The Lightning Boy II is a significant achievement in engineering. I put more time and money into its development than all past LBA pedals added up. Its a highly thought out design packed full of exciting new developments from the LBA lab. Its a high voltage vacuum tube powered modular instrument preamp, to sum it up. On its own, the LBII makes for a serious overdrive/distortion. The pedal comes loaded with a 12AX7 vacuum tube, but also uses an inert gas voltage regulator tube inside. The high voltage onboard power supply is mounted on a PCB, which is a first for LBA. Jon Clarke designed the layout of the PCB with some minor guidance from me. The audio electronics are all wired point to point still, but in a much cooler fashion than in the past. I'm in-house manufacturing what I'm calling, the tube module. The module consists of a ceramic tube socket mounted on a metal bracket. The bracket also has a pair of modified solder lug tag strips mounted to it. The tube electronics are all mounted on the mounting bracket directly connected between the vacuum tube socket and the solder tags. The tube module can be removed from the pedal, taking all the electronics with it, for serviceability. The module is mounted on two pins and is held down by 2 nuts. The vacuum tube inside the pedal can be removed with ease. No need to take the tube module out to change a tube. You could unbolt the module if your fingers are of the large style. The LBII will sell for $235.
The Lightning Boy II is modular in design, both inside and out. There is an 1/8" jack on the heel side of the pedal for connecting an LBA Sidecar Module (Gen II). At the same time as the LBII is released, we're going to also be releasing the CH2 Sidecar Module, which turns the simple 1 knob LBII into a 5 knob dual stomp multi-channel instrument preamp. The CH2 is a two channel box with gain and treble controls. The LBII normally has a fixed amount of gain with a master volume control. The CH2 allows one to manipulate the gain of the LB2, but also gives you two separate foot switchable channels. Each channel has a super cool treble boost knob, a unique design of my own. The boost utilizes a custom Cinemag inductor. The LB2's vacuum tube literally powers the EQ boost circuit. The CH2 is a $149 option.
International buyers rejoice! I developed an international power supply that works everywhere in the world. From the USA to Australia, to South America or Asia, it works everywhere. There's a side switch on the PSU to select the operating voltage. It works from 110-240V AC and 50-60Hz. Buyer supplies their own IEC power cord to connect it to the wall power in your country. For North America and Japan customers, we have a budget wall adapter which can be used instead, but the LBA PSU is superior in 3 ways. The LBA PSU is not just internationally flexible, but it also outputs less noise than the wall wart due to its improved power regulation from its toroidal transformer, fully shielded case, shielded twisted pair 12V wire, and onboard power conditioning. The LBA PSU outputs exactly 12.6v AC at 800mA, which is ideal for the Lightning Boy II. The budget wall wart adapter outputs 15.3v AC at 1A, which is high for the LBII, but works fine. 15.3v will run the tube filaments at 14 volts internally, shortening the tube life to about 7000hrs. The LBA PSU runs the tube filaments at 11.3v, or under the 12.6v spec, which increases the tube life to about 20,000hrs. The internal B+ of the Lightning Boy II is 115v with the wall wart, or 100v with the LBA PSU. The difference in sound is not a lot, but noticeable. The distortion is sexier sounding (and there's more) with the LBA PSU. There is more headroom with the wall wart, but a tad less distortion and a tad bit more noise. The wall wart is a $15 option. The LBA PSU is $39.
It should go without saying that prototyping is a battle of goals vs achievability. I wanted to include tube dampers on the Lightning Boy II's vacuum tube as an added bonus, but alas, they do not fit inside the case. The lid will not close when tube dampers are installed on the vacuum tube. I'll look into getting some automotive high temp silicone O-rings for the future. The automotive kind used in transmissions are generally thinner and should do the trick. I'm not sure if its something I can procure in time for the official release, but I'll do my best to try.
Today I finished building a prototype of the LB2 that I'm happy with the sound of. Things progressed through the prototyping phase in a way that I could not have predicted. The noise is super low, the gain is high, the headroom is high, the tone is beastly. Its tight, clear and mean. To get to this point I had to do some things I didn't want to do. Things that make the pedal more expensive. I'm going to have to install a power filter choke inside the pedal, which takes up a good bit of space and costs a bit. Its necessary for super low noise. The added choke is complemented by an added filter cap that's fairly large for such a small pedal. These new parts in the power supply section lower the B+ voltage a little bit - down to about 100VDC. That didn't seem to have a noticeable effect on the sound of the pedal other than it has much less noise. I plotted out the placement of parts in the pedal and everything fits if I omit the internal turbo switch I wanted to add. The switch would have been an inexpensive and cool feature to add, but there really isn't enough room for it. Worth considering are the high voltages inside the pedal. Its probably best to avoid sticking your finger inside to flip a switch. I don't want anyone getting shocked.
Now that I have the pedal sounding the way I want, the next step is designing the PCB for the internal power supply section and getting it manuftured. The audio portion of the electronics are still going to be wired point to point.
About the Author
Mike Congilosi II, Owner/Designer/Electronics Engineer at Lightning Boy Audio and Owner/Audio Engineer/Music Producer at LBA Studios.