Distorted guitars were a big part of the rock revolution last century; we try to forget about the roll. As a youth, [David Hilowitz] couldn’t afford a loud aggressive amp, a distortion pedal, or even a proper electric guitar. This experience ended up teaching him that you can use random old audio hardware as a distortion effect.
[David’s] guitar journey started when he found a classical guitar on a dumpster. He learned to play, but longed for the sound of a proper electric guitar. Family friends gifted him a solitary pickup, intending he build a guitar, but he simply duct-taped it to his steel-strung classical instead. The only thing he lacked was an amp. He made do with an old stereo system and a record pre-amp. With his his faux-electric guitar plugged into the microphone input, he was blessed with a rudimentary but pleasant distortion that filled his heart with joy.
[David] goes on to explain the concepts behind distorted guitar sounds, and how his home hi-fi was able to serve as a passable starter amp when he was young and couldn’t afford better. He then goes on the hunt for more old gear at a local Goodwill store, finding a neat old tape deck that similarly produced some nice warm distorted tones. In [David’s] experience, old hi-fi gear with microphone inputs can generally do a decent job in this role, with electric guitar pickups typically overloading the preamps which expect a lower-level signal. It’s different to what you’d get from a Big Muff or Boss DS-1, but it’s a neat sound nonetheless.
We’ve looked at distortion effects before, including rolling your own and putting it into production. Video after the break.