Midnight Amplification Old Black - Is this a clone?

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beef
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Post by beef »

Hey guys, new here.

Hopefully this is in the right section. Been recommended to post this here from r/diypedals.

Basically, skip to the bottom to avoid the preamble. But for anyone interested in the background, I know this guy is a scumbag with a history of terrible customer service - but for the longest time I gave him the benefit of the doubt and bought his stuff because his work looked and sounded good.

That was until a couple of weeks ago when I gave one of his pedals that I love, a Host Moon, to my favourite local builder so he could repro it into a smaller enclosure. He immediately noticed that it was an almost exact carbon copy of a BAT Pharaoh. No mention of this on his website, no mention it's based on a muff circuit, let alone an almost exact copy of a Pharaoh. We surreptitiously emailed him about it after the fact, hinting it looked and sounded similar to a Pharaoh, and his response was "The Host Moon has muff dna, but that's kinda where the similarities stop. Where did you happen across the guts?" which is just a bald faced lie.

A quick look around the web and it seems that we are the first to notice this.

Pissed off, I emailed Mark from Black Art Toneworks about it and he also immediately recognised it as a Pharaoh clone: "A quick look and yes, it is a Pharaoh for sure. I see one other difference is the transistor used in Q1, but the rest of it is a lift off of my recipe."

It's kind of obvious in hindsight, down to the same knob layout including the germanium/silicon and high/low toggles. Even the name is a cryptic reference to the Great Pyramid at Giza if you know the lyrics from the Om track of which the name 'Host Moon' is taken.

Here's the gutshot from the Host Moon for anyone interested.

https://i.imgur.com/V20iw5D.jpg

But anyway, I digress - feel free to spread the word about that, I plan on making a PSA to bring more attention to his shady pedal practices.

I also had an Old Black of his, a Neil Young inspired pedal, and it sounds fantastic don't get me wrong... but in light of the Host Moon secretly being a Pharaoh in disguise, I have my doubts about the authenticity of this pedal too. I wonder whether it's a slightly modified popular circuit, or an original design.

I'm wondering if anyone here recognises this circuit or can help dissect it's origins from these pictures?

http://imgur.com/a/kqbUL

Thanks very much!

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Post by plush »

AFAIK his Holy Mountain is a clone of the Green Citrus (or Citrus graphic w/o cap selector) and his Giant Sound is a clone of Model Fet
I may be wrong, but, whatever

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Post by jrfox92 »

I forget that his stuff isn't commonly known.
I spotted the Host Moon for what it was the instant a gut shot was posted. [smilie=a_whyme.gif]
But, yeah, I'm mostly certain that all his stuff is a clone/modification of a commonly known circuit.

Skyhorse is a DBA Reverb.
Moon Funeral is a Green Russian.
Star Burner is a Vorg Warp Sound.
Sonic Violence is a Rat.
Holy Mountain is a Citrus Graphic.
Giant Sound is a Model T (not a Model feT, they released their designs at almost the exact same time and the Model feT has an additional "power amp distortion modeler").
beef wrote: Pissed off, I emailed Mark from Black Art Toneworks about it and he also immediately recognised it as a Pharaoh clone: "A quick look and yes, it is a Pharaoh for sure. I see one other difference is the transistor used in Q1, but the rest of it is a lift off of my recipe."
I wouldn't get too worked up on Pharaoh clones, myself.
It's just a Big Muff. Bear in mind that Mark used to use GGG circuit boards for them.
Also, bear in mind that virtually all of Nic's fuzzes are Big Muff variants (Big Riff, Fuzz Age, Fuzz Wall, Lowlife, Moon Funeral, Blacklist).

Also, Re: Old Black, I'll need to draw up a schematic, but based on a quick look I'd guess it's related to the Ross Distortion just without diodes. But don't hold me to that.

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Post by beef »

Thanks for the input guys.

