Rockman Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ



1. Why should I buy Rockman gear?

2. Is it expensive to buy Rockman stuff?

3. Where can I find and buy Rockman gear?

4. Modules, headphones amp or XPR?

5. Which modules should I buy?

6. Which headphone amp should I buy?

7. What is a HSP?

8. Will Rockman gear give me this Boston sound?

9. Where can I get Rockman gear repaired?

10. What does "refurb'd" mean?

11. What does "recap'd" mean?

12. Can digital stuff imitate Rockman gear?

13. What is a Smart Gate? Are there any stupid gates?

14. What is the Lead-leveller?

15. What is a Double-IC Sustainor?

16. DG or Sustainor?

17. What is the Guitar Compressor made for?

18. What is tape saturation?

19. Which amp will suit best my Rockman rig?

20. What does "full-range concept" mean?

21. Do I need balanced cables?

22. Do I need a cab sim with my Rockman rig?

23. Can I use an Octopus to control stompboxes?

24. Is a Power-Soak dangerous for my amp?




1. Why should I buy Rockman gear?

Rockman was and still is the only brand that can provide a complete professional grade set-up, from the guitar input to the speakers. The other brands are specialized in one segment only of the chain.

Buying Rockmand gear is a garantee to:

  • A consistent, professional and reliable rig
  • The right sound in all circumstances
  • Trouble-free sound tweaking

Rockman gear was designed by a musician and producer for the musicians and the producers: technical issues are solved while the guitarist can freelee express his creativity with gear that will never let him down.


2. Is it expensive to buy Rockman stuff?

Rockman gear was fairly expensive when it was manufactured in the eighties. It is now really affordable, especially if you match the price with the quality of the gear: all in all, it's a real bargain.

A Rockman headphones amp can be purchased between $50 and $150 (versus $350 20 years ago!), while the Rockmodules range from $80 to $350 (wider range): the modules are sold today at the same price as 20 years ago, while gasoline has almost tripled!


3. Where can I find and buy Rockman gear?

Any used gear source can be used (pawn shops, Craig's list, etc...) but the real market place is clearly eBay.com, with some transactions from time to time on eBay.de (Germany), eBay.it (Italy), eBay.co.uk (UK), and eBay.fr (France). The Australian and Canadian eBay websites can also be used.

Rockman.fr also recommends Sustainor.com for selected quality Rockman units.


4. Modules, headphones amp or XPR?

The advanced afficionado will of course have a complete collection of all of them, but the beginner always wonders where to start from:

  • Headphones amp?
  • Rockmodules?
  • XP Series?

Well, buy a headphones amp first: it won't cost you much, and you will always need one. Moreover, the headphones amp provides you with a complete rig-in-a-box, that you can use in a homestudio or on stage.

Buying Rockmodules requires patience: it takes several months to complete a rig, especially if you want some EQ's to tweak your sound: they are really rare.

So you may prefer to get the big money out and buy an XPR next time you see one: it's not a perfect device compared to the modules, but at least, you will have in one time sound, features and simplicity.


5. Which modules should I buy?

  1. Buy first a Sustainor. The Sustainor is the basis of any Rockman rig.
  2. Buy a Rockman Stereo Chorus and a Rockman Stereo Echo. That's for stereo and space building.
  3. Buy two Rockman EQ's: they are absolutely necessary for a professional grade sound, and there no other EQ available on the market that really can replace them. Quite hard to find. The 1st EQ is for pre-distortion control, the 2nd is for post-distortion tone shaping.
  4. Go into midi and buy a Rockman Midi Octopus to control this sound plant

All in all, that's 6 modules for a first Rockman rig.


6. Which headphone amp should I buy?

The X100 is clearly the best version, and the most expensive too. Yet, the early Rockman can be sought after by many collectors, and has a more "overdrive type" sound, while the X100 has a more "distortion type" sound: it's up to you.

The Soloist can be a very interesting economic solution.It has less features and is usually cheaper.

