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THE SWITCHBLADE FAMILY
  • OVERVIEW
  • ABOUT
  • HARDWARE
  • FIRMWARE
  • MODELS
  • SPECS
  • APPS 1
  • APPS 2
  • APPS 3
  • APPS 4
  • WINBLADE

THE SWITCHBLADE ADVANTAGE:

GREAT SOUND, AMAZING FEATURES, ADVANCED CONTROL

Switchblade GL

The Sound Sculpture Switchblade is the most powerful and advanced rackmount switching system in the world today.

WHAT IS A SWITCHING SYSTEM?

If you use multiple effects, instruments, or amps, you need a switching system to unite your gear into a single, easy-to-manage rig. Fact: it takes a variety of top products to get the best of all possible sounds. The Sound Sculpture Switchblade puts all of your gear--from simple stomp boxes or the most complex processor--under the control of one all-powerful interconnected brain. A switching system is the only way to create a consolidated rig.

No other product outperforms the Switchblade or offers the same degree of control, flexibility, and power. It preserves the purity and integrity of your tone--even IMPROVES it, as unused effects are entirely removed from the signal path instead of just switched off.

All Switchblade models offer features and functions that are deep yet simple to use. With multiple user presets storable in memory, you can create a path through any number of connected devices, for instant recall whenever needed.

The Switchblade even allows MIDI control of levels so you can build in variations like pan and volume for use with a pedal, sequencer, or other midi source.

Tap the power to instantly wire, rewire, mix, mute, bypass, blend, split, merge, re-arrange--and more, in mono, stereo, quad, you-name-it.  The Switchblade changes everything: flexible, powerful, programmable, MIDI controllable, all in a single rack space, and at a fraction of the price you'd expect for such a product.

ABOUT THE SOUND SCULTURE SWITCHBLADE FAMILY

Advanced technology that's easy to use.THE SWITCHBLADE MATRIX

At the core of this powerful system lies the Matrix which rewires your entire rig on the fly according to settings you create and save as presets in user memory. True matrix switching networks are recognized by the industry as the most powerful type of switching arrangement possible. With a 16 input/16 output matrix (8/8 for the Switchblade 8, 8B, and 8F) you can connect any input to any output simultaneously with other inputs and outputs. Full mixing and distribution at each connection. Create series, parallel, or wild interconnected networks in single or multi-amp setups, all without ever touching a patch cord.

 WHAT ABOUT SOUND?

audioAll this power would be meaningless without quality. That's why the audio signal paths in the Switchblade have been engineered with performance and quality in mind. The frequency response, signal to noise ratio, distortion and phase properties allow crystal clear passage of your instrument sound through your effects. The channels in the Switchblade are so clear it's as if there is no switching system in your signal path at all.

levelsLEVEL CONTROL AT EVERY CONNECTION

Besides interconnection, the switchblade offers powerful mixing capabilities. The volume level of every connection or "patch" is independently programmable over a 48dB range in calibrated increments. This gives you the power to adjust the level of the signal going to or returning from your effects, instruments, and amps to control the balance between effects, control the drive to and from preamps, control noise levels and even pan signals in stereo or multi-channel images. Exciting new sounds can be created as never before by tapping the signals at various points in the effect network, remixing to new levels and assigning the final mix to other outputs. It's a realm of flexibility and power that takes your stage rig or studio rack to an entirely new level of use.  

footADVANCED REALTIME CONTROL

Each Switchblade preset includes two built in realtime controllers which can be used to independently control the input or output gain for any number of patches simultaneously. When used in this fashion the results are truly impressive. One controller can be used to crossfade between effects in a network, increasing or decreasing their individual "presence" with respect to other effects in real time, while the other controller can be used to "cross-pan" effects or instruments across a stereo image or to change overall volume. An internal "Auto Sweep" function can be used in place of one of the controllers for hands off automatic sweeping. Several different Auto Sweep functions are available with adjustable times to over 12 seconds. The Switchblade also incorporates an exclusive circuit we call "Seamless Sweeping" to remove zippering noise when used with even low resolution continuous controllers. An intelligent algorithm monitors each input signal and only allows gain changes during zero crossing times, effectively removing the steps that create zipper noise. 

presetTHE SMOOTHEST PRESET SWITCHING ON THE MARKET

The Switchblade allows you to store up to 125 presets (75 for the 'Switchblase 8 and 8B models), any of which can be loaded instantaneously by MIDI program change. An advanced switching algorithm offers the most musically transparent switching of any system available, utilizing an intelligent analysis so that any patches that are the same between the two presets are left untouched for glitch free operation. And whether you need instant switching or long blends, the Switchblade will meet your exact needs. Switching time is programmable from zero to 1000 ms.  With longer times the signals ramp down and up for new patches or make smooth gain sweeps if the patch remains the same.  

Even without midi program changes, you can use a single momentary footswitch to cycle through a list of Switchblade programs. And of course there's always the front panel. 

An alternate mode allows you to operate the Switchblade by sending Sysex messages to the Switchblade to clear or create patches on the fly. For more on this advanced operation, download the Switchblade manual.  

