Having scored Platinum record-selling success with his band Boston, MIT-trained engineer Tom Scholz poured the proceeds into Scholz Research & Development in 1980 to create and build music tech products.
First came the Power Soak power attenuator that delivered precise control over a rig’s global volume.
But it was Scholz’s follow-up that revolutionized guitar tone in the 1980s.
“In 1982 there was no way to practice high-power rock guitar quietly,” he explained in a 2020 Facebook post. “What I needed was a way to get that maxed-out overdrive sound in headphones.”
Scholz also needed to make the device small enough to fit in an electric guitar case, and affordable.
Using Sony’s then-popular, portable Walkman cassette players as his model, Scholz created a stereo headphone amp that featured an amp simulator comprising a compressor, a distortion circuit that offered two clean settings, plus distortion and Edge, and a cab simulator, as well as stereo chorus and echo.
Dubbed the Rockman, it ran on eight AA batteries, or AC power via the Rockadaptor. More than a portable practice amp, the Rockman was the first commercial amp simulator and a forerunner of today multi-effects guitar pedals.
It did not take long for guitarists like Phil Collen, Steve Clark and Joe Satriani to realize the Rockman made a great DI for recording.
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