@jrfox92 I know, you're right man, but honestly, it's not the fact that it's a Pharaoh or muff clone that pisses me off, it's that he denies it, lies about it, deceives his customers and uses shitty fake marketing tactics. He's deliberately cryptic about all this stuff, and conceals this information which is shady - I guess ultimately because it's all so unoriginal and he probably wouldn't sell as many if people really knew what they were ordering most of the time. That's why I want to make a separate post about it and spread the word - transparency is key. Probably already preaching to the converted though, seems most savvy people already know he's a rat.

I mean it still sounds good at the end of the day. But he's just a bellend. I won't post any more quotes from him but he is still denying it's a clone directly to BAT's Mark. Which is just plain nonsense. He's still claiming it's not a Pharaoh and you can't trace a pedal just from the topology... but my friend who noticed it was a Pharaoh in the first place has a list of components, placement and layout that I'm waiting on. Always nice to have cold hard proof when he continues to lie.

Sure he changed a small handful of minor components (arguably for the worse) but it's still a Pharaoh. This doesn't mean much to me but:

"Aside from the one set of diodes, there is a 100nf cap in the tone section of the host moon where the Pharaoh uses a 10nf. He's used four 2N5089 transistors rather than the Pharaoh which uses an MPSA18 and three 2N5089 transistors. The transistor switch changes between 39k and 390k on the Host Moon. Exactly the same as the Pharaoh. The resistor count is the same, as are all resistor values. The germanium diodes which Host Moon uses are small possibly 1N34(A?). Other diodes on the switch are 1N4001. Pharaoh uses the same."

I remember seeing rumours on ILF about the Skyhorse/DBA thing and I was skeptical back then. I thought that'd be too brazen to do, who would do that! At this point I'd be surprised if it wasn't.

RE: the Old Black, very interesting! If you or anyone else here get round to tracing it I would be extremely interested to hear the results. Thanks man!

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Post by jrfox92 »

beef wrote: I know, you're right man, but honestly, it's not the fact that it's a Pharaoh or muff clone that pisses me off, it's that he denies it, lies about it, deceives his customers and uses shitty fake marketing tactics. He's deliberately cryptic about all this stuff, and conceals this information which is shady - I guess ultimately because it's all so unoriginal and he probably wouldn't sell as many if people really knew what they were ordering most of the time.
Yeah, I totally get that. That's one of the reasons why I won't even consider having a JHS pedal.
beef wrote: I mean it still sounds good at the end of the day. But he's just a bellend. I won't post any more quotes from him but he is still denying it's a clone directly to BAT's Mark. Which is just plain nonsense. He's still claiming it's not a Pharaoh and you can't trace a pedal just from the topology... but my friend who noticed it was a Pharaoh in the first place has a list of components, placement and layout that I'm waiting on. Always nice to have cold hard proof when he continues to lie.
I remember seeing rumours on ILF about the Skyhorse/DBA thing and I was skeptical back then. I thought that'd be too brazen to do, who would do that! At this point I'd be surprised if it wasn't.
This is true, too. Anyone that has enough knowledge of pedals (like those here) can quickly figure out what's going on in his pedals.
I've tried to get him to talk about that kind of thing before and he's got this nasty habit of denying everything, full stop.
Dude has a worse history than Trump where the truth is concerned. :roll:

It was probably me that first talked about the Skyhorse/DBA connection on ILF, actually. [smilie=a_chuckle.gif]
His history with ILF has probably permanently burned most potential bridges he could take for sales or promotion. When you piss off almost everyone in a community that likely would've been your largest market, you've practically killed all chances of really going anywhere in the industry.

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Post by wildebelor »

