Marc Marc
Signal Rigger
Custom Design for Yntse Vughts

Signal Rigger Front panel view

photo front panel

The Signal Rigger was designed and build in August 1987 by Marc Marc as a custom design for Yntse Vughts. The basic concept was to design a device that could transform external picked up audio signals into voltages to manipulate other sound sources. In the final design, the basic requirements were worked out to serve a wider range of transformation concepts.

The device has 8 equal sets of independent electronic circuites which, for each channel, are internally patched to act as so called Envelope/Multiplier and linked to an 8 channel quadro mixer including extra filtering. The Multipliers can be tuned anywhere between a 2 and 4 quadrant function. Because each unit within each channel can be freely patched, it is possible to set up a wide range of applications. Most units not only can deal with audio signals but also with analog voltages and slow digital signals.

Photo of one VCA/ENV Channel

The Signal Rigger is build up from the following independent modules:

  • 8x Pre Amplifiers - select 10/30/50 dB.
  • 8x VCA
    • Also to be used as Ring modulator, Compressor, Expander, AntiVCA.
    • Seperate LIN/LOG inputs and controls.
  • 8x High Gain 'ENV' Pre Amplifiers.
    • Gain control: 6...60 dB
  • 8x Envelope Followers (ENV)
    • Release Control & LED indication.
  • 4x Signal matrix & processor.
    • 4x2 source selection 6pos.
    • 4x Balanced/single select.
    • 4x2 Polarity/Manual select
    • 4x2 Balance controllers.
  • 8x Low, Mid, High filter.
    • With separated differential Mid filter input.
  • 2x4 channel mono to stereo.
    • 8x Mixing Slider
    • 8x Balance (panning) control
    • 4x mix outputs
    • 2x joined outputs
  • 4x quadro Mixer selection matrix
    • 4x inputs / 4 outputs
    • 4x 6pos quadro selector
    • bypass switch
    • Mix / Quadro select
  • Monitor selection matrix & Phones with gain control
  • High quality power supply with mains input filter.
More details about the roots of a device such as the Signal Rigger, you can find at the Sonic Laboratory

Block diagram VCA/ENV/MATRIX


This simplified diagram shows you the principle on how the 8 channels are functionally configured and interconnected. You have to multiply this diagram by 4 to understand the full extend of this part of the Signal Rigger.

Master and Slave VCA/ENV channels are the same but interconnected a little different. They are called Master and Slave only for the sake of the client primary functional application.

Notice that each module is independent by its own in and outputs and thus many different patches can be made to achieve all kind of functionality.

Block diagram MIXERS/Quadro-MATRIX

This simplified diagram shows you how the 8 channel VCA/ENV combination is connected to an 8 channel mixer. Notice that the signal rigger counts actually 4 mixers. Or 2 stereo mixers. Or 1 quadrofonic mixer. It depends on how you use the patching possibilities and how you approch to it. Each stage (mixer) can be patched independently but, the internal connections are made for a quadrophonic end mix - supplemented with stereo outputs.



For the monitor configuration, there is no www diagram yet. But there is no need for this too. It works simple. With a 16-pos switch you can select between the 8 VCA outputs, 6x mixing combinations/channels, an extra mono auxiliary (V) input and the stereo auxiliary inputs. Your selection connects to a Headphones amplifier through 3 switches. These switches let you select Mono/Stereo, 'Left' or 'Right' only (mono or stereo) and a Mute switch. The headphones volume can be set with a Gain control. All together very much configured for stage / performance situations.