FULL MIDI CAPABILITY

midiThe Switchblade not only responds to MIDI Program Change and Control Change messages, but can also be set to transmit Program messages to other MIDI gear whenever a preset is selected. This greatly simplifies synchronizing your gear and is a great aid when using the Switchblade with simple MIDI controllers that can only transmit one Program message as a time.

footswFOOTSWITCH SIMULATION 

Throw out your footswitches! The Switchblade has dedicated jacks that use relay contact closures to replace common mechanical footswitches that attach to most amplifiers. The relay states can be programmed into each preset, automatically changing the reverb state or channels of your amp when you change presets on the Switchblade. Four footswitch simulators are offered on the GL model and two are offered on the Switchblade 8, Switchblade 8B and Switchblade 8F.  

winbladeEASY TO PROGRAM

The programming menus of the Switchblade have been created to be user friendly. You can operate the unit from logical menus at the front panel, or use the highly intuitive WinBlade Software with your PC to design and upload (or download) your preset scenes. It might be inclined to think that with all the features and power in the Switchblade that programming would be difficult, but you will find quite the opposite to be true. In a nutshell, you assign names (such as "Guitar" or "Reverb") to all the inputs and outputs in the Setup Menu and from that point forward all programming is done by connecting device to device by name and setting the gain. It couldn't possibly be simpler.

Legendary bassist John Paul Jones with his Switchblade.READY FOR THE ROAD!

Let's face it: this is not a piece of gear for a garage band, so we built the Switchblade to be EXTREMELY rugged and durable. A solid chassis and securely mounted audio jacks ensure the Switchblade will withstand the trials and rigors of even the most brutal touring schedule. Highest quality audio components and thorough factory testing ensure the Switchblade won't go down when you need it the most. A look at the community of professional players and artists who depend on the Switchblade serves as evidence towards its quality and reliability.  

Add the ultimate in automation patching with a Switchblade StudioPOWER IN THE STUDIO

The Switchblade's high integrity audio paths and MIDI capabilities give it tremendous capabilities in the studio environment. As an advanced patchbay, it allows routing "on the fly" with Sysex from your sequencer or control surface. Separate commands are available to clear the entire matrix, create and delete individual patches and assign controller numbers to each patch. In fact, when used in this fashion, each individual connection can be assigned 2 controller numbers (a linear curve and a log curve) allowing both panning and gain change using the pan pot and graphic faders of your favorite software or hardware control surface. As with preset changes, all remote switching commands are handled intelligently to insure glitch free operation. With this power to instantly patch all audio signals in your studio and control individual gain levels as well, your entire studio can be fully automated.  

VU METERING

All Switchblade models also have a VU bar graph menu allowing the user to select and monitor the audio levels (in dB) of the individual inputs. This metering function can also be sent out in real time over the MIDI OUT port for computer programs that can monitor such activity. With the ability to monitor the input levels, maximum signal to noise ratios can be achieved and headroom can be monitored carefully when required. 

DON'T SETTLE FOR LESS

Check out every other switching system on the market and then take a close look at the Switchblade. Regardless of price, you won't find another system offering the features and quality of the Switchblade. Not even close!

FEATURES OF THE SWITCHBLADE LINE: HARDWARE

sb_fontlabels

The frontpanel of the Switchblade GL is shown. Other models vary slightly.

 The front panel shows the display and 4 switches labeled DOWN, UP/DOIT, SELECT, and MODE.  The switches function as follows:

 MODE: This switch is used to navigate through the menus for programming.

 SELECT:  This switch is used to move the cursor around the current menu

 UP/DO IT and DOWN:  These 2 switches are used to increment and decrement various values under the cursor or to initiate an operation.

The front panel also had 3 LEDs.  A green LED indicates that the Switchblade is in the "play" mode, the red LED indicates indicates that the programming mode has been entered and the yellow LED is illuminated whenever a preset contains continuous control.

The rear panel of the Switchblade GL is shown here.  The upper row is the 16 input jacks used to connect to instruments, effect returns and other signal sources and the lower, the 16 output jacks used to connect to effect sends, amps or other devices. 

sbgl-rear

The rear panel of the 8 and 8B is shown here.  Note the 8 inputs and 8 outputs are in a single row.

 sb8-rear

 

FEATURES OF THE SWITCHBLADE LINE: MENUS

(NOTE: The menus shown here apply to the Switchblade GL, 8B, and 8 models only. The Switchblade 8F has a slightly different structure. Refer to the Switchblade 8F user's manual available from the download page for details.). The menu structure of the Switchblade was designed to offer programming power with ease and speed. The menu is divided into 3 simple groups: Preset, Setup, and Preset Manager. The Preset group is used to create the connections between effects, set gains, and for other functions related to the individual presets. The Setup group is used to set global parameters such as naming the inputs and outputs, setting the midi channels and other globally related functions. The third menu is a single page used to load presets into the cycling banks of the Preset Manager.  

