| 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
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."
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