Modifying a Russian EX Big Muff π with a Switching Power Input Socket

I was  recently asked by a friend to modify their old-school Russian Electro-Harmonix Big Muff π, with a standard 2.1mm, switching, DC power input socket (often known as a ”Boss style” power jack), for use with a 9v battery. It was a fairly straight forward job, but I thought I would do a short blog post about it, as knowing how to add a DC input socket is super useful for a whole range of projects. These DC sockets let you switch automatically between battery and adaptor use, while conserving the battery when the adaptor, is plugged in.

Before we go through the mod, let me say something about safety

This project and modification are designed only to be used with the standard 2.1mm ”Boss Style” switching DC input socket that takes a 9v, centre negative DC power adaptor. 

Power from the mains AC power supply (the electricity from the plug in the wall) WILL, AND WANTS, TO KILL YOU.  Never mess with anything that plugs into a wall socket unless you are 100% confident with the power adaptor, that you know what you are doing, and the circuit you are working on.  Absolutely NEVER mess with a device WHEN IT’S PLUGGED INTO the wall.  Please be careful, and always put your and others’ safety first.


Now… let’s take a look at the layout of the 2.1mm DC input socket:

Pinout for the 2.1mm DC power socket showing the lug numbering.
Pinout for the 2.1mm switching DC power (”Boss Style”) input socket, showing the lug numbering.
Top view of the 2.1mm DC power socket showing pinout
Top view photo of the 2.1mm switching DC power (”Boss Style) input socket, showing pinout
Side view of the 2.1mm DC power socket showing pinout
Side view photo of the 2.1mm switching DC power (”Boss Style) input socket, showing pinout


Lug 1 – Ground (All ground connections)

Lug 2 – Power (From battery)

Lug 3 – Power (To board)


BE VERY CAREFUL- Check, double check, and triple check  your soldering and the pinout of the socket before connecting a power adaptor, or you risk frying your board. 

When running on battery, lugs 2 & 3 are connected. When a power adaptor jack is plugged in, the connection between the lugs is broken, saving the battery, and power is only drawn from the adaptor via lug 3.


So here is how the mod went:

1. I opened up the Russian Big Muff:

Russian Pots!
Russian Pots!


2. I drilled a 12mm hole for the DC socket. The metal is steel and quite tough but I managed to get through it:

Fresh hole for the socket
Fresh hole for the socket


3. The old 9v battery snap was broken so I’m gonna use a new one:

Old battery snap not looking very healthy.
Old battery snap not looking very healthy.


4. I inserted the DC Socket:

DC Socket in place.
DC Socket in place.


5. I then soldered the black wire from the new battery snap and the black wire from the old battery snap (that was still connected to the board) to lug 1 on the socket:

N.B. if there wasn’t already a wire soldered to the board (from the old battery snap), I would have had to add one from lug 1 to a ground point on the board).

Using the old wire coming from the board meant I didn't have to touch the board (always a good thing!)
Using the old wire coming from the board meant I didn’t have to touch the board (always a good thing!)


6. Then I soldered the red wire from the new battery snap to lug 2 on the socket:

The red wire from the new battery snap.
The red wire from the new battery snap.


7. The red wire from the old battery snap was still connected to the board so I soldered it directly to lug 3 on the socket (I also added a small piece of insulating mounting tape to prevent the lugs accidentally touching the board):

This red wire in lug 3 will take power from the adaptor to the board
This red wire in lug 3 will take power from the adaptor to the board.


8. Finally I remounted the board, and added a fresh battery:



The enclosure has been screwed back together and a fresh battery added.
The enclosure has been screwed back together and a fresh battery added.


9. And here she is working away:

It's alive!
It’s alive!


– Thom Conaty


Geniale Dilletanten

I was recently watching one of the DVD-Features “slices” from the German music magazine Electronic Beats on youtube, where they featured sound-artist Alva Noto, who founded the acclaimed Raster Noton label. A lot of what he said struck me as very interesting, in particular his allusion to the importance of employing things incorrectly in the process of creating music, and his nod to one of the major influences of this vision, the “Geniale Dilletanten” (the ‘Ingenious amateurs’): one of the most interesting groupings of inter-disciplinary bands in the German experimental music-field of the 80s, whose impact stretches far beyond singular artists such as Alva Noto and whose philosophy of how to make sound and music remains both as aesthetically and politically viable today as it did back then: “There was this term in the 80s which I like, ‘ingenious amateurs’ (‘Geniale Dilettanten’). That with a certain kind of dilettantism and ignorance, you are less scared to touch things and to do stuff. (…) I think it’s very important to use something in the wrong or radical way.”

