ElectroSmash Pedal for the Raspberry Pi

Guitarists favor expensive gear. For instance, they hold online discussions about the best types of wire for guitar pickups. They even go to great lengths while selecting the type of transistors that will give them the best fuzz tone. They hold extensive discussions about the merits of the pentode rectifier over the tetrode type. While the geeks in the electronics world share several common characteristics with the guitar geeks, the ElectroSmash Pedal Pi would interest both.

Both teams are already familiar with the single board computer, the Raspberry Pi (RBPi). ElectroSmash provides a pedal that works with the RBPi Zero and allows the user to program the effects. The brains behind the project are in the code that the user has to download and compile on the RBPi.

Although it is possible to write the code afresh, but downloading the sample provided by ElectroSmash is more sensible, and gets you started faster. The community behind the Pedal Pi has contributed the code, and the user has the complete freedom to use it as it is, or to modify the parameters. ElectroSmash provides the Pedal Pi in a kit form, which means owners have to assemble it first.

Instructions for the assembly are available from the ElectroSmash website. The kit comes with all components neatly labeled, which makes the kit easy and straightforward to put together. One does not need extensive soldering experience for the assembly.

The kit has two ICs, the first an op-amp, and the other an analog to digital converter chip. Follow the instructions on the ElectroSmash site to place them on the board the right way around.

Typically, the RBPi Zero comes with the header pins not soldered to the board, and the user has to do the placement and soldering. However, one can get around this problem by using the RBPi ZWH variant, as this board comes with the header pins soldered in place.

Once you have assembled the pedal, you may find it is not as robust as the regular guitar pedals available on the market. According to ElectroSmash, the aim of the Pedal Pi project is to offer learning about guitar pedals and having fun with them. As an electronics kit, the ElectroSmash Pedal Pi kit certainly lives up to its claim.

Although the kit may seem slightly expensive, comparing it with other guitar pedals shows its true value. For instance, the distortion pedal from Ibanez, the classic Tube Screamer, costs almost twice the full kit. Although the ElectroSmash kit has about ten other effects built in, the user can add many more—in fact, only the programmer’s ingenuity, imagination, and programming skills limit the range of effects that the kit can handle.

Following the code sample that ElectroSmash provides is simplicity itself. They list the code sample in order of increasing complexity, ranging from the simple tone to the looping effect. The user can have fun playing with different types of distortion and use a processed quality on the fuzz, bit-crusher effect, and distortion. The effects are all available in the file fuzz.c and one can change a few numbers to give a new effect.