Build Your Own Vibrato
December 1957 Popular Electronics
RF Cafe visitor Jim L.
requested that I post this Build Your Own
Vibrato article from the December 1957 edition of Popular Electronics. "Make like Elvis with an
'electronic' throbbing guitar," is the pitch line. Vibrato, for the non-musically inclined, is the 'wa-wa' sound
of an instrument as it smoothly wavers in pitch about a central note. This circuit is for use with an electric
guitar, but acoustical stringed instruments like the violin and cello are routinely played with vibrato effect by
rocking the finger up and down the length of the string. In typical 1950s style, the project is built with
point-to-point wiring rather than using a printed circuit board.
December 1957 Popular Electronics
of Contents] People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about
and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular Electronics
was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights are hereby
acknowledged. See all articles from
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Build Your Own Vibrato
Make like Elvis with an "electronic" throbbing guitar
By Frank H. Tooker
If you own an electronic musical instrument or a conventional instrument equipped with a pickup, chances
are that the vibrato described in this article is just what you've always wanted.
A vibrato is a device which
continuously and automatically varies the amplitude of the music at a low rate of speed, usually somewhere in the
range of 6 to 15 times per second. For instance, it is a vibrato which produces the soul-stirring throbbing, especially
in the bass notes, of a pipe organ.
Construction. Layout and wiring are not especially critical.
For convenience a turret socket was used to mount the oscillator tube, V1, and its components, but a standard socket
and tie points will do as well.
Miniature coaxial jacks, of the type found on most hi-fi amplifiers, were
used at J1 and J2 for the output and input connections, respectively. If your setup requires something different,
any conventional type of jack may be employed.
Keep the power supply components well separated from the oscillator
and modulator components, to prevent hum pickup - and orient the tube sockets for reasonably short lead connections.
Make sure that the 6.3-volt heater leads are dressed snugly against the chassis and that they are well separated from
grid terminals and leads.
A miniature amplifier foundation (Bud No. CA-1754) was used for a chassis (any other
setup of suitable size can be substituted). The Bud chassis measures 5" x 7" X 2", and its over-all height with the
grille cover in place is 6". The finish is black crackle - but if some other color appeals to you, it's a simple matter
to go over the chassis with a couple of coats of plastic spray.
In some instances, it may be possible
to mount the vibrato circuit proper on the same chassis with the musical instrument amplifier. This can be done provided
that there is room, and that the power transformer in the amplifier can supply the 0.6-ampere additional filament
current demanded by the two vibrato circuit tubes. The plate voltage requirement is approximately 175 volts.
Vibrator Circuit Point-to-Point Wiring Diagram
CI, C2, C3, C5-0.05-µfd., 200-volt, metalized paper capacitor
150-volt, dual electrolytic capacitor
C6, C7, C8-0.02-µfd., 200-volt, paper capacitor
250-volt, dual electrolytic capacitor
CH1-3.5-henry, 50-ma. filter choke
J1, J2-Miniature phono jack
R4, R7, R8, R10-220,000-ohm, 1/2-watt resistor
R2, R6-100,000-ohm, 1/2-watt resistor
R5-10,000-ohm, 1/2-watt resistor
R9-3.9-megohm, 1/2-watt resistor
R12-27,000-ohm, 1/2-watt resistor
R13-560-ohm. 1/2-watt resistor
R15-470,000-ohm, 1/2-watt resistor
S1-S.p.s.t. switch (on Depth control)
T1-Miniature power transformer, 125 volts at 15 ma., 6.3 volts at 0.6 amp. (Stancor PS-8415)
V1-Type 12AX7 tube
V2-Type 12AU7A tube
1-Miniature amplifier foundation chassis or equivalent (see text)
1-Turret-type miniature 9-pin tube socket
1-Miniature 9-pin tube socket
Misc. hardware, grommets, tie
Top and bottom views of the vibrato chassis are seen at left and below.
Twist the lugs of the can-type filter capacitors so that the filters are tight to their metal mounting plates.
Vibrato Circuit Schematic
Schematic and pictorial at left show the simplicity of the vibrato construction. If your
amplifier tends to "thump" at vibrato frequency, try a lower value capacitor for C7.
shows correct interconnection of the three basic components of the revised setup. Use shielded microphone cable between
units to prevent electrostatic hum pickup. If there seems to be excessive 60-cycle hum present, try reversing line
plug of either amplifier or vibrato unit.
