Friday, April 26, 2024

The Randall FX Line (Late 70s)

For just about 3 years (1977-1979) Randall Amplifiers got into the effects game with a set of 5 pedals; the RP-1 Phase, RP-2 Phase, RP-4 Phase, Notch Generator, and the Envelope Generator

Randall RP-4 Notch Generator

Randall RP-1 Phase RP-2


So where did these come from and were they any good?

In late 1976 Seamoon engineer Jerry Pynckel decided to part ways with the brand, where he had developed a few of their best products; the Funk Machine II, the Controlled Tone Preamp, and the Studio Phase.

Seamoon Studio Phase

His first solo venture into the effects world was starting a brand where he could really flex his engineering skills. It was called Design Technology and featured an innovative roster of pedals; including the Flange Delay Line, the Notch Generator, the Phase Delay Line, and the VCO-VCA(*as of now it is unknown whether this came before or after Seamoon)

If you look at the photo below I'm guessing you'll notice that the Design Technology pedals look strikingly similar to the Randall line. And also, some are literally the same exact product; the Notch Generator, the Phase Delay Line (RP-4), and the VCO-VCA (Envelope Generator).


And you would be 100% correct in your observation! Because in late 1977 Pynckel landed a deal with Randall to build their pedals, and it was a fairly easy transition as he simply adapted the Design Technology effects to the Randall aesthetic (or more accurately, the other way-around). 

In fact, the Notch Generator was an even earlier design he utilized during his Seamoon days, as the Controlled Tone Preamp (albeit, the Notch Generator kicks out a much grittier and crunchier tone). And the RP-2 Phase is supposed to be an adaptation of the his design for Seamoon, the Studio Phase (which was later modded and rereleased as the Studio Flanger, which itself was further adapted by Analog Digital Associates and released as the famous A/DA Flanger... but that's another post entirely).

Both the Design Technology and the Randall pedals are pretty rare, and some of them I can't even find photos of. But I do have the Envelope Generator, which is a super fat sounding auto-wah, and the Randall Notch Generator, which sounds amazing! It's like a giant cookie monster sounding fuzz with a fairly unique tone control.

Randall Notch Generator

In addition to the elusive Design Technology pedals, one effect from the Randall line I have not been able to find even a photo of is the RP-4 Phase. So if you happen to have one please reach out via Email or Instagram, or comment below and let me know! I would love to document their existence beyond just a catalog image.

thanks as always for reading!
-ed

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Wait, who invented the Tone Machine ???

So last week I finally broke down and bought a copy of the classic 1997 book "The Stompbox" by Art Thompson, and came across an interview with Steve Ridinger (who you probably remember from our last post on the Liverpool Fuzz, as the founder of fOXX). 



The book is actually pretty great; showing tons of old dealer ads, pedals that are still quite rare today, and a whole bunch of interviews with legendary effects builders. And while most of the information is stuff I had heard before, the quote below from Steve Ridinger hit me like a nuclear bomb...

I was involved in the design of our first wah-wah, but we got help from some other people for the rest of our products. The Tone Machine was designed by a classmate of mine from Hollywood High School. His name was Rob, but I don't remember his last name. As far as I know that was the first fuzz unit with a switch-able octave effect. I didn't even know how to spell octave then-that's why it's written "octive" on these boxes.

Wait, did Steve Ridinger just say that someone he went to high school with was actually the one responsible for inventing fOXX's greatest pedal? And also that he can't remember the guy's last name?!!!

Well after reading this my curiosity kicked in to overdrive and I immediately found the Hollywood High School yearbook from 1969. I honed in on anyone named Robert, and also Ridinger himself just to make sure I was looking in the right place.

well, the internet came through as it always does. :)


Ok, step two was to find anyone named "Robert". But this was going to be a much more difficult task, as apparently in 1951 naming your baby "Robert" was stupidly popular (in fact, it was the 2nd most popular name of that year). 

So it looks like my work's cut out for me; now having to sift through each one and tracing their lives via Google, 50+ years later to see if there are any engineers among them and who the most likely candidate could be.

But I actually feel pretty good that soon enough we will find who the true inventor of the Tone Machine really was.

wish me luck, and stay tuned...
-ed

Friday, April 5, 2024

Liverpool Fuzz Tone (fOXX)

In November of 1968 a new fuzz box was introduced to the world through the pages of Billboard magazine. The pop publication ran a little blurb proclaiming a new fuzz-tone that "shatters sound" and can "last more than 1,000 hours without a battery change".

Known as the Liverpool Fuzz Tone, from Ridinger Associates, it was a fairly unique circuit for the time that utilized 3 germanium transistors and ran off of 9v. Primitive and raw, it was a hidden gem of American 60's fuzz. 

One month later the Liverpool Fuzz was given a similar treatment in the UK publication Beat Instrumental. Although lacking in classic American hyperbole, this small write-up served as the European introduction to one of the most prolific builders of the 1970s.



And finally, a few months later we would get to actually see the Liverpool Fuzz highlighted in a photo ad, seemingly associated with New England distributor Harris-Fandel, showing a small table-top unit with a hardwired output cable and an on/off switch. 

And while the late 60s were flooded with unoriginal copies and clones, the Liverpool Fuzz Tone immediately stood out, and still holds a very significance place in the history of guitar effects...


So what's the deal with this thing and why is it so important?

Well for those unaware, this is the first effect built and released by Ridinger Associates, or better known as Steve Ridinger of Danelectro fame, Gorilla Amplifiers, and most importantly fOXX!

The story is that he originally built the first Liverpool Fuzzes in 1966 when he was just 14 yrs old. The lore goes on to say that as a young teenager he didn't have the money to buy a fuzz pedal, nor did he have access to any fuzz schematics, so he came up with a fuzz/drive circuit of his own. These early units were all hand-wired using perfboard. Around 1968 he did a deal with a US distributor and also outsourced the manufacturing to a third party who paired it down to a small black enclosure and incorporated a printed circuit board for a cheaper/faster build. 

Ridinger estimates between 500-1,000 were produced in this time (1966-1969). And while that seems like a large number compared to some other pedals we have discussed, the nondescript nature of the blank black enclosure combined with no labeling of any kind, has made it near impossible to track one of these down. And at this point I have only seen 2 in my 20+ years of collecting. 

Following the Liverpool Fuzz, Ridinger created and released the Fox Wa Pedal, which would be the first time he would use the "Fox" name, and ultimately lead to him starting the fOXX brand just a year later.


In the world of vintage guitar pedal collectors these two effects mean a lot. Without Steve Ridinger deciding to dip his toes into building, marketing and distributing stompboxes at such an early age, we may never have heard of fOXX or the best fuzz of all-time, the Tone Machine!

And it all started in 1966 with a little hand-built effect called the Liverpool Fuzz Tone.

As always if you happen to have one of these or any additional info, please feel free to hit me up via Email or Instagram

thanks for reading!
-ed