Analog and still valuable

The Signal Rigger was designed in 1987, using techniques (chips) from the early eighties. When the client requested at Studio STEIM in Amsterdam to create something for a project, they did not wanted to do this. The reason: the required modules to design were not considered to be innovative. They gave some suggestions for other designers and so she (the client) ended up with me.
For me it does not matter whether the electronics to be designed are in its principles part of an obsolete technology because more important I find the creative aim. By taking care about this aim on both a designer level and an artist, I always manage to add something extra to the relative obsolete technology which brings the application as a whole to a higher plan. For the Signal Rigger this added value lays in the fact that great consideration was taken in account to create a completely flexible tool which at the same time was configured with its internal patches and design to fulfill the job as was at first instance asked for. The result of my design guaranteed a tool not only to fulfil the job at first instance but also to be able to continue to develop it without the need of extra electronics.

And now, when adding some information about the Signal Rigger for the net we count 15 years later and still the concept as designed for the Signal Rigger turns out to be valuable. Even stronger: more and more people start to understand that the digital revolution did not cover all aspects of creating music or related projects. Besides the ease of a relatively small box stuffed with electronics versus one or more computers, the creative stimulance of an analog modular system is far more than with digital equivalents (besides the fact that sitting all the time behind a computer is not only boring but also bad for your health). Of course, experience and a perfectionistic attitude is a must.


Client primary purpose - little story

The primary purpose of the client with the Signal Rigger was to pickup signals from Drums - played by several drummers - and to convert this picked up signals to have control signals available to control other sound sources which then were brought together with the original sound of the drummers.

At the first concert of the client in Berlin, I did assist her to overcome the cold-water-fear of the novelty. Although the concept she wanted to realize was complicated for both the technical aspects and the role of the drummers, I was very satisfied to see that the Signal Rigger was flexible enough to adapt with all kind of patches to her ideas.
When finally the concert started - as part of a festival - everybody was extremely tensed. For days we had exercised and perfectionated the path ways of the involved electronics. The client had planned to have the noise of 8 television sets - which were part of the scene - sequentially come up but, as it turned out, the German television sets were too modern and had a blank screen noise suppression. Just before the concert started we manage to have a KORG MS20 borrowed from a local musician to generate white noise which we faked into the mix to let the audience believe that it came from the television sets (sort of voice-over).
The concert was started. The 3 drummers did there job, the Yntse (the client) was operating the Signal Rigger and I was handling the PA. Everything went well and I must say that the concept from Yntse lead to a spectacular performance. The moral: even so called obsolete technology (as the Signal Rigger can be declared) can be of great value when designed carefully and the artist has the talent to use it.
As it should be, the last part of the concert was the climax. For the previous part I had kept the master volumes at 75%. Then, when the closing part came, the volumes were tuned up to 100% (which twice as loud). What an epilog! A standing ovation she got.


Box / Panel Design

The design of the front panel is a true piece of art. It is build into a Photo-case. The front panel is even less wide than your PC computer keyboard and thus very compact (43,2 x 31,3 Cm). The power supply is external to prevent hum feed through.

As you can see from the photographs, the panel is quit colorful. At the time of designing it was very special because most equipment was designed black in its overall design. The colors also indicate how in/out blocks relate to the control blocks and how the modules more or less are related.

Since documentation is available on the net, many people asked how the front panels were made. From their writing I understood that people find it hard to understand how I achieved these results. Well, it is so simple: all hand made workmanship. Airbrushing, putting transfer lettering like a monk and protecting the whole with the secret of the cook (strong layer and nice matting procedure).

The box is stuffed with all the electronic circuits - build up from 'prototype-like' boards. This in contrast to mass produced electronics. The advantage is that designing sensitive electronics like this requires a very well over thought board layout. Thus forces to keep the designer alert and to double think when constructing. At a second version (Montador Dos) the VCA/ENV circuits were designed for printed boards since no changes need to be made for this part of the application. Interesting is to know that the specs were not improved by having a printed board. It was only more easy to mount. The Signal Rigger is still operating without degradation (only some control parts need to have some service: pots and switches).

Marc Marc, december 2002 - prolonged in July 2007

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Also view the GEAR catalog which contains many informative chapters on analog musical devices and fundamental issues on electronic music.

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This page and all contents: (C)1996 by Marc Marc Amsterdam