Distortion, while seen as undesirable in most contexts, has taken a different role in electronic music. Musical distortion refers to nonlinear changes in a waveform, and has been used to change the sounds of electric guitars since the 1940s and 1950s. Originally, distortion was realized with broken tubes in amplifiers or torn speaker cones, but as music evolved, so did the equipment used to produce the desired sounds. Slashed speakers turned into electronic circuits in the mid 1960s, and these electronic circuits are the focus of this paper. Many papers discuss the digitization of analog circuits, but because most analog distortion circuits were commercial products protected by IP laws, there has not been much research in terms of the affects of different circuit topologies and their affects on sound. In this paper, a few topologies are studied with various methods of analog nonlinearities. Two topologies, called distortion and overdrive, were studied. Two nonlinearities were also examined, the diode limiter and the class B amplifier. Overall, 8 circuits were built using various combinations of nonlinearities within each circuit topology. Ultimately, the overdrive topologies were more flexible than the distortion topologies, with the class B overdrive topology being a personal favorite. The only topology that did not work well musically was the class B distortion topology.

Publication Date


Document Type

Master's Project

Student Type


Degree Name

Electrical Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Electrical Engineering (KGCOE)


Mark A. Indovina

Advisor/Committee Member

Sohail A. Dianat


RIT – Main Campus