Building John Mayer's Tone | Way Huge Aqua-Puss Mk1 Analog Delay
The coveted Way Huge Aqua-Puss Mk1 Analog Delay! Not the Mk2... Not very many good YouTube videos out there either that display the similarities or differences between these two pedals and I'm really glad that I made the Mk1 as it'll remain on my pedalboard and my Mk2 will be taking a back seat for a while.. MadBean Pedals sells the "AquaBoy" PCB which the 2016 version is actually a Boss DM-2 MN3005 PCB which can can be converted to a Mk1 Aqua-Puss with a few part changes. My favorite part about building my own pedals/amplifiers is the ability to pick and choose components to my liking. With this build I went for all original components because I wanted to have a first hand experience what makes this circuit so amazing as it has been and always a part of John Mayer's pedalboard. Brad Paisley also had a Mk1 on his board forever until the Nashville Flood of 2010 that claimed the life of the pedal. R.I.P little blue buddy...
The PCB was great to work with. A little tight but everything fit. One trouble I did have was sourcing a reliable NE570N DIP chip. I ended up buying a surface mount NE570 from Mouser and bought a SMD to DIP converter which works well with leaf-type sockets. Since it was relatively inexpensive, I also picked up some Signetics NE570N (date code '93) from eBay to compare a real NE570 compandor with the eBay ones. To my ears, I cannot tell a difference so I'm almost certain I have got a real batch of NOS NE570's.. Score! From what I've read the NE571 is also a drop in replacement but with lower tolerances which was enough for me to stay true to obtaining NE570s. The MN3005 4k BBG chip I knew was the reproduction real deal from XVive as I sourced them from SmallBear Electronics.
Any mechanical components I used needed to be road-worthy as I'd like to build a few to sell to the guitar player community since the mk1 is out of production. I've come to appreciate Alpha pots/switches, SwitchCraft jacks, and will stick with them when I build because of the reliability and general firmness that doesn't feel cheap. I sourced a few automotive grade capacitors since their size was small and their specification is amazing for vibration/temperature. This doesn't affect tone but a piece of mind when it comes to reliability.
Full assembly was pretty tight in a Hammond 125B size enclosure too but I was able to manage pretty cleanly I believe. There is a little bit of calibration which went really well since I chose components that were very tight tolerance.
Because I wanted to make the enclosure look as professional as possible which required a white foreground, I took a deep dive into learning how to silkscreen. A small investment later and I was able to transfer my design I made in InkScape and apply to the enclosure. Lots of trial and error here but I am pretty happy with the outcome.. I think if I had to do it over again, I would have looked harder for sticker shops that can print white on clear vinyl stickers but now each enclosure will be unique! AGUA-PALS because Agua = Water (Spanish) and Pals = More than one & SLAP spelled backwards :-)
Off to soundcheck!! Below is a video I took of a prototype enclosure that I wish was a little bigger but it was too small to use in production. It was a folded aluminum enclosure that I put upside-down so it looked like a smaller version of the real mk1 but it made my jacks too close for comfort to the electrolytic capacitors.
Repeats are "warmer" (less treble-ly)
Repeats are longer
A lot more bottom end preserved in the mix
The Mk2 always sounded sterile to me.. The Mk1 is way better at preserving the original signal
Overall, this analog delay adds slapback without sterilizing the original signal. (A++)
(Update: SOLD!) I have serial #001 up for sale on Reverb here: https://reverb.com/item/6808762-agua-pals-mn3005-analog-delay-original-aqua-puss-mk1-clone
And I've also made a page where I'll build more to order here