Tag Archives: effects pedals

Interesting Guitar Effects of the 1970s

Rowe-DeArmond offers a volume-pedal sized for funky, funky boots. 

Today at PS dot com: some interesting odds n ends from the audio-effects pedal market of the 1970s.  If yr using any of these boxes in the studio or on stage these days, drop a line and let us know…

The Binson EchoRec, an electro-mechanical audio delay system that used a rotating disc rather than moving tape or oilItalian built; marketed and distributed by Guild in the US (much like Guild distributed the earlier Watkins CopyCat).  The EchoRec is best known as being the 70’s delay unit of choice of this dude, who certainly created a lot of significant sounds with it. 

Hawk Effects: designed to hang off yr guitar strap rather than sit on the floor.  I have never seen one of these in the flesh (steel).  Anyone?  The Mushrooms look threatening.

The Studer tape machine is the stove; Ibanez effects are the spice. Got it.  Compressor II, Phase Tone, Graphic Equalizer, Tube Screamer, etc…

Korg X-911 Guitar Synthesizer.  Is this an actual synth with a pitch-to-CV convertor on the input (like my beloved MS20) or a complex filter/distortion unit?

The Ludwig Phase II.  Not an actual synthesizer, but pretty far out regardless.  I remember seeing Thurston Moore using one of these back in the 90s.  Check it out here

Ross effects, from the man who brought you Kustom.  Wow I love this graphic design.  The only unit from this lineup to attain classic status is the Compressor; these trade for high sums due to their close association with one of the most visible guitarists of the 1990s.  Read this crazy story for the details….

Boxxes of Foxx(es)

Above: a scan of the 1974 fOXX catalog: we see the O.D. Machine, the Loud Machine, the Fuzz & Wa & Volume, the Down Machine, the Clean Machine, etc…

“Fuzz so thick it grew a coat.”  There’s no rule that mandates that effect pedals need to be built into painted metal boxes.   Just as Kustom rallied against the tolex-hegemony with their Naugahyde-plush guitar amplifiers, fOXX was a Chatsworth, California based company that burst onto the rock scene in 1971 with a range of guitar-effects pedals that were covered in furry, fuzzy material.  Shit, man, it’s a fuzz pedal, let’s cover that fukker with fuzz! There are certainly a number of secondary interpretations as well but… you can figure that out on yr own time.

Besides the iconic fOXX pedals, fOXX also sold amplifiers.  Let’s see… if you have a company named fOXX and you want to sell some amps…  What other famous amp rhymes with fOXX?

(image source)

fOXX amps were, apparently, real Vox AC30s with a new badge attached.  Read the whole story here.

Don’t forget yr fOXX-brand coiled-cable.  I really hope these weren’t furry too…stale beer sticks to ordinary rubber cables well enough; imagine its attraction to furry cables.

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Above: The fOXX Wa Machine, Fuzz and Wa, and Power Machine.  The Power Machine is one of a largely lost category of guitar effects that were intended to be inserted directly into the instrument rather than interface with a cable.  Other notable examples of this slightly awkward form-factor include the Electro Harmonix LPB-1 and the entire Dan Armstrong ‘Sound Modifiers’ line

The fOXX Octave Fuzz, available in five plush varieties.

fOXX is back (?), although I can’t find any indication that it’s actually the same folks responsible.  Visit their website here.  The reissue Tone Machine is available as a kit for $109 or ready-made for $149.

Also… you might enjoy a visit to this great fOXX Tone-Machine tribute site.

DOD Effects Pedals Circa 1980

DOD.  The effects pedal brand that spanned the (original) MXR and BOSS eras, never having quite the cachet of either, but keepin’ on keepin’ on well into the 21st.   They are solid products – I have owned many and nary a complaint.  However… I would love to know what ever happened to their graphic design.  Check out these circa ’80 adverts.  Fantastic, clean-looking things, soon to devolve into a swirling mass of ill-advised colors and garrish type-treatments.   Perhaps focus-group tested to appeal to a younger consumer?  Anyone out there ever do art direction for pro audio gear?  Drop us a line and weigh in…

Circa ’75

Download a twenty-three-page excerpt of the 1975 catalog from Music Emporium of Bethesda, Maryland (h.f. ‘ME’):