The term ‘Geniale Dilettanten’ (translated here as ‘ingenious amateurs’ – one could also say ‘Dilettante Geniuses’) stems from a now notorious music event called “Die große Untergangsshow – Festival Genialer Dilletanten” (“The great downfallshow”) that took place on the 4. September 1981 IN Berlin, and where, amongst many others, such influential and notorious bands as Einstürzende Neubauten, Die Tödliche Doris (Video), or Malaria! performed and were first exposed to a larger audience. Playing within various styles, some more post-punk, some more industrial or strictly avant-garde etc., what combined them all was their radical edge, their vast experimentation with noise and form, and their contempt for and resistance against the growing professionalism that was overtaking popular music-production, shackled by conceptions of “progress” manifested in the ever-growing refinement of production techniques and structures that attempt to set themselves up as the ‘norm’; a problem still very much prevalent today. The term “Geniale Dilletanten” was later on appropriated to refer to the bands associated with this festival, and it also became the title of a book edited by Wolfgang Müller, founder of the avant-gard of the lot, Die Tödliche Doris, which discusses and documents this historic event (at least for the field of experimental DIY music). #

I recently purchased this book, and I found Müller’s small essay in it, entitled “Die Wahren Dilletanten” (‘The True Dilettantes’) to be of such potential interest and inspiration, in particular for this blog, that I thought that instead of trying to formulate what he says in my own words, I will simply translate it (as I also did not find any existing translation). Of course I am not actually a translator, not by a long shot, and some of this text is quite convoluted and idiosyncratic. Yet I have tried my best to deliver the text with as much fidelity to the original as possible. Some of it may seem unclear and not all of it refers to instruments or recording techniques and devices, yet I hope that in particular the second half of Müller’s text will strike as much of a chord with you readers as it has done with me, and that from it we can all learn to accept and relish the failures, mistakes and hiccups that we laymen bring to the fore every time we make and perform music.

Die Wahren Dilletanten (The True Dilettantes) – Wolfgang Müller, translated by Aran Kleebaur

In the announcement of the “Great Downfall-Show”, the “festival of the ingenious dillettantes”, the cultured professional will notice the peculiar spelling of the word “dilettante”. In this the professional and confident musician encounters the confirmation of an old pre-judgement, associated with which is the first clue to his seemingly legitimate defense against this form of articulation.

The requirement for the understanding and judging of the self, necessary for the coming into being of critiques, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has assembled under the concept of “Dilettantismus” (amateurism). Thus, to this day, these reflexions are subject to a negative evaluation. In his essay on cultural-amateurs and civilisation professionals, Bazon Brock observes “who would want to see themselves referred to as an amateur, even if Goethe himself perceived himself to be such.” The situation which Goethe formulates consisted of a rejection of the extremes between academic “Stubenhockerei” (couch-potato-ism) and do-it-yourself pathos. Only now, so Brock states, can this objective be once again understood fully: the construction of personality, individuation, is the undeniable requirement for the ability of the individual to be fully integrated within a social union. These life-associations, as it is formulated today, must be taken into account in the false-spelling of the word, if we are to put Blixa Bargeld’s (frontman of Einstürzende Neubauten) new formulation, which certainly does not imply a misunderstanding of the original meaning, into the correct context. The understanding of false- playing and false-writing as a positive value, as a condition in finding new, unknown forms of expression, should be made universally apparent.

With the gradual disappearance of linguistic dialects towards a uniform language, caused by mass media, the true amateur is given a further field to plow. “False” verbal forms of expressions, such as stuttering, the swallowing of words and forgetting of lyrics, are the everyday reality for the amateur and thus also interesting research areas which, through detailed consideration, generate new forms and content.

The “ingenuity”, which describes nothing other than the intensive intensity in dealing with the material, is considered the intention of the amateur, who does not wish to halt at simple mass-art. The musical experiments of past times, that mostly isolated within the artistic framework could not elicit much interest from the masses – (the opposition/contrast between demanding experimental music and mass-music was way more crass than it is today) – come to a symbiosis within DIY-endeavours, offering precisely a new understanding of the term mass-music; a “style” as ingenious un-knowledge, i.e. knowledge.