The Ultralight becomes a rarity, and is highly praised because you can have the sound of the Rockman without reverb: on a Rockman, you cannot turn off simultaneously the reverb and the chorus. In a homestudio, having the distortion or the CLN2 sounds without effect is really interesting. Beware: the Ultralight is ultra-rare!

Then, if you are really in a budget, the Ace series was made for you. Dunlop still sells re-issues, so they are extremely easy to find and have this Rockman sound.


7. What is a HSP?

The Hyper Space Pedal is Tom Scholz's secret weapon. It is a modified Echoplex tape echo, controlled mechanically from a rocker-pedal, that can generate sci-fi sounds with a guitar. It is widely used on many Boston tracks, and was never issued as a commercial product.


8. Will Rockman gear give me this Boston sound?

Would you ask if buying a Strat and a Marshall will give you this Hendrix sound? No, of course. So don't be stupid: only Boston can sound like Boston, even if their gear is available to anyone ;)


9. Where can I get Rockman gear repaired?

Basic failures can be handled by any tech. There is one specific place for Rockman gear, and that's Perfect Sound Rock Refurbs. They are back to business in 2008, so call Rick and David to have your Rockman refurb'd, now!


10. What does "refurb'd" mean?

Rockman gear is now between 15 and 25 years old. Their mechanical design was optimized for rack use in good conditions, and all the owners didn't care about them: most of the items sold on eBay are in poor condition. 3 headphones amps out of 4 won't power up, and a lot of Rockmodules need servicing.

Refurbing includes mechanical cleaning, especially the scratchy switches, and electronic maintenance. This electronic maintenance includes recap'ing.


11. What does "recap'd" mean?

In electronics, there is a component called electrolytic capacitor (electro' cap') that has a limited lifetime: usually 15 to 20 years. All the electro caps of the Rockman devices need therefore to be replaced: that's recap'ing.


12. Can digital stuff imitate Rockman gear?

Some people claim to have good Boston sounds with the Pod XT. Why not? Any car can drive you home, but all the cars are not Ferrari's...


13. What is a Smart Gate? Are there any stupid gates?

Yes, there are stupid gates: most of them just cut the noise and the signal too below a given threshold, and that's all they can do. The end of the long notes is therefore cut instead of lasting despite the noise.

The Smart Gate was developed to kill the noise inside the Rockman Sustainor, and was later extrapolated into a general purpose noise suppression unit, the rack version of the Smart Gate. The SMart Gate circuit is based on a principle called "adapted filter", used alos in Rocktron's hush and ISP Eliminator: it reduces the bandwitdh proportionally to the signal's bandwidth, but never cuts down the signal. The signal-to-noise ratio is always optimal, resulting in a noise free musical sound.


14. What is the Lead-leveller?

The compressors available on the market have all the same drawback: they just cannot stop a note when the guitarist plays fast and be ready for the next one. This drawback is usually called "pumping", cause it provides the feeling that the compressor pumps up the volume when it is not desired. The result is really annoying whe someone plays ultra-fast guitar leads, such as what people can do with shredding techniques since EVH and Satriani. SR&D has developed a special release time control circuit, that can at the same time provide long sustain for endless notes, and recover rapidly for the next note in case a note is stopped.

This circuit is called "Lead Leveller", and is available in the Double-IC Sustainors, the XP Series, the Guitar Compressor and some late Distortion Generators (1990 and younger).


15. What is a Double-IC Sustainor?

The Lead-Leveller is not suitable for clean sounds. The Sustainor has both clean and distortion sounds, and was designed in 1985 before the Lead-Leveller was created. Hence, one electronic switch was missing to engage the Lead-Leveller circuit, and there was no J-FET switch left in the existing Sustainor's layout! SR&D managed to add an extra HCF4066 J-FET switches IC in the younger Sustainors to handle this extra-feature: this is the "piggy-back mod", also called "Double-IC".