DOWNLOAD: Music_Emporium_1975_Catalog

Products covered, with vague text, no specs (or prices), and moody photography/impressionistic illustration, include: 1975 Martin D-18, D-28, D-35, etc; Gibson Les Paul bass, Triumph, Signature, ES-335TD-SV, ES-345TD, among others; Gibson J-200, Blue Ridge 12, and J-55; Dobro 60D, 33, 90, and 35 resonator guitars; Guild F-50, F-40, D-50, F-212XL, among others; Fender Telecaster, Telecaster Deluxe, Thinline, Precision, Jazz, and Telecaster Basses; the Bradley line of directly-imported MIJ ‘Lawsuit’ guitars, including the Doubleneck, FV-60, ES-775, TE350, JB60-W, ST50-N, LP65-N, and LP54; Amplifiers and PA from Acoustic, Ampeg, DB Sound (look similar to Heil, which is also represented), Gollehon PA from Grand Rapids, MI, including their 8218/M, 8218/A, MR-90 Horn, 8220/M and /A models; AKG, Shure, and Maruni Mics; ARP and Moog synthesizers; and a pile of guitar effects pedals that no one can afford anymore.

ME was the catalog division of the family-owned Veneman instrument retail-store business.  Veneman was purchased by Guitar Center in 2004.  Check out these sepia-tinted photos for a second.  Veneman could easily have opted to re-print the images that manufacturers supply through their distributors, but they really went the extra mile; the mood of these images, combined with the glaring lack of any sort of pricing or specifications, seems impossible today as a sales strategy for guitars: ME was selling you an attitude and a vibe first; the particular instruments were secondary.  Consider another interesting fact about the images in the catalog: apart from the High Priestess on the cover, there are no almost no photographic image of people in the catalog.   Instead we get some beautiful line-illustration work.  While this could have been a talent compensation/rights issue, I feel like it’s more of a deliberate move that allows the musician/customer to more easily insert themselves into these instrument-scenarios.  I mean, who wants to buy a Les Paul that you see slung around the neck of some bro in a (insert yr least favorite sartorial signifier) shirt?

 

A possible overall explanation?  It’s the Whole Earth Catalog Effect.  If yr not familiar with the Whole Earth Catalog (h.f. WEC), and you have any interest whatsoever in American culture of the 1970s, get a copy of an early edition and check it out.  It is one of the most seminal documents of the era, as well as being an early precursor of the peer-to-peer information exchange style that we now experience in the form of….yup…  the internet.  There were about a billion (or googleplex…) copies printed and you can find if for a few bucks at most community book sales or used book shops.  Anyhow,  WEC was such a powerful and ubiquitous presence among the more liberal and artistic elements of American Society in the 70s that we start to see its editorial and visual style reflected in actual catalogs of the era that were directed at a similar demographic.  For another example of this phenomenon, check this

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The only really interesting bit as far as the equipment offered is the BRADLEY line of guitars.  Bradley was apparently the house-brand of directly-imported Japanese-made guitars which ME exclusively sold.

These sure look like Ibanez to me.  Anyone own a 70’s Bradley?  Tell us your thoughts.  Read some discussion online here.

Heathkit Rock-Band Hardware c. 1969


Download a five-page scan of the various guitar amps, guitars, effects, and other Rock-combo-flotsam available from Heathkit in 1969:

DOWNLOAD: Heathkit_guitar_amps_1969

Products on offer include: Heathkit Starmaker TA-16 amplifier; AKG and Shure mics and Atlas stands; TA-27 guitar amp; Harmony ‘Silhouette’ H17 electric guitar; Heathkit TA-28 “Fuzz” Booster and TA-58 headphone amp; TA-17 amplifier head and TA-17-1 speaker system; TA-38 bass amplifer (130 lbs!); and a kit version of the famous Vox Jaguar organ.


M. and I were digging through some local pawn shops last week and we spotted the above-depicted ‘Starmaker’ amplifer buried under some radial arm saws.  Coincidentally enough, the price they were asking was the same $119 that it would have cost you to buy as a kit in 1969.  “…in about 8-10 hours and you’ll have the best value around in a solid-state amp.  Order yours now.”

