Catalinbread SFT



The SFT has always been a favorite with us for guitar and bass. But dwindling supplies of JFETs and the desire to go next-level with the SFT concept led me back to the breadboard to conjure up a next-generation SFT. After months of experimentation and fine-tuning, I’m happy to say I met my goals for the new SFT. But it wasn’t an easy or quick process! Our standards keep going up as we learn more and more about this stuff. And I’m relentless, obsessive, and picky when it comes to getting a circuit just right. You see, it’s not really about engineering or electronics. It’s about being a guitarist and knowing exactly what something should sound and feel like. So I don’t spend much time with scopes and calculators and transfer curves. Oh, believe me, I know about that stuff, but that’s not what leads me to a design that just feels right when you plug into it. The way I roll, I sit in front of the breadboard, with guitar in hand, and I keep tweaking the circuit until that guitar in my hand says, “Yes! That’s it!” It’s a feel thing. Here’s an analogy: You could write a song by applying music theory and come up with something technically correct but lacking in feel, lacking in substance. Or you could get out of your mind and jam out until something brilliant happens. Often times when that happens, the musician will say, “It was as if I was a channel and receiving it. I was in the zone, man!” Same thing with circuit design. So yeah, I spend a lot of time completely out of my mind. You’re welcome 😉

What was the hardest thing to dial in with the new SFT? That elusive not-clean yet not-dirty sound. A great tube amp does it. You turn it up halfway or so and there it is not totally clean but not really crunching either. It breathes. It bounces. It responds. Getting a pedal to do that is not easy. Getting a pedal to do that while also making the pedal able to become a pummeling JFET fuzz pedal is even harder. I persisted until I got there! It was all about gain staging. Finding the right bias points. Tuning the tone stack. Making the circuit resonate just right so the pick attack is right. So the thump of the low E string is right. When you’re finally done it seems obvious. Getting to obvious is not so obvious though!

Enjoy your new Catalinbread SFT and I hope it inspires many riffs and songs for you!

… Howard