In 1975 American inventor Ken Schaffer created the first dependable, beautiful sounding wireless system for electric guitar and bass. Little did he know he was also creating a circuit that would transform the sound of rock and roll.
Schaffer’s design incorporated ingenious pre-processing circuits to preserve the integrity of the wireless signal. Notably, a mirror-image paired compressor and expander increased the radio circuit’s dynamic range to over 100 dB, 35 dB greater than the theoretical maximum that could otherwise previously be achieved within the bandwidth limits covering wireless systems by the US FCC.
But there was a side-effect: beyond the staging freedom afforded by Schaffer’s wireless, many A-list players discovered something unintended: the sonic result was pure magic! The wireless design’s unique preprocessing enriched their signal with copious amounts of harmonic content unlike anything they’d ever heard. News traveled fast. Schaffer’s wireless units became the system of choice for nearly every major artist of the mid-70s to mid-80s.
Schaffer ceased producing his wireless system – the “Schaffer-Vega Diversity System” (SVDS) – in 1982 to pursue other interests. Soon, new, stricter FCC regulations on wireless specifications prohibited fully-analog wireless systems of its caliber from being used. SVDS artists – including AC/DC – were forced to move on… the legendary “Schaffer Sound” slipped into obscurity.
IN SEARCH OF THE LOST TONE
Across the world, in Rome, renowned AC/DC aficionado Fil “SoloDallas” Olivieri had been obsessed by Angus Young’s signature tone for more than 30 years. In pursuit of that sound for more than 30 years, Olivieri had bought and duplicated every piece of equipment Angus was known to use. But something was missing…
But eventually, he happened onto a 1984 interview with Angus Young in Guitar Player magazine (“Angus Young: Seriously”, Guitar Player, February 1984). A specific question was asked, during the recording of AC/DC’s iconic Back in Black album: “Do you use any effects?” Young’s reply was “I just have a Schaffer-Vega wireless system.” That next month, in Guitar World Magazine, he elaborated: “Yeah, I use the Schaffer-Vega. I’ve been using that since ’77. On the receiver you’ve got like a monitor switch you can boost the signal and in the transmitter you’ve got the same sort of thing. But good.”
What? Why had he never heard mention of this before? Olivieri scoured the globe trying to find one of these elusive 40 year old units. (Only 1000-odd were ever made.)
A year later, Fil finally reached Ken Schaffer – pleading for Schaffer’s help in getting his hands on one of these magical units. Awestruck by Fil’s 30 year dedication and perseverance, Ken’s last two remaining “souvenir” units were on their way from the back of his closet to a “better home,” Fil’s, in Rome.
Moments after Fil plugged one of his numerous SG’s into the 37 year old SVDS transmitter, ran the receiver into his Plexi… instant Angus!
It took only a few demos before the 15,000 member SoloDallas blog’s community of tone-hunters began scrambling to get one of these magical units. It was then that Fil asked and received Schaffer’s permission to re-create the audio circuitry of the original unit. “The Schaffer Replica®” (TSR™) was born.
Recipient of unit #1 was Angus Young himself, who used it throughout “Rock or Bust,” AC/DC’s first album in eight years. He’d rediscovered the secret to the best tone he’d ever had! Angus got his sound back.
The circuit that transformed the sound of rock and roll is back to do it all over… Again.