Article 0 - PerfectSound Rock Refurbs…Who, Where, Why, and What Gives?
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is David Accomando. I am 45 years old and reside in the beautiful city of Rochester Hills, Michigan. I grew up in the small Detroit suburb of Madison Heights. Some friends refer to Madison Heights as the “capital of the world”. This, of course, is said in sarcasm…as most of us thought MH was one of the most boring places one could possibly grow up in. This is a place where going to the corner store may have been the highlight of one’s day…whether something was actually purchased or not. We weren’t the richest kids around, you know. Of course, Dad always made sure there was “food on the table”. Dad also made sure we ingested toxic drinks such as lemonade mixed with Diet Dr. Pepper. Sometimes other combinations were chosen. The point is, Madison Heights was not a place where Perrier was on the best seller list.
1976 was a good year in Madison Heights. Two events that really stand out in my mind are 1) being chosen as part of an elite group of 6th graders to plant Bicentennial tulips in Halfman Elementary School’s courtyard and 2) being caught off guard by an incredible “sound” blasting from Darrel Taylor’s console stereo. It was a sound that touched my soul in every way imaginable. Today, that “sound” makes me wonder what life would have been like if I had been born deaf in BOTH ears! (My left ear was dead at birth.) That “sound”, by the way, was the rock band BOSTON.
1983 came and went. Fate pushed me into uncharted territory as I began a very long, six year journey into the abyss…otherwise known as the United States Navy. Entering the advanced electronics program, it was there that my obsessive compulsiveness began to shine, as I perfected the art of paying attention to DETAIL. At the time, I thought of it as a curse…literally dreaming of my work while I slept. All this while that “sound” kept me going for the long haul.
1987 brought the birth of Christin Rose Accomando, my only child and the best thing that came out of three wonderfully awful attempts at marriage. Christin is normal, therefore, NOT a chip off the old block. As Martha Stewart would say, “That’s a good thing”. Anyway, she’s got one hell of an inheritance coming. I just don’t know where she’ll put all these speakers!!! Although I have not been by Christin’s side throughout the years (she’s now an ISU graduate), I have always tried to do the best I could. Christin is always there to remind me that people are important, so whenever I start to feel like my world is a really lonely place, she’s just a phone call away. I just can’t believe she’s going to be 23! I never gave her permission to grow up, but she did anyway...blatantly, right in front of my eyes. What gives?! Is there no respect? It seems like just yesterday I was reading “Hop On Pop” to her…while Boston’s new album “Third Stage” played in the background.
1992 brought the conception of Blindsided, an original hard rock act which I co-fronted with bassist extraordinaire Mike Szejbach. Of course, Blindsided was decimated by a new sound… a sound called “grunge”. Oh, how I hated the nineties!!!! However, every rose has its thorn(s). Three good things came out of the Blindsided experience…good songs, good friends, and good equipment!!!! It was during this time that I began my plunge into what would later become all things Rockman.
2004 brought the end to marriage number 3. You know, some people are just not meant to live the “normal” American lifestyle. Some people are driven by other things beyond explanation. I was and am driven by a quest for “Perfect Sound”. To help me out in my pursuit, God chose to deliver three special people who have been with me for the long haul. Johnny, Rickster, and Vince are three of the greatest friends a RockHead could have. It’s amazing what a lot of tears, Cheesy Westerners, Jumbo Shrimp, Fisher’s Red Hots, Key Lime Pie, and a love for Jesus Christ can bring together!!! It is this small band of gypsies that keeps the fire burning…
If I may be so bold…all Rockman Rockmodules left the original SR&D facility with faulty design characteristics…some faults were of an assembly nature…other faults were in the circuitry itself. It should be pointed out that even with these faults, the SR&D Rockman Rockmodules were the greatest guitar and studio processors ever conceived. Hats off to Tom Scholz and all of the engineers who aided in the design of this great product line. They had no idea that these blue units could change lives. Who could know? The Rockman Rockmodules were and are capable of sound no other company has been able to emulate. The problem was and is purely a manufacturing one…an assembly one…a lack of quality control. Again…who could know that these small blue solid state units would still be rockin’ alongside 2008 state of the art equipment…over 25 years later? Well, if I can help it, my grandchildren’s children will know what a Sustainor is!!!!
Enter PerfectSound Rock Refurbs. What we do is simple. We open up every module, one by one, correcting any faulty assembly blemishes and faulty circuitry using old fashioned point to point soldering techniques and a keen eye for detail. We replace components that need to be replaced, and leave others alone. We remove the original plastic case and give the circuitry a new home. We modify older units to sound like newer units, and add simple yet effective enhancements to make these units easier to squeeze sound out of. We don’t over modify. We are NOT parts changers. We SONICALLY refurbish these units. We DON’T replace every EQ slider tip that may be broken off. (Guitar picks or ink pens work wonders.) PerfectSound very simply makes each Rockmodule SOUND like a million bucks. If you think your Rockmodule sounds OK……… you had better think again. Rock On… PerfectSound Rock Refurbs looks forward to helping you find YOUR sound.
All The Best,
The Sustainor is a nifty little device...buuuuut, it has some quirks. One of these quirks is the player's inability to switch between all 4 modes, that is, CLN, CLN2, EDGE, and DISTORTION. This is because the Sustainor was designed with 2 channels / 4 modes instead of 4 channels / 4 modes. (Go figure)
The good news is…there are electronic modifications that can be done to correct for this; however, I don't recommend any serious modifications to the Sustainor's circuitry (unless you plan on being buried 6 feet under with this Sustainor at your side). Otherwise, try to keep your Rockman Rockmodules as close to stock as possible. That being stated, there are always exceptions to the rule.
Every Sustainor has the guitar input mounted to the front faceplate. This is convenient when one Sustainor is being used. But what if you wanted to use all 4 modes of the Sustainor? The answer is simply to get another Sustainor and place it beside the first. Doing this does present a problem, though. Because both Sustainor inputs are on the front faceplate, it would seem that one would have to run a patch cord from the rear output of Sustainor 1 back around to the front input of Sustainor 2. This does not have to be the case.
Every Sustainor can be modified so that the input is on the back side of the module. This allows one to route a patch cord from the output of the first Sustainor to the input of the second Sustainor without having to bring this patch cord around to the front. PerfectSound can make this happen and do the job right. However…there is a 2nd option.
Enter…The Quad Mod…
The Quad Mod is a PerfectSound modification to the Sustainor's circuitry which allows all 4 modes to be switched in and out for the first time. With this modification, only one Sustainor is needed in your rig! You no longer need 2 Sustainors side by side (unless you desire one in your rig for a back up). See our Products info page for pricing on this fantastic mod.
These modifications has been performed successfully on many Rockman Sustainors without fail. The whole idea is to clean up and shorten the required signal path, making better use of both Sustainors. In the case of the Quad Mod, you won't need the 2nd Sustainor. Remember, EVERY Rockmodule has intrinsic faults which PerfectSound Rock Refurbs corrects and eliminates. Send in your prized module today and have YOUR perfect sound tomorrow.
We've all seen them...those incredibly expensive sheet metal racktrays that the Rockmodules fit oh so snuggly into. And why is it that some have “the hole”, and some don't? What gives? As you know, most normal people place two Rockmodules in a racktray. However, sometimes only one module may be needed. This being said, there are male and female racktrays. Both male and female trays can accommodate two Rockmodules. Of course, the female racktrays have “the hole". That is...female racktrays can accommodate one Rockmodule right in the center of the tray. The “hole” accommodates the input/output/footswitch jack on the backside of the module. If you don't have a hole directly in the center on the backside of your racktray, you can be sure that you own a male racktray. A sex change operation can be performed on a male racktray by locating and drilling a hole to accommodate an input/output/footswitch jack. Understand that this is an irreversible mod, so sit down and explain the risks to your racktray.
REMEMBER...TO USE THE CORRECT MODULE MOUNTING SCREWS WHEN MOUNTING YOUR PRIZED ROCKMAN MODULES INTO THE ROCKTRAY SO THAT YOU DON'T DAMAGE THE INTERNAL PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARD!
PerfectSound Rock Refurbs delivers the goods with new, lighter PerfectSound Rocktrays, complete with the correct module mounting screws. How can we help you find YOUR PerfectSound?
Here are two unique Rockmodules, useful in their own respective ways. Actually, the question isn't..."Which is Better?" as much as the question is..."How can I use both OF these wonderful little blue units in my system?" Well, I will tell you.
The Chorus/Delay, in it's own right, is a fantastic...uh...Chorus/Delay. It's features, although limiting in some ways, were fantastic when this module originally came out. Although the Stereo Chorus operation is phenomenal in this module, surprisingly, the delay function is quite useful as well. As a matter of fact, I rely on the short slapback delay for my rhythm guitar sound more so than the Chorus function.
So, this is where it gets fun. Link the modules as follows: (reference our suggested layout)
1) Route the output of the post-Sustainor EQ to the input of the Stereo Chorus/Delay module.
2) Route the MONO (left) output of the Chorus/Delay to the input of the Stereo Chorus module.
3) Route the left and right outs of the Stereo Chorus module into the left and right inputs of the Stereo Echo module.
What you have basically done is build a chain where you can get rhythm and lead Choruses and Delays, depending on the situation at hand.
Set the Chorus/Delay module chorus functions as follows:
1) For sweep speed, raise the speed to NORM or above. Set the output mix for mono. This gives you a very lush Chorus, great for Cln or Cln 2 modes.
2) Set the Delay up for a comfortable slapback when playing rhythm guitar and set your delay volume to your personal liking. Now, set your output mix to Subtle or Mono.
Using your foot-switchable functions, you can now switch between a lush Chorus and a nice slapback delay for rhythm.
Set the Stereo Chorus module functions as follows:
1) Set your output mixes 1 and 2 for Stereo and Wide, respectively.
2) Use the foot-switchable Long Chorus function for kicking in Long Chorus during soaring lead riffs and solos.
3) Set your sweep speed lower than the NORM setting, for a smoother Chorus that won't chop up your signal, allowing better control and achievement of harmonic feedback when playing solos.
Lastly, set your Stereo Echo module up for the longest echo time (300-500ms) and feedback setting to fit your soloing needs. I usually keep the output switch in the middle position, as it seems to be the best default setting.
Following the above guidelines, you have basically put together here is one of the most useful setups a guitarists can have, making use of the best features on each respective module.
The Chorus/Delay gives you a very lush and wet chorus for majestic cleans or super fat rhythm, while switching to delay gives you a straight ahead slapback, making those chunky power chords sound a bit chunkier.
The Stereo Chorus module gives you a fuller, rounder chorus, specifically set up for soaring lead lines and super long sustaining chords. Kicking in the Long Chorus widens your mix even more.
The Stereo Echo is now set up for your leads or for rich echo in your Clean 1 and Clean 2 modes.
Use of a Midi-Octopus to access the footswitchable functions is where the magic begins. I use two Octopi on all my rigs; so, don't get caught up with only having one Octopus. Remember, the more Octopi, the more midi-controlled functions you can access.
