Saturday, September 29, 2018

Line 6 - The POD - The Modeling Pedals - The Variax

Marcus Ryle & Michael Doidic 1985

Marcus Ryle, and Michel Doidic were acoustic engineers and designers that worked for the synthesizer manufacturer Oberheim. They eventually went on to co-founded their own company called Fast-Forward Design, and used their talent for other organizations.

Alexis Quadraverb

One of these was the Alesis Company. They used their engineering knowledge to design and create the Alesis ADAT, and the Quadraverb, QuadraSynth, and Digidesign SampleCell.

All of these products utilized digital signal processing integrated circuitry.

So by the late 1980’s they turned their sights to DSP based guitar products. As Marcus Ryle says in an interview, DSP chips had become affordable enough to be utilized for guitar amplifiers and effects.

Ryle & Doidic - The Fast Forward Co.
The name Line 6 came about since the Fast-Forward Company only had 5 telephone lines, and at the time, the guitar business was being done in secret. They didn't want any of the clients that hired their services to know about this venture. So if their receptionist paged them and said, “their is a call on line 6”, this was code for them to stop any guitar or amp related sounds that could be overheard on the phone.

Line 6 has created so many innovated products, and has become a a major player in the guitar industry. Like so many other successful start-up businesses, large corporations take note. On December 20th, of 2013 Line 6 was acquired by the Yamaha Corporation in an agreement that provided benefits for the original company and founders, as well as Yamaha. Under the contractual guidelines Line 6 would remain a wholly owned subsidiary.

Original Line 6 Spider 112

I have already written about the revolutionary amplifiers, this company has produced. Let us now take a look at the other innovative products Line 6 has created.

1998 Line 6 POD
One of the most revolutionary inventions to come from Line 6 was The Pod. This was a kidney-bean-shaped DSP modeling device that offered 16 different amp models, as well as a selection of speaker cabinets. It came with outputs that allowed it to be connected directly to recording equipment, an amplifier or P.A. system, or to headphones.

The POD was the original stand-alone DSP device, and was copied by several other companies.

2000 POD 2.0
In 2000, the POD 2.0 was an improved version of the classic POD. This one had 32 amp models, more cabinet models, faster switching, and the ability to access the SoundDiver preset computer editing software app. An upgrade from the POD to the POD 2.0 was offered to the original POD owners.

It consisted of a pre-programmed E-Prom chip, and a do-it-yourself instructions to back up the users presets, and change out the chip to the new chip.

2000 Bass POD

This same year the Bass POD was introduced. It had 16 bass amp models, 16 bass cabinets, and 16 different effects.

Both the POD 2.0 and the Bass POD were introduced in 2000 as in rack mountable formats.

2001 Chrome POD 2.0

In 2001 Line 6 came out with a limited edition chrome version of the POD 2.0.

2002 Line 6 PODxt
By 2002 an upgraded version of the POD was introduced, called the PODxt. This added new amp and cabinet modelling effects gleaned from their Vetta amplifier series. Also incorporated was a USB connectivity features for computer interface.

By 2003 Line 6 offered the rack mountable POD XT Pro.

Also this year the Bass PODxt and the rack mountable Bass PODxt Pro were offered.

2004 Line 6 PODxt Live
In 2004, Line 6 introduced the PODxt Live which was a steel encased pedal board. This had an LCD display, large foot switches, and included the ability to have preset banks, an on-board expression pedal

It included a dedicated digital input for the Variax instruments.

2005 Line 6 Bass PODxt Live

The next year, 2005, a bass version called the Bass PODxt Live was launched.

2006 Floor POD

In 2006, the more affordable Floor POD was introduced. This had the same great tones as the POD 2.0, included 12 amp models, and an expression pedal.

Line 6 POD X3
In 2007 the POD X3 was available. This was an enhanced version with a dual signal path for up to two amplifiers, 78 amp models, 98 effects, included were bass amp models, and a mic preamp. 2008 brought us the budget Pocket POD, which had 5 amp models, reverb, delay, chorus, and tremolo, plus other features, and worked on four AAA batteries.

