Ampeg Effects and Other Miscellaneous Products

Effectionately yours . . .



 

Scrambler

image courtesy tonefrenzy.com

In 1969 Ampeg roared into the effects world with the Scrambler. It was, and still is, distinctively unlike other distortion units of the time, and it doesn't appeal to everyone. Built like a tank in a heavy cast casing, part of the circuitry was potted in epoxy for copy protection. The sound of the unit is a mixture of strong fuzz with a bit of octave up and sometimes slight ring modulation. The Texture control ranges from an almost normal-sounding fuzz to one that brings to mind giant mosquitoes on steroids. The Balance control mixes in variable amounts of straight signal. The effect can be very extreme. Imagine sound gushing out of a firehose and splattering against the wall.

The Scrambler was not a commercial success for Ampeg, and perhaps 2500 units were produced, making it one of the more collectible effects, usually selling for more than $500.

A sound sample and more discussion of the Scrambler can be found at Tonefrenzy. And if you're the DIY type and are inclined to build a copy for yourself (as I did; I can't afford an original!), then go to GEOfex, where you can buy a toner-transfer sheet to easily etch your own circuit board. The schematic can be found here on the schematics page.


Phazzer

In 1975 Ampeg dared to venture again into the world of guitar effects, this time with a phase shifter called the Phazzer. It's a simple design with a single knob to adjust the speed. (There is a trimpot inside to adjust the intensity of the effect, ranging from lackluster to the point where it sounds as though the guitar is being flogged with a dead fish.) The Phazzer was designed for Ampeg by Time Labs, Inc., and it lasted in production through the late 70s. The unit pictured should have a silver disk with a black indicator dot on the top of the knob.

The 80s "A-series" pedals

Flanger image courtesy
Rutherford Music Exchange

During MTI's ownership of Ampeg, everything was being built in Japan. Ampeg's most extensive line of pedals is no exception. In production during 1982 and 1983, the "A" series effects were housed in black steel boxes with brightly colored graphics in pinks, oranges, blues, yellows, etc., and included nine pedals and a "systems box":

Model
Number
Effect List
price
A-1 Distortion $79.95
A-2 Compressor $89.50
A-3 Over Drive $89.50
A-4 Phaser $99.50
A-5 Flanger $139.50
A-6 Chorus $132.50
A-7 Multi-Octaver $139.50
A-8 Analog Delay $199.50
A-9 Parametric Equalizer $89.50
SB-5 Systems Box $225.00

 

The construction and sound quality of these pedals is equal to other manufacturers' mass production pedals of the time. Unfortunately, they're often found without the battery door which, while not quite as easy to lose as the DOD plastic snap-off battery door, can still be easily misplaced and lost.

Time-delay-based effects use the Panasonic MN300X series of bucket brigade delay chips.

It's not currently known who manufactured these pedals for Ampeg.


Eight of the nine "A" series pedals.

Top row, left to right: Distortion, Compressor, Over Drive, Phaser.

Bottom row: Flanger, Chorus, Analog Delay, Parametric Equalizer.

(Still looking for a Multi Octaver.)


Sound Cube

Not an effect, but a small practice amp that can be run off a single 9-volt battery or the attached AC power cord, the model 8550 Sound Cube has a surprisingly good sound for a 4" speaker. Each side of the unit is a large black plastic reproduction of the classic Ampeg logoplate. The rest is covered in black Ozite. There is a single input jack and volume knob on the front, and a preamp-out jack along with the AC cord and its winding pegs on the back. The grill cloth is the typical Ampeg silver/blue material. A strap knob adorns the top of each side, presumably so one could stroll down the street, serenading passersby with the soothing strains of distorted electric guitar. The Sound Cube was in the Ampeg line from 1975 through 1977.

The Sound Cube was not the only practice amp made by Ampeg. There was also a Pignose clone called the Buster, in production only a year, and I've found reference to something called the Peter Portable, but have never found any information about it, and only slight confirmation of its existence.


Hagstrom/Ampeg Patch 2000

 

The Patch 2000 system probably more properly belongs under Instruments rather than Effects. The system was comprised of a Hagstrom Swede guitar or bass modified by wiring the strings and frets to activate the accompanying Patch 2000 synthesizer controller. The instruments also included conventional pickups and could be played in the normal fashion, independent of the controller. The floor unit included two rocker pedals and a footswitch. The Pitch rocker pedal allowed the player to raise the pitch in semitone increments up to one octave; the Glide pedal controlled the time it takes to move between notes (portamento); the "5th" footswitch produced a tone seven semitones above the note played. The Patch 2000 controller would in turn be connected to a standard keyboard synthesizer.

The system was a little pricey by 1978 standards:

Price list, effective May 1, 1978
Model No. Description List Price
2000 Patch 2000 Complete—Guitar $1,495.00
2001 Patch 2000 Complete—Bass 1,495.00
3520 Patch 2000 Pedal only 550.00
3521 Pedal case 80.00
HG2803 Guitar only with case 820.00
HG2903 Bass only 820.00
3522 3-wire line cord 20.00
3523 A.C. cord 6.50
3524 Guitar cable 18.00
3525 Printed circuit boards—guitar 50.00
3526 Printed circuit boards—Pedal (Power section) 25.00
3527 Printed circuit boards—Pedal (Main section) 160.00
3528 Neck for Guitar 150.00
3529 Neck for Bass 150.00

 

March 18, 2001