Hello, just dropping a line as I wanted to address some things in here!
Firstly, I want to address the personal stuff.
beef wrote: I know this guy is a scumbag.
You don't know me personally and that's a super horrible thing to read online. The internet is a crazy place and I've always tried to appease people, but straight up, that's not cool.
If you personally have a problem with anything I do, then email me - I'll try to help you and work something out. I don't want anyone feeling negative at all, so if I can somehow fix it, I will try.
beef wrote: We surreptitiously emailed him about it after the fact, hinting it looked and sounded similar to a Pharaoh, and his response was "The Host Moon has muff dna, but that's kinda where the similarities stop. Where did you happen across the guts?" which is just a bald faced lie.
So you are the reason I copped some fairly abusive, accusatory emails! :whappen: As I outlined in the emails, it's a big muff variant with clipping options and a bax tonestack.
Not only does BAT not own the big muff circuit, but the Pharaoh doesn't have a Bax tone stack.
Countless big muff variations exist and I listed a lot of them in the emails.
Secondly, if you would like to dissect things for your own personal education etc, that is totally ok. But no one is obligated to disclose anything online.
beef wrote: Even the name is a cryptic reference to the Great Pyramid at Giza if you know the lyrics from the Om track of which the name 'Host Moon' is taken.
This is really funny and super paranoid thinking! I never even considered that :lol:
plush wrote:AFAIK his Holy Mountain is a clone of the Green Citrus (or Citrus graphic w/o cap selector) and his Giant Sound is a clone of Model Fet
I may be wrong, but, whatever
You are incredibly wrong here!
Holy Mountain is based on a GT120 preamp.
Giant Sound (believe it or not) was actually built 2-3 years before the Model Fet, you can reference this on my old blog / tumblr.
jrfox92 wrote: Skyhorse is a DBA Reverb.
Moon Funeral is a Green Russian.
Star Burner is a Vorg Warp Sound.
Sonic Violence is a Rat.
Holy Mountain is a Citrus Graphic.
Giant Sound is a Model T (not a Model feT, they released their designs at almost the exact same time and the Model feT has an additional "power amp distortion modeler").
Again, close but no cigar.
Moon Funeral isn't a Green Russian at all, not even muff-like.
Skyhorse is based on the Belton Reverb brick, you should check the factory schems :D
Starburner is close to a warp sound but not quite.
Sonic Violence is certainly 308 based
Holy Mountain is an adapted GT120 preamp.
Giant Sound is a Model T preamp, but wasn't released at the same time.
jrfox92 wrote: This is true, too. Anyone that has enough knowledge of pedals (like those here) can quickly figure out what's going on in his pedals.
I've tried to get him to talk about that kind of thing before and he's got this nasty habit of denying everything, full stop.
Dude has a worse history than Trump where the truth is concerned. :roll:
Without getting personal, you don't try to get me to talk to you. If you want to talk pedals, or anything at all, drop me a line and be friendly!
Always happy to have a chat with friendly people.
Comparing me to Trump is insane and personally, I don't think you really believe that.

These forums are really insightful, helpful and can really help foster the industry. On the other hand, they can perpetuate a really strange culture of finger-pointing, irrationality and witch-hunting.
Now, I'm going to get back to building some things - if ya'll really need me, email me :hug:

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Post by J0K3RX »

wildebelor - I think your pedals are damn nice lookin and your PCB layouts/designs look great man! They sound good also but, I have to be honest.. I can't stand fuzz/muffs etc.. Not sure why these turd knockin snowflakes are bashing you up in this bitch :hmmm: Yer stuff looks legit to me... :wink:

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Post by jrfox92 »

wildebelor wrote:Without getting personal, you don't try to get me to talk to you. If you want to talk pedals, or anything at all, drop me a line and be friendly!
Always happy to have a chat with friendly people.
Comparing me to Trump is insane and personally, I don't think you really believe that.
A) The Trump part was a joke since it's been forefront in the news, so that wasn't meant to be as much of a personal attack as it might've seemed. :oops:
B) We've talked, it's been awhile, granted, but you can be really cryptic about stuff when it's not necessary. Also, bear in mind I still remember the ILF days, so I'm biased, too.
C) I guess I was being a little specific with the circuit comparisons, but that was mainly so it'd be easier for OP to recognize the connections.
Also, I forgot to add that the Moon Funeral comparison was based on claims from an owner, not personal experience. [smilie=a_whyme.gif]
jrfox92 wrote:Trump
jrfox92 wrote:Trump
jrfox92 wrote:Trump
J0K3RX wrote:Not sure why these turd knockin snowflakes are bashing you up in this bitch
Ah, shit, I summoned a Republican.

