ARTICLE  


These tiny boxes, which are less than 2-1/2 inches square and 1-1/2 inches deep, retailed for only $29.95. However, their popularity was marred by the fact that they plugged directly into the guitar's output jack and didn't fit into the jacks for Stratocasters and Telecasters. Two of the wires could be switched so the units could be plugged into the amplifier input, but then the on/off controls were out of the player's reach.

Merriman and Beigel joined forces to work on the next Mu-Tron product-the
Octave Divider. "It used a couple of new principles that Merriman actually got patented," says Beigel. "The circuit stabilized the response of the guitar. Deriving the signal from the guitar to control the octave division is extremely difficult. Tracking the fundamental frequency of a guitar accurately and quickly is still a major topic in musical product design, whether it's guitar synthesizers or an octave divider. The Octave Divider used the guitar signal as the source material for the octave, so the octave sounded like the guitar. In addition, we stuck the Green Ringer circuit in it so it would produce a fairly reliable octave above as well as an octave below."

Musitronics introduced several other products over the course of time, including the Phasor II (an upgraded version of the Phasor), and the Micro V envelope follower (a budget version of the Mu-Tron III). Because the Micro V used a single 9-volt battery instead of the two 9-volt batteries or 18-volt power supply used with the Mu-Tron III, it didn't have as much dynamic range. "It was very different than the Mu-Tron III," says Beigel. "We used a transconductance frequency control instead of the photo mod, and we could only give it one filter type output, so we used a different type of a filter design. We wanted to make something that was more accessible to the low-priced market. Even then we didn't succeed in making something cheap enough to sell for the price. That was designed by myself and a friend named Bob Kosug."

Musitronics also made a volume-wah pedal and a flanger with a rocker pedal, which was the last product the company developed before it was sold to ARP. "We finally got back into making a flanger," recalls Beigel. "Unfortunately we didn't make very many of them. We only produced about 1,000 of them. We used a different sort of control circuit, and we used pedal control as well as optical control. We used an interesting set of audio circuitry to expand the dynamic range of the bucket brigade, and that actually gave it a distinctive sound. It was a combination of a compander and a noise gate."

The Flanger, Volume Wah, and C-100's rocker pedals boasted extremely durable foot pads that were made in Italy by the Pirelli tire company. "I think the material was meant to be installed in escalators," says Beigel. "We searched and searched to find a good mat to put on those things, and we finally found Pirelli."

Work also began on a guitar synthesizer, but the product never came to fruition. "During the late '70s, the Holy Grail was the guitar synthesizer," says Beigel. "We were working on one that was not strictly a synthesizer because it did not use the guitar to control an oscillator to generate the sounds. We tried to make enough sophisticated modifications to the sounds by basically combining sound effects to give the function of a synthesizer and keep the versatility of a guitar sound. We were about 95 percent there, but we would never release a product that was 95 percent. Although a few people saw the product, which was called the Mu-Tron VII and looked like a Bi-Phase with more knobs, we never went into production because at that point we still hadn't perfected it."

The Volume Wah attracted the attention of the ARP synthesizer company, which ultimately led to the sale of Musitronics. "Our downfall was the Gizmotron," says Aaron Newman. "In 1978, one of our sales reps, Al Marinaro, brought us to a guy who knew Kevin Godley and Lol Creme from 10cc, who had invented the Gizmotron. By this time we had some outside capital, and other people had some say in what we were doing. They felt that we were not strong enough to keep developing Musitronics. Everybody thought we were going to make a fortune from the Gizmotron so we decided to sell off Musitronics. ARP bought the assets of Musitronics and the rights to the name in late 1978 or early 1979. They manufactured the products and we received royalties for each Musitronics product they sold. That worked fine, except ARP's equivalent of the Gizmotron was the Avatar guitar synthesizer, so they went bankrupt right after they bought us out."


[Continued...]
Top · Page [1][2][3][4]


Home | Services | Project Profiles | Technologists | Business Terms | Product Development | Articles | Contact | Links