The screen for PLAY mode and the PROGRAMMING Menu are shown below. All other diagrams on this page begin from here... 

menu0

1. THE PRESET MENU GROUP

menu preset

 PRESET NAMING:  This page is used to assign a 12 character name to the preset. This is the name displayed on the screen when the preset is loaded during normal operation

 PATCHING AND GAIN: This menu is used to create patches and set the gain levels of the connections.  To create a patch, scroll to the desired audio source name on the left side of the menu (such as "guitar" ), then scroll to the desired audio destination on the right side of the menu (such as "amp").  Finally,  scroll to the desired gain setting for this particular patch. If the gain is set to "OFF" then this patch is disconnected from the circuit. If you wish continuous control for a particular patch, move the cursor to the lower right section.  A second gain number will appear that normally tracks the first gain number.  If this number is changed to be different from the first, then the 2 gain values determine the start and stop gains for this patch. Note that the start gain can be higher or lower than the stop gain to allow cross fading between patches.  This particular patch can now be assigned to 1 of 2 continuous controllers represented in the display by an "up" or "down" pointing arrow. 

REVIEW: This timesaver allows you to quickly review all the connections you have made in a preset and is accessed by pressing and holding the "Select" switch while in the Patch menu.  Pressing the Select Switch again returns you to the Patching and Gain menu at the same location presented in the review menu so quick updates can be made during the review process. 

MIDI OUT:  This menu is used to create the outgoing MIDI program change command burst that is sent whenever this preset is selected.  Since all MIDI devices are displayed by name, it is easy to quickly set up the burst to all your effects. 

VU METER DISPLAY: This menu is used to monitor the audio level of any of the inputs on an individual basis.  The meter is calibrated in 2 dB increments from 0dB to -34dB.  The input number being monitored is also displayed in this menu and the number can be scrolled using the UP or DOWN buttons. 

CONTROL OUTPUT STATE: (all models except Studio Switchblade):   This menu is used to activate or deactivate each of the control relays for this preset that are used to turn on or off the reverb or overdrive channels of amplifiers.  All relays can be overridden using reserved Program change numbers or Controllers ("Instant Access" switches used on some foot controllers).  

AUTOSWEEP PARAMETERS:  Used to turn on or off the automatic sweep function for this preset and to select the type of sweep (smooth sweep, multi pan, and single shot) and the sweep cycle time (250 ms to more than 13 seconds).  The Autosweep can be used in place of one of the continuous controllers available. If the Autosweep is turned off for a particular preset than the external controller is automatically assigned.  

THE SETUP MENU GROUP

menu2

COPY : Copy one preset to another to simplify creating a new preset that is similar to another preset already programmed.

 EFFECT CONFIGURATION :  Use this menu to assign names to the effects, instruments and amps connected to the inputs and outputs.  In addition, use this menu to assign MIDI channels to any MIDI effects you have attached to the Switchblade as well as the channel number of the Switchblade itself.  This menu is also sets up the Remote Programming feature which is used for ultra fast reprogramming of the group gain of a preset while in the play menu to increase or decrease the overall volume of a preset with respect to other presets. This menu greatly simplifies programming of the presets since all patching or MIDI program change number assignment is performed by calling up the patches or MIDI devices by name instead of having to remember what loops they are connected to or what channel they were assigned to.

 BACKUP : Backup and restore the entire Switchblade memory for archiving purposes or to load in and save collections of the entire Switchblade memory.

 CONTROL TYPES : Individual "footswitch simulator" control outputs on the Switchblade can be set as either a static state (on or off) type of output or a pulse type output (off-on-off) whenever a preset is selected.  This feature allows compatibility between the Switchblade and those amps and effects that expect to see either push on/push off or momentary types of footswitches in their footswitch inputs. (All models except Studio Switchblade)

CONTROLLER ASSIGNMENT:  Allows control change number assignments to each of two continuous controller symbols.  The symbols are then used during preset programming instead of numbers to simplify and speed up the task of assigning a controller to a patch.

 INPUT CONFIGURATION:  (All models except Switchblade 8)  Turns on or off the individual trims on any of the inputs.

 PRESET SWITCHING TIME MENU: Used to program the fade out-switch-fade in time when switching from preset to preset.  Adjustable from 0ms (instant) to 1000ms.

THE PRESET MANAGER MENU GROUP

menu3

 This menu is the only menu in the third group and is used to load selected presets into the Preset Manager.  There are 20 banks available and 10 empty locations in each bank.  If a bank is not filled, then the bank will "short cycle".  For example, loading only 2 presets into a bank will allow rapid toggling between the two presets when the footswitch is pressed.  You can quickly move to a preset that is not in the list by using your MIDI foot controller.

SWITCHBLADE MODELS

Our Switchblade line currently comes in 4 models described here:

