The “Schaffer Sound” is Back!

The Solodallas Story

 In 1974 American inventor Ken Schaffer introduced the first commercially available wireless system for electric guitar and bass. Little did he know he was also creating a circuit that would revolutionize the sound of rock and roll.

A consummate perfectionist, Mr. Schaffer incorporated a few interactive circuits into his system to preserve the integrity of the wireless signal. A mirror image compressor and expander were placed in the transmitter and receiver to increase the radio circuit’s dynamic range to over 100 DB. This companding technology allowed for  –35 dB more than the theoretical maximum that had been previously achieved over any radio circuit. The receiver also featured a balanced DI on the rear and a ¼” monitor out with it’s own driver circuit on the front.

Since many A list guitarists of the day preferred to run straight into their amps on stage rather than direct out to the console, they opted to use the 1/4” monitor out. It was upon using this output that they discovered the internal monitor driver could be used to boost the signal going into the front of their amps. The result was pure magic! The compressor, expander, boost, and line buffer enriched their signal with copious amounts of harmonic content and pushed their amps into heavenly saturation unlike anything they had ever heard. News traveled fast and soon Ken Schaffer’s wireless units became the system of choice for artists such as…

AC/DC, Aerosmith, America, The Beach Boys, Billy Joel, Black Sabbath, Blondie (Chris Stein), Bob Seger, Bob Weir , Bootsy Collins, Boston, Derringer, Earth Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, Foghat, Foreigner, Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead (Jerry Garcia), Heart, Heatwave, Johnny Guitar Watson, Kansas, Kiss, L.T.D., Pat Travers, Peter Frampton, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd (Gilmour/Waters), Randy Bachman, The Rolling Stones (Richards/Wood), Stephen Stills, Steve Miller, Steven Van Zandt, Styx, The 5th Dimension, Thin Lizzy, Tom Petty (Mike Campbell), Todd Rungren, Eddie Van Halen, Yes, and ZZ Top.

Unfortunately the Schaffer wireless system was forced out of production in 1982, largely due to stricter FCC regulations on wireless technologies. Artists ranging from AC/DC to ZZ Top were soon required to abandon their secret weapon and the legendary “Schaffer Sound” slipped into obscurity.

It wasn’t until nearly 40 years later that renowned AC/DC aficionado Fil “Solodallas” Olivieri discovered a hidden gem while pouring over an old Guitar Player Magazine interview with Angus Young. When Angus, who’d always claimed he never used effects, was once again asked if he used any effects during the recording of AC/DC’s iconic Back in Black album he replied, “Only my Schaffer wireless system. Malcolm and I use the boost to push the front end of our amps”. What? Why had he never heard mention of this before?

Mr. Olivieri scoured the globe to find one of these elusive 40 year old units. When it finally arrived he plugged his SG into the transmitter, ran the headphone output on the receiver into his Plexi, and turned up the headphone driver. The result… Instant Angus!

Fil knew he couldn’t keep this discovery a secret. A few demos later his community of 15,000 AC/DC freaks were all scrambling to get their hands on one of these magical Schaffer units. Unfortunately few had survived the decades. It was then that Fil decided to contact the original designer Ken Schaffer to request his permission to reproduce the original unit (minus the wireless function). Mr. Schaffer obliged and “The Schaffer Replica” was born.

The recipient of unit #1 was Angus Young himself. A week later his longtime guitar tech Rick St. Pierre called at Angus’ urging to order two more of The Schaffer Replica towers and three of the compact SoloBoost pedals featuring the same circuit. Thanks to the dedication of Ken Schaffer and Fil Olivieri, Angus finally got his tone back!  Angus can now be heard using The Schaffer Replica on stage and on the latest AC/DC album Rock or Bust. Angus Young turned out to be the first among many great guitarists to rediscover “The Schaffer Sound”. It appears the secret weapon that revolutionized the sound of rock and roll is back to do it all over again.

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US Dealers

Rudy’s Music – New York, NY

Dan’s Guitars – Honolulu, HI

The Amp Shop – Sherman Oaks, CA

Kenny’s Music – Dana Point, CA

VIsion Guitar – San Jose CA

Sixx Gun Music – Saugus MA

Up Front Guitars in Franklin, MA

The Amp House – Scottsboro AL

Memphis Backline – Memphis TN

The Guitar Sanctuary – McKinney, TX

Please email for list of international dealers in Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, England, Denmark, and Japan



Ken Schaffer Replica tower $999 USD


SoloBoost pedal $349 USD

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3 Responses to The “Schaffer Sound” is Back!

  1. Kasper says:

    I tried to buy one,left a message,no one called me back!! Do they really have any?! ; /

    • tonesmiths says:

      The Amp Shop is a high volume store. I’m sure they will get back to you in a timely fashion. Try calling during store hours PST. Here’s the owner Gary Rodenko’s VIP mobile (818) 645-5385 for Tonesmiths Report readers. Just let him know Donny Garrett gave it to you.

  2. Pingback: How to Maximize Your Tube Amp’s Harmonic Saturation | The Tonesmiths Report

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