The MOD Squad: Orin Portnoy Talks About MOD Kits DIY

Individuality. As a musician, nothing says ‘individuality’ like gear that’s built with your own bare hands. Just ask Eddie Van Halen or Brian May. Building your own gear gives you knowledge about tone that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Not only that, but, as Orin Portnoy of MOD Kits DIY pointed out in a recent interview with, “It’s fun.” Orin went on talk about how the build-it-yourself pedal and amp kits by MOD Kits DIY help inspire musicians to make their own tone.

MOD Kits DIY started out selling conversion kits for amplifiers. They moved quickly into the world of pedals and started offering a variety of effects in their do-it-yourself pedal series. Continuing the trend, they expanded their DIY kits to include amplifiers.

When TTK asked Orin about why they started the Arizona company, he didn’t hesitate in his response. “To get people more involved in building their equipment; to inspire them to get into basic electronics.” Orin knows that if a player can build his or her own equipment, it will inspire them to create their own individual tone. “Musicians want to be unique.”

So, what do they have? Well, let’s start with some pedals.

All of the pedals are point-to-point wiring, which, according to many aficionados, is the only way to go. It also makes it easier by not having to deal with the intricacies of wiring a circuit board. And, as anyone who has torched a few will tell you, circuit boards take the hands of a surgeon and the patience of a saint. All of the pedals are built like mini tanks with a pre-drilled metal casing and include effects like Overdrive, Tremolo, Boost, Pre-Amp pedals, Reverb, and Distortion.

While many of the designs are influenced by old classics, MOD kits are not modeled after any particular pedal. While, there are certain pedals that are difficult to reproduce without a circuit board, Orin points out that MOD Kits DIY has already made great strides in creating pedals with point-to-point that would normally use a board. The Trill Tremolo is a testament to that.

The Trill Tremolo (Orin’s Favorite) has a speed knob that starts you off at a crawl and leaves you with a rapid moving effect like a machine gun. The depth knob determines the ration between the dry and wet signals, and the low noise transistors make sure there’s no signal drop. It also uses true bypass switching, so there isn’t any signal loss even if the unit is off.

One of the pedal kits in the MOD line-up that got all of us at TTK buzzing is The Persuader, a vacuum-tube preamp pedal that moves from a warm clean to a smooth overdrive. Well worth the time to build considering you’ll end up with a freaking tube-driven overdrive pedal for less than $65! While the pedal does work with a battery, MOD Kits DIY recommends using a 9V adapter for the juice that you’ll need to keep rocking out. And yes, the 12AX7 tube comes with the kit.

As mentioned before, MOD Kits DIY started with amp conversion kits. Among their most popular, is a kit to mod vintage fender amps that run off of 6L6GC power tubes to run off of EL34’s instead. But the conversion kit that caught our eyes at TTK was the “Bass to Tremolo Conversion Kit.” If you own a silver-face Bassman, and, like me, never used the bass instrument channel, you can convert it into a foot-switchable Tremolo effect for the normal channel.

Then there are the amps. The MOD 101 guitar head is an all tube 60W amp kit that you can build using 6L6’s or EL34’s (both come with the kit). On top of that, there are 32 different circuit variations that you can choose from, including anything from a Tone Stack Mod to a Negative Feedback Mod. For those looking for something a little simpler, MOD Kits DIY has the MOD 102, a 5W Class ‘A’ tube amp powered by a single EL84.

When asked which one of the MOD Kits is the easiest to assemble, Orin simply says, “The Piledriver. Anybody can build that kit.” Which also explains why it’s their most popular pedal. Not to mention that it’s also the least expensive of their line, at $24.95.

Which brings up another point. The price point, that is. The most expensive pedal that MOD Kits DIY offers is only about 75 bucks. Obviously, saving on assembly costs makes these pedal kits easier for starving musicians to afford, but keep in mind these are point-to-point wired metal-cased pedals for less coin than most competitor’s lower-end circuit board plastic-encased counterparts.

There’s no shortage of players who’ve built their own gear. Brian May famously built his Red Special guitar with his father, including winding his own pickups. Then, of course, there’s Eddie Van Halen’s famous “Frankenstein” guitar, which turned out to be one of the best-recognized guitars in the world. Both of these players rolled up their sleeves, warmed up their soldering irons, and got their hands dirty building the gear that helped make them the legends that they have become. We here at are always looking under the hoods of our best rides, and, sometimes, we’ll even take a wrench to them. MOD Kits DIY seems to understand that, in chasing for your individual tone, sometimes you gotta get your hands dirty.

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About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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