Switchblade GL
Our flagship product, the Switchblade GL is arguably the most desired guitar effect switching system on the planet. No other guitar switching system can come close to the abilities of the GL. With it's ability to connect effects in series in any order, in parallel, or in series/parallel combinations and with the ability to set levels at every connection to balance effects all under preset control, this is the most versitile system available at any price. The audio channels of the GL are superbly transparent and with buffers on each of the 16 inputs and outputs your tone is preserved throughout your entire system. This is the system trusted by the top guitarists in the world. Take the tour to learn about guitar switching systems and to find out more about this remarkable product.
Switchblade 8F
Our newest product, the Switchblade 8F is just like our Switchblade-8 but for the floor! This tiny unit, measuring only 9 by 4 by 2 inches (23 x 11 x 5 centimeters) has all the power of its rackmount cousin with great additional features useful to floorboard use. With not one, but three full function Autosweeps (LFOs) you can add triple tremelos, pans, and effect crossfades everywhere in the effect network. Two expression pedal ports give you built in volume, pan, and effect crossfading capability everywhere and the expanded footswitch jack accepts a triple footswitch so you can change presets, step through gains, tap tempo the Autosweeps and much more. You don't need a MIDI controller to use the 8F effectively but if you have one a full compliment of MIDI commands is built into the unit. IF YOU HAVE A FLOORBOARD, YOU NEED AN 8F!.
Switchblade 8B
The Switchblade 8B is the same as the Switchblade GL but with 8 inputs and 8 outputs instead of 16, 2 amp control outputs instead of 4, and 75 presets instead of 125. For smaller systems and for a more modest price the 8B is the perfect switching system for smaller racks.
Switchblade 8
The Switchblade 8 is the same as the 8B, but has single ended inputs and outputs instead of servo balanced I/O included in the GL and 8B. Single ended systems are the common configuration of all other switching systems on the market and work great for players on a budget.

SWITCHBLADE FAMILY SPECIFICATIONS

Specification Switchblade GL Switchblade 8B Switchblade 8 Switchblade 8F
Max Input Lvl. +4dBv(4.5v p/p) -OR-
+10dBv(9v p/p) with input trim
+4dBv(4.5v p/p) -OR-
+10dBv(9v p/p) with input trim
+4dBv(4.5v p/p) +11dBv(10v p/p)
Max Output Lvl. +10dBv(9v p/p) +10dBv(9v p/p) +7dBv(7v p/p) +11dBv(10v p/p)
THD + Noise
(20-20kHz)
.006% .006% .006% .006%
Dynamic Range 106dB 106dB 106dB 106dB
Bandwidth
(+1dB -3dB)
5Hz-100kHz 5Hz-100kHz 5Hz-100kHz 5Hz-100kHz
Crosstalk -90dB -90dB -90dB -90dB
Matrix 16 IN x 16 OUT 8 IN x 8 OUT 8 IN x 8 OUT 8 IN x 8 OUT
Maximum simultaneous
patches
32 16 16 16
Input Trims Normal or
6dB cut
Normal
or 6dB cut
NONE NONE
Gain Range (normal setting) -48dB to 0dB -48dB to 0dB -48dB to 0dB -48dB to 0dB
Gain Range (alt. setting) -54dB to -6dB -54dB to -6dB N/A N/A
Inputs 1/4" TRS balanced or unbalanced 1/4" TRS balanced or unbalanced 1/4" TS unbalanced 1/4" TS unbalanced
Input Impedance 1 megohm 1 megohm 1 megohm 1 megohm
Outputs 1/4" TRS servo balanced 1/4" TRS servo balanced 1/4" TS unbalanced 1/4" TS unbalanced
Programmable Relays
(Footswitch Sim)
4 2 2 2 (on a TRS jack)
Dimensions 19" x 12" x 1.7"
(48x31x4.3cm) (1 Rack Space)
19" x 7" x 1.7"
(48x18x4.3cm) (1 Rack Space)
19" x 7" x 1.7"
(48x18x4.3cm) (1 Rack Space)
9.2" x 4.2" x 2.0"
(23x11x5cm)
Weight 13 Lbs (5.9kg) 6 Lbs (2.7kg) 6 Lbs (2.7kg) 1.8 Lbs (.8kg)
Warranty 2 years 2 years 2 years 2 years
List Price $2300.00 $1200.00 $1000.00 $940.00
Direct Price $1955.00 $1020.00 $850.00 $799.00

PART I : EFFECTS ROUTING AND SOUND SHAPING

The ways in which the Switchblade can integrate signal processors, audio sources, and audio destinations is vast. Some simple techniques such as placing effects in series (one after the other), and parallel (side by side) are shown here as are some not so obvious techniques such as parallel-series combinations and multiple tap points and such bizarre setups as cross fading between effects that are wired in series. Other examples in this section include ways to use the Switchblade's level controls to alter drive or distortion in a preamp. And using a Switchblade all these examples can be performed without touching a single patch cord!

 fx-anim

 


ROUTING: Effects in Series

One of the more basic things any switching system can do is string your effects together in series. The Switchblade is the only switching system, however, that has the capacity to swap the order of effect positions instantaneously.

Why change the order of effects? With just 3 effects (A, B, C) there are 6 possible ways to connect all 3 in series (ABC, ACB, BAC, BCA, CAB, CBA.) All will sound different, and while some will be highly usable others will not. With the Switchblade, you can save time in determining what works best, toss those combinations that don't, then switch between your favorites at the touch of a button. 


ROUTING: Effects in Parallel

Placing processors in parallel (side by side instead of one after the other) opens sonic territories not available in normal patch cord land. Take the simple example of a distortion and a reverb. Traditionally, the two devices are strung in series. If the guitar signal is fed to the distortion device first and then the reverb, the effect can easily be muddy or overbearing. Reversing the order can be worse as the distortion is now acting on a complex signal from the reverb.  This results in decreased ability to "play" the distortion and loss of feel.