These Double-IC sustainors being at the same time the younger models, they have the reputation to sound better than older types, and their price is easily doubled by the magic of the Double-IC name.


16. DG or Sustainor?

The DG was created as a sort of third channel for conventional guitar amps: most of them don't have any hi-gain sound, and the DG can do that easily (and much more!). The DG is based on the Sustainor's circuit, so one can consider it as a third channel for a Rockman ustainor too.

If you can find a young DG (1990 to 1994), it has in fact more gain than a Sustainor, and can deliver rich and creamy distortion sounds that the Sustainor cannot achieve. Some people therefore prefer their DG to any other Rockman distortion: because of this extra-gain that only a Rockman Distortion Generator has. The problem is that the older DG's have nothing special...


17. What is the Guitar Compressor made for?

Let's say it: a Guitar Compressor is 100% useless if you have a Sustainor and play exclusively with standard Rockman gear. As a matter of fact, the basis of the Rockman Guitar Compressor is the clean channel of the Sustainor.

The Guitar Compressor was designed to be the best compressor for people who play with a conventional guitar amp and want these clean Rockman sounds. It's also the best compressor for distortion sounds and endless-sustain leads, because of its two features: built-in noise reduction and Lead-Leveller.


18. What is tape saturation?

Tape saturation has no link with Rockman! Tom Scholz works with analog tape recorders for Boston, and tape provides a certain way to gently clip signals which is useful for the sound engineer. Digital has other advantages, but doesn't clip gently. That's it.

People who believe that Rockman provides tape saturation sounds don't know what it's all about, and just get confused between Boston's sound and the Rockman sound.


19. Which amp will suit best my Rockman rig?

The proper answer is "No amp". Rockman gear was made to get rid of amps and cabs: that's the DI (Direct Input) approach. Rockman gear actually is an amp simulation approach, with built-in cab sims. Some Rockman modules (the Sustainor and the DG) even have a special filter that can mock-up the specific acoustic response of 4x12' cabs.


20. What does "full-range concept" mean?

If you play with Rockman gear, you are supposed to play directly connected to the band's mixer.Yet, you may want to hear what you play: then you need some monitoring system, that can range from 2x5W multimedia speakers (for homestudio) to 2x250W huge stacks (if your band is called Boston). It's monitoring and has nor role in what the audience will hear. Some people call that "full-range amplification", and I prefer to call it "linear amplification", i.e. an amplification that doesn't color at all the signal that you send to the mixer.

Of course, all the bands do not use a mixer and a general PA system. Then the guitarist needs his own PA and cabs, and this PA plus cabs set-up must be linear like any PA system. The cabs must be capable of handling the total frequency range (at least 60Hz to 16kHz) while a standard guitar speaker doesn't go beyond 6kHz.


21. Do I need balanced cables?

The balanced cables are useful when you need very long cables from your Rockman rig to the band's mixer. That's the only situation where they are ueseful: they avoid hum, noise and all sort of signal degradations. Having balanced cables just for a few feet between your Rockman rack and a PA is total non-sense.

To convert the unbalanced signal getting out of your modules into balanced signal, you need a device like those manufactured by Ebtech or Nady.


22. Do I need a cab sim with my Rockman rig?

Clearly, no! Rockman gear has its own built-in cab sims, and using another cab sim after that is non-sense.


23. Can I use an Octopus to control stompboxes?

Yes. But since most of the stompboxes don't have a footswitch jack, you must use a Rockman Remote Loop to do that.


24. Is a Power-Soak dangerous for my amp?

The Power Soak is absolutely safe for your amp.

That said, some people can damage their amp when they use a Power-Soak, because they make stupid mistakes such as:

  • Turning their tubes amp on without a load
  • Using line level audio cables instead of reliable speakers cables
  • Shorting the output of their amp during the connexion operations

These mistakes have no direct link with the Power Soak itself, which is 100% reliable if you know how an amp works.



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