PerfectSound Rock Refurbs will totally refurb your Rockmodules to like new condition. Which Rockmodule can we refurb for you?
The first Sustainor was the Model 100 (left picture), which for it's time, sounded absolutely awesome. Most Sustainors have the model number printed on the rear panel, along with the date of birth, and serial number.
From a layman's point of view, the 100 is a dirtier sounding unit, the distortion being more grainy/gritty, with a lesser degree of compression. The Clean modes sound a bit thinner than later models.
The Model 100a was next in line, probably having slight improvements in s/n ratio, etc. Model 100 and 100a sound very similar in their characteristics.
A notable difference in tone came with the Model 200 (right picture), with it's much smoother and refined filters and compression characteristics. The Model 200 Cleans are rounder in sound...more natural, especially noticeable in the Clean 2 mode.
Late Model 200 Sustainors contained the addition of the Lead Leveler circuit, a circuit that was also found in the programmable XPR/XP preamps. This circuit was designed with the most demanding players in mind, i.e. players that did a lot of finger tapping, hammer-ons, fast staccato scales, etc. The lead leveler kept these quick runs from turning into mush.
The key point here is this:
All Sustainors sound good, but not all of them sound great. I use one Model 100a, umpteen Model 200's, and 6 late Model 200 Lead Leveler units. What I have found is that no matter what Sustainor you own, a loop EQ is absolutely necessary to bring out it's good points. This being said, I can make a 100 sound as good as a 200. The only reason I favor the 200's is that I prefer smoother compression over more distortion. This, and the fact that the late Model 200's are highly collectible is what made me switch. But, for someone on a budget who isn't a big collector, a Model 100/100a is just what you need and more!! Trust me; these units don’t disappoint, unless one needs a good refurb.
Don't get too caught up in the late model Sustainors if you aren't a serious lead player. The difference between the 200 and the Lead Leveler 200 is subtle. If you are like me and grew up playing in the 80's, chances are you will notice the difference. If you are into thrash, grunge, hippity hoppity, thrash metal, hip-hop thrash, thrash-grunge, funkadelic-thrash or thrash-thrash, metal-metal, or be-bop thrash...you won't hear the difference. In this case, just go with a Model 100, throw it on the ground a couple of times to loosen some of the components, and you should get a record deal.
Many people have asked, "Hey Dave, what the hell is a Double IC Sustainor, and do I have one?" If I'm eating dinner, I will usually tell `em to get lost, especially if Shrimp A La Mexicana with a Jumbo Margarita is on the menu. But, that is another article all together, and I'm not eating right now, so...
In the late 80's, around 1989 or so, the standard Model 200 Sustainor was upgraded with Bob Cedro's Lead Leveler circuit, which accommodated staccato playing styles popular at the time (think "shredders").
Physically, the addition of the lead leveler was basically (among other things) the addition of a few more components squeezed on to the same mother board. (I feel sorry for whoever had to solder these doozies!) This modification was one of the last mass produced design changes.
One thing I want to point out is that no Model 100 Sustainors have this circuit, so if you own one of these, don’t bother going there. No problem, though. Model 100’s are awesome units.
Also, any Model 200'S dated 1987 or earlier will not have this circuit.
Some Model 200’s dated late in ‘88 may have the change, but sometimes it’s a crap shoot as to what is what.
In other words, the Lead Leveler Sustainor is a rare bird. They are out there, but few and far between and demand a higher price from those who desire one.
Can PerfectSound install a Lead Leveler mod for you?
The Acoustic Guitar Pedal is the famous Rockman CLN 2 circuit with adjustable bass, treble, and compression, all in a stomp box format. The AGP is essentially a really powerful compressor/equalizer that sucks the mids out of your guitar tone, leaving behind the fundamental deep lows and crystal highs associated with an acoustic guitar...all this being done while the compression totally flattens the guitar's signal. With a high gain setting, the initial compression attack and release is unbelievably punchy. Watch those 12" speakers!! They buckle under the pressure. 15's can handle it much better.
It should also be pointed out that the original SR&D unit is an entirely different animal when compared to the Dunlop reissue. The compression on the SR&D original (gray button) is much more crushing, therefore, much more noticeable when it is kicked in. To be fair to Dunlop, I use both reissues and originals. The Dunlop model (blue button) is still an awesome sounding unit and much less expensive than the original SR&D model.
If you like the CLN 2 mode on the Sustainor, the SR&D original is the way to go...besides, it's more collectible. However, if funds are an issue, the Dunlop version (blue button) is easier to find and is still capable of putting a smile on your face.
Lastly, the Ultimatum Distortion Generator and the Acoustic Guitar Pedal eat batteries like candy...two at a time!! It is well worth the extra 15 or 20 bucks to get the AC/DC adaptor...12 Volt. IF YOU DO CHOOSE TO USE THE ADAPTOR, TAPE THE INTERNAL 9-VOLT BATTERY SNAP CONNECTORS WITH ELECTRICAL TAPE. LEFT LOOSE, THESE CONNECTORS SHORT OUT ON THE CIRCUIT BOARD AND KILL THE PEDAL!!
The Dunlop AGP pedal (blue button) has a totally different adaptor (18 Volt) than the Rockman gray button AGP (12 volt), so make sure you let us know which model you have when ordering your AGP Power Adapter.
Today, I thought I would elaborate on some things previously mentioned in other articles regarding the Acoustic Guitar Pedal and the Sustainor CLN 2.
As most of you know, the above circuits are very closely related, except for the fact that the Sustainor CLN 2 mode has no BASS and TREBLE control, as does the AGP. This is the very reason why I run a Rockman EQ in the #1 Sustainor effects loop. The equalizer allows me to tweak and, therefore, emulate the sound of the original AGP, which I absolutely love. Using the EQ in conjunction with the PHASE NOTCHER (set the slider about 1/16" from it's lowest travel), I am able to achieve a very nice approximation.
The nice thing about using an effects loop EQ with CLN (1) or CLN 2 is that you can tailor out the harsh high end, which is way too crisp when playing at high volumes. It also allows you to lower the mids and, like the distortion mode, beef up the low end at 125 Hz and 62Hz. In most circumstances, the EQ settings affect both CLN modes in a positive way; hence, the very EQ settings used to tweak the CLN 2 mode also take some of the metallic harshness out of the CLN 1 mode.
I want to make a very important point regarding the relationship between tone and volume. Some people would say that an EQ is not necessary for the CLN 1 and CLN 2 modes; however, at very high volumes, it becomes very evident that these two modes can be shrill sounding at best. In a live environment, you have to really keep the listener's ear in mind, not your own. Try the following:
1. Obtain your best sounding CLN tone.
2. Crank your amp up to a volume that may come close to shattering the windows.
3. Listen again under these conditions.
4. Chances are, you won't like it. Then, take in consideration that this is what the audience will hear coming out of the PA mains.
5. This is where rolling off the high end becomes necessary. Remember, our ears may perceive some tones as pleasing at low volumes only. The higher the volume is, the sooner our own limitations begin to surface. Think of it in terms of eating Twinkies. One Twinkie is very tasty. 17 Twinkies is outright out of control!!!
It's funny to see guitarists get a nice over the top tone, and then crank it, only to find that what they perceive as good is actually causing the audience's ears to bleed.
Although some may find this information useful, others may not. It all depends on your situation and how you are using the Rockmodules in your setup.
How can we help you obtain your perfect sound?
It is just a fact. We all can't have late Model 200 Sustainors with the Lead Leveler circuit. There just aren't enough out there. So, how can you get by? Well, as you all know, the effects loop of the Sustainor is located smack dab in between the compressor and distortion circuits. This is a great place for the loop to be located. Why? Because you can totally bypass the front end of the Sustainor by running a compressor of YOUR choice right into the effects return. Don't worry about the effects send...it's been bypassed. What this means is that you can use the Rockman Guitar Compressor with the Lead Leveler as the main preamp in your Sustainor, totally omitting the original compressor circuitry and any noise it may have caused. In an ideal situation, add a Rockman Smart Gate or Rocktron Hush pedal after the compressor and then into the "all" effects return and you now own a Lead Leveler Sustainor, albeit not in the collector's sense, but definitely in the user's sense! Use an Octopus or footswitch to kick out the Lead Leveler and you have a great Clean 1 or Clean 2 compressor. Another really neat thing about this setup is that you don't necessarily have to use a Rockman Guitar Compressor. You can use an MXR Dynacomp, Tech 21 Comptortion pedal, DOD Milk Box, etc. An MXR Smart Gate can also be used in place of the Rockman Smart Gate.
If you want to stay as close to the Rockman tone as possible, I would recommend purchasing a Rockman Guitar Compressor. Then, when luck or bucks permit, pick up a late Model 200 Sustainor.
In the meantime, enjoy your hotwired Model 100's or early Model 200's with this simple but cool solution. Have a great day!!
We've all been there. That depressing day when one finds out that their prized Rockman Sustainor is just a small piece of a much larger puzzle. The day I finally added pre-distortion EQing to my Sustainor was the day that I realized how much longer my Distortion Generator could stay snug as a bug in the closet. But, pre-distortion EQing wasn't new to me. I had tried it once before, years ago. However, this was before I realized that all Rockman equalizers had faulty solder joints. After I found and solved that problem, I again tried the concept...with phenomenal results! So, here is the basic curve (from memory) for the Rockman EQ in the Sustainor effects loop after the Rockman Smart Gate module:
Output slider...between +5 and +10
Notice that the last four sliders are all the way down. This simplifies the EQ by eliminating frequencies that don't make it through the Sustainor's filtering.
The 125Hz slider is one of the most important sliders. This frequency is what will give you a nice UMPH, much like cranking the bass knob on an old Marshall JCM800 head.
The 1KHz is a touchy, but necessary frequency that brings out the upper mids. It's a necessary evil, because if it's too high, this frequency is very shrill sounding.
The 1.4KHz slider is also a necessary evil. Totally cut, it leaves something lacking, but boost it too high and it could kill a mouse!
Because the Sustainor contains a huge amount of 500Hz, I have found that totally cutting this frequency really brings out the detail and musicality of notes and takes any muddiness out.
Notice that the output slider is cranked pretty high. This is because you really want to push the distortion circuit to the max.
With these settings, anyone with good ears will see why the Sustainor can be such a powerful tool in your guitar processor arsenal.
Most importantly, make sure all of your Rockman equalizers have been refurbished. Again...all Rockman Instrument Equalizers have faulty solder joints and questionable switches. It is absolutely essential to have your Rockman equalizers refurbished, unless you really like scratching your head a lot.
As stated in other posts, the views expressed here are strictly my own. In the years I have been playing, I have tried a few different setups trying to achieve the BEST acoustic guitar sound with the least amount of pain. One thing to point out is that although Tom Scholz uses a real acoustic on stage, SR&D came up with the next best thing...the Acoustic Guitar Pedal. I want to explain in detail how I use this pedal to get the most out of it's capabilities.
