Get It While You Can… Soundgas Type 636 Update
WRITTEN BY: Tony Miln
UPLOADED: 1st Oct 2019
Last week saw the final completion of the production prototype of the Soundgas Type 636. Read on for video and the full update on progress, but first: we’ve just added the photos of the final design to the listing – we’re seriously proud of the end result.
Click on the image below to see it in all its glory – and to order one of the four units (at time of writing) that are still available…
This has been quite a learning curve, and I’d like to thank those who have preordered and are patiently waiting for their units to ship: your trust and confidence has been essential to make this project achievable. We are running a few weeks behind schedule, but the good news is we are nearly ready to begin final assembly and testing of the first ten.
Dr Huw has been poring over his computer for what seems like weeks now, carefully putting together the ‘bible’ on the design and build so we have a permanent record of the process. This will also feed into the technical documents being produced to accompany the user manual. I wasn’t aware that we would need to build a production prototype as well as the original prototype, but it makes perfect sense – how else can you fine tune the internal design and layout until you have built the exact unit?
But we have it! Here it is in action with a PsyCo X Syncussion clone:
There have been many upgrades and improvements made compared to the original prototype. Dr Huw’s experience as a tech has ensured that this will be an easy unit to service/repair in future (so pretty much the opposite of an original): all the various component boards are modular and connected via socketed interconnecting cables. The design has been subject to various last-minute upgrades and adjustments and is sonically richer than our original prototype which is itself a near-indistinguishable recreation of a well-preserved original Grampian 636.
We decided to add a higher gain option to the mic preamp to replicate the extra drive of my second unit, the FrankenGrampian, which has a mystery transformer that goes above the standard maximum to delicious over-the-top hairiness that we rarely tire of and use a great deal. This adds some extra noise at the maximum setting, but is worth the price of admission for the utter unbridled joy of such insanely rich harmonic gnarl. If you want standard Grampian behaviour, just dial back the input gain and you’re there.
The last two weeks have seen the refurbishment of the original Gibbs tanks – disassembled, cleaned, serviced and rebuilt with the correct impedance transducers (many tanks do not have the correct input/output values, and we had expected to have to rewind them to spec, but I’d bought so many vintage tanks that we were able to find enough original parts to complete this initial build. The sound of these old tanks is really special and a good 636 is far more than just a gnarly distortion or boingy dub meister: wind back the gain and use sparingly and you are rewarded with a smooth and effortlessly ‘right’ ambient effect that softly sprinkles fairy dust and flattery on any source…
But that distortion is what keeps me coming back to these units: insanely-addictive and filthily-glorious with almost anything. The circuit is similar to early Fuzz Faces and I can see guitarists emulating Mr Townshend and rejoicing in what the 636 brings to the crowded ‘pedal’ market. During our recent trip to London we spent some time hearing our original prototype pressed into action by Ben Baptie on parts recorded with the Dap Kings in Brooklyn: everything he ran through it sounded stunning, but it was a particular guitar part that left me uncharacteristically speechless. What already sounded like a classic recording from the heyday of Motown took on a more muscular yet nuanced fuzzy-round-the-edges psychedelia that never strayed from authentic. I’ve heard nothing else that allows you to keep dialing in more and more gain and yet still sound so smooth and ‘right’.
So this week should see everything come together with final assembly early next week. All being well, we’ll begin final testing and calibration and aim to be shipping out by the third week of October with the second build of ten units commencing in early November. While it’s possible in theory that we could produce another limited run in future, at the time of writing we have not secured enough components to make this feasible. We have other exciting new projects that we are keen to commence, so may not get around to another batch of vintage-style 636s after these twenty. At the time of writing, there are only four remaining units available to preorder, so if you want to be assured of getting one of these handbuilt twenty originals, don’t delay!
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