| The Mu-Tron III
received a significant boost from Stevie Wonder, who used it on his hit
"Higher Ground" and agreed to appear on a poster promoting the
product. "After that, we began to have some nationwide market
penetration," says Beigel. "Soon all kinds of rock and roll and jazz
players were using the unit." The III was the company's most popular
product, and it remained in constant production throughout the company's
According to Beigel, Musitronics' next product never came into production:
"It would have been the first commercially introduced bucket-brigade
flanger. We called it the Phase Synthesizer. It was an interesting product
because in addition to having an analog delay in it, everything was
controllable by everything else. It was controllable by foot pedal, envelope,
oscillator, and by various combinations of those. It was very ambitious and
ahead of its time, but it never saw the light of day because it was too
complex. We made a few prototypes, one of which Larry Coryell used on a song on
his album The Eleventh House."
Shortly thereafter, work began on the next Mu-Tron effect-the Phasor. "We
decided that a phase shifter was a commercially viable effect," says
Beigel. "There were two interesting things about the Mu-Tron Phasor.
First, it was better than anything else on the market in terms of audio
performance, but we still weren't real pleased with the noise level because it
was perceptible, which was not okay with us. Second, the fact that the Maestro
unit, which was popular at that time, distorted the sound a little bit was one
of the interesting aspects of the phase shift sound. We wanted to find a way to
do the same thing without distorting the sound. We developed the idea of
putting feedback around the phase shift loop. The thing with phase shifting is
that it creates notches in the spectrum. The feedback created some peaks in
addition to the notches in the effect. We made a six-stage phase shifter,
whereas other products, such as the MXR Phase 90, were four-stage phase
Musitronics followed up the Phasor with the Bi-Phase, an impressive dual phase
shifter that could be operated in parallel or in series and in stereo or mono.
The optional C-100 photoelectric foot controller also allowed players to
manually control either sweep or the rate of the effect. Measuring
approximately 10x14 inches, the Bi-Phase was one of the largest
"pedals" ever built.
Despite its lofty $279.95 retail price, the Bi-Phase was immensely popular.
Beigel says that he gave the first prototype of the Bi-Phase to Mick Jagger
when the Rolling Stones were rehearsing for their 1974 at a nearby air force
base. Many jazz and studio guitarists purchased the product, as well as
keyboardists who used it to replace their Leslies. The Bi-Phase was also one of
the late Frank Zappa's favorite effects.
Although Musitronics had a slew of popular products, the company was not making
much profit because the products were costly to build. To compensate, the
company began to manufacture and distribute a variety of effects designed in
England by Dan Armstrong and his engineer George Merriman. "Dan had been
making these effects for a number of years in England," says Beigel.
"We made a royalty arrangement with him to make those products in the U.S.
There were five effects-the Red Ranger, Yellow Humper, Blue Clipper, Green
Ringer and Purple Peaker. At Musitronics, George Merriman, Dan Armstrong, and I
all worked on the Orange Squeezer. It was predominantly George who did the
engineering, and I made up the name. The Orange Squeezer was the most popular
of the Armstrong boxes."
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