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More Saturation Controls

Expanding the Tone of Diode Clipping

In previous articles I discussed methods of adjusting the clipping depth of a
distortion circuit and other methods for warping the clipping thresholds to produce
additional harmonics and overtones. The circuit shown here is a simple method to
soften the distortion characteristics by inserting
some resistance in series before the clipping
When the pot adjustment is to the left, there is
less resistance and the clipping is more harsh
than when adjusted to the right. The difference
is small but noticeable and allows fine-tuning of
the distortion sound.

A simple rearrangement of the diode positions turns the circuit into a warp control,
where the diode clipping the positive peaks is fixed and the softness is only
adjusted for the diode clipping the
negative peaks. This will be a different
sound than the previous example and will
contain more even order harmonics.
A clipping circuit similar to this was used
in the patent for the Aphex exciters.

If we move the diode ground connection

to a series position as in this example, we have an adjustable crossover distortion
circuit. The signal level must exceed the forward threshold of the diodes in order for
them to begin to conduct. This produces
a "notch" in the output much like
crossover distortion from early solidstate amplifiers.
The variable resistance allows a blend of
direct signal with the crossover signal
which lessens the harshness inherent in
this type of distortion.
I would suggest Germanium or Schottky diodes for this circuit since they have
lower forward voltage thresholds and will kick into operation with a smaller input
signal, and sound more natural.
You could even combine this crossover distortion circuit with one of the previous
Saturation controls for an unusual clipping combination. Example:
With the potentiometer turned to the left end, you will get hard clipping and
crossover distortion - a nasty combination. When the pot is turned to the right side,
the crossover distortion is gone and you get only the softened distortion sound.

Can you figure out why the LEDs were

used for clipping?

With a little thought, an even more

innovative clipping combination is
possible. Here we have a single control
that allows a smooth variation between

traditional diode clipping and crossover distortion!

When the wiper is oriented to the top, the signal will have to exceed the threshold
of the diodes in order to pass the sound, which results in the crossover-type of
distortion. With the wiper turned to the opposite end of the pot, it is grounded and
the diodes are acting as a pair of back-to-back hard limiters.

Another way to blend crossover distortion with

diode clipping is to split the signal into two
paths and process each differently as shown
Note that in this circuit, two different types of
diodes are used for the pairs, which allows
each set to be chosen specifically for the
optimum characteristics required.
The top set of 1N34 germanium diodes are
producing the crossover distortion and the
bottom set of 1N4148 silicon diodes are hard
limiting the signal.
The 100k pot is a mix control that blends the
signals together.

If the crossover distortion is not desired in the processed signal, you can replace
the series diode pair with an resistor/capacitor network (3.9n/22k) as shown here,
which forms a high pass filter. The mix control now adds a bit of undistorted high
frequency signal in with the diode clipped signal.

When properly adjusted, there is some clarity and

sparkle added to the audio, and is quite unlike
other clipping setups.
This circuit would be good to use with Dist+ or
similar fuzz circuits.

If we change the position of the resistor/capacitor

network (39k/0.01uF) to form a low pass filter,
the mix control can now be used to add some
undistorted lows in with the clipped signal. The
effect adds some bottom or fatness to the sound.
I would use it
with Rat-type
distortions that
could benefit
from the bass
Of course, with any of these
you could substitute different
transistor junctions, LEDs, or
clippers to produce different

Lastly, the capacitor is removed

signal path of the network and
resistor. Now a full range signal

clipping circuits
other types of

from the top

replaced with a
is mixed with
the clipped
audio according
to the position of the 100k mix control.
This type of mixed clipping - straight signal with
clipped signal - is excellent for use with bass