I think the biggest hurdle in a rock band is to incorporate acoustic guitar while still achieving sound levels that match the punch and power of the electric guitars. When you have achieved this match, it is an absolutely awesome thing to experience, and I know this first hand.
So, here we go!!!!! I will use my own guitars as examples of what I really use and what really works.
First of all, try to free yourself from thinking "big bodied acoustic". This thinking limits tonal and volume capabilities. Introduce yourself to the idea of using electric guitars with piezo bridges.
The guitars I use, the Washburn Sammy Hagar RR-150 and the Carvin AE185 12-String both have split signals, piezo bridges, and double coil pickups. This combination allows an unbelievable amount of possibilities. So many, that it may change your whole outlook as to the placement of the acoustic guitar in a rock set up.
Basically, it boils down to this. Feed the piezo bridge output of a piezo-equipped electric guitar into a Dunlop (not SR&D) Acoustic Guitar Pedal. The AGP will compress and EQ the signal in an almost angelic way. The only thing to adjust is the tone setting for the piezo bridge. This tone knob should be set somewhere around the halfway point due to the amount of crystalline highs the AGP will add. (The reason I emphasized Dunlop's model is because the SR&D model has a hard time dealing with a piezo input. It clips the highs and over compresses.) Feed the output of the AGP directly to the mixer, OR into a Rockman Chorus/Stereo Echo and THEN into the mixer. It depends on the individual's needs. This setup, along with the EQing on the board will give you acoustic punch and clarity you thought was only possible in the studio!! The reality is, this is a live set-up!
But, we are only half way there. This is where the fun begins. Take the double coil electric output and route it to your Sustainor...(actually, I use a wireless)
Now, what you have done is come up with a way to simultaneously play acoustic guitar AND electric guitar at the same time. So, this is what you have...
1) TRS to XLR cord going from your piezo output to the XLR channel input of your PA. The AGP is patched in using a channel insert y-cable. (I actually have both AGP's mounted at the mixer with channel insert patches) By the way, don't ever think of having just ONE of anything!!)
2) A cord or wireless transmitter sending the electric output of your guitar to your Rockman rack setup. Now you can change modes, i.e. Cln, Cln2, Dist…without affecting the acoustic output going directly to the board.
3) You can match the volume of the acoustic channel on the mixer to the output of the Rockman rack setup for your electric output...with NO FEEDBACK!!!!
4) If your set-up is done right, you may never want to put your guitar down again. Imagine doing the acoustic bridges in "Peace Of Mind", while blasting full power chords out of your stacks. Then, kick in the Cln 2 and hear the best clean electric guitar tone mixed at the same level as your acoustic. Talk about amazing!
5) I can tell you this: When people experience this set-up, they never look back.
So, for those that insist on using a traditional acoustic guitar set-up, go for it. This article is only meant to expand on the possibilities. I'll list some manufacturers that make guitars with this capability.
There ARE more, but I'll leave that up to you.
I wanted to expand on the previous article and talk a little bit more about the possibilities of using piezo bridges on solid body electrics. In the last year or so, some very interesting products have come on the market that can really make a tone freak's life pretty exciting.
Specifically, I want to mention the new bridges that have come on the market replacing standard tune-o-matic bridges on Les Paul and Strat style guitars. For those of you who haven't seen it, it kind of makes a standard tune-o-matic seem a bit obsolete.
Basically, what some manufacturers have done is to incorporate a piezo transducer in the tune-o-matic style bridge, which is a direct drop in replacement for the standard bridge. This allows someone who plays a Les Paul or Strat to add an acoustic output to his/her guitar as well the magnetic pickup output. So, as I stated in Article 10, the possibilities for the solid body electric player who wants to add an acoustic dimension to his playing are there. Some companies are offering the guitars already made like this, such as some of the relatively new Schecters.
The same process as explained in Article 10 can be used on a solid body guitar, provided you modify it with the piezo drop in replacement. Absolutely no routing on the guitar face is necessary for this modification to be done.
One thing to keep in mind is the electronics package used for the piezo bridge. I use Carvin's AE-185 guitar electronics kit on both of my acoustic-electrics because it incorporates a tone control and balance control for the electric and acoustic outputs... two very nice features. The piezo tone control allows me to cut the highs in the piezo bridge output before feeding it to the Acoustic Guitar Pedal. The balance control allows the guitar to be played in a mono-setup, allowing the player to decide which tone (electric, acoustic, or both) should be dominant in any given situation.
It's happened more than once. Just when you thought it was safe to power up your prized Rockman EQ and blast a couple of power chords out of your Model 200 Sustainor, along comes perfectsound500 with another tip, causing you to rethink your willingness in trusting your prized Rockman collection anywhere outside of the basement, let alone on stage.
Here's a tip I hope you'll really love!!! The Rockman Equalizer, as you know, has three LED indicators. One is for input clipping, another is for output clipping (and power indicating), and a third indicates the bypass function. I want to focus on the input and output LED's for this article, as they are the prime targets of my most recent discovery.
That being said...in a nutshell, the upper black plastic half of the Rockman EQ casing rests directly on top of the input and output LED's. I noticed this after pressing the top of the EQ caused the LED's (either/or) to blink on and off. And staying consistent with everything else, four other Rockman Instrument Equalizers on various amps did the same thing.
If you take a close look, you will see that the front edge of the upper module half (with the faceplate off) pushes down on these two LED's. Now, although you may not have a problem with your indicator LED's right now, check it out anyway...once you see the problem, you will want to fix it.
The fix? First, with the upper module half still in place, mark the location of the LED's on the black plastic. Once this is done, remove the top and with a small pair of side cutters, cut a small V-notch right at the location of your markings. This removes the plastic at the LED location, but can't be seen with the faceplate on. Now, re-float/re-solder the LED terminals. (As I stated, four of mine had broken LED solder joints.) If you are not sure about the LED, carefully wiggle it with the power on. If it blinks, you know you have to re-solder it.
Finally, reinstall the top half of the module. The clearance notches should be right where the LED's are located, without any physical contact between the top and the LED's. This will prevent any damage to these indicators or their solder joints in the future. However, there is a 2nd option.
Enter…PerfectSound Rock Refurb's Rock"n"Closure This great little modification entails removing the entire circuit board and installing it in a brand spanking new aluminum powder coated case. No more plastic cases…no more shielding foil…no more LED issues. Your EQ will be like new again!!
Did you ever wonder where in the hell the '90's went? Kind of creepy...
Anyway, you're sitting in the
control room of your multi-million dollar recording studio listening to your
stereo monitors, tweaking the sound of the band's guitar player as he blasts
power chords out of his Marshall stack, Crate stack, Fender stack, etc. You
don't necessarily like his tone, so you step over the empty pizza box and walk
out into the main recording room to make placement adjustments to the Shure 57
microphone you have entrusted to your sound for 88 years and counting. Now,
repeat the above paragraph 62 times, and you have cause for the inception of the
entire Rockman line of guitar processing equipment.
After proof reading some of the articles I have written, it has occurred to me that I may seemingly be against running a Sustainor or Distortion Generator into a standard guitar amp (combo or stack).
What I am actually trying to tell players is that if they are going to use Rockman preamps, they should educate and actually experience using these modules in both full range AND standard guitar amp set ups. I too have used the Sustainor as a preamp going into a Marshall JCM 800. I didn't quite care for the sound, but the tone might be good enough for some players.
One Sustainor mode that really stands out when going through a full range system is the Clean 2 mode. This is where your amp/speakers really should have broad frequency response to experience the crystal highs and DEEP lows of that particular mode. A standard guitar amp will sound OK, but compared to a full range system, it will sound thinner. Remember, standard guitar amps/cabinets are not even designed for broad frequency response. This is where they fall short.
The Sustainor Edge and Distortion modes are also capable of producing some truly awesome LOWS. With the addition of a midrange driver and tweeter, the brightness and clarity is retained without sounding muddy. Of course, one would need to invest in a couple of Rockman Instrument Equalizers in order to really experience some of this.
My Peavey Wolfgang has a D-Tuna installed on the Floyd Rose tremolo, and when I use Drop D tuning...again, the Sustainor really comes through with flying colors.
So, in a nutshell, I just want to stress the importance of REALLY knowing the capabilities of your guitar system. In all seriousness, I would say that 50% of the players who bought Rockman preamps back in the 80's (when they were new) had no clue in how to use them the way they were designed.
In summary, regardless as to how you eventually use your Rockman equipment, I hope you find the tone you are looking for. However, if you can't, chances are someone will be around to help you.
Over the decades, a multitude of articles have been written regarding the soak and it's uses. Hopefully, this article can really put things into perspective and answer a few questions that some may have.
The word "soak" is being used as a general term, as more than one type of soak has been marketed over the years. I think the most familiar soaks are the SR&D Power Soak and the Marshall Power Brake. There are also newer designs that incorporate active electronics to make up for what the soak may take away from the tone of an amp.
(Definition: A soak is a dummy load or resistive network placed in between an amplifier and speaker cabinet which dissipates power/energy going to the speakers in the form of wattage. Depending on the amount of power being dissipated, a soak can actually become warm, hence the name Hot Plate...another popular soak used by various players.)
!!!!! *WARNING* Whenever a soak is being used, the proper gauge SPEAKER wire should also be used (I would recommend at least 14 gauge); otherwise, your speaker wire will become the power soak and your output transformer could potentially be smoked. Don't EVER use an instrument/guitar cable between the speaker output of the amp and the input of a soak.!!!!!
I want to aim this article at younger readers in particular, but older players that have never used a soak may gain some insight as well.
First, in order to understand how the soak came to be, you must place yourself in the shoes of a player from way back in the day when folks walked to school up hill both ways and shoes were just a luxury item for the rich.
Back in the 50's and 60's, all amplifiers were built with one idea. They were designed to amplify a signal as cleanly and accurately as possible with as much headroom as possible within a certain price range. In other words, amps were designed to be LOUD and CLEAR. From the engineering standpoint, there weren't too many designers interested in the idea of purposely distorting a signal. Guitar players were still working on being HEARD. Distortion was not looked at as a good property for an amp to have.
Ok, fast forward a bit...Guitarists started to discover that certain cabinet, speaker, and amp combinations sounded good when the power stage (the stage just before the speakers) was pushed close to or into saturation. This was done simply by cranking the only volume control that most amps had at the time. Remember, master volumes had not come into play yet. There was no such thing as a gain or preamp knob.
One important thing to keep in mind is that although players began experimenting with output stage distortion, many older players actually preferred a combination of output stage distortion AND speaker breakup. Celestion greenbacks were known to break up at louder volumes, adding a crunch to the already distorted signal. Marshall cabs became famous for this speaker characteristic.
So, why a soak? Well, first, if you liked speaker breakup, chances are you didn't use a soak, preferring to hear your cabs/speakers being pushed over the brink. Many older players have hearing loss they can attribute to these early days. But, if you were more interested in power stage distortion without the volume or speaker breakup, a soak (or dummy load) was one of the few alternatives.