An interesting alternative is to split the guitar signal into both the distortion and the reverb, then mix the outputs together to the amp. The result is "up front" punchy transients, playable distortion, and shiny reverb on a cleaner tone.

 If you're using 2 or more amps you can patch the preamp output to one amp and the stereo outputs from the reverb to the other 2 amplifiers. This gives a very refreshing three dimensional sound with plenty of "finger" sensitivity.

An additional enhancement is send a blend of clean and distorted signals to the reverb until you have the balanced tone you're after. You can learn more about complex applications like this in Part III, Combination Networks and Bi-Amping 


ROUTING: Combination Networks of Series and Parallel

The best combination of effect sounds often comes from combinations of some effects in series and others in parallel. This is evidenced by the increasing number of multi effects racks which offer flexible routing and level management. But you (the illuminati) know that no multi fx box can do everything as well as a combination of devices. You've got a dream compressor, maybe two or thee overdrives, vintage analog chorus, flanger, phaser, then a high tech modeling delay, a state-of-the-art reverb, and a few multi-effects boxes with a few killer presets.  

Combining these effects into combination networks allows you to use different configurations for different sounds, so you can go from what works best for your clean sound, to a crunch rhythm, to a funky effected break, to a wild solo, to the most pure beautiful one-guitar, one-wire, one-amp tone as simply as pressing a button to recall presets. And remember, the Switchblade's outputs can feed multiple amps, so you can also include in the equation the difference between shining silver clean, dark brown drive, and deep black thunder. 

Learn more about combination networks in Applications, Part III 


ROUTING: Preamps in Parallel

preamps

A wonderful way to kick up the "thickness" of a sound and still maintain a very precise and responsive tone is to use two or more guitar type preamps in parallel. Placing preamps in parallel does not simply pump up the amount of distortion as when preamps are strung in series. Rather, it enriches the tone, adding with a greater variety of harmonic content since each preamp is able to send its own signature sound to the amp without being "bottlenecked" by the next in the chain.  

Of course, it is also a simple matter to create multiple presets to mix and match tones. You can have one preset to mix preamps 1 and 2 in parallel, another to mix preamps 2 and 3 in parallel, and a third that will blend all 3.  


SHAPING: Using Preset Gain Adjustments for Preamp Control

As most guitarists are aware, preamps and distortion systems are sensitive to the level of the signal at their input. Typically, the higher the input signal, such as from hotter pickups, the more distortion. Quite often the "drive" control on distortions is nothing more than a variable gain input preamp changing the amount of drive to the second stage. When using a preamp or distortion with the Switchblade, both the signal level driving the device and the signal level from the device can be set under preset control. With this in mind it becomes apparent that it is possible to boost the amount of distortion while keeping the overall volume level the same simply by having a preset that kicks up the signal level to the distortion and reduces the signal level from the distortion at the same time.  


SHAPING: Tuning Multiple Preamps in Series

 preampsseries

The benefit to placing preamps in series is that each preamp in the chain adds its own distortion to the output of the previous preamp in the chain. The result is an accumulation (or buildup) of distortion that can be very pleasing since each preamp is contributing to the overall sound. However, the interaction of 2 or more preamps can cause the sound to become trashed very quickly if not kept in check by careful attention to levels of signal between preamps and the amount of distortion that each preamp is contributing. Therefore with the above two paragraphs in mind, it now becomes apparent that chaining 2 or more preamps in series and adjusting the levels to the first preamp, between preamps, and returning from the last preamp, can have a tremendous effect of the usability of the preamps and the number of useful combinations. In addition (using methods described below), it is possible to mix dry signals across any or all distortions in the chain to greatly enhance the variations in tone.

PART II : BI-AMPING

Using the Switchblade it is a simple matter to create parallel/series biamped networks. Bi-amping is similar to how a crossover is used to get the best performance out of power amps (where two amps/speaker sets share the workload between low and high frequencies) but in this case, the improvement is overdriven tone, and the workload sharing is between two preamps: 

  IMAGE

In preamp bi-amping, the guitar signal is split with one signal going to a graphic or parametric (preferred) EQ device set to reduce all high frequency notes and only pass the fundamental frequencies of low and middle notes. The output of the EQ is then fed to a guitar preamp set for an appropriate amount of overdrive. Likewise the second guitar signal also goes to an EQ set to attenuate all low and middle notes and only pass upper frequency notes. Its output is then fed into a second preamp also set to sound good alongside the first. Finally the signals from the two preamps are mixed together and sent to the main amplifier. The main amp should be a clean, hi powered amp, a solid state (MOS type) amp would not be unusual here or a tube stack set on the clean channel. Keep in mind that all overdrive is done in the preamps and not in the final amp.

This setup allows high frequency notes to achieve the full benefit of their own overdrive channel without having to deal with the overbearing lower frequencies which are processed separately. The result is a very smooth tone with lower overall intermodulation distortion and very high sensitivity. Sensitivity here would be defined as the ability of an amp to produce comparable distortion tones across a wide range of volume dynamics. (More below)


Multiple Power Amps

In addition, if you are using two main amplifiers, then instead of mixing the two signals from the preamps together, try sending the signals to separate amps for an even richer sound. Using realtime control techniques, an interesting addition to this dual amp setup would be to bypass both EQs with a dry signal assigned to a continuous controller. As the controller is moved down, the amount of EQ is reduced and at the extreme, both preamps and both main amps are getting the same full bandwidth signal.