Line 6 HD 300-400-500

Fast forward to 2010 for the introduction of the POD HD 300, 400, and 500 models. These were floor model units.

Line 6 POD HD Pro

The POD HD Pro was introduced in 2011. It was a rack mounted device.

Line 6 POD HD 500X

In 2013, two more POD devices were offered.  The POD HD 500X was a floor unit with all the effects found in the POD 500, but with the addition of LED foot switches, and enhanced features.

Line 6 POD HD Pro X

The POD HD Pro X was a rack mounted unit and an enhanced version of the POD HD.

Line 6 DL4
In 2000 two stomp-box style modeling pedals were also introduced this same year. The DL4 digital delay modeler was a stereo effects modeling pedal that featured 16 models of echo and delay pedals with tap tempo, and expression control pedal, and a loop sampler.

Line 6 MM4
The MM4 was another effect pedal for modulation type of effects, such as chorus, vibrato, phase shifter, flangers, and ring modulators. Another new stompbox pedal that came out in 2000 was the DM4, which was a distortion modeler pedal that had 16 models of classic distortions, overdrives, fuzz boxes, and boost pedals, plus a Tweez control. How cool is that!

Line 6 FM4
The FM4, introduced the following year was a filter modeler that incorporated oscillating filters, envelope follower, and synth strings effects. It included 16 models of frequency modulation effect, such as oscillating filters, envelope followers, and synth string sounds.

Line 6 AM4

The AM4 was a a pedal that offered 16 different amp models.

Line 6 Echo Park

It was not until 2004 that Line 6 came out with a series of stomp box style pedals. The Echo Park featured differing versions of useful delays.

Line 6 Uber Metal

The Uber Metal produced hi-gain over driven tones.

Line 6 Tap Tremolo

The Tap Tremolo featured an array of tap adjustable tremolo and stereo panning effects.

Line 6 Constrictor

The Constrictor featured models of guitar compressor pedals from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.

Line 6 Space Chorus

The Space Chorus modeled vintage and modern chorus and vibrato effects.

Line 6 Liqua Flange and Dr. Distorto

2005 brought out new pedals such as the Liqua Flange, and the Dr. Distorto pedal that featured classic distortion tones, as well as sustain and harmonic feedback.

Line 6 Otto Filter

The Otto Filter pedal produced an auto-wah effect, as well as band pass and low pass sounds.

Line 6 Roto Machine & Verbzilla

The Roto Machine featured a rotary speaker effect, and the Verbzilla pedal emulated classic reverb sounds.

Line 6 JM4 Looper
It would not be until 2008 that Line 6 came out with a new floor pedal. This was the JM4 looper, which was a Spider Jam amp contained in a pedal. Not only did it have a 24 minute looping effect, so you could create recordings and songs.

It also came with 100 preset songs, instrument and mic inputs, an a SD card slot for exporting files.

L6 ToneCore Developer
Another interesting pedal that came out this same year was the ToneCore DSP Developer kit.  This pedal came with a USB Tone Core dock that contained the Freescale software and audio circuitry to connect to a Windows based PC allow the user to create and preview their own sounds.

Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler

2008 also brought the M13 Stomp box Modeler which offered over 100 classic and new distortions, delays, reverbs, and modulation effects with a 28 second looper.

Line 6 M9 Stompbox Modeler

In 2009 the Line 6 M9 Stompbox Modeler was introduced. This floor effect box feature 75 effects and a 28 second looper and was a smaller version of the M13.

Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeler

2011 was the year that Line 6 came out with the M5 Stompbox Modeler. This floor effect offered 100+ effects with a 24 second looper and an expression pedal.

Line 6 Helix
The Helix LT was available in 2017. This floor effect offered over 200 models of amp simulation and effects. The following year Line 6 came out with a slimmed down version called the Helix HX, which offered over 100 amp models and effects.

One of the most interesting products Line 6 developed was the Variax, which first surfaced in 2002.