Another point to keep in mind is that early Class A tube amplifiers showed most of their apparent volume increase at low volume settings. Remember when you couldn't turn your amp's volume knob past 2, but anything beyond that really wasn't much louder? That's because after about 2, the power stage goes into saturation. However, the blood dripping from your ears makes playing quite uncomfortable at this volume level. This is where a soak comes in handy. The soak allows an amp to be cranked up into this saturation zone without any blood, blown eardrums, window damage, etc.
From a tone standpoint, this idea had merit. From an engineering standpoint, the "soak" idea meant a lot of wasted power and efficiency, not to mention the fact that tubes had to be changed more often when using a soak.
Remember, the basic idea is that power stage saturation was the only way to achieve distortion before the idea of an overdriven preamp came into it's own.
So, fully understanding how and why a soak works is necessary before deciding whether one has a place in your effects bag or not.
First, it can be used to attenuate an amp with an extremely sensitive master volume control, such as a Marshall JCM 800 head. This is one of those amps that are usually way too loud at ANY volume. Place the soak in between the head and cab and adjust as necessary. In this case, you're not interested in power stage saturation as much as you are interested in having more control over the overall usable volume range. Remember, in cases such as the above-mentioned JCM 800, this amp has a preamp/gain and master volume control. The distortion comes from the preamp. The master is where the volume problem arises.
Secondly, a soak can be used in an amp with or without a master volume, where the primary aim is to push the amp into saturation; where the player may achieve the amp's best/more favorable tone. Keep in mind, all tubes have different tonal characteristics, so all amps will have their unique properties.
In a solid-state amp, a soak can be used for volume attenuation in controlling the overall volume (Master Volume) just like any tube amp, but a soak is generally NOT used in solid-state amps to achieve distortion due to the probable destruction of the power transistors/output transformers. On the other hand, tube amp circuitry is much more robust and forgiving when it comes to current handling capability. The bottom line is, understand the physics of what a soak does. If you feel confident, experiment with an old tube amp. Consider it a history lesson.
Also, on another note, never forget that one very important element of the Boston sound was TAPE SATURATION. In other words, the Boston sound wasn't just a product of soaked amplifiers. There was more to it than that.
Article 16 - Rockmodules, Cholesterol, and Blue Tape...What Gives?
I'm writing this article as a service to those allowing me to refurbish their Rockmodules; however, others may be interested as well.
Individuals receiving refurbished Rockmodules have been asking me why I place Rockman Blue electrical tape around the front of the unit and why I ask them not to remove it. The answer is simple. As most of the modules have cracked/broken corners (where the faceplate screws are installed), I have taken the liberty to wrap the module with tape. This tape, although not preventing the plastic from cracking, WILL keep the plastic corner from breaking off and being lost forever. In this case, there is nothing left for the screw to be threaded into, making the faceplate a little bit trickier to keep in place.
The plastic that was used in forming the upper and lower Rockmodule halves gets brittle with age. For this reason, even super glue has limitations. If one has a need to remove the module faceplate, make sure that upon remounting, the screws are only slightly snugged. Anything more than that and the corner of the module will crack. A good technician will always turn the screw counterclockwise first, in order to set the lead thread on the screw. This way the screw threads in much easier, following its original thread path. Also, ALWAYS make sure to remove the faceplate BEFORE trying to remove the upper module half. However, there is a 2nd option.
All plastic module cases are now being replaced with the new, aluminum, black powder-coated Rock"n"Closure. Problem solved…with the added bonus of 360 degrees of awesome RF shielding. Check out our Products info page for more info on having your Rockmodules refurbed.
I'm writing this article in response to numerous questions regarding the post Sustainor equalizer, and it's purpose in a Rockman setup.
As you know, in order to get the most out of a Rockman rig, you must not be afraid of investing in equalizers. Most rigs need at least two, if not more...depending on whether your friends call you Dog Ears or not. The purpose of the post Sustainor EQ is to condition the final output of the Sustainor(s) before being routed to the Stereo Chorus, Chorus/Delay, or both. As stated in my other articles, I have always cut the higher frequencies in the Sustainor loop equalizers, simplifying that part of the system, and cutting inherent metallic harshness. The post Sustainor EQ allows the player to bring those frequencies back up, and adjust the level of the signal going into the Stereo Chorus, preventing it from clipping. The Stereo Chorus is very sensitive to the higher frequencies and can be driven into a clip state very easily. If these frequencies are cut and/or tailored after the Sustainor, a happy medium can be reached. It's important to note that the Rockman Stereo Chorus can be driven quite hard in the low and midrange spectrum, which means one can really beef up the signal at this point. If you see the input clip indicators going into the red on your Chorus, back off the high end on your post-Sustainor EQ. When you do this, you can actually RAISE your output level of the EQ, making your lows and mids LOUDER.
So, it's all in tailoring and compromising between the loop equalizers and the post-Sustainor equalizer in order to achieve the best tone and signal level at the input of the Stereo Chorus. Remember, the Stereo Chorus is unity gain; therefore...garbage in means garbage out. Also, note that the Treble Boost on the Sustainor is conditioned by the post Sustainor EQ, which takes away some of the shrillness out of the Sustainor...especially in the clean modes.
Finally, I use only one post-Sustainor EQ in my setups. It is ALWAYS on. The only thing that is switched in or out is your Clean or Distortion Sustainor and the respective loop EQ. The difference between the settings on my loop EQ and the post Sustainor EQ (Distortion mode) are small. The biggest difference is that you can raise the sliders past 2K on the post Sustainor EQ, whereas in the effects loop EQ, everything over 2K is cut.
That being said...Build American...
So, you want to build full range Rockman style cabinets, eh? But you don't know where to start? Well, I totally understand where you're coming from. This is why the halfway point is a great place to begin. For those of you who REALLY enjoy building from scratch...you can draw your details from the info I place here.
For those of you who don't already know, my original full range cabs were made from two brand new Marshall cabinets purchased from Guitar Center 5, 6, 7, or 10 years ago, costing roughly $600.00 each. Now, the information that follows can be taken in many ways, but I must warn you, I place little value on something that doesn't perform to my personal expectations, Marshall or not. Your understanding of this fact helps to make me seem less like a total lunatic.
Take any 4x12 sealed cabinet, old or new, any brand. Remove the four 12" speakers from the cab and slide them under your bed. If you have no room there, take them to the local music store and sell them. Don't be picky! Whatever they offer you, just take it. Also, in this case, I recommend a cabinet that has a removable rear back panel.
Now, remove the front speaker mounting panel with the 4 12" holes in it...you will no longer need it. Size and cut a new plywood or particleboard speaker-mounting panel and cut the appropriate holes for a 15", a 10", and a bullet tweeter. Order your three-way PA crossover(s) from the local music store. I used 300-watt circuit board mounted crossovers, which I screwed directly into the side of the cabinet.
If you think I am leaving out details...I am. Some of this is up to you to figure out. It's really rather simple if you are good with woodworking.
Now, keep in mind that this is a sealed cabinet. There is no bass porting necessary, no equations to figure out. Probably the biggest issue is that the 10" speaker is fully enclosed. This means that there is a wooden box encasing the 10" speaker, isolating it from the effects of the 15" speaker. This lessens the effects of phase cancellation and also helps improve the definition and clarity of the midrange frequencies, which are so important for good solid tone. The box encasing the 10" speaker should be approximately one half the depth of the cabinet.
Upon inspection, you will notice the bullet tweeter in a Rockman cabinet is spaced quite far apart from the 15" and 10". This is for broader separation between the mids and highs. This way, when you play in front of the speaker cabinet, you can really tell what's coming out of each speaker.
As for the bullet tweeter, I do not recommend using cheap ceramic disc drivers, as these are harsh sounding...although they are less expensive. I recommend using Carvin's Red Bullet tweeter. If you don't like red...paint them, preferably Rockman Blue or Black.
I recommend any high quality brand for the 10" and 15". Again, Carvin's prices are hard to beat. However, make sure that your 15" is rated at 200 watts or more, preferably more. Remember, your 15" is where most of the power amp wattage is going. I use Carvin 10"s and Eminence Legend 15"s.
As I said earlier, if you want to build cabs from scratch, simply take measurements from any old/new 4x12 cabinet and use the above info to guide you through the project. I used one straight cab and one slant cab; however, I recommend using 2 straight cabs. Crate and Randall cabinets are inexpensive, so chopping one up isn't as painful....
There are no absolutes in building these cabs. Just follow these tips:
1) Any 4x12 or similarly sized cab will work.
One thing I can say is that once you build these, accepting the status quo will be hard for you to do. Rock On!!
Happy Easter 2004!
As I sit here pondering the meaning of life, it occurs to me that there are some tips I can share with Rockmodule users that I have found useful in prolonging the life and functionality of said modules.
1) Rockmodules hate second hand smoke. In other words, any piece of electronic equipment with open sliders should be kept in a smoke free environment. You may be surprised to learn that cigarette smoke actually increases EQ slider resistance values, therefore causing variations in circuit response. It should also be noted that contact cleaner/lubricant should not be used to clean Rockmodules. The "lubricant" in this type of cleaner acts as an atmospheric glue. In other words, everything in the air sticks to it...especially smoke!! Also, in the event a cleaner MUST be used, I recommend CRC QD Contact Cleaner. It is a bit pricey, but it evaporates very quickly, leaves no residue, and is absolutely safe on plastic. Make sure you see "QD" on the label.
2) Always use the shortest and highest quality patch cables available. I am a big MONSTER fan, but there are other great brands such as Mogami.
3) Rack Rockmodules keeping 2) in mind. In other words, placing the Stereo Chorus directly above the Stereo Echo allows one to use patch cables much less than 1' long. This is also true when placing the Sustainor loop EQ either directly above or directly below the Sustainor in question.
4) When inserting patch cables, always twist the jack back and forth to seat the jack and ensure a clean electrical contact.
5) If you adjust one of the sliders on a Rockmodule, move the slider up and down the entire length before parking it where you want it. This cleans the resistor and keeps dirt from building up within the adjustable range.
6) Occasionally, use canned air to blow out Rockmodule sliders. This keeps stuff like pet hair from building up. Remember, DON'T USE CLEANER/LUBRICANT...Cleaner/Lubricant is good for 1949 Philco's, not 1988 Rockmodules.
7) If you plan to shorten the AC cord, always use a 3-prong plug (hot, neutral, and safety ground) Keep in mind: if you use a two-prong plug OR remove the ground pin on a three-prong plug, you lose any shielding you may have had, as the Rockmodule shielding is connected directly to the safety ground. You are also setting yourself up for possible electrocution, which wouldn't be a good thing.
8) Never use heavy objects, such as 3 lb. hammers or small rocks when making adjustments, pushing buttons, etc.
After thinking long and hard about this subject, I wish to try and put a stop to (and/or derail) the idea that the Model 100 Sustainor is an inferior preamp.