  IMAGE

Using a Switchblade, multi amp operation can be taken to new heights since the guitar signal can be sent through several effects before going out to individual amplifiers, or alternately, tapping off different points in a complex effect network, remixing to new levels and with other tap points and finally to separate amplifiers. Combine this with continuous control to allow more interaction between amps and the result can be extreme.

With the Switchblade's ability to split a guitar signal and route the signal to different outputs, multi amp setups are a simple matter. More importantly, a guitar signal can be split and sent to multiple preamps in parallel, and then the returns from the preamps can be routed to multiple amplifiers on stage, enhancing the multi amp soundfield further.  (more below)


Bi-Amping Theory

To understand how bi-amping improves sound, it's important to understand the way overdrive works on a guitar signal, beyond the way that distortion increases with input signal strength. On closer examination, what is really happening is that a preamp changes the shape of the audio signal more at the extremes of the signal (the positive and negative most excursions of the actual audio waveform) and very little at the "zero crossing point" or the resting area. Therefore, if a guitar is played hard, (higher signal level) it will distort more than if played softly. If the difference in distortion between softly played notes and notes played hard is minimal, without losing dynamic range, then the amp is said to have "high sensitivity", a very desirable feature. The key word here is dynamic range. It is a simple matter to simply crank the drive up on a preamp so that both soft and loud note distort equally, but the overall loudness of the soft and loud notes will be the same. This is the sound most typically used in "speed metal" and shred styles. A preamp driven to this extent has low sensitivity. High sensitivity, high dynamic range sounds are evident in the setups used by such artists as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Neil Young, and Mark Knopfler.

 To make matters more difficult, low notes on a guitar have higher excursions (peak to peak signal strength) than do high notes on a guitar. When both high and low notes are played on a guitar (a chord), then a low level upper note is mixed in with a high level lower note. At the extremes of the low frequency excursions, the higher notes literally get the life sucked right out of them. As the low frequency note passes through the zero crossing point the higher frequency notes can once again breathe. In worst case scenarios the result of this phenomenon is a tinny, intermodulation type of distortion typical of cheap transistor amps or amps that have the all time lowest sensitivity. Higher sensitivity amps "spread out" the distortion of the signal over the full excursion of the waveform, allow the higher notes riding on the back of the lower notes to breathe during the full excursion of the low note resulting in the much more pleasing harmonic distortion or what is commonly referred to as a "tube" type sound.


Multiple Amplifier Theory

A basic idea of splitting a guitar signal (traditionally using a "Y" cord) and going into several amplifiers is a staple arrangement of such players as Hendrix, Trower, and many others. The reason it sounds so good is twofold. The first and most obvious reason is that you can use several lower powered amps (such as 50 watt heads) which are more easily overdriven to create a sound that is larger than using a single high powered amp which is not so easily clipped for a given sound pressure level. The other and not so obvious reason is the interaction of the audio wavefronts between speaker cabinets. In a hypothetically ideal situation, the sound coming from one speaker cabinet would be identical to the sound coming from all the others. The result would be a strong sound directly in front of the cabinets and a weaker sound as one moves off center due to the interference of out of phase wavefronts. In the real world, however, each cabinet puts out a sound quite different (different harmonic structure) than its neighbor due to differences in cabinets, speakers, and amplifiers and even its position on the stage. The result is a much more complex interaction between the audio wavefronts and an overall sound of much greater "depth". For those of you who are familiar with a "hologram", the theory is the same. A hologram (when viewed in normal lighting) is nothing but a smoky photo of light and dark circles or "wavefronts". This would be equivalent to one amplifier on stage. When a Laser beam (another wavefront) is passed through a hologram, the two groups of wavefronts interact with each other and the result is a striking three dimensional image appearing out of nowhere and sitting in space. Likewise, when finely tuned sounds (wavefronts created by seasoned players) come out of multiple cabinets, the wavefronts interact and the result is a kind of "surreal" imaging whose shape can be molded into a very pleasing sound simply by "playing" the wavefronts--by moving toward and away from the cabinets, bending until the right "tone" happens, tapping and bending the neck to enhance wavefront variations, subtle "wah" pedal movements to vary the harmonic structure of the wavefronts, and so on.

 

PART III : REALTIME CONTROL

A Word About the Switchblade Continuous Control Feature

Unlike a simple volume pedal that limits the user to having control over volume at a single specific point in the audio path, (usually the last effect and the amplifier), the Switchblade Continuous Control capability allows the musician the ability (under preset control) to insert volume control not only anywhere in the signal chain but in multiple areas of the entire effect network at the same time. In addition, the sweep of the continuous controller can change the levels of these areas in a "scalable" fashion (where the degree of change is programmable) and with different slopes (one patch increasing while another is decreasing in response to the pedal movement). With this in mind it becomes possible to do things that are not possible with other setups. Two such ideas are crossfading between effects in parallel and the other seemingly impossible task of crossfading between effects that are wired in series. Until the Switchblade, there was no known way to perform this function.  