Line 6 Variax 500
The original Variax 500 was a guitar with built in modeling capabilities, that emulated 25 different electric and acoustic guitars, as well as other instruments. It had a basswood body, and a bolt-on maple neck. A special digital output enabled this guitar to be connected to other Line 6 equipment.

Variax 700

In 2003, the Variax 700 was introduced in a hard tail and tremolo version. These were upgraded models. The Variax 700 had all the features of the model 500, but had a contoured mahogany body with a carved ash top, bone nut, and pearl inlays. The Variax 700 came with these same features, but included a L.R. Baggs tremolo bridge.

Variax 700

In 2004, Line 6 introduced the Variax Acoustic model, which was a thin body acoustic instrument that emulated 16 classic acoustic models, including steel and nylon string, 12-string, jazz and resonator guitars, a banjo, mandola, sitar and the 3 stringed Japanese  shamisen; all that, plus alternate tunings, position controls, and a built-in compressor.

Line 6 Variax 700 Bass
That same year Line 6 offered the Variax Bass 700. This was a four string electric bass that had an alder body and a maple neck with a rosewood finger board. It had built-in DSP that was capable of emulating 24 electric and acoustic instruments, as well as bass synth sounds. A digital jack enabled it to be connected with other Line 6 gear.

Variax 300

By 2005 the Variax 300 was offered as an affordable electric guitar version of the Variax line.

Variax 600 & 705 Bass

Also offered this year were the Variax 600 and the Variax 705 five string bass.

Line 6 Variax 300 Acoustic

2006 brought about the Variax Acoustic 300 Steel and Acoustic 300 Nylon, which were more affordable versions of the acoustic model DSP guitars.

JTV - 69

In 2010 Line 6 teamed up with luthier James Tyler to design the James Tyler JTV-69, JTV-89, and the JTV-59 guitars which all included DSP modeling.

Line 6 JTV-69

2012 brought  the Line 6 James Tyler JTV 59-P, which was based on a Les Paul body design. This guitar came in gold-top or black finishes, and had twin "soap bar" pickups in addition to the Variax features.

2012 JTV -69P

Also this year Line 6 offered the James Tyler JTV 69-P, which was based on a Stratocaster body with a tremolo and 3 single coil pickups.

JTV 89-F

In 2013 the James Tyler JTV 89-F was offered. It was based on a super-strat, and had a licensed Floyd Rose tremolo system along with the Variax capabilities and the Line 6 brought the Variax Standard, which was not under the James Tylyer banner. This was a Stratocaster style guitar with the Variax features.

Line 6 Limited Edition Emerald

In 2016 the Variax Limited Edition Emerald edition of this same guitar. The following year, the Variax Limited Edition was issued in Amethyst as a result of a contest for a new color.

2018 Limited Edition Onyx

In 2018 the Variax Onyx Limited Edition was unveiled.

Due to Yamaha's acquisition two other Variax models were produced. In 2017 the Shuriken Variax SR270 became available due to a collaboration between Yamaha and Shuriken guitars.

Line 6 Shuriken SR270 Variax

This guitar had a unique shape and a 27" scale and came with Variax HS technology. In 2018 this guitar was redesigned to have a more manageable 25.5" scale.

Click on the links below the pictures for sources. Click on links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kustom Amplifiers and Guitars

1960's Kustom Catalog
In the late 1950’s Charles "Bud" Ross was playing in a band. He was familiar with electronics and was also somewhat of an entrepreneur.

In 1958 Ross made his first attempt at building an amplifier to save money for his band. He continued to build amplifiers in the basement of his home and sold them to local music stores. Due to word of mouth there was a demand for his amplifiers. Within five years he had established his own company which he named Kustom Amps. .

Kustom K200 bass amp

This was the era when transistorized electronics was new. I can recall sometime in the late 1950's when my Dad brought home this amazingly tiny transistor radio.

Interior of a Kustom Amp

And all of Ross’s amplifiers used only transistors instead of tubes. Back in the mid 1960's we didn't care if the amp had tubes or transistors. What we wanted was big, clean and loud.