Vibrato Circuit Chassis Assembly Photo
Hooking It Up. The vibrato is intended to be
inserted or connected between the musical instrument and its amplifier. All you have to do to use it is unplug your
musical instrument from its amplifier and plug it into the input jack of the vibrato. Then connect a jumper cable
of convenient length between the output jack of the vibrato and the input jack of the amplifier.
control determines the rate or frequency of the vibrato effect. i.e., the speed at which the rise and fall in amplitude
occurs. Proper setting of this control depends upon the type of instrument with which the vibrato is used and the
type of music being played. Component values given in the parts list permit the unit to be adjusted over the most
useful range of speeds.
HOW IT WORKS
The schematic shows that the vibrato consists
of two parts: (1) a very low frequency audio oscillator, and (2) a modulator. The low-frequency oscillator is of the
phase-shift type which uses resistors and capacitors C1, C2, C3, R1, R2 plus R3, and R4 in three RC sections to obtain
feedback in the proper phase to produce oscillations. The rate or speed of the vibrato, i.e., the frequency of the
oscillator, is determined by the resistance and the capacitance used in the RC sections. Thus, R3 is the Rate or speed
control of the vibrato.
V1's second triode section serves a dual purpose: (1) it provides a low source impedance
for the RC feedback loop (taken from the cathode), and (2) it acts as a buffer to isolate the oscillator from the
connection to the modulator (taken from the plate).
The low-frequency oscillator signal is fed through the
gain or Depth control, R11, to the control grid of one section of the twin-triode modulator, V2. At the same time,
the output signal from the musical instrument is fed through to the control grid of the second section. The two signals
mix in V2, with the result that the gain or amplification of the musical signal is made to increase and decrease,
smoothly and periodically, at the rate of the low-frequency oscillations. Output from the modulator is taken through
C7 and coupled to the input of the musical instrument's conventional amplifier.
Plate current demand is very
small, so a miniature power transformer, T1, and a miniature selenium rectifier. SR1, more than meet the requirement.
The Depth or vibrato-frequency gain control determines the amplitude of the vibrato effect. The more
this control is advanced, the more pronounced the vibrato effect becomes. Proper setting depends upon the strength
of the musical signal fed to the modulator as well as on the type of instrument and the selection being played.*
Probably the best method is to adjust the Rate and Depth controls for the most pleasing effect. You can get
some idea as to proper settings by listening to recordings in which a vibrato is used. Many beginners tend to use
too much vibrato, or to use it too frequently. Much can be learned by listening to professionals.
POSSIBLE TROUBLES AND CURES
No Vibrato Effect: Check all wiring for errors. Make
sure input and output plugs are making good contact in the jacks. Look for faulty components. Check the tubes. Make
sure the 12AX7 tube is in the oscillator socket, the 12AU7 in the modulator socket, and not vice-versa. Check interconnecting
cables for a poor solder joint or broken wire.
Distortion: Most, if not all, vibratos cause
a certain amount of distortion. However, the effect should not be objectionable. Reduce the setting of the Depth control
slightly to see if it improves the condition. If so, check the musical signal voltage at the input to the modulator.
An input greater than 0.7 volt r.m.s. may cause distortion. Check the value of components around the modulator. Look
for a possible defective component. And check the modulator tube.
Thumping in Speaker: A
thumping noise at the vibrato rate may be due to low frequencies pulling the voice coil or cone out of linearity.
This isn't likely to happen unless you have an amplifier with exceptionally heavy bass response. A high-pass filter
cutting off at about 100 cycles inserted between the vibrato and the amplifier may be necessary in such cases if all
Hum: Hum can come from a variety of sources such as a poor layout of components,
excessively long leads or poor lead dress, a defective modulator tube, faulty filter choke or capacitors, unshielded
interconnecting cables or cables with the shield ungrounded to chassis, using the unit close to power wiring carrying
heavy a.c. currents, etc. All of these possible troubles can be easily corrected.
musical signal voltage should not be greater than approximately 0.7 volt, to prevent overloading the unit. Optimum
operation occurs with a musical signal input from the contact microphone between 0.5 and 0.7 volt.