Crossfading Between Effects in Parallel

Crossfading effects in parallel opens up huge areas of live sound control and lends itself to many imaginative possibilities. One of the more obvious examples is simply controlling the amount of distortion in your sound in real time. This setup is similar to the "wet/dry" knob on some effects devices but is under control of the continuous controller pedal instead. The guitar signal is split with one signal going to a distortion effect and the other going directly to the amp. The output of the distortion is mixed with the direct signal. The gain of the direct signal is programmed from maximum gain to minimum gain as the pedal is moved down and the gain of the signal from the distortion is programmed with the opposite slope going from minimum gain to maximum gain as the pedal is moved down. The signal level from the guitar to the distortion is fixed at 0dB. With this arrangement when the pedal is in a full up position only the "dry" direct signal appears at the amplifier and the resulting sound is full clean. As the pedal is moved down, the direct signal begins to fade while the signal from the distortion increases until finally there is no direct signal and only the signal from the distortion is present at the amp.

This simple example can be expanded where both a delay and a distortion are patched in parallel with the output of the delay and the output of the distortion programmed with opposing continuous gain. When the pedal is full up only a clean echo is heard and when pressed downward the echo fades as a non-echo distortion begins to take its place. As you can see this can be expanded to include even more effects for complex crossfading.  


Crossfading Between Effects in Series

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Sometimes, crossfading between effects in series is preferred to crossfading in parallel, especially when the sounds offered by effects in series is required. Such a case might be placing a distortion and a delay in series. This arrangement (without crossfading) causes the output of the distortion to feed the delay device so that the echos also are distorted (This in contrast to having a distortion and echo in parallel where the initial strike of the string is distorted and all echos are clean). Now suppose you wish to be able to vary the amount of distortion and delay under continuous control and still have the echo follow the amount of distortion that is chosen. The only way to do this is to crossfade in series.

 Unlike crossfading between effects in parallel, where the cross gains are simply assigned to the effect signals going to the amplifier, crossfading between effects in series takes some imaginative patching techniques. This unique arrangement is only possible on the Switchblade because it makes use of the distribution and mixing properties of the matrix. The method to do this is to create the following patches:

1) From guitar to distortion with 0dB gain.

2) From guitar to delay with continuous gain from off to 0dB (rising slope).
3) From distortion to delay with continuous gain from 0dB to off (falling slope).

4) From distortion to amp with continuous gain from 0dB to off (falling slope).
5) And finally from delay to amp with continuous gain from off to 0dB (rising slope).

Now when the controller pedal is all the way up, the guitar signal from the distortion will pass directly to the amplifier. The output from the delay to the amp will be off. Hence we have pure distortion with no delay With the pedal all the way down, the signal from the distortion to the amp is off as is the signal from the distortion to the input of the delay. The guitar signal instead directly feeds the delay (clean signal) and the output of the delay to the amp is full on, hence we have clean echo. So far we have the same sound as these 2 effects in parallel. The difference however occurs when the continuous controller is somewhere in the middle. In this case the input to the delay sees both a direct guitar signal and the distorted signal. And the amp sees both the output from the delay and the output from the distortion. The result is distortion with distorted echo with the amount of distortion from both varying with the position of the pedal. A very unique arrangement indeed!

PART IV : COMPLEX SETUPS AND KILLER APPS

The following section is dedicated to applications which feature very specific setups, such as using the Switchblade with a particular piece of equipment or getting the most out of your setup with highly imaginative routings. We invite Switchblade users to share interesting setups to be added to this page.


Guitars with Dual Output (Mag/Piezo)

With the Switchblade's ability to "route anything to anything", guitars with both piezo and magnetic pickups can be routed to separate processors and amplifiers, mixed and then processed, or blended in interesting ways in a stereo mix. For example, the piezo signal could be routed to an equalizer and preamp and sent to one amplifier while the magnetic pickup can be routed to a multi-effects unit, a reverb unit and a digital delay and sent to another amplifier.

This separation of the signal can enhance the overall sound. Or use the Switchblade to create a foot controlled blend of the piezo and magnetic sounds before sending the mixed signal to a chain of signal processors. A delightful sound can be obtained by placing sparkling piezo in widespread stereo chorus with reverb, with a tighter Magnetic sound panned dead center between two or three amps. With the RMC system, hexaphonic piezo output can be simultaneously tapped for audio and processed by a midi converter, this opens the door to a variety of even wilder possibilities. See the next application for more on this.  


Guitar Synth

Guitar synth applications are unique in that, besides the normal range of guitars, effects, and amps, the separate audio signals from the synth must be handles as well. No other system gives the modern midi guitarist more control and creative possibilities than the Switchblade. Here are a few of the incredible possibilities:

  • Set the levels of different synth and guitar patches under preset control

  • Create preset scenes using the ability of the Switchblade to send bursts of program changes to all guitar and synth gear across multiple midi channels

  • Route guitar and synth sounds through multiple discrete or shared effects and/or amps to obtain the best sounds all your gear without rewiring.

  • Blend the signal from different synthesizer modules together to create complex layered patches to perfectly complement your favorite guitar sounds. Stack sounds up until they reach the sky, or crossfade from evolving pads to squelching leads while blending between clean and overdriven guitar sounds. 