I want to emphasize the fact that before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the world was indeed...a dark place. This literal way of looking at Mr. Edison's world can easily be applied to Tom Scholz and the world of rock guitar. How many of us can remember the day we first heard the Sustainor through the SR&D Demo Center? Did we think of this fantastic preamp in terms of its model number? In fact, the Model 100 was one of the greatest sounding guitar preamps ever designed. To this day, it is only "inferior" to its own design improvements. I don't remember complaining about its signal-to-noise ratio as much as I complained about being young and broke. I couldn't afford the darn thing!
Recently, I built an entire rack system for a customer using a Model 100 as the "Clean Mode Sustainor". Understanding that the Rockman Instrument Equalizer is actually the heart of the system, my client had no trouble going with a "blue face". In a nutshell, it sounds absolutely awesome. Pondering this fact brought me to the realization that the Model 100 has gotten a bad rap and its usefulness needs to be clarified.
If there is anyone out there planning to assemble a Rockman rig, I strongly suggest starting with a Model 100. Other than needing a professional refurbishment, these Sustainors are more than adequate in producing some of the lushest clean tones you have EVER heard. And you won't find anything close on any programmable preamp/modeling amp of any type or brand. This is because the blue face compression characteristics have not been successfully modeled to this day.
One good advantage of the Model 100 Sustainor over the Model 200 is its price. Model 100's are generally cheaper, based on the fact they are the oldest and first units. However, please don't let the price fool you. As well as being able to rival any other clean preamp tone, the Model 100 has its own nasty attitude in its Edge and Distortion modes. Sounding dirtier and more aggressive, it may actually appeal MORE to players who like an edgier sound. Can you hear me seven string players??? Actually, if you're a hobbyist and/or studio player, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a spare racktray with a couple of 100's tweaked a bit differently than your Model 200's.
As far as the signal to noise ratio issue, I want to downplay this fact in fear that it gives the impression that these Sustainors are junk. In fact, if refurbished and taken care of, they offer just as many years of enjoyment as ANY Model 200. The Model 100 simply has its own tone, just like any other vintage preamp.
I would hate to see a young player pass up a Model 100 just because he hears all the rave surrounding the 200. Although it is true that the 200 has better s/n characteristics, this may not even be an issue, considering how good the Model 100 sounds. If you take a 16 year old kid with a well tweaked "blue face", and another 16 year old kid with a POD, who do you think will get the girls?! Of course...the kid with the Sustainor!!! It's a no-brainer!!! The name "Sustainor" can also have sexual connotations which may, in fact, help those of you attempting to impress your mate. Imagine asking your girlfriend if she cares to see your raw Sustainor. Talk about a gleam!!!
It all comes down to this...
The Model 100 a/k/a "blue face", is an absolutely awesome sounding preamp with its own unique qualities. Don't diss it. If these babies end up in a landfill it would be a real shame. I'd like to focus on giving the ORIGINAL Sustainor credit where credit is due. Even if a lot of us own 200's, how many players would do anything just to have the original?
This article will concentrate on the concept of running a Rockman Instrument Equalizer in the effects loop of the #1 Sustainor. Notebooks ready? Let's go!!!
Although the Rockman Sustainor Clean 1 and Clean 2 modes are potentially the richest sounding clean tones I've ever heard, I've found that using an EQ in the effects loop affords the player tweaking ability well beyond what the Sustainor offers without an EQ. Keep in mind that if you haven't had your Rockmodules refurbed, you need to do this. It should be no secret by now that ALL of these units left the factory with assembly faults. That being said...the curve that I use is as follows:
The first thing you will notice is that I have no problem cutting highs. This gives you an idea of how shrill and metallic the Rockman Clean sound can be, especially at loud volumes. Remember, never tweak your cleans at low volume. This is because you won't get an accurate idea of how volume effects what you perceive as a good tone.
Keeping in mind that the Rockman EQ is a "full range" unit, some of the frequencies are well beyond what is useful for a good guitar sound. Because of this, you will notice that I cut the 16Khz slider. This frequency is up and around where cymbals may reside. Do you really want highs in your guitar signal as shrill as a cymbal? These are the things you need to keep in mind. Because most amps have a treble control around 6Khz, the 4K and 8K sliders can be thought of as treble and presence controls respectively.
It is also important to note that the Treble Boost slider on the Sustainor is still useful as an overall treble control. I keep mine somewhere between +15 and +20. All the way up seems to get too shrill. Again, keep volume in mind....
I want to stress that I favor a very warm and round clean tone, much like that of a warm tube amp. For jazz players, especially those using single coil P90's, cutting the highs is so important to get that soft edge for smooth arpeggios and blues style riffs. If you are worried about cutting the highs, keep in mind that the Post-Sustainor EQ will also compensate for the highs previously cut in the effects loop EQ. What's nice is that once the #1 Sustainor effects loop EQ is set, the Clean 1 mode benefits just as much as the Clean 2 mode. Also, when you switch to your neck pickup, you will find a warm blues tone very similar to the "Stevie Ray Vaughan" tone...even with humbuckers!!! And...you never have to touch your guitar's treble control.
Hopefully, this article will help you in achieving a satisfactory clean tone through your #1 Sustainor. Keep on Rockin'
As most of you know, SR&D developed and marketed a midi-programmable graphic equalizer based on their non-programmable 12-band instrument EQ. This single rack space equalizer, the PGE2, is very rare, as not many were made. Refer to RockmanCentral.com as to the exact number. I don't want this article focusing too much on this particular EQ primarily due to it's rarity, cost, and collectibility.
I want to focus on the Digitech MEQ series programmable graphic equalizers, as these equalizers made use of some of the same hardware, and conveniently for us, had 14 bands...the same number as the PGE2.
Specifically, knowing the capabilities of the MEQ is very important. What I have found is that the MEQ is perfect for serving the dual purpose of being two separate, independently programmable equalizers. First, the left side can be thought of as a programmable Sustainor effects loop EQ. Second, the right side can be considered a programmable Post-Sustainor EQ. This creates a number of conceivable combinations that is absolutely awesome...! The best thing about the MEQ is that because it uses some of the same processing hardware as the PGE2, it can be modified to contain the PGE2's frequency notch/boost filters. So, essentially, you can have a simulated PGE2 for much less money, with all the same features!! I don't know how many MEQ 14's Digitech actually manufactured, but I would be willing to bet that they made more MEQ's than SR&D made PGE2's.
The MEQ is a two-rack space stereo unit, so it can also be used later in the chain, such as after the Stereo Echo or Stereo Chorus. I want to point out that in most cases, the Rockman Instrument Equalizer does the trick for most players; however, for those of you who absolutely have to have a zillion different options, this could be your ticket. Keep in mind that the MEQ is an industry standard full range equalizer. It was not manufactured as a guitar equalizer. The MEQ to PGE2 modification makes it a more dedicated guitar processor. However, it is still capable of tweaking other instruments if need be.
Hopefully, this has cleared up any questions as to what this modification is and how it can be beneficial to players. Keep on Rockin'
Recently, an acquaintance of mine reminded me that although my articles are filled with great information, I haven't gone over what it takes to build the ultimate Rockman rig. One of the reasons I have not done this (up to this point) is that I don't want to come off as feeling there is only one right way. Honestly, there are probably many different setups out there that sound awesome. That being said, I will share with you how I choose to set up my systems. Using this as a guide, you can pick and choose what is right for you. Just understand; if you don't do things my way…I will never talk to you again!!!! :)
First, in every rig I own, I use two Sustainors. The first is used for Cln 1 and Cln 2. It has a Rockman EQ in the effects loop to cut the highs/mids, add warmth, and boost the lows. The second Sustainor is used for Edge and Distortion. It has a Rockman Smart Gate module followed by a Rockman EQ in the effects loop. This EQ is used to boost the lows, severely cut the lower mids, and tailor the high mids for presence. Everything above 2K in this EQ is totally cut. What I have just shared with you is what I believe to be the heart of all things Rockman…as far as Sustainors go. It is important to understand that Model 100's or 200's can be used and will both sound absolutely awesome if the system is put together right. That being said, I suggest using a 100 for your Cleans and a 200 for your Distortions. If you don't have a 200…use a 100 for your Distortion settings. With the right EQing in the loop, it will sound fantastic, capable of blowing any other preamp away….
Before I go any further, I want to mention patch cords. Patch cords can literally make or break a guitar system. If you choose to go cheap, your rig will sound cheap. Patch cords need to be high quality and as short as possible in any long analog chain. I have spent 200 to 300 dollars in a few of my rigs just to have the best money can buy. I suggest Monster, Mogami, or for bargain hunters…Pro Co Excellines. If it is at all possible, I suggest using a High Quality wireless unit instead of a guitar cord. The Sustainor compressor circuit just loves guitar cord noise!!!
Now, after the Sustainors comes the post-Sustainor EQ. This Rockman EQ is meant to refine and condition the Sustainor signal before going into the next module…the Stereo Chorus. This EQ is great because you can really boost the signal where it needs to be going into the chorus. Remember, throughout the chain, you are trying to keep the signal to noise ratio up. In other words, you are boosting and cutting throughout the chain, yet keeping the outputs nice and hot going into each module.
Note…I have outlined a way of chaining the Rockman Chorus/Delay and Rockman Stereo Chorus modules together for you adventurous types. But, that's in a past article. Please read that article if you would like to know more about that… :)
So, anyway, you've come out of the post-Sustainor EQ and into the Rockman Chorus. From the Rockman Stereo Chorus module, the signal is fed into the Rockman Stereo Echo. Remember to plug the left and right signals coming from the Chorus into the proper left and right inputs of the Echo. The dry signal is always on the left and the processed signal is always on the right.
From the Stereo Echo, use an Ebtech Line Level Shifter to boost the signal level from a line level to a professional sound signal level. This will boost your signal going into the stereo PA power amp. If you do not use a LLS, the line level signal will not drive your power amp very efficiently at all. This means, you will need to crank your power amp to achieve normal volume levels. Finally, adding a Rockman Midi Octopus to the rig allows everything to be switched via a midi footcontroller. Your midi foot controller can be any brand, although the Rockman unit looks cool and may help you get chicks… :)
The stereo power amp you choose to use should be a PA power amp. Stay away from guitar rack power amps, as they have limited frequency response and are tailored more for traditional preamps…which the Rockman modules are not!!
The Rockman Speaker Cabinets SR&D originally built are essentially large three-way stereo speakers or PA speakers. They contain a 15" woofer, a 10" midrange speaker, and a bullet tweeter. The speakers are wired with a 3-way crossover. These cabinets are not vented. They are sealed. This being said, it should be clear at this point that the Rockman Rockmodules were designed around the full range concept. Although other types of speakers can be used and may sound good, they are not capable of recreating much of the high and low frequencies associated with the Sustainor…especially in the Clean 2 mode, and especially at high volumes. Keep on Rockin'
As I sit and ponder about the Ultimatum, the first thing that comes to mind is that this pedal can either sound like the best distortion pedal ever conceived, or the worst piece of technical gadgetry ever designed. Personally, I bumbled through the latter train of thought before I stumbled onto some truly amazing things about this mysterious of all Rockman pedals. In fact, when I purchased my first one, I thought there was something wrong with it and took it back. Once I found the "secret", I ran right back out and bought four of them…searching every music store in Detroit until my obsessive thirst for tone ebbed.