Amateurism in musical (but also all other possible) fields has nothing to do with a standstill due to non-professionalism – on the contrary – by including all possible and supposedly impossible areas, development can find a universal form of expression that is never actually granted the helpless professional.

Focal or starting points, whether it’s the knitting of sweaters or making music with your family, are to be found in the endeavours of every amateur.

With the ongoing, endless chain of refining and complicating instruments and recording techniques, a process which attempts to show a “progress” where in reality only an emptiness becomes visible, amateurism can trigger a provocative shock by attacking this so-called “progress” – a highly outdated concept – with noise and racket.

Anyone can create noise and racket, you do not need digital-recording techniques or a 36-track studio with thousands of sophisticated elements. The representatives of progress see the danger that faces them, defend themselves from it by emphasizing the negative substance present in words such as noise/racket and chaos, and denouncing these as the only features of this production of sound. Wholesome noise, however, is a concentrate of various contents; being both medication and stimulation, it can inspire liberation.

More shocking for the serious musician – as he sees himself – is the fact that ingenious amateurs can often-times create, after only a short time, the same beautiful sounds that are forever supposed to be something foreign to the layman. There is no need to scorn the existence of refined techniques and their associated opportunities. Now that it is there, it can also be used if it seems necessary. Amateurism suffers no harm; the meaning present in beautiful sounds – be it a persiflage thereof – determines the value of the information.

The danger that this possibility entails is the conviction, that one is now a “proper musician”, a professional. On this misjudgement are also based the misconceptions of listeners not familiar with this subject matter and who end up fitting professional-like charismatic outlines on dilettantes such as Hendrix with his guitar-acrobatics.

Serious musicians, dogged, stubborn and involuntary humorous, cannot produce funny sounds, because in order to find the unknown, one must have fun in playing, joyful playing, which may well be coupled with violent pain. If one understands this concept of amateurism fully, you cannot become a serious musician. Sure that would be death itself.

– Aran Kleebaur

New Light Controlled Synthesizer Workshop Added

Hiya Folks,

We’re delighted to announce we have added a new workshop to our roster: The Light Controlled Synthesizer!

The _maker LCS_001

Our Light Controlled Synthesizer (LCS_001) employs Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis using  2 square waves generated by an integrated circuit (IC) known as a Quad 2-input Schmitt trigger NAND gate. The frequency of each square wave is controlled by a Light Dependent Resistor (LDR) which are exposed on the surface of the LCS_001’s enclosure. By waving your hands over the surface of the synth you can play the instrument much like the famous Theremin. The LCS_001 also sports a standard on/off toggle switch and a 1/4” output socket for connecting  directly to your audio rig

Our first workshop will be on Sunday, 4th November at the recently relocated Recyclism Hacklab at the CTVR, Trinity College Dublin, where participants will go through the steps of building our LCS_001 (which we also sell in kit form). The workshop will run from 2pm to 5pm and is a fun and simple introduction to analogue instruments, their design and construction, and of course audio synthesis.

Workshop date added

Hi Folks,

We will be having another Fuzz Pedal workshop, back in The Joinery, on Sunday 28th October.

 This workshop is an introduction to DIY electronics and requires no previous DIY or soldering experience.

The price of €44 euro  includes everything you need to create your own, fully functional boost pedal including all components, Alkaline battery and pre-drilled aluminium enclosure.

Book Now

myredhotcar blogs about building the Boost_001 kit w/ audio sample

Fellow audio DIY enthusiast myredhotcar has documented his build of our Boost_001 kit and recorded a short audio demo.

If you’re thinking about trying out our Boost_001 kit,  check this out:

C64 Bass Guitar by Jeri Ellsworth

I love Jeri Ellsworth.

Image source:


She always comes up with the coolest hacks, and this one does not disappoint. Jeri has taken an old bass guitar and attached it, using some piezo pickups and some nifty programming, to a Commodore 64! Surely the ultimate chip-tune, electro-acoustic instrument?

The C64 bass can also act as a Keytar and various waveforms can be selected from the keyboard

Here’s an interview with Jeri at a recent Makerfaire where she explains a little about the build process.

Jeri is actually a self-taught electrical engineer and has been a huge inspiration to me for a while now. Search her name on Youtube to check out some  of her podcasts and cool projects.