Ode to the Frogg Compu-Sound
A Short-Lived Relic with a Timeless Sound
After seeing a vintage marketing poster for the Frogg Compu-Sound that made the bold claim “Throw all your pedals away!”, I had to track down some more info on this device and hear it playing. I could only find one video, which I’ll include here for you – and quality information about the unit was even harder to come by. I had to piece together the history of the company from advertisements, articles translated from Spanish, and archives of long dead websites documenting the unit. It’s actually a fascinating little device, and it sounds awesome!
First marketed in 1972, the unit only lasted until about 1976. The units are extremely rare today, seeing as only 100 were produced in the company’s short run. Current listings are actually fairly priced around $2,500 when you adjust for inflation. They were originally sold for $500 – according to the US Inflation Calculator, $500 in 1972 amounts to $2,916.28 today!
It was marketed as a digital FX unit due to the brand new digital hype of the 70s, but it’s really an analog FX unit. Much like my favorite preamp in the world, the ADA MP-1, the Compu-Sound utilizes a digital user interface to control an analog signal path. This is the perfect union for units like this that feature numerous different effects/channels and large pre-set sound banks without interfering with the sound itself. For analog purists that’ll turn their nose up at any mention of the word “digital”, I pity you for never allowing yourself to have the best of both worlds.
The company behind the Frogg Compu-Sound, Design Engineering Labs Inc., was short-lived but had great potential. DEL Inc’s directors, Dick Norse and Doug Talley, had a strong resume, having started the company after working together with Ridinger & Associates until its demise. Ridinger & Associates were responsible for numerous popular pedal effects, including the fOXX Tone Machine – a favorite of Peter Frampton and Jimi Hendrix. Interesting side note, Stephen Ridinger is now the owner of Danelectro (through his company, the Evets Corporation).[huge_it_gallery id=”8″]
The Frogg Compu-Sound has 99 pre-set effects, including Envelope Follower, Arpeggio, Automatic Wa-Wa, High Bite Manual Wa-Wa, Notch Flanging, and Vowel Sound Manual Wa-Wa. Its function has been described as “basically a filter with an envelope follower”, but I find that to be a little underwhelming considering the range of sounds you can pull from this thing – as well as the digital integration being cutting edge for the time!
The units come with a foot pedal that attaches to the main FX unit – the tones can all be controlled via the foot pedal or manually on the unit itself.
The Frogg Compu-Sound’s only cited claim to fame is that it was used to record the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. That’s a pretty good achievement for having only manufactured 100 units! Listening to the demos of the presets, I am certain that the Compu-Sound was also used in millions, possibly billions, of 70s porno films.