Rocktron Chameleon... in 2018!

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by Mo Jiggity, Oct 31, 2018.

  1. Mo Jiggity

    Mo Jiggity 7-string n00b

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    A few weeks ago I got a bug up my ass and began looking at old digital Rocktron preamps on Reverb/eBay. I have a soft spot in my heart for the obscenely-chuggy digital noises I used to get out of the multi-effects pedals that my friends and I had in high school and hoped that scoring a Prophesy or something would be a cheap way to relive being 15 years old again while still presenting the possibility of usable tones. I discovered the Rocktron Chameleon, which I remembered being sold on Musician's Friend forever ago, and found a Chameleon Online on Reverb. This particular model has a faceplate the same color as an SGI Indy, a RISC Unix workstation from the 90s that I think looks super-cool:

    [​IMG]

    With nostalgia goggles in full effect I pounced on it and got it in the mail a week and a half later. I have to say... I'm thoroughly surprised that a digital preamp that came out 25 years ago sounds this good. In addition to nailing the noises that most digital preamps are good at (over-chorused scooped cleans, chuggy high-gain) it pulls of a great low/mid-gain crunch and dry clean sound. Before plugging it into my 4x12 I ran it through my studio monitors with the built-in cabinet simulation and it sounded wonderful, even with the stock presets. After tweaking for a few hours I can say confidently that if my AX8 was stolen I could take this thing to a cover gig, plug straight into the board and play a solid three sets with nobody complaining.

    I'm sort of rambling at this point but I suppose the reason I made this thread was to express my amazement at how advanced digital preamps already were in the 90s and how this one flew hard under the radar. The only issue i have with it is that it doesn't clean up especially nicely when you turn the volume knob down, but otherwise this thing has way more than I'd ever expect out of a used $100 rack unit. Is there anybody else out there messing with old, "obsolete" digital gear?
     
  2. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    Rocktron was something of the "Fractal of the 90's", way ahead of their time. Everyone thinks of Digitech, mainly because they looked like AxeFx units, but Rocktron really knew what they were doing. Grab a Piranha or a Prophecy, great preamps that no one cares about anymore.
     
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  3. Shask

    Shask SS.org Regular

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    Yes, I have owned a few of those blue Chameleons a few times in my life. Pretty cool for what it is. I think if I looked again, I would probably grab the Voodoo Valve instead.

    The best trick with those, is to turn on the speaker sim, even through an amp and cab.... turn it to full-range, and use the reactance control to dial in the low end chunk, like a resonance/depth knob on a tube amp.
     
  4. Mo Jiggity

    Mo Jiggity 7-string n00b

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    Will check the Piranha out, but the Prophesy units I've seen for sale are several hundred dollars... too rich for my blood for something that ultimately amounts to a minor diversion.

    **EDIT: I just checked the Piranha out. I've been eyeing a Replifex since it has the same cab sim as the Chameleon and depending upon the used prices on the Piranha I might have a reason to buy one now xD

    I shall definitely give that a shot... I was sort of wondering why they had the full-range option in the first place!
     
  5. BlasphemyMadeFlesh

    BlasphemyMadeFlesh Ibanez RG752CBM

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    The Chameleon is a classic unit of which I owned one for years.
    It comes with some really great clean sounds out of the box - check out #93 "Flying Pigs" (bang on Gilmour-type lead sound with rotary flange and delay included), #10 "Tin Pan Alley" (SRV tone which hotness and gain can be controlled by the input knob.)
    #94 "Play It Jimi" with a single coil Strat or Tele is especially tasty.
    As with any of these units, they sound best in stereo.
    Here is a video of Steve Swanson from Six Feet Under showing what the Chameleon is capable of with high gain. Steve's rack with Chameleon is visible at 2:23.


    I also liked the Rockton Pro Gap, the "Ultra" version is rare. V1 and V2 were solid state (ones I owned) but the Ultra was the first fully digital preamp Rocktron made.
    V1 and V2 also had presets by Allan Holdsworth and Steve Lukather and got a very chuggy but snappy high gain searing sound. For some reason I liked v1 better. V2 had two choices to the EQ curve but didn't sound as good as v1 to me.
    It takes time to learn the Rocktron EQ system of which the Prophesy is the ultimate in complexity but at least has knobs and a decent screen.

    I do miss that era of guitar gear because there was no internet yet and people judged you by how good you play, not what gear you use.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
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  6. Mwoit

    Mwoit SS.org Regular

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    Looks like an Xbox prototype there. Nice.
     
  7. Mo Jiggity

    Mo Jiggity 7-string n00b

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    Anything but... Nintendo and Sony consoles of the mid-to-late-90s both used MIPS processors as that machine did, whereas the Xbox was essentially a consumer x86 PC stuffed into a console case. If memory serves those Indys were actually used as development machines for the N64. Sony also used a MIPS CPU in the PS2, the last time the architecture made a major home console appearance as far as I can remember.
     