So, what is it about this pedal that makes it unique? Well, first and foremost, it ISN'T a Boss Metal Zone. As a matter of fact, the distortion effect is so subtle that one might ask why it is called a Distortion Generator. The Ultimatum Distortion Generator actually sounds more like an overdriven compressor than a distortion pedal. The difference is that the signature Rockman-like tone is there in all of it's glory. What the UDG lacks in distortion (the distortion is a fixed constant with no control), it makes up for in it's ability to sound incredibly saturated, just like the one page "instruction manual" states…saturation very similar to what one might here coming from an old tube amp fitted with a power soak attenuator. Hey, go figure!!! I can't imagine anyone who would want a tone like that… :) Can you say… Arena Rock?
After reading the paragraph above, one might be inclined to think that the UDG is the greatest thing since sliced bread; however, you may be overrating sliced bread. Take for example, raison bread. I love raison bread. Whether it is sliced or not is immaterial. Another tasty treat is hot apple pie a la mode. Make sure that you use French Vanilla, though. The regular cheapy vanilla ice cream doesn't cut it. That being said, I will admit that sliced bread was a great idea, for lazy people. I mean, isn't slicing bread the reason why we see products such as The Ginzu Knife? But just like sliced bread is not the greatest thing ever, neither is the UDG. Why? Because the same people who designed an overwhelming amount of lower mids into the Sustainor also designed the UDG. Fortunately for us Sustainor users, we are given the luxury of a Phase Notcher and an effects loop EQ, neither of which are found on the UDG, leaving many a guitarist scratching their head as to why SR&D would create such a potentially awesome pedal with no control parameters.
The good news is that the Ultimatum is EVERYTHING it is cracked up to be…with the addition of a couple items in the signal chain. First, the addition of a parametric equalizer allows one to notch the overly present 500Hz frequency out of the signal, much like one might do with an EQ in the effects loop of a Sustainor. Second, a phase notcher can be placed in the chain allowing one to shove the mids towards the lower end of the sound spectrum. At this point, what you have done is de-Bostonized the pedal, removed the mud, and made it possible to hear incredibly clear notes amidst saturation only heard on Joe Satriani discs!!
One incredible piece of equipment capable of doing both equalizing and notching is the midi-programmable Rocktron Pro Q. The Pro Q has an incredibly wide array of parameters that can bring an otherwise troublesome stomp box back to life again. Of course, this is the processor that I favor. There may be other units with the same capability that sound equally awesome. The RPQ also has programmable bass boost and presence parameters to really tweak the Ultimatum like you wouldn't believe.
So that's my story. As I have said before, my word isn't the final word by any means; however, I hope some of this info will inspire you to search for tone outside the box… or in this case, outside the stomp box… Rock on!!!
The Rockman XP series of programmable preamps and amplifiers was a great step ahead for SR&D. I’ll never forget seeing an XPR for the first time and remembering how badly I “needed” one. (FYI… Musicians have a lot of needs…) Anyway, like I said, it was a great step ahead.
I think the first point that needs to be made regarding the XP preamp is that it is NOT a replacement for the Rockman modules everyone has come to hold so dearly to their hearts. In fact, corners were cut in order to produce the XP and keep it cost effective. The idea of combining all the Rockmodule functions into one single rack space preamp was a great one; however, some of the most coveted Rockman innovations were left out, causing the XP to fall victim to the high tech rack craze so many of us were sucked into. Companies such as Digitech were marketing much more sophisticated preamps, with many more tweakable parameters. Therefore, the XP seemed a bit too simplistic for the average tech hungry guitarist. Actually, I do not long for the days when I had 62 different parameters to tweak when setting up reverb. Talk about a serious waste of time!! How I remember “tweaking” for two hours and playing for 20 minutes!!!!
So, what does the XP have? Well, it’s got loads of compression and the addition of the world famous Lead Leveler circuit. It also has Stereo Chorus, pre and post equalization, reverb, and a programmable stereo effects loop. In addition, all the great Rockman preamp modes are there… Clean 1, Clean 2, Edge, Distortion, and a couple of in betweens to boot. The fact is; the XP is a great basic and easy to use preamp.
That being said… What does the XP lack? Well, first and foremost, it lacks tonal control. After being spoiled with a Rockman 12-band equalizer in the effects loop of every Sustainor I own, I could never go back to a simple 3-band. How could anyone pick the perfect 3 bands, anyway? Toss a coin? So, this is a bit bothersome. Furthermore, there is no Stereo Echo or Smart Gate, two of the most fantastic circuit designs I have ever seen. If the three items above had been incorporated into the XPR, this preamp would have been one formidable piece of gear. Unfortunately, due to the added expense of the circuitry as well as a “real estate” problem, The XPR ended up going the same way as the Ultimatum… lots of potential, but lacking in some very important areas. This is not to say that the XP series preamp wasn’t good. It just wasn’t good enough.
Fortunately, clowns like myself tried enough things and purchased enough equipment to be able to offer some sound advice for those who want one of the XP’s. If you own or desire to own one of these babies, do yourself a favor. Pick up the following:
1) One Stereo Echo or comparably good analog stereo delay
Place these modules in the effects loop in the following order… (see diagram and presets) Smart Gate (through Remote Loop Box), EQ, Stereo Echo. Program your effects loop to be “in” all the time… for all presets. This way, you will always have your Smart Gate and Loop EQ in for noise gating and tonal tweaking. Using the remote loop, you can take the Smart Gate out of the signal when using your Clean modes. Use the Midi Octopus to switch your remote loop and Stereo Echo in and out as necessary. This is a good setup because you can still use the cheesy reverb/delay built into the XP for your rhythm presets… then kick in the Stereo Echo for soloing.
Hopefully, this will help you in building a nice setup with your XP series preamp/amplifier. Rock On!!
For you inquisitive types, I have written this short article on using the Hyperspace idea, taking it a step or two further, and thus enabling you to come up with something unique and all your own. First, I am not going to go into detail about the Hyperspace Pedal itself, as much has been written about it on other forums. What I DO want to focus on is what can be done using a Hyperspace type of effect, and specifically, what can be added to a bland HSP type of pedal. One of the nice things about Tom Scholz’s Hyperspace pedal is that he incorporated an effects loop in his Echoplex, allowing him to tweak the echo signal without effecting the guitar signal. However, nobody ever said that you have to stop at just EQing. For instance, I use an MXR Phase 90 in the effects loop of my Echoplex, giving the delay a sweeping, swirling effect…kind of like blending a bit of Eddie Van Halen into the picture. It really works nicely. If you give it some thought, many, many effects can be used in this same loop. For example, an Octave effect, a distortion box, a flanger, another delay, a chorus…the list goes on and on. For those of you who may not understand the use of an Echoplex, read up on the Hyperspace pedal at RockmanCentral.com.
My “HyperPlex” pedal is very similar to the Hyperspace pedal, except for the addition of another footpedal to control two different parameters. What is important to know is that I am able to control the “record level” with a foot pedal. Therefore, the effect you have in the Echoplex loop will not be heard until the record level is actually high enough. In this way, what you have created is an expression pedal. Getting back to the original subject, this is where individuality comes in, as you can express yourself in many ways through this device. For those who like challenging projects, build yourself a HSP complete with an effects loop. Then, let your mind begin to wander……Rock On!!
What do you get when you combine a 5,000,000 watt power amplifier, a mouse, and a preamp with a puzzling treble control? You guessed it…a very deaf and confused mouse with a puzzling treble control!! Seriously folks…the Rockman A12-50 combo amp is one strange but neat little guitar amplifier.
Incorporating the Ultimatum distortion circuit, a 3-band pre-distortion equalizer, channel switching capability, and a mono effects loop, the Rockman A12-50 was SR&D’s answer to the small combo amp market. At 50 watts, this 2-channel combo is about the loudest 1x12 amp I have ever played through; however, this doesn’t mean it is the best 1x12 I have played through.
First and foremost, don’t be fooled by the Ultimatum circuit in this amp. In and of itself, it leaves a lot to be desired. This is because of the shear lack of tonal options incorporated into this amp. With a treble control that is virtually ineffective, the only useful controls remaining are the midrange and bass controls. Although effective, these two parameters have no way of bringing this amp to life. Why? Because there is no phase notching capability or tweakable contouring parameters. In other words, what you see is what you get. Of course, this amp has a serious amount of 500Hz (Boston In The Box) that needs to be scooped out in some way, shape, or form. Good thing there are products such as the Rocktron Pro Q or Rockman instrument equalizer that can do exactly that!!! They can do wonders in any effects loop…
The Clean channel of the A12-50 is pure Rockman delight, serving up a ton of compression and beautiful tone. This is a great amp for anyone who really likes the crystal clarity and punch of the Rockman Clean 2 mode. Of course, with an EQ in the effects loop, you can tweak to your heart’s desire.
One thing that really bothers me is SR&D’s choice to design the amp without reverb. For you collectors, I believe there are a couple of gems with reverb floating around. The folks at SR&D claim the basic issue was a “real estate” one. Is it that difficult to add one more inch to the width of an amp so a reverb knob can be installed? Being in the thick of manufacturing myself, the answer is…a resounding NO!!!! So, why would you take a value added thing like reverb out of a combo amp? I’m clueless…Especially when the name on the amp is ROCKMAN…one of the greatest names in rock and roll amplification. Of course, that’s business.
One of the neat things about the A12-50 is that any preamp can be plugged into the effects return on the back panel. Then, it can be controlled with the master volume on the front panel. In other words, the effects loop is post-preamp…pre-poweramp, before the master volumes (clean and distortion channels). This means that if you want to run a Sustainor into the A12-50, plug your guitar into the Sustainor input and route the Sustainor’s output to the effects return of the A12-50. It’s way cool, and having a 50-watt power amp and 75-watt Celestion in the mix, you can make any preamp sing!! The same thing can work with any other preamp…such as a POD, Intellifex, etc.
Another useful function incorporated into the Clean channel is the addition of the famous Rockman Semi-Clean circuit. Although I personally have no use for it, the blue button adds to the aesthetic qualities of the amp. I just wish it was a REVERB on/off button instead!!!!!
So, where does this amp shine? It shines when going direct to the board. The effects send jack is also a line level direct out. The saturation characteristics (just like the Ultimatum Distortion Generator) can be best heard when going direct. The cool thing is that plugging a patch cord into the effects send jack doesn’t kill the built in 12” speaker. This means that although you can run the amp direct, you still have a monitor on stage. And, the master volume on the amp does not affect the line level direct out signal…meaning you can crank the master on stage and have a constant level at the PA mains and monitors.
I hope I have answered any questions you may have about the A12-50. Honestly, it’s a nice toy to have and tinker with. I use one in my shop every day. Again, as with all of the Rockman products, the key to using this equipment is knowledge and experimentation. Using Rockman equipment is synonymous with taking a couple of classes in electronics theory and design. Therefore, I consider everyone who uses Rockman equipment a bit more intelligent than everyone else out there. Rock On!!!
