Spencer Amps Splonkulator


Spencer Amps

Two different, seperate distortion circuits, a clean boost, and mix and control circuitry to combine these in parallel, all in one box. These sections can each be used seperately, but the real magic is in their interactions. Use conventional blending for additional control and sonic complexity. Or use antiphase blending for exaggerated distortion effects ... a technique l have dubbed splonkulation. The possibilities form a continuous range from smooth sustain and clean blends to anti-clean and anti-sustain. This is a very powerful and serious sonic experimentation tool!

This splonkulator creates a wide array of sounds on its own, but just as importantly is made to combine with other distortions. To be useful for this kind of distortion modification, it produces strong effects at low gain and is highly tweakable. Only one of its distortions have medium-high gain and this can interact with the lower gain distortion and/or clean. Through a distorted amp, this device can "work with" the amp, or work against it with dramatic distortion which cuts through the effect of the amp. For example, distortions can be generated down in the clean part of the amp's input signal range or otherwise tweaked specifically to antagonize the response. Or, driven by another distortion, splonkulation adds a controllable edge and can even approach a synthesizer sound.

The first distortion is a bipolar transistor stage of my design with controlled characteristics. This has similarity to fuzz circuits but mostly makes a good crunch. The second distortion is a CMOS (complementary MOS FET) type distortion popularized as Craig Anderton's "Tube Sound Fuzz" and several commercial products (although I developed my own version from the raw concept before seeing any of the other designs). This stage has a smooth sound and more gain. Both distortions have drive levels controls and a versatile filter function to shape the driving signal. In addition, there is a "clean" control in parallel to the distortions for mixing in clean sound at low level or as a substantial boost. The lower row of knobs control this mix, and also includes post-distortion filter that can be applied to either distortion. One or both distortions can be placed in reverse polarity, producing a cancellation effect useful for harsh "turbolated" sounds with hints of "ring modulator" and "up octave distortion" tonalities, "gated" sounds with reduced sustain, and more. Since even these more tortured sounds are produced by cancellation between otherwise natural-acting distortions, natural decay without sudden cutoff (etc.) results, and many variants can be dialed in easily. In a clean system, the Splonkulator clean path (if used) is heard primarily as a seperated sound from the distortions, injecting normalcy into the mix. But, with external distortion, the clean path essentially becomes a third distortion control, with pronounced interaction, and the clean can be subtracted from one of the distortion paths for a low-gain version of splonkulation.

Note that you can produce some similar effects by combining normal distortion pedals with your own splitter, mixing device, and loop switcher. However, this would be more complicated and the strong filtering in most distortions limits the interaction effect. It also would allow additional possibilities -- and mess. The Splonkulator is a convenient, powerful, and focused device for nonlinear waveform manipulation. But a little bizarre. The circuitry used to control, mix, and switch the distortions is more complex than the distortions themselves. Since it handles the parallel paths internally, combining it with other effects is done through the normal series connections.

Housed in an impressive extruded aluminum enclosure with end plates and clearcoat finish to provide room for 8 knobs and footswitch access, the Splonkulator is a little smaller than a Big Muff.

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