Kit-built electronics were a fascinating and vital part of consumer-culture in America through the 1970s. It’s kind of liberating when you think about it: a product which parses out some (but certainly not all) of the labor from the physical materials of the product; you, the consumer, can then create the finished product from a combination of your capital (money) and your raw labor/time.  I am about to do the same thing with a shed; we need someplace to put our lawnmower, and the right balance of capital/labor for my particular circumstances is a shed-kit.  I have neither the money to pay someone to build a shed for me nor the free time to build a shed from a blueprint and a pile of uncut lumber; the shed kit seems like the right choice for me.   At some point in America, the value of the labor required to complete a piece of consumer-electronics equipment fell below a certain point, thanks to a combination automation (robots) and cheap foreign labor.  This made the Heathkit a fairly indefensible option.   This affordability of foreign labor (and transportation costs…) can’t last forever though.  So I have to wonder:  as foreign labor prices continue to rise, will we ever see a return of the kit-option for consumer electronics in America?

Do you ever come across a Vox Jaguar and wonder why it does not work quite right?  Well now we know: it could have originated as one of these kits; 91 lbs of cold solder joints and sloppy lead dress.  Heathkit makes a  bold claim about the capability of the above Jaguar when used in league with their TA-38 bass amp:  “Here’s a combination that will produce the most mind-bending, soul-grabbing sound around.”  266 lbs, $499.00.

 

BOSS guitar effects and associated audio products 1984

Download the entire twenty-four-page 1984 BOSS full-line catalog (7.3 MB file).

DOWNLOAD: Boss_Full_product_Line_1984

Products covered, with full specs and photos, include: Boss DD-2 digital delay, HM-2 heavy metal, CE-3 and CE-2 chorus, BF-2 flanger, CS-2 Compression Sustainer, DM-2 (analog) delay, OC-2 Octaver, VB-2 Vibrato, TW-1 touch wah, GE-10 equalizer, plus many more pedals; HC-2 handclapper and PC-2 Percussion synth; DE-200, DM-300, DM-100, RX-100 tabletop delay/reverbs; SCC-700 effects controller; BX-600, BX-400, KM-60 mixers; plus many more odd items.

Volumes can be said about the BOSS brand of audio products.  BOSS was created in 1976 as a guitarist-oriented division of the ROLAND corporation of Japan.  They arrived at their classic form-factor of a small cast-metal pedal with large foot-switch and safely recessed knobs in 1977.  Since then, these devices have become as ubiquitous as the electric-guitar itself.

Audacious, perhaps, but probably accurate.  When a young kid gets the guitar and amp he has been wanting, the next thing he wants is a ‘pedal.’  And more likely than not, that pedal will be a BOSS pedal.  To a novice guitar-player, these effect units literally open up a world of possibilities, offering the potential to free the instrument entirely from the acoustic sound that the vibrating strings create and into a world of engineered audio.

When I was a kid learning to play guitar, the BOSS digital delay pedal (ie ‘Echo pedal’) was our holy grail of pedal effects.  These things were so expensive that almost no one could afford one.  They cost as much or more than your amplifier.  On the other hand, we had no interest in the DM-2 ‘Delay’ (read: Analog Delay) pedal, which has more limited echo time and ‘impefect’ ‘analog processing’ which causes noticeable high-frequency loss on the echo repeats.

Ironic now that the DD-2 digital delay pedal is nearly worthless, while the DM-2 and DM-3 analog delay pedals of the same era trade for upwards of $400.  I have been using a DM-2 in my live-performance guitar setup for several years and it is a truly great device.

I used one of these percussion-synths for a long time too.  These are very cool if you can find one cheap.

I can’t imagine that this mixer sounds very good but shit it is funky.   A cosmetic holdover from the 1970s BOSS line.

Have you seen ‘THE BOSS BOOK” (no author attributed) from Hal Leonard Publishers?

I encountered this 122-page volume at the bookshop one afternoon and I have to say: it is one of the best books in the (albeit limited) genre of ‘musical-instrument-writing’ that I have come across.  Extremely dense, rigorous, and well-illustrated.  If you have ever used guitar-effect pedals in your work, I highly suggest that you pick it up. “TBB” traces the development of each of the effect devices from their inception through discontinuation.  This history is in many ways the history of the evolution of the electric guitar and audio processing in the 1980s.  A lot to think about.