viva Analog 360+ Lite “history”

Possibly the best “Acoustic 360” replica available anywhere!

Around 1995 word got around Vancouver (BC) that I could clone effects and such, so I started making racked pro units of various sorts for touring players – then one day I got a call to clone the Acoustic 360 preamp …

I made the first “360 Earthquaker” which included the infamous “vintage Germanium” fuzz section – and it ran on three 9v batteries, not wanting to fuss with a AC power supply (only way to fully guaranteeing absence of self-hum) … I’ll admit, I didn’t think I’d do many of them, and part availability was limited – there was no smallbear or audio oriented stores around and the inductor I bought for the first unit was apparently taken from a Pultek equalizer … so, what I built ended up looking like a real rat’s nest, but the circuit worked fairly well // actually it was very good sounding … comparing favorably with the original Acoustic units

In the beginning I was shooting for a good reproduction of vintage sonics, using similar grade parts as the original Acoustic heads – thinking that was the way to go … I also experimented with the inclusion of DI circuitry, actually the fake/poor-man’s (op-amp based) circuit that isn’t really a DI circuit // later abandoning the idea despite requests from players … I also started to explore Gyrator circuits as means of replacing the inductor – but that added a little bit of extra hiss to the output – then I discovered Cinemag inductors … turns out Tom Reichenbach (Ed’s son) had a strong association with the Acoustic design crew (Steve W. Rabe et al.,) and had a good laugh when he found out what I was using his coils for …

Up until about 5 years ago, I made all my own PCB’s using iron-on techniques and acid, drilled them all by hand – super time consuming … and then came the spraying and curing … many more hours where spent trying to perfect the finishing process … but getting the electronics right was my main focus … and as time went on I started getting calls for fuzz-less 360’s

So, in 2006 I started making “360+ Lite” units …

After a while I began experimenting with newer types of components, doing away with the hassle of leaky electrolytic caps – eventually getting into Panasonic ECQ and Nichicon MUSE, as suggested by one of my forumites from Japan … I also started experimented with various output op-amps and transistors as well – settling for a while on the NE5532 op-amp and later the TL072 … the power supply voltage and arrangement was also explored, until I found a good solution that could help maintain the sonic properties of the preamp

I then discovered that I could laser etch SVG graphics onto Hammond boxes … thus saving much time and providing drilling guides at the same time which allowed panel mounting of the PCB – goodbye rat nests … at this point I started using the very sturdy 24mm Alpha potentiometer sourced from Smallbear LLC … this was my first official version of the Lite units

While getting creative with lasered graphics, an alternate version of the circuit saw the introduction of a continuously variable VARIAMP (frequency) control on the 360 VARIAMP filter section … at the expense of a little bit of added noise it gave an extended range of control, but I eventually dropped the idea thinking that it might change the original design a little too much … I only made one of these

At least I know the possibility exists, it works great and also sounds good … but I realized the original “less modern” design sounded better … and using the costly Cinemag inductor was a must, both for keeping noise specs low and obtaining best dynamic response … indeed, I find the overall Transient response better with a physical inductor rather than a Gyrator circuit (yep, it’s subtle)

I continued making basic v1.0 Lite units for a while, going for cleaner aesthetics, and also returning to the original 5-position passive VARIAMP frequency switch … the only real alternative there is to add extra frequencies – lesson learned!

Another augmented (experimental) version came around by combining the idea of my “Envelope Lock” (true)comp/Limiter AGC circuit into the 360+ Lite circuitry, at that time I also started experimenting with a 12-position VARIAMP switch as well – going back to the original passive approach but extending the range to 1.2khz and refining the spots in between the original frequency settings … only one of these compact AGC units was made

I started using OPA2134 op-amps around this time also, as a result it is possibly my favorite of all my 360+ designs … with its infinite sustain capabilities and ultra-transparent limiter add-on (available with my 360+ DIY kit) I found the combination quite tasteful … this is also the first unit to feature a soft-switch based latching MUTE circuit … aside from the added AGC feature the sonic qualities of the circuit really starts shining at this point – no regret leaving behind “vintage” style components … this design inspired me to do a racked version that incorporate the AGC add-on and a real-deal JENSEN based DI circuit (available as a custom 360+ DLX order)

More recently I decided to “up” the basic 360+ Lite design one last time – by incorporating a new version of the soft foot-switch circuit – one that is now completely noise-less both mechanically and electrically …

lo and behold, my final “360+ Lite” re-design effort …

It’s been 22 years since I cobbled the first 360+ unit together and since then have grown to appreciate the sound this circuit can produce – which is why I carry one with me whenever I go to rehearsals, gigs or the studio – you never know when it’ll come in handy …

Here’s a clip of Phill Albert in action using his viva Analog 360+ Lite unit:

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