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Post by jrfox92 »

wildebelor wrote:As I outlined in the emails, it's a big muff variant with clipping options and a bax tonestack.
Not only does BAT not own the big muff circuit, but the Pharaoh doesn't have a Bax tone stack.
Countless big muff variations exist and I listed a lot of them in the emails.
Also, I just had a looksee at the couple of gutshots I have for the Host Moon, and uh. Yeah, that's definitely not a Bax in there.
Did you recently change it, Nic?

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Post by beef »

I'm sorry you feel like the internet is such a mean and crazy place (I disagree, I am looking out for fellow pedal heads and consumers, not being needlessly vicious) and that comments can hurt your feelings, but frankly, despite all the hate I saw, I gave you a chance and you did nothing but prove to me you were a scumbag! I feel everything I said is justified.

You're right - I don't know you personally, so perhaps you shouldn't be offended by me expressing the opinion you helped me form from dealing with you. If you think you're a nice guy, you may well be and that's fantastic, but it's not the impression myself and countless others seem to have of you, which is a baffling mismatch.

Bottom line is - perhaps if you treated your paying customers with some respect, then you'd get nothing but respect in return from your paying customers :hmmm:

As I said, I was well aware of the hate you were getting online for various shady things. I stood up for you on ILF and got completely rinsed by the community (fair enough in hindsight), and I stupidly actually proceeded to order your stuff directly from you.

What did I get in return?

- Nearly 5 months of waiting for a fuzz pedal (website says something like expect up to 6 weeks or something). I'd heard people having this issue with you and figured you must have learned from your previous mistakes. Nope.
- No replies to any emails until well over 4 months in, when it was finally ready. Radio silence until then, despite multiple attempts to get in touch over various platforms.
- A pedal that didn't match the photos - instead of all the jacks aligned on one edge, they were spread over 3 of the 4 sides. Which is just kind of inconvenient.
- A clone that was actually masquerading as original work. I felt cheated.

So the 'Host Moon' name was a stretch too far. That's irrelevant and a complete non issue. It's pretty rich of you to try and gaslight me and call it 'super paranoid thinking' - which is just a bizarre turn of phrase for what I thought was an obvious connection. As a massive OM fan, it's pretty disgusting that you use their name (along with Hum) to sell this to people on your website. It's pure, unabashed hucksterism and you should be ashamed! If it is indeed a near part for part clone, as everything seems to suggest it is, then how can you possibly claim to 'draw influence' from these two bands and 'shape the sound' of the Host Moon... when at best it's just a Pharaoh / Big Muff with a handful of components swapped out.

The fact is, I have what I have been told is the proof that it's a Pharaoh clone and I'll post it here for everyone to see. And they can judge for themselves. My mate instantly recognised it, and Mark from BAT instantly recognised it from just a simple photo. Now I've got a list of all the components and had the PCB traced it out as extensively as poss.

You keep coming back to the argument that BAT doesn't own the BMP circuit, and that seems like a totally irrelevant point to make. We all know this. There are indeed countless BMP variations, you're right. Again, besides the point. At the time, the Pharaoh was one of the more original takes on the BMP circuit. It wasn't just a carbon copy with a few components changed. It was never shrouded in mystery as to what it was, it never claimed to be anything but a tweaked classic fuzz.

Also, no, I'm not the reason you received any 'accusatory' emails, they were sent by whoever on their own volition :D

I mean, you admit that it's a Big Muff - I have no issues with buying a BMP clone whatsoever - but it's not mentioned anywhere online. The only mention of it anywhere... is from my. There's no transparency. You say no one's obliged to disclose anything online... fair enough, but why would you want to? I wouldn't support someone with that attitude. You're not reinventing the wheel here, and you're not Pete fucking Cornish, have some respect for customers and consumers! Twin that with the quasi-mystical marketing malarkey about Om and Hum, and that's what I'd define as hucksterism. Shady.

I'll quote from an email you sent:

"The Host Moon has muff dna, but that's kinda where the similarities stop.
Where did you happen across the guts?"