Happy New Year!!! 2005!!! Well, almost… (I'm starting early) I want to discuss the ins and outs of the famous Rockman Auto Clean function found on the Sustainor and the Distortion Generator modules. This circuit is truly unique in that no other amplifier contains anything quite like it. So, what does the Auto Clean circuit do? Simply put, the Auto Clean adds gain/headroom and treble to your guitar's signal, enabling you to back off on your guitar's volume knob without losing apparent volume and high end. With more headroom, your guitar's signal is also taken out of the clip state, thus becoming "clean". All this for a song and dance!!!!! Could life be more exciting?
One thing that is instantly noticeable about the Auto Clean function is that it is noisy. This is because of the increase in headroom needed in order for the circuit to work properly. In other words, there is quite a bit more amplification being done in the AC mode. Don't fret. This is normal. It should be pointed out that one should not set their Smart Gate threshold while in AC mode. This is because you will kill your signal when you switch into "Distortion" mode. It is best to set your Smart Gate up while in "Distortion" mode and put up with any hiss that may filter through in Auto Clean. It's just the nature of the beast.
The Auto Clean circuit can be found on every Sustainor made from the get go. Every one works, but not every one works well. For my needs, I have found that the Standard Model 200 circuit actually works the best. However, I have also found Model 100's that sound awesome. Welcome to the world of analog electronics!!!!
Moving along, Auto Clean cannot be discussed without also discussing playing dynamics. It is important to understand that Auto Clean is not a magical thing, allowing you to bang on your strings without distortion. Using Auto Clean requires a sensitive touch on the strings, sometimes using more of a sweeping motion. This is also what makes the circuit so cool. With your guitar's volume all the way up, power chords blast through with clarity. Dial the volume down a bit, and play a nice sweet Cmaj7 chord…all without pushing any buttons. SOOOOWWWEEEET!!! Remember, it's all in the dynamics of your playing. Blues guys really like that sort of thing. Think "Little Wing."
An important point concerning the Auto Clean circuit is in regards to EQing. Players will find that with identical EQing, the Auto Clean mode has a certain "UMPH" characteristic which is somewhat lacking in the "Distortion" mode. This is because of the increase in volume. However, the "Distortion" mode contains more distortion harmonics. Remember, a square wave theoretically contains an infinite amount of harmonic content. Cleaner signals have less harmonic content.
All of this being said, I wish you all a very Happy 2005!!! Peace Out!!!
This article is intended to serve as a brief overview in the use of Rockman Midi Octopi Rockmodules. But before we begin, cue “Under The Sea” or any other soothing tropical music. Bob Marley is an acceptable substitute, but say “NO” to drugs. If you do drugs, your tone probably sucks. And why shouldn’t it? You tell me…while I step down from my soapbox.
The Rockman Midi Octopus is an electronic, programmable footswitch with 8 legs. It’s purpose is to automatically activate/deactivate “tip-to-ground” functions exactly the same way you would using your foot the old fashioned way. This means that the Octopus will NOT work where another type of switching is used.
NOTE***In most guitar rigs, the Octopus MIDI CHANNEL should be set to “00”, which stands for “OMNI”. In other situations, where a keyboard or other device is used to trigger the Octopus, the user would set the MIDI CHANNEL up accordingly.
One of the nice things about the Octopus (including most MIDI gear) is that it can be daisy chained in a system where more than 8 foot-switchable functions are present. In all of my systems, I incorporate 2 Octopi…giving me 16 functions that can be switched in and out. This is extremely useful in systems where two Sustainors are being used, as Sustainors use up a good amount of foot-switchable functions. The Rockman Chorus/Delay and Rockman Stereo Chorus use up a lot of functions as well.
It should be noted that there are other programmable systems OTHER than the Octopus that can do the same thing. The Rocktron Patchmate is an AWESOME single rack space device incorporating 9 midi-controlled effects loops. This unit is great for incorporating the Acoustic Guitar Pedal, Ultimatum, or any OTHER stomp boxes into your rig. The outputs can also control foot-switchable functions EXACTLY like the Octopus.
If you desire to use a Rockman Remote Loop Box, keep in mind that you will need an Octopus to switch your loop in and out of the signal chain. A Remote Loop Box cannot function all by itself. In this way, it has a certain co-dependency to the Octopus, which can be unsettling for those of you farther along in your 12-step program.
The first output of the Octopus, denoted A, is useful in that it is actually set up to work as a “Y” function. This is great for use in the Sustainor channel switching function. Keep in mind that a tip-ring-sleeve “Y” adaptor must be used in order to take advantage of this function. Of course, some of this info is covered in the manual…something which not everyone has out there. Here is a printable Midi Octopus user settings template for your reference.
NOTE***ANY midi foot-controller can be used with the Rockman Midi Octopus. I recommend either the Rockman Midi Pedal or the ADA MC-1. The MC-1 is nice because it has 10 preset buttons instead of 5. Be sure to set your pedal on “00” or OMNI.
Finally, if there are any of you that haven’t eaten Octopus, you are really missing something. Octopus tastes very much like Calamari and is a real delicacy. If you ever have the chance to try it, go for it. Being raised in a Sicilian-American family, eating Octopus on Christmas Eve was a norm in my family. Once you get used to the little suction cups on the tentacles, it is pure delight…almost fun!! So, have fun using your Rockman Midi Octopi. See you on the reef!!!
We have all learned that equalization is the heart of all things Rockman. Setting up the pre-distortion and post-Sustainor equalizers correctly is a must for anyone wanting the perfect sound. However, there are some settings on the Sustainor itself that I would like to go over in a little bit more detail. I will use my personal Sustainor settings as a reference. None of this is gospel, but all of it has worked for me. Hopefully, it will work for you, too. And, if you haven’t had your Sustainor refurbed, do yourself a favor and have it done BEFORE building your system
Let’s start from the left side of the Sustainor and work our way across the faceplate. The first slider is preamp gain. This is the first door into the compressor circuitry. I always set this at +4. This ensures a nice, hot signal going into the Sustainor. Any lower, and you will find it more difficult to obtain a good compressor attack..
Sustain… Always set at maximum (I LOOOOOOVVVE Sustain!!)
Smart Gate… Button out (Off)
Gain Boost… In
Auto Clean… In
Semi-Clean… Out (Off)
Channel 1… Edge
Channel 2… Distortion
Treble Trim… ALL THE WAY UP!!!! This is the Edge/Distortion “Presence” control. This is the key to SIZZLE!!! This will give you the early Eddie Van Halen high end. Remember, the settings on the Sustainor should remain constant. All of your tweaking should be done with your loop and post equalizers.
Phase Notch… In (Slider about a 16th from the bottom)
Output Treble… Between 15 and 20
Rhythm Volume… At the “triangle”.
Output Volumes… Both on +5
About “Triangles”… Someone at SR&D decided to silkscreen default settings on the faceplates of the Rockmodules. For some modules, they are helpful. However, this is not the case with the Sustainor. IGNORE the Triangles!!! (Except for the Rhythm Volume Slider) Triangles can cause pain and agony!!!!! Follow your ears….
I hope this brief overview of the Sustainor distortion settings helps you get closer to your sound. Remember, settings for the pre and post equalizer are found in earlier articles and diagrammed here in our -ROCKMAN END USER GUIDES-. Also, keep in mind that I use the Rockman Smart Gate module in the loop, just before the effects loop EQ. That being said…
Have fun tweaking!!!
Article 31 brings us to question the legitimacy of the world famous and highly sought after Rockman Distortion Generator Rockmodule. Hopefully, some of the information that follows will help one in deciding whether this unit is necessary in THEIR effects arsenal. Of course, I must state (as I always do) that I am not the final authority on this subject...the individual player is. So, without further ado...Let's go boating!!!!
What is the Rockman Distortion Generator Rockmodule? Well, in a nutshell (a very small nutshell), the DG is the distortion circuit taken from the Rockman Sustainor and placed in its own cute little package. The intent of the module was to appease players strictly looking for the Boston sound...or better yet..."Boston in a Box". This is explained by the severely limited tweaking options available on the DG. The DG CAN be bypassed via footswitch as well as the foot-switchable Lead Boost function.
One of the most important things to know about this module is that it is strictly the Rockman distortion circuit, meaning there are no clean modes available. It DOES have the Edge circuit (not literally stated as "Edge") and a very effective Auto Clean circuit for those who like backing off on their volume knob a bit. But again, neither Clean 1 nor Clean 2 is available on this unit.
I want to point out that the DG sounds best in a full range system. If you have gotten to Article 31 without knowing what the full range concept is...shame on you. Review, you must. (That is a Yodism.) I believe Yoda came from the planet Dyslexia... :)
When I built my first "Rockman Rig", this is how I set it up: Rockman DG>Rocktron Hush Pedal>Rockman EQ>Rockman Stereo Chorus>Rockman Stereo Echo>Rockman Midi Octopus>Two ADA MP1 preamps>Marshall 100/100 Mono Bloc tube power amp>4 Marshall 1960A cabs.
Needless to say, the above system was DEADLY!!!! A Les Paul Gold Top with Dimarzio Supers was the ONLY way to go!! Those were the days. However, the system lacked full range frequency response, which had me constantly searching for something that was unobtainable with said equipment. Enter the Rockman Sustainor, which changed the rules of the game. This is when I decided to gut my prized Marshall cabs and build the first of many "Frankenstein's Monsters". Did you know that the monster's name wasn't Frankenstein...? Interesting trivia...
An effects loop CAN by added to the DG, allowing more tweakability in the pre-distortion stage. The three built in pre-distortion sliders are quite irritating...to say the least. An effects loop is an effective addition; however, all in all, the DG is quite limited in features. Personally, I do not recommend the DG in any set up that already has a Sustainor or two. This is because I favor the features found on the latter. Remember, the Sustainor has all four famous Rockman modes, plus it houses an effects loop for both Clean and Distortion modes. So, using the DG can be a bit redundant.
I find that the DG is a good little tool to have for a practice rig (or any other rig) where you may just want the classic Boston-like, beefy tone without all the fuss and muss of a full blown system. It IS effective for what it is. But, don't expect the world from this unit. It's a nice little toy...and can be a secret weapon for some. The use of a parametric EQ or phase notcher tends to de-Bostonize the unit, which can be a great thing! Contrary to popular belief, being told you sound like Tom Scholz is NNNNOOOOOTTTT always a good thing. In fact, it can be an outright devastating realization to any seasoned player hunting for his own identity/sound.
Here is a printable Distortion Generator user settings template for your reference.
A good friend of mine refers to the DG as a "boat anchor". To many of us Rock Heads, this is an accurate assessment. Yet, others might refer to the DG as "Boston In A Box". Pick up a Rockman Distortion Generator, have it refurbed, and have fun with it. You WILL find a use for it. Rock On!!
Well, here it is…the long awaited for Article 32!!! Woo Hoo!!!
