The Beardface


The Vorp FX Beardface is a modified recreation of a rare Japanese pedal from 1977. It is an opamp-based hard clipping distortion circuit with a very pronounced character that is particularly rich in overtones. Unlike the pedal that inspired it, the Beardface offers both symmetrical silicon diode clipping and asymmetrical germanium/silicon diode clipping for two distinct distortion flavours (symmetrical clipping is the standard sound, asymmetrical clipping has different overtones and some extra fuzziness). This pedal excels when it comes to abrasive 1970s-style distortion, and it also works remarkably well with bowed instruments like electric violin or electric cello. Turning the Distortion knob clockwise also adds high frequencies. Requires a 9V DC power supply.


This was in fact the second pedal I ever built, after completing the Squirrel. I had heard Josh Scott demo various 1970s opamp distortion pedals on YouTube, and the Guyatone Zoom Box sounded more interesting to me than most of the other pedals that were based on the venerable MXR Distortion+. It just has an extra edge around the higher frequencies that make it sound livelier than other, similar pedals. The trade-off is that it doesn't work well as a booster because at minimum gain, the maximum output level is unity. The Beardface design follows a circuit posted by mirosol with one or two minor changes, plus the added clipping option. The first one ended up in a white box when the combination of my inexperience at the time and a malevolent power drill ruined the only red enclosure I had. The white box turned out to be such a pain with the lacquer that I decided that all subsequent pedals would definitely come in a red enclosure.

Originally, this pedal was supposed to be called the Camera, but then the first of these happened to end up as a birthday present for a bearded friend of mine, so it became the Beardface instead. The reason that it became a birthday present is that said friend had been looking for a distortion pedal that sounded good with bowed instruments like electric violin and electric cello, and I felt that this might be the one. As it turned out, this pedal is perfect for these instruments.

The Beardface is one of my favourites. It may be a lesser known cousin of the Distortion+, but the sound is killer. However, attempts to sell this pedal have been tedious to say the least, so I stopped making it.


Beardface Variations


The Beardface Prototype, serial no. BRDF000. It contains the very first Beardface circuit board I ever made in May 2019. I bought the components for it at a local shop, which didn't have all the exact required parts, so two of the capacitor values are slightly off and the resistors are not the preferred type. Initially, it used 1N60 Germanium diodes (due to faulty build instructions) and had a clipping switch, but those were salvaged and used in the white Beardface (see below). It was finally housed in this "retro" design metal box after it had been lying around in a parts drawer for some time. When I put it in its new enclosure, I decided to go without the clipping switch, inserted the correct Silicon diodes and used the extra space to provide battery operation. Read more about this pedal...


The first Beardface, serial no. BRDF001. Made for a friend as a birthday present. It's in a white enclosure because I had ruined my only red enclosure when building the prototype and the replacement wouldn't arrive in time for said friend's birthday. It uses the clipping switch and the 1N60 Germanium diodes that were originally in the prototype, so the sound is a bit creamier than the other Beardfaces'.


The Beardface Special Edition No. 1, serial no. BRDF004SE, the nerdy/classy/luxury version of this pedal with Germanium rather than Silicon diodes. It's equipped with a combination of rare new old stock components (such as an Intersil "metal can" CA741 opamp and Tungsram Germanium diodes) and high-quality components (such as Tantalum capacitors). As an extra bonus, it has a bi-colour LED that indicates the clipping status. Read more about this pedal...

IMG_2977.jpgThe Beardface Special Edition No. 2, serial no. BRDF005SE, a somewhat nerdier version of the nerdy/classy/luxury Beardface. This one comes with a ST Microelectronics "metal can" LM741 opamp, Tungsram Germanium diodes, Tantalum caps, plus two additional toggle switches for sound customisation.

IMG_3266.JPGBeardface number 6 was a one-off that came with the "Bass Boost" switch that had been implemented in Special Edition no. 2. This modification turned out to be much more subtle than I had hoped, so the switch disappeared again in subsequent pedals.


Beardface number 7 came in a slightly larger enclosure, which allowed top-mounted input/output jacks and battery operation.