Fender Solid State Twin Reverb
Fender came to the transistor/solid-state market in the mid-1960’s and failed miserably, due to their amplifier line which seemed to have acquired a bad reputation for not being dependable. But in 1966 Bud Ross hit the jackpot. His amps and speaker cabs were incredibly well constructed and many of his early products are still in use today despite being forty to fifty years old and having little or no maintenance.

The Kustom amplifier chassis was made of steel. The cabinets used wooden frames. All were covered in a vinyl material known as Naugahyde that was applied using a tuck and roll covering design. Naugahyde is a trademark of the Uniroyal company which was Kustom’s supplier. Beneath the vinyl was a poly-foam sheet. This was similar to what was being used in automobiles from that era.

Kustom catalog
In my opinion Kustom amplifiers/cabinets were works of art. The Naugahyde came in red sparkle, blue sparkle, gold sparkle, teal (which was called cascade sparkle), grey (which was called charcoal sparkle), white (which was called silver sparkle), and flat black.

Not only did Ross build amplifiers, but he also built public address systems using the same design. Ross did all of this from a small factory in the small town of Chanute, Kansas.

There was nothing similar to a Kustom amplifier. It was unlike anything Fender or Gibson made. Although huge Vox and Marshall amps would be on the scene in a few years, their only similarity was their size. Eventually when the Vox name was acquired by the Thomas Organ Company, Vox (America) did make large transistorized amplifiers.

Kustom was to be popular until the company folded, because they were different. They sounded great and that’s all we cared about. Besides that, these were huge impressive amplifiers.

Kustom guitar amplifiers.
Many came with three or four 12” Altec Lansing speakers. At the time Altec Lansing and JB Lansing or JBL were THE top of the line speakers providing distortion free sound.

The success of his amplifiers allowed Ross to diversify into manufacturing radar equipment and car monitors that were used by law enforcement.

Kustom K250
Many artists of the day used Kustom amplifiers since they created a beautiful looking back line.

John Forgarty of out of Creedence Clearwater Revival is still using a Kustom K200 A-4 (100 watt) amplifier. This 1968 model had the usual reverb and tremolo/vibrato and also harmonic clipper and boost controls. Kustom amps came with anywhere from 50 to 100 watts.

The oldest ones came with a black Plexiglas front plate with the logo in the center and also a power/polarity three was toggle switch on the back and two arms to wrap the power cord around while transporting the amplifier. The control knobs were in two rows.

Other users included Motown bass player James Jameson, Sheryl Crow, Waylon Jennings, Leon Russell, Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, The Jackson 5, Carl Perkins, and The Carpenters. The original Kustom amplifiers will say Kustom by Ross.

Bud Ross with Kustom Kat

In an original promotion Kustom gave away "Kustom Kats" with the purchase of an amplifier. I had one of these and gave it away to my girlfriend. I should have kept it.

Although I have never seen any amps other than guitar and bass amplifiers, I have read that Ross also made amps for classic guitar.

Before synthesizers became affordable and plentiful, we had combo organs. Kustom made two versions of organs.

Kustom Combo Organs

Based on writings, I learned that Bud Ross was a compulsive gambler and gambled away his company in a poker game. The company was picked up by a conglomerate and changed hands a few times.

Kustom PA

The company was eventually sold to the Baldwin Piano Company of Cincinnati Ohio. At the time Baldwin was venturing into the guitar business by purchasing Burns Guitars and its inventory.

Baldwin Exterminator

Kustom amp schematics were the basis of Baldwins amplifiers. There size inspired the massive Baldwin Exterminator amplifier, which which pumped 250 watts into two 8", two 12" and two 15" speakers.

Baldwin C1 amplifier

The more reasonable Baldwin C1 amplifier that Willie Nelson has used for years.

Baldwin failed in the guitar market and sold off much of its stock.

At that time an employee named Bob Monday purchased the naming rights and inventory of Kustom. Bob would travel around to guitar shows and sell off inventory piece by piece.

In 1924 a musical instrument and supply manufacture known as Davitt and Hanser started up in the musical instrument business. They eventually moved to a warehouse in the Delhi Township in the western section of Cincinnati. By the late 1980’s they had purchased the Kustom name and began importing solid state amplifiers with the Kustom name.

