By late 1976, Seamoon was having financial troubles. It was difficult to compete with companies like Electro-Harmonix and MXR, who were biting into their market share and gaining headway on the west coast, where Seamoon’s sales were strongest. Tarnowski was confident the effects pedals he wanted to build would be commercially successful, so he bought up the remaining Seamoon inventory in late 1977 and formed A/DA (Analog Digital Associates) in early 1978.
A/DA’s first product was the A/DA Flanger, which Tarnowski started designing while he was working for Seamoon. “It had a few features in it that no one else was doing and no one else has duplicated since.” says Tarnowski. “The main feature was the wide range of minimum to maximum time delay, which was a 40:1 ratio. Most flangers are 20:1 or less. Secondly, when it sweeps up, it sounds like it sweeps to zero time delay. It actually goes up to infinity, which is what true tape flanging sounds like. Another unique feature is the even/odd harmonic switch. The regeneration is an enriched overtone and harmonic recirculation path that no one else has ever done, as far as I know. It has a warmer, richer tone to it when it goes into higher regeneration, rather than just pure white noise and brittleness. There’s also a gate that allows you to set the flanger so it only comes in at higher dynamics, and there’s a noise gate that squelches any residual noise when the signal gets low.”
Tarnowski started selling his flangers in January of 1978, driving to dealers with the finished product in his trunk. His first was Don Weir’s Music City in San Francisco. “I had spoken with Reese Marin, who was the manager, and I had showed him the flanger after much cajoling,” says Tarnowski. “He was very impressed, as was everyone else in the store. He looked at me and asked, ‘Do you have any more of these with you?’ I had 11 or 12 in my trunk, so I went out to get them. When I came back, Reese had already sold the unit that I was demoing. It was sold to Steven Gerr, who is now an L.A. studio musician. He got serial number 3. He has it in the original box with the original invoice and everything. Serial number 1 was a rat’s nest prototype that never worked right. Serial number 2 is my unit.”
The Flanger became A/DA’s most successful pedal, shipping more than 50,000 units before it was discontinued. A/DA reissued the pedal two years ago, and it has once again become a top seller. A/DA issued two other pedals, the Final Phase and the Harmony Synthesizer, but they didn’t sell quite as well as the Flanger. About 5,000 units of the Final Phase were shipped, and only 950 units of the Harmony Synthesizer reached the market.
The Final Phase was introduced in 1979. Featuring a built-in distortion unit, the Final Phase is one of the most versatile phase shifters ever produced. “It uses a ’70s-style op-amp distortion circuit,” says Tarnowski. “The Fresh Fuzz was built around a similar design. But the Final Phase was done in a way that a single knob could control the amplitude and the amount of distortion. That, combined with the phase shifter, really elevates the fuzz in a way that sounds like a jet blasting off.”
The Final Phase is a six-stage phase shifter that provides 540 degrees of phase shift. There were several clever innovations in the unit’s design.
“It has sweep modulation, which allows you to superimpose another sweep pattern on top of the primary sweep.” notes Tarnowski. “It’s like a Bi-Phase. You can modulate the sweep so you can get vibrato. The most sonic feature is the phase shift design. Most phase shifters are usually a phase splitter transistor, like the original Uni-Vibe or an op-amp all-pass phase shift network. Both of these circuits have a Q of 1, which is a very steep notch. It’s so steep that as it sweeps you can get it to de-tune the pitch severely, almost like a flanger, but it’s arithmetic instead of logarithmic. It’s a little non-musical, but very interesting sounding.”
A/DA’s rarest effect, the Harmony Synthesizer, was also its most complex pedal. Tarnowski started work on the unit while he was employed by Seamoon, but it took several years for him to accomplish his goal.
“That was the world’s first and only analog bucket brigade pitch transposer,” he said.
The Harmony Synthesizer provided 200 milli-seconds of delay and could create harmonies to chords or single notes. The harmonies could be preset to two different intervals users could access with a footswitch. Bypass and delay functions were also footswitch controllable. Housed in a cast aluminum case, the Harmony Synthesizer looked similar to the Flanger but was about four times larger and had twice as many knobs.
“It was a big breakthrough to use bucket brigade devices for that application,” says Tarnowski. “It also had a foot controller input that allowed you to bend notes. It was a precursor to the whammy boxes out there now.”
Two Harmony Synthesizer units ended up in the hands of Robert Fripp, who still uses it frequently.
In the early ’80s, A/DA discontinued its pedals and started producing rack-mountable analog and digital delays. However, Tarnowski, who still works at A/DA, has reissued the A/DA Flanger and Final Phase and is reissuing the Seamoon Funk Machine and Fresh Fuzz under a new division, called Rocket. The division is also producing a line of combo amps based on vintage circuits, and reissuing Carrotron effects.
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