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This just in - Schumann Update

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Colonel Monk, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. Huh - anyone know of the videos of the supposed PLL forgeries they are talking about?

    Here's the email:

    E-Mail Information Update #1
    Schumann Electronics Corporation
    Hello and many thanks for your interest and patience!
    Over the past several months we have been receiving a steady flow of emails requesting information regarding our products. Mostly, we are asked when our pedals will be available for sale as well as the price. The answer to these two questions is simply “soon and still TBD”. I fully admit that there has been an ample amount of time to make these reissues, but as you read further, you will understand the delay.
    When John Schumann and I first began designing the reissues of his PLL, Lion X and the Two Face Fuzz, it was decided that they were going to be just that. Exact copies of the original units with the exception of greatly improved circuitry design and construction with the benefit of an improved sonic quality. After about 2 months of refinements, the reissues were ready for final prototyping and then on to the "by hand" manufacturing process. All was right on schedule…
    One day while surfing the web, I came across a blog that featured new effects pedal makers at the Winter NAMM show. As I browsed the pages, I landed on a person with 3 pedals that he claimed to be uniquely his inventions hatched from his own genius mind. Curious looking, colorful clashing things with lots of tiny knobs. There was a youTube demo from the show that I clicked on to hear what these things did. The first box demo was initially not very impressive to me and I almost moved on. That is, until I heard what sounded vaguely like the Schumann PLL! How could this be? First of all, the Schumann PLL was made with the most unusual unorthodox and sloppy methods of design, along with potting and booby trap circuits built into the boards as a deterrent to any would be forger. It would take a maniac to even consider a crack at reverse engineering, let alone be successful. I showed John the video, during which his response was “That sounds kind of like a PLL. It sounds similar, but is not the same.” And then he remarked “Hey I know that guy!” Apparently this person was a big fan of John’s designs and had been working on a personal project of his own a few years ago. He was able to contacted John and picked his brain for information on how the PLL worked, among several others of John's inventions that he was curious about. Being the kind trusting soul he is, John freely offered to help him after this person emphatically assured him that any information John gave him was to be used for his own personal purpose and never for commercial use or any monetary gain. It was just between him and John and would never go any further. I could not believe this. And John, being an information hoarder, quickly retrieved all the email correspondence and let me read it for myself. Of course I was very disappointed in this person, and sad for him with what damage he had surely inflicted on his own Karma, but more so I was disappointed in John for being so trusting and careless with his intellectual property. Rather than dwell on something that was out of our control, we decide to scrap all work done up to this point and begin again from square one.
    Although it was hard to swallow coming within an inch of completion only to step back back a mile, discovering this persons agenda that day has now proven to be a true blessing in disguise. For the past several months the PLL, the Lion X and the Two Face Fuzz have undergone complete design changes resulting in vastly improved sonic qualities as well as additional useful features. John was having fun again feeling like he was inventing brand new things, as by default, he has finally been given the time and opportunity to redesign the original 3 pedals to be so vastly improved that they surpass even his own expectations! These are all truly professional analog electronic signal shaping and coloring devices that we are certain will continue to be a staple on the pedal boards of all our rock star friends and any one else who was lucky enough to acquire them the first time around.
    We are both working very hard and will not be releasing anything for sale before we have enough quantity built and tested to meet our initial demand. Being all hand made, this is not a quick process, but we assure you it is well worth the wait!

  2. This sounds like BS to me...
  3. Snazzy FX would be my guess: http://www.snazzyfx.com/
  4. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    10 minutes Googling and I couldn't find those vids.

    Edit: Checking that Snazzy link, I bet you're right.
  5. When I saw the video of the Mini-ark, it reminded me of the PLL.
  6. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    I have to admit, even though Snazzy would appear to have taken some of Schumann's ideas (if the story is true, which I'm not assuming), I want those Snazzy pedals. They look so awesome. And frankly all the mindless drooling hype about Schumann turns me off from supporting him anyway. So my usual tendency to support original designers is subverted here.
  7. Same here. The only thing putting me off is the 6 x 9 footprint!
  8. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Heck, I don't think these pedals were designed for convenience! :p
  9. nad

    nad 60 Cycle Humdinger Commercial User

    Sep 22, 2005
    Not Mars
    The Overlord of Nordstrand Pickups
    Doesn't the whole Moralistic Pedal Building Law Of The Land state that copying out of production designs is okay? Best I can tell Schumann is still pretty AWOL.

    I'm still torn between the whole copying/flattery bit. On one hand I completely understand creators wanting to protect their intellectual property, on the other pretty much everyone has ripped off EHX, Fender, and Black Sabbath at least a couple of times.
  10. warwick.hoy


    Aug 20, 2006
    Spokane, WA.
    Beta Tester: Source Audio.
    Considering that for 5 years the only way to get a PLL was to pay too much for it on the 'bay I don't see that much of a foul. Sure the circuit isn't "licensed" but if you aren't going to nurture the demand you shouldn't be too surprised (or disappointed) when someone else does.
  11. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    He's definitely talking about Snazzy, however the assumption that these are copies of the PLL is silly. While the sounds it makes are interesting, the PLL circuit is nothing that hasn't been well-known in electronics since the original television receivers, and since the 70s in electronic music. I independently designed a circuit that I later realized is very similar to the Schumann pedal, and this was before I had ever even heard the PLL. It's not something that would only occur to one particular genius, but in fact just about anybody doing research in field of analog pitch-tracking (which people have been working on for 80 years). Schumann didn't invent the phase-locked loop, and that's all this pedal is.