1990 Kustom KG212FX 30
Though they bore the same logo-badge, these amps looked nothing like the ones Bud Ross made. There was some interest in their products. In 2005 Davitt and Hanser got serious about Kustom amps and started experimenting with different models.

One of their most popular was a small 15 watt solid state practice amp with a sparkle tuck and roll covering.

Kustom 15 watt practice amp
Davitt and Hanser also came out with a large model tuck and roll model tube amp and P.A System. The amplifier looked and sounded great, but wasn’t a success, perhaps because it was made in China at a time that Chinese products were deemed inferior. Within just a few years, most major musical instrument manufacturers all sell Chinese manufactured products with their logo. In my opinion Kustom put this product out a few years too early.

Recently Kustom revamped their line-up of electric tube and solid state amps and acoustic amplifiers. The amps are excellent, especially the Coupe models that have somewhat of a design reminiscent of tuck and roll on the amps topside.

Kustom '36 Coupe
Altec Lansing no longer manufactures guitar speakers. These new version amplifiers use Eminence speaker which are made in Eminence Kentucky about 100 miles south of Cincinnati Ohio.

Let's get back to the Ross Kustom line.

In 1972, after Baldwin quit manufacturing amplifiers, Bud Ross came out with a new product line under the Kasino brand name that produced guitar/bass amplifiers and P.A. systems. This venture last until 1975.

1970's Kasino Club L50

Shortly after losing the Kustom Company, Ross moved to Los Angeles and started Road Electronics which manufactured Road Amplifiers. These are fairly obscure, but they were definitely made by Bud Ross.

For a brief while Kustom produced a line of it’s own guitars that were also made in Chanute Kansas.

It is my understanding Semie Moseley had a hand in the Kustom guitar design. Moseley is credited in a Vintage guitar interview as having worked for or consulted several guitar manufacturers.

1968 Kustom K-200 guitar

I have covered Wurlitzer guitars in a prior post. The Wurlitzer Company was also a Cincinnati based piano and organ company.

In 1966, Bud Ross originally approached the Holman-Woodell furniture factory in Neodesha, Kansas with his idea for manufacturing a guitar. They were interested and began building this instrument, however they were approached by Wurlitzer with a better offer, and the guitars were sold under the Wurlitzer brand name. 

One of the designers at this company was a shop-teacher/woodworker named Doyle Reading. Reading was a finger picking style guitar player.In 1967 he was offered a job with Bud Ross and his company and left Holman-Woodell.

1968 Kustom K-200A Koa

Reading went to work building a guitar which was a different looking shape than the Wurlitzer.

It was a semi-hollow body instrument with a cats-eye sound hole on the upper bout and controls on the lower bout. This gave the appearance of a Rickenbacker style guitar.

The guitar came with dual single coil DeArmond pickups, a more or less Gretsch style adjustable bridge and a control panel on the guitars scratch plate that included individual volume and tone controls for each pickup a Gibson style toggle switch and a front mounted input jack and of course the Bigsby. The bolt-on neck was topped with a rosewood fretboard inlaid with four dots for each position marker below the 12th fret. The 12th fret had 3 position marker and subsequently there were 2 markers at the high G and high A fret, then one each at the B fret and C sharp fret. The neck was bound and had a steel nut.

Kustom K-200 guitar and amp
The headstock shape is somewhat similar to the Moseley design, with it’s curved opposing sides.

The guitars came in several different coulors including natural, white, blue, wine burst aka watermelon burst, cherry-orange sunburst, natural ash, black ash and white ash.

The guitars were also produced with or without the Bigsby. The non-Bigsby models bore a trapeze tailpiece.

As previously mentioned, Kustom is currently owned by HHI Hanser Holdings Incorporated.

I must give the company credit. Hanser has been continuously innovative in maintaining Kustoms' reputation and putting out excellent products.

Click on the links beneath the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for more information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Visit Kustom's web page
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only) Scotty Anderson uses this Kustom Amplifier on all of his gigs.