  • Balance the volume levels of guitar and synth signals in realtime using midi CC messages from a foot pedal. The switchblade can also be set up to control level for two or more sets of stereo signals to effect overall volume without alterations to level balance.

  • Create a dedicated mix for your guitar and synth amps and send a duplicate balanced signal to the house PA or recording console.

  • Mix synth signal with guitar into traditional guitar FX and amps for wild new sounds. Try your favorite distortion on that Sawtooth Lead, or send your swelling synth pads  and lush chorused guitar through a volume pedal together before reverb and delay. The only limit is your imagination.

  • Create complex stereo images of guitar and synth sounds using two or more amps. Even quadraphonic imaging (and beyond) is possible! 

  • Process guitar signals through synthesizer inputs for external signals. The Access Virus synthesizer series is particularly well suited for this application, with six individual outputs to allow the separation of synth and processed guitar. You can even use the Switchblade to send a blend of synth and guitar back into the synth processors for awesome homogenized filtration, effects, LFO modulation, and more.

Let us know how you're using the Switchblade with your Guitar Synth!


Keyboard Rigs

While we designed the Switchblade to be the ultimate guitar switching system, it works equally well to create a unified setup for Keyboard or other electronic instruments. Using presets, the Switchblade allows keyboardists to unite multiple synths, modules, effects, and more to create a controlled environment where one program change rewires the entire rig. The possibilities are as exciting as those for midi guitar (above), and include:

  • Route keyboards through multiple effects in series, parallel, or networks

  • Tap the power of realtime control to eliminate the need for stereo volume pedals - use two controllers in each preset for any number of crossfade, pan, or overall volume changes for signals from one or all your instruments

  • Combine or crossfade electromechanical instruments like organs and electric pianos with synth sounds into shared or discrete effects, amps, and more.

  • Access sampler or vocoder inputs more easily with saved preset configurations for mic compression, resampling, and more

  • Reprocess a synth through its own external inputs! Blend in unprocessed signal or the sound of another keyboard.

  • Created complex preset scenes using the Switchblade's ability to send bursts of program changes across midi channels to all your gear

  • Create a dedicated mix for your stage mix and send a duplicate balanced signal to the house PA or recording console.

  • Eliminate the need to transport bulky automated mixers by programming even the most complex automations into your onboard sequencer!

Let us know how you're using the Switchblade for creative keyboarding!


Also, be sure to check out out Tech Tips section for more on getting the most of your Switchblade, with tips about using balanced cables to eliminate a ground loop and more.

WINBLADE: A FULL FEATURED EDITOR FOR THE SWITCHBLADE FAMILY

Now you can create an unlimited number of presets using a fast icon based environment and selectively download them to your Switchblade. Dozens of new features and enhancements make this version of WinBlade the most exciting and functional yet. 

The WinBlade Environment

winbladeWinBlade is a graphic environment with worksurface and control panel views.  Icons are brought to the worksurface from a pool of devices entered in the Control Panel. These icons represent all of the actual effects, instruments, amps, and other devices that are physically connected to the Switchblade. 

 

 

 

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Setting up Winblade

Setting up Winblade to work with your Switchblade is as easy as filling in the the names of your connected devices in the Setup menu.

Creating icons with different numbers of inputs and outputs is as simple as listing the same name multiple times in the list. For example, if an icon with just an output is needed, simply put the name in the list once (such as "electric guitar" shown in the picture). To place an icon with two inputs and two output, list the name twice in the input side and twice in the output side (such as "reverb" shown in the picture under inputs 2+3).  

Patches between devices are created by clicking between them. There are no limitations to the ways in which icons can be connected, including series in any order, parallel, and parallel/series combinations (see the APPS tabs for more) for more ideas).  Outputs of effects can even be connected back to their inputs or be part of a multi effect feedback network which can be useful in delay components for controlling regeneration. 

 All changes made in Winblade are updated in realtime on the Switchblade, so you can listen while you work.

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Easy Operations

Some of the more intricate capabilities of the Switchblade can be easily programmed using Winblade.

Once connections are made, their individual gain levels can be set by clicking on a patch, and moving the gain slider. Dynamic gain effects can also be created with a "start" and "end" gain assigned to one of two Continuous controllers. The two realtime controllers can be set to respond on their own MIDI channels and Control Change number.

Program Change "bursts" to be sent when a preset is loaded can be programmed by double clicking each effect and entering the desired Program Change number.  The "footswitch simulator" relays can also be set right from the control panel.


Communication and Library

When you are happy with how your preset sounds, you can then download it to any of the Switchblade preset memory locations for stand alone use.

WinBlade can hold up to 1000 presets per file.  Presets can be organized into "Groups" of preset, which can also be given names.  Presets can be instantly accessed from the "Preset Tree" in the control panel.  Presets can also be copied or moved around the Preset Tree using the copy, cut, and paste edit controls. 

A VU meter on the Control Panel can be used to monitor actual audio levels on a patch by patch basis simply by selecting the patch on the worksurface.  This is an excellent way to monitor the levels of all audio going through the Switchblade to maximize performance. (Switchblade GL, 8B, 8, and Studio Switchblade models only).  

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