Decoding the Systech Harmonic Energizer pt1

Posted by Jim Black on 7/1/2017 to Bust Em Out

We brought the "Systech Harmonic Energizer" to the Colorado Guitar Show and got so many comments on the pedal we decided to make a kit.

Up until now, RetroTone® has been releasing the standard fuzz boxes that every one expects to see. With the release of the Ampeg Scrambler clone, we decided to start walking on the wild side of the effects world.

Systech Harmonic Energizer

The Harmonic Energizer's claim to fame is that Frank Zappa used it on "Po-Jama People" on the "One Size Fits All" album. People often mistake Zappa's tone during this era as a cocked wah-wah pedal. This pedal is definitely in a category all its own.

The following is from discofreq's effects database.

SysTech (Systems & Technology in Music, Inc.) from Kalamazoo, Michigan, was a collaboration between Greg Hochman (Keith Emerson's Moog tech, later the North American sales director for Soundcraft) and Charlie Wicks (later the founder and CEO of Pro-Co). Together with Bryce Roberson (a.k.a. Uncle Dirty, ex-lead engineer at Chess Records), they formed the Sound Factory in Kalamazoo in the early 70's. The company (consisting of Charlie's Sound Factory, Greg's SysTech and Bryce's Uncle Dirtys recording studio) occupied an old factory site on Kalamazoo Avenue. Because of the brilliance of the principals, Kalamazoo became a Mecca for musicians from Detroit, Chicago, and beyond.

Systech Harmonic Energizer

This pedal spawned interest at the show and several people asked how do you figure out how to make the kits? It came to mind that it would be fun to show you how I do it. So, the next several blogs are going to be devoted to making a kit for this crazy pedal.

I always start with a gut shot. And I take detailed photos of each of the components. I then check the component availability to make sure there are no parts that just can't be found.

This pedal has standard carbon film resistors, electrolytic capacitors, ceramic disc capacitors. It has a couple of not too weird transistors, a couple of standard op amps.

Then it happens, TROPICAL FISH capacitors. TROPICAL FISH capacitors you say? What are those? Mullard, Ltd. made the caps in England during the 60s and 70s. At least we know what they are. What are they doing in a USA made pedal? We'll drill down into to the component details next time...

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