    The only person who could have any claim here is Henri de Bellescize who invented the technique in 1932.
  12. rcubed


    May 8, 2008
    San Diego, CA
  13. I agree alot with what you guys are saying - an awful lot of hype, few of us really even know what Schumann's effects sound like because they are very rare.

    I've kept on this because I dig what I've heard from the Lion X and want to try one. The PLL also has some mad scientist appeal, would def. like to try it.

    I've always liked the "presentation" of Schumann effects - the enclosures, controls, silkscreening look really cool to my eye.

    The Snazzy boxes are definately trying to tell your they are the wildest thing evar, where the Schumann look more like a piece of jeweled test equipment turned buzz box.

    I'm not against people de-mystifying a circuit when no one else is making it, but if the Snazzy guy did take his information under false pretenses then he's a dick. Will we ever learn the truth? Tough to say, I'm guessing not.

    Regardless, I'll be waiting for someone to review that Snazzy box really soon.

  14. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    I think the point, thought, is that it wasn't Schumann's to steal in the first place. It's like if I sampled "Under Pressure" and Vanilla Ice got mad at me for stealing his idea. ;)
  15. Sure, I get it in a black and white kinda way. Most circuits are a rehash of what's been done already right? Just like every chord progression in music has already been done and all the good band names are gone.....

    I'm also sure that he put considerable time and effort into it's development, getting it to play nice with guitars, component selection, controls, etc. So if the snazzy guy did coax info out of him for "supposed" personal use and then launched a company with it claiming full credit for the design, I'd be pissed if I was Schumann, even if I didn't cook the PLL from scratch.

    Whatever, I'm also with you guys in that I'm tired of waiting for these guys - all this time and no proposed price, release date, etc? Get on with it already. Sh!t or Get off the Pot, as they say. Do it or don't do it.

    Somebody get one of those Snazzy boxes - a head to head test could sort this out.
  16. kugelspot


    Jun 8, 2009
    This. As Monk said in his second post, the problem here isn't so much that it's vaguely similar in concept and design to the PLL. It's not even that similar tonally really, the PLL is much dirtier, whereas this is quite clean. And it's not like Schumann is totally innocent of ripping off other designs. As Conical Johnson said, the PLL uses technology and concepts that have been around for a long time, and the Two Face Fuzz is really just a pimped out Fuzz Face. The problem here is that the Snazzy guy was dishonest and betrayed John Schumann's trust

    Anyway, I'm glad we're finally hearing something from Schumann, and that we have an explanation for the wait. And I don't blame them for wanting to at least partially meet the initial demand for the pedals. If they just released them the second they were ready, there would be a waiting list lasting for months, if not a year or two
  17. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    Well, I don't think that's necessarily the case. My understanding is that the guy really did build it for himself - try searching youtube for "audio ark" I think. He built himself a monstrous guitar synth. Only after he had it up on youtube and started getting people asking him to build them something similar did he get into it as a business. So I think he was telling the truth if he told Schumann he was building it for himself. Only later, after he had learned whatever he learned from Schumann, did he start thinking of doing it commercially. It's difficult to unlearn things (well, intentionally anyway), so here he was with knowledge gained honestly that could make him money.

    I can see why Schumann would be mad, because this represents some competition, but to me it falls under fair competition.

    I have given somebody help with some designs I thought were for personal use, that they then turned around and sold commercially. In that particular case, I'm fairly certain that the product they are selling has code that I wrote, used verbatim in their program. So that's copying in the most literal sense. That's what happens sometimes when you give your knowledge freely. For me to turn around and be mad at someone for using code that I gave freely and openly would be silly. We can either share what we know with each other or cut ourselves off completely, but once information is handed off we need to be aware that we don't control it anymore.
  18. "That is, until I heard what sounded vaguely like the Schumann PLL! "
    and: “That sounds kind of like a PLL. It sounds similar, but is not the same.”

    Similar but NOT THE SAME....... Did any one else catch that?
  19. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Yeah, we all caught that I'm sure. Nobody is under the impression the Snazzy is a direct clone of the PLL; the issue is whether Snazzy abused Schumann's trust over what ideas Schumann shared over the phone.

    Personally I side with Snazzy.
  20. Swimming Bird

    Swimming Bird

    Apr 18, 2006
    Wheaton MD
    So here's the score:

    1) Generally okay to copy other circuits
    2) Snazzy not a copy of Schumann, just using same general ideas
    3) Schumann's generally 'impossible' to copy due to 'boody-trap' circuits...?
    4) Snazzy guy a jerk for getting info under false pretenses
    5) Schumann has been rudely pulled out of creative stagnation by a competitor who took advantage of their niche market/demand created due to the rareness of Schumann pedals

    This is a win for consumers (ie us) as the Schumann pedals are getting remade (and theoretically improved) and they have a direct competitor which should keep prices down. Win-win!

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