see the hole of the vero board under the 0 of the 10K resistor.
    It would be great when you post that project if you could include the drawing of the vero without the components to allow people to see this hole.
    Looking for this issues it seems that some of the transistors in the Shin-ei Companion and the SRS EQ Exciter get damaged (not a lot of sustain and some Moisés) but now both projects sound, so Im very happy

  9. ivan

    I’ve been given one of these from a friend to try and get going. it’s his first build and it doesn’t work. I’ve followed the vero layout as far as I can see but the audio probe has the sound stopping at the second xistor. I really need the schematic to properly troubleshoot, but most I’ve found don’t have the scoop feature and it seems there are a bunch from which to choose. I could be chasing ghosts without the same shcematic that you guys use.. where can I find it please?