  8. Mwoit

    Mwoit SS.org Regular

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    I just meant the blue plastic housing the hardware, not the underlying architecture. Is the Rock Tron running mips?
     
  9. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    I love Rocktron gear! Still own and use daily both a Chameleon and Prophesy for practice and recording. In fact, here's a cover I did just a couple weeks ago using the Prophesy if You want to get an idea of what it can do:

    https://soundcloud.com/user-735286145/bark-at-the-moon-ozzy-cover

    The Prophesy is definitely more advanced and sounds more organic than the Chameleon overall. If You keep an eye open on Guitar Center's used listings You might be able to snag one for pretty cheap.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  10. Elric

    Elric SS.org Regular

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    The problem with some of the early units wasn't that they couldn't sound good. It was that they were a bitch to dial. The pre and post EQs on those could get you to lots of way cool places but you had to understand how preamps worked or at least being willing to mess with it a bit. And no touch screens or hand holding UIs, here, kids. It's buttons and seven segment LEDs. Small LCD if you're lucky.

    Cool thing is being a preamp, since you could always pair it with a tube power amp or real cab you weren't messing with emulations there so you had authentic sounds from the get go. Preamps need tubes far less than power amps by far IMHO; especially for heavy sounds.

    Every once in a while I get an urge to buy one of those, too. I am always doing gear experiments for fun/inspiration. I remember thinking the Prophesy was absolutely insane when it first dropped.
     
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  11. HeHasTheJazzHands

    HeHasTheJazzHands greg rulz ok

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    I almost LOVED my Piranha... Just didn't seem to take overdrive pedals well. Not sure if it was a defective unit. But when you set the gain too high or boosted the front end, it sounded like the input would clip or something.
     
  12. Mo Jiggity

    Mo Jiggity 7-string n00b

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    That wouldn't be the most surprising thing in the world... traditional tube amps had a tube input stage but the ADA MP-1 has a FET input buffer (if I remember correctly), hence why it has two gain parameters (one for each tube). Perhaps the Piranha has a similar topology. Unfortunately those units are easily north of $500 at the moment so I doubt I'll get one any time soon.
     
  13. HeHasTheJazzHands

    HeHasTheJazzHands greg rulz ok

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    From the reading I've done, it's a hybrid kinda deal going on? The Piranha has 2 tubes, one for clean, and one for both dirty channels. With the dirt, there's a solid state gain stage that cascades into the tube gain stage, which gives it that tubey feel.

    I had a Peavey Bandit that would also do the same thing with an OD. It sounded like something was clipping the input, making things sound super fuzzy.
     
  14. Vince

    Vince Contributor

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  15. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins (*Block version, not sig) Contributor

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    [​IMG]

    ^This was the real king back in the day! I miss mine.

    FWIW I have been looking at purchasing a Rocktron to complete my 80s/90s rack. The Widowmaker and Plexi both look really interesting. I had been looking at the Gainiac 2 and contacted Rocktron CS and they had this to say: "The WidowMaker is a little heavier darker tone in general to the Gainiac. Over the top gain and very modern metal tones with a good selection of clean tones as well."
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
  16. The906

    The906 Hella rad Contributor

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    No joke, they sold for $830 w/o the controller IIRC. 1993. ART withered to mic preamps or something, somehow.
     
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  17. Spinedriver

    Spinedriver SS.org Regular

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    I STILL have an SGX 2000 that I got at a pawn shop for $130 back in '98. It really does have some nice effects sounds on it but for some reason for all of the effects it does have, it doesn't have a phaser (which I found kinda odd). That being said, the od/distortion section sounded pretty bad, so I just used it in the loop of my amp. Never had the floorboard for it and the only one I ever saw for sale, the store that was selling it was asking way too much for it.
     
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  18. shred-o-holic

    shred-o-holic SS.org Regular

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    What about the Progap? I used version I and II for years. They were wicked for shredding lol
     
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  19. shred-o-holic

    shred-o-holic SS.org Regular

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    Ah yes you mention the mighty Progap. Thought about picking another up sometime lol for peanuts
     
  20. Mo Jiggity

    Mo Jiggity 7-string n00b

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    Duuuuuude I want one of those pretty bad too. A coworker of mine loaned me an SGE Mach II back in the day which is, from what I can gather, basically an earlier SGX 2000 minus the tube preamp section. I didn't know enough to realize that I should've been running it into a full-range system so I kind of discounted it at the time since it sounded weird running through the front-end of my Marshall combo. By the time this thread is done I'll have five 80s rack systems sitting in my basement :-D.

    Currently on the lookout for a Mosvalve, Fender 2150 or other "tubey" sounding 80s/90s power amp BTW. If somebody has one that they want to offload let me know!
     
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