EXTC-SA™ Development

With more and more recordings being processed 'in the box' – so many tracks are beginning to sound like they come from the same digital library. And for some, the 'box set of plug-ins' limits creative options. These innovators are constantly looking at the tools in their cupboards, thinking of ways to come up with new ideas or a new approach. They want their recordings to stand out from the crowd. This is what the EXTC-SA is all about. Creativity… experimentation… expanding boundaries.

The EXTC-SA takes an old idea of incorporating guitar effects pedals into the recording world and makes it easy. It is basically an extension of a process called Reamping where you take a pre-recorded track, send it to a series of pedals, turn knobs, and send the processed sound back to the recorder. It is organic, analogue and most of all, fun.

Laying Out the Design
The fundamental concept behind the EXTC-SA is fairly simple: take a professional +4dB balanced signal, unbalance it and then convert it to a guitar level output so that it will not overload the sensitive input circuit of a guitar pedal. After the guitar pedals process the signal, send the signal back into the EXTC-SA, amplify it to a professional +4dB signal and balance it to make it compatible with professional recording equipment.

Because engineers are an unruly type, we figured that they will likely want to mess with signal levels to cause mayhem and destruction. To help make this easy, we introduced separate send and receive controls that could be adjusted as needed. To suit the record company executive, we then added a blend control that would enable the engineer to dial in as much of the mayhem as he can get away with. Think of it as balancing good and bad… in the analogue world.

Easier Said than Done
Anyone that has played with guitar pedals knows that these are generally band limited and noisy. And when you try to interface these high impedance devices to balanced line level signals, buzz and hum seem to find their way into everything. To minimize the problem, we equipped the EXTC-SA with transformer isolation to help eliminate troublesome ground loops. But ground loops are not the only concern. When you boost a low level guitar signal up to a balanced line level signal you are basically creating a preamplifier. And we know all too well how painfully fussy guitarists can be about buffers and their tone, so we made sure the EXTC-SA was made from 100% discrete, full size parts and employed class-A buffers and made it as quiet as possible.

The next problem came when addressing wet and dry signals. In the world of professional audio, keeping everything in phase is normal. Not so with guitar pedals. Because the guitar signal is usually 'mono', the pedal designer does not have to concern himself with the signal polarity. But as soon as you mix wet with dry, you have to come to terms with the likelihood of phase cancellation. We added a 180º polarity reverse to solve the problem. With a push of a switch, you can compare.

Table Top Connectivity
Bending down to adjust pedals in no fun. In the studio it is all about quick changes making decisions and dialing up spectacular to sublime. And today, we work using desktop computers, desktop mixers, connected to desktop monitors. This is why we put the ¼" send & receive jacks right on the front panel. You grab some cables, connect, adjust and create. No fussing around on the floor or reaching behind a rack. Your effects can be right on the desktop for easy adjustments.