99% muff dna right?

Don't you think that's a bit disingenuous and a unscrupulous way to treat a paying supporter of your work? I'm just being real here. Not trying to 'witch hunt' - this whole thing just strikes me as a horrid way to treat consumers. And that's how I felt.

This whole thing is just comically hypocritical when I think about you getting up in arms about Ryan Adams stealing a pedal design without crediting it. Maybe I'm super paranoid crazy man, but I see some similarities there...

But whatever. You're all nice and helpful now, but you've lost a once faithful fan. The guys on ILF were right - there are plenty of pedal builders out there who treat their customers with respect and transparency. The pedals are unexceptional. Fuck it, why bother?

I can't comment on the other pedals, but there are some uncanny similarities which also puts me off, knowing what I know now.

Nice that you're offering to reply to emails now though. That's a luxury that not even paying customers are allowed :thumbsup

Anyway, I'll attach the images but here's an imgur album with higher res versions. Can't provide any more photos sadly though, sold it as soon as I could.

http://imgur.com/a/rInQc

Oh and screw that sycophantic snowflake fella! lol. Bizarrely dismissive comment.
IMG_5409small.jpg
smallpharaoh1.jpg
smallpharaoh2.jpg
smallpharaoh3.jpg

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Post by bmxguitarsbmx »

Allow me to generalize here... Booteek pedal builders are glorified arts and crafts cunts and we expect nothing but magic and deception from them. Proven time and time again on this forum!

It's splitting hairs to say that some guy did a copy of some guys copy!?

And while i'm at it... May I predict the collapse of the small builder pedal market because no one since the 90's could be bothered to learn basic electronics or do any RnD?

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Post by beef »

I think you're right. I feel a bit shit to say this as a total electronics novice, but most self proclaimed small booteek builders really have nothing interesting to offer other than an aesthetic (for an extortionate price of course).

And yeah I know it's petty to get worked up about some blokes copying another blokes copy. While it overlaps here, that's a whole separate issue that I'm personally not fussed about. But I guess I'd say that if you're going to clone someones clone, that's cool, but if you're trying to sell it to the public on a large scale, at least add something substantially different, not just a handful of different components. So IMO it's not quite splitting hairs in this case; The Pharaoh added and changed a few significant things to the BMP circuit. What does the Host Moon add to the Pharaoh? A bax tone stack? God forbid! It's monumental! (Anyway, apparently that's not even on the PCB we traced).

I'm like a broken record at this point, but my real issue lies in the fact that he's not up front about it, and flat out lies and denies it. Plus the marketing bollocks and hucksterism on top of that. There's no respect for us laymen and pedal heads, your average consumer. Someone naive like me thinks they're getting a cool original pedal inspired and shaped by the sounds of bands X and Y but in reality it's just a clone of a clone. Another run of the mill muff with pretty graphics. It's swindling. Borderline defrauding to advertise them as something different and omit that info :x

If I had wanted to buy a muff clone, or a pharaoh, (which I didn't... I love my goddamn Swollen Pickle) I would have looked elsewhere. Believe me! And that's probably why he keeps their descriptions mysterious and enigmatic. But hopefully that shit won't fly in the long run.

Learned a valuable lesson about trust though, so I owe them that.

I know you were joking, but I think the booteek industry can prevail. But the successful builders who stand the test of time will actually need some fucking moral fibre and respect for customers... and most of all some serious bloody talent to do something actually innovative and creative. If you're just gonna sell endless fuzz variations and slightly tweaked clones, at least be like Abominable Electronics and add some cool new features and make it clear what it is on your website :block:

Or just make bog standard clones with nice artwork. Sadly, seems to be working for a lot of companies right now.

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Post by bmxguitarsbmx »

Yeah. I hope you are right. I think it is amazing that small people can make a living in what could be a very creative industry. It's a rare moment in time where we have access to the world from our basements.

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Post by w1nterl0ng »

Unfortunately, this thread got sidetracked.
Does anyone know if Old Black was traced?
I am interested in the pedal, but they are not available and I don't think the builder is still working.

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