I’d like to discuss the Rockman headphone amp battery door. This is such a simple subject that the article will actually be a bit short. But, believe it or not, many headphone amps have been damaged or scarred for life due to the design of the battery door.
How many times have you had the need to change or remove the batteries in your headphone amp, thinking that you need some type of pry bar in order to remove the battery door? Your thinking is understandable, due to SR&D’s placement of two slots…slots that appear to be the place for insertion of a butter knife, screwdriver, ink pen, etc.
Well, this may very well be the case. However, let’s tweak this concept a tad. As you know, there are three screws that hold the two Rockman case halves together. If battery door removal is necessary, simply loosen the two lowest screws on your Rockman. See picture. Only ½ to ¾ of a turn is necessary. Once this is done, you will find that the battery door will pop out with very little effort.
Now, go ahead and remove or replace the batteries as needed. Slip the door back in place, and gently re-snug the two Rockman case screws.
A Very Important Word About Tightening The Screws…
Keep in mind that the Rockman headphone amp case is ALL plastic. Therefore, never over-tighten the case screws, as they can strip very easily. Each screw only requires a slight snug…nothing more. I can’t tell you how many headphone amps are probably in the city dump because somebody over-tightened the screws and the case would no longer stay together, or it became necessary to tape the case together. Just be very careful and keep little things like this in mind. My goal is to have these babies around long after I’m gone…
Also, if you need a replacement for your battery door, contact Rick at our California PerfectSound Studio.
A Very Important Word About Batteries…
Batteries should never be left in a Rockman headphone amp for prolonged periods of time. See battery note.. If you are using an external power supply, remove the batteries. Due to battery acid, batteries that are left in a Rockman can cause corrosion of the battery board springs and solder traces. In turn, this will cause future faulty battery contact… At this point, power chords will sound a bit dull and lifeless. This is because your headphone amp is not on… It is dead, and you are on the brink of sobbing profusely.
Remember, it’s the little things in life that keep us going.
If you are using the Sustainor effects loop, it is very important to know that the effects loop works for both channels and/or all four modes. This is shown in the Sustainor manual, but many folks overlook it (or just simply do not have a manual).
Regardless, it is important to know that the EFFECTS SEND of the Sustainor can be split into two separate signals. Simply use a mono Y-cable from the EFFECTS SEND and route each send to its respective loop EQ, Smart Gate, or other processing device.
For example, if you are running CLN in Channel 1 and wish to EQ your CLN tone, simply take one of the "Y" sends from your mono Y-cable and route to the input of your EQ or other processing device. Route the output of the EQ to the ALL RETURN jack.
If you are running DIST in Channel 2 and wish to EQ your DIST tone, simply take the remaining "Y" send and route to the input of your Smart Gate / EQ combination. Route the output of the EQ back to the EDGE / DIST RETURN jack.
You now have 2 effects loops which will function independently of each other, depending on what mode/channel you are in.
If your Sustainor has been modified with the Quad Mod circuit, CLN and CLN 2 will utilize the ALL RETURN loop. EDGE and DISTORTION will utilize the EDGE/DIST RETURN loop.
Hope this small bit of info makes your day a bit brighter.
Everyone has heard of the Smart Gate… If you haven't, you may want to do some research. I believe the last one sold on eBay went for $536,000.00 and some change.
I decided to write this article after realizing a common misconception among Rockman users. The thinking has been that the Smart Gate was designed to eliminate ALL noise from one's guitar system. I am here to tell you that this is NOT the case. In saying this, I'll clarify my point.
True, the Smart Gate is the best noise reduction unit I have ever used. Of course, if you don't already know…every Smart Gate should be refurbed in order to function properly.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Smart Gate was not designed to ELIMINATE noise when your guitar volume knob is on!!!! If the Smart Gate actually did this, the signal going to the Sustainor preamp would be so weak that the intrinsic feel of your playing would be destroyed. The Smart Gate (in the Hiss and Mid band modes) was designed to ROLL OFF high and mid band frequencies at the TAIL END of individual notes or chords…and doing so as transparently as possible.
If you stand holding your guitar with the volume knob on and you hear noise, don't expect the Smart Gate to conquer all. This is because your pickups could be high output humbuckers or even higher output single coils that generate an over the top amount of noise in and of themselves. If you have read my articles on using the Smart Gate in the Sustainor effects loop, you will notice the placement of the Smart Gate is AFTER the compressor stage (where most of the noise in the Sustainor is generated). Therefore, leaving your guitar volume knob on is just inviting noise to be amplified by the compressor circuitry. Remember, noise that is in the audible range is not filtered when a strong signal is present. Noise is only filtered at the tail end. Personally, I use the Full Band gate. This blocks ALL noise when I am not actively playing. But, when I am not playing…my volume knob is OFF. I find the Full Band gate to be especially useful in the studio.
Because most noise is generated from your guitar and the Sustainor compressor circuitry, it should be noted that if the Smart Gate is working properly, you should hear very little noise as an end result in your system. Yes, you will hear some audible hiss, but be realistic and know that NOTHING is perfect. However, keep in mind that all of the modules in your system need to be working properly, with adequate shielding, grounding, and refurbed circuitry. If this isn't the case, eventually something will raise its ugly head. In the end, it's about having the best guitar system possible…allowing you to concentrate on your music and songs.
Another thing to keep in mind is that because of the antennae-like nature of guitar cords, your guitar will not be completely noiseless. This is where having a HIGH QUALITY wireless unit comes in. Some wireless units actually incorporate signal boosting…whereas the signal going into your Sustainor will be much hotter than if you were using a guitar cord. I currently use Nady 3Ds. They aren't manufactured anymore, but for the money…they were one of the best systems around. Multi-channel systems are now available, which is probably the way to go.
If you are using a guitar wireless, you will notice that the Auto Clean function does not work as well. This is because you need a hot signal to feed your wireless receiver. Rolling off your guitar volume knob will kill your signal into your receiver…negating the effect of the Auto Clean circuitry. But, everyone know, every rose has its thorns.
In the end, it's about knowing the root cause of the noise you are hearing and the realistic approach you must have in order to keep your sanity. Don't think that the Rockman Smart Gate or (for that matter) the Rocktron Hush will be a cure all for every bit of noise you may hear. However, using the Smart Gate will get you as close as possible to what you are looking for.
And considering the fact that eating a Paul Bunyan Special (3 eggs over medium, whole wheat toast, hashed browns, two sausage links, two strips of bacon, a slice of ham with a slice of pineapple and 4 cups of coffee on a Saturday morning) is better than worrying about that crazy hum coming from your system…I suggest you get to work on getting rid of that noise.
Welcome to Article 35!! If you have made it this far, give yourself a hug, tell someone you love them, and for the love of Pete…take care of your teeth!
So, while you’re brushing, you’re thinking…”Darn, my rig sounds nice, but it’s missing some clarity!” Personally, I think you might just be spoiled and acting like a baby, but…there may be something legitimate going on here. Why? Because of the “clarity gap”, that’s why.
We all know that a free standing Sustainor doesn’t sound as good as a well-tweaked Sustainor with an EQ in the effects loop. Yet, there are gaps. If you are using a Rockman EQ in your Sustainor’s effects loop(s) (Distortions, Cleans, or both), you may have noticed that this particular EQ (although an awesome unit) jumps from 700Hz to 1KHz, with nothing in between. In the interest of limited real estate, SR&D could only fit certain frequencies in one module. The problem lies in that between 700Hz and 1KHz, there is another very useful frequency. What is it? Well, it’s that elusive 800 Hz. 800Hz is just beyond the “wah” frequencies of 500Hz and 700Hz, making it a great “presence” addition in your EQ curve. In other words, where 500Hz and 700Hz give you lower midrange honk, 800Hz gives you lower midrange clarity…without the harshness of 1KHz…and without creating too much of a nasal effect.
I have found that 800Hz works best in the EDGE / Distortion effects loop. I leave my Clean/Clean 2 effects loop alone (except for a standalone Rockman EQ).
So, what am I trying to say here? Well, here is the recipe for blowing off that sound deadening blanket.
1) Route your Sustainor’s Distortion effects loop Smart Gate output to the input of an MXR 6-band Equalizer.
2) Route the output of the MXR 6-band EQ to the input of your Rockman EQ.
3) Set all of the sliders on the MXR EQ flat (or in their center position).
4) Raise the MXR 800Hz slider to the first graduation (or +9dB) setting.
5) Play through your rig…turning the MXR on and off. You will notice midrange clarity unobtainable with a standalone Rockman EQ. It’s like pulling a blanket off your rig.
Depending on your EQ settings and the type of guitar you are playing, you may want to slightly raise or slightly lower the 800Hz slider. My personal setting is just under the +9dB mark. This really helps my guitar tone break through the mix.
You may have noticed that I am essentially using the MXR 6-band EQ for one frequency…and you would be correct. There are other useful frequencies that can be played with, but the “magic” of the 6-band lies in the 800Hz slider.
The MXR 6-Band EQ has been a working horse in the industry for decades and is truly a magic bullet. Contact Rick at our California PerfectSound Studio if you would like to add the awesome MXR 6-band to your rig. Let him know if you would like the optional power supply. I believe you will hear what I hear…
a) The speaker mounting boards were made of pressed board. No, I didn't say particle board. I said pressed cardboard, paperboard, or fiber board. This material, although very dense and great for acoustic purposes, is VERY week when holding a small 6 inch PYLE driver with the world's largest magnet. If you bang your XP around, I guarantee your speaker screws will rip right out of the fiber board. Not good. This causes ungodly damage to the electronics AND the speakers...including the very delicate tweeters.
b) Please don't remove the tweeters. There are none available on the market, meaning retrofitting with new speakers would be necessary. Also, because these are full range amps, the tweeters should NOT be removed.
c) Please don't think that the enclosed Pyle speakers can handle the volume the XP puts out. The XP-100 is a 100-watt head, no different from any other 100-watt head. NEVER crank an XP using the internal speakers. The internal speakers are only meant to be used in the "low" volume range. Using the XP in the "high" volume range means death to the internal speakers. Luckily, RMC can refoam the speakers...but they cannot replace them. Remember, the XP-100 can easily push (2) 4 x 12 cabs with ease. However, I recommend full range cabs. If you are going to blow something up, make it your external speakers...not your internal Pyles.
d) PSRR will be introducing a new and improved XP series button. This will mean custom color UPGRADES along with refurbs. If you want to get inventive with the color of your XP series buttons, we will provide that service to you.
Finally, I want to point out (again) how fragile the Rockman XP-100 actually is. If you own one of these gems...think of it in terms of having the world's largest and most precious diamond mounted in a plastic setting. These amps are beautiful sounding, VERY powerful, but must be handled with kid gloves. They are, in fact, historical in nature. If you have Rockman equipment, take care of it. In the meantime, we will try to refurb and/or repair these gems for as long as possible.
We cater to your endless search for tone!! Over 25 years of rock and roll experience!!
"SAVING ROCK AND ROLL HISTORY FROM AMERICA'S LANDFILLS"