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All the products shown on this web site were 'Designed' by: Clive Button

By 'Designed' we mean the electronic design, the circuit board layouts, the front and rear panel artworks, metalwork drawings for any chassis involved, design and drawings for the wooden cabinet (in many cases) and any technical authoring that may be involved such as test procedures, service information and operating instructions.

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Clive Button

A Brief Design History - Trace Elliot, Ashdown Engineering, MPC Electronics and more

After many requests from musicians throughout the world I decided to put this short design history together to give a basic idea of what I have done in terms of electronic product design over the years both before Trace Elliot and with Ashdown Engineering since.

Trace Elliot

My association with TRACE ELLIOT started late in 1985 when I was engaged on a consultancy basis by Fred Friedlein (the sole owner of the company) to design the MP11 MIDI Programmable Graphic preamplifier.

From that first meeting I was to become the sole designer of all TRACE ELLIOT products for the next 12 years. These include such well known products as:

Bass - Series 6 range, SMX range, SMC range, 7 Band range, 12 Band range, GP7 Pre-Amp, GP12 Pre-Amp, AH150, AH200, AH300, AH350, AH500, AH1000-12, Valve Series, VA350, VA400, VR400, Twin, Quatra, Hexa, Commando range, Boxer range, PPA power amplifiers, Powered Sub 15, Bass effects pedal range, MP11 etc:

Acoustic - TA100R, TA50R, TA200R, TA Concert range, TA60, TA35, TA30, Acoustic Cube, TAB100 (Acoustic Bass), Acoustic PA 16 channel powered mixer system, Acoustic PA 12 channel powered mixer system, TAP1 acoustic pre-amp pedal, in fact everything that came out of Trace Elliot all the way through to 1997.

Prior to the involvement with Trace Elliot I had carried out freelance design and consultancy for a number of companies and continued some of these after 1985 but for the years 1988 to 1997 I designed exclusively for TRACE ELLIOT at their request.

 From the top 25 best selling TRACE ELLIOT products of 1996, 5 were speaker cabinets, 1 was a foot switch (to go with top of the range Bass amplifiers I designed) and out of the remaining 19 products, 18 were designed by me.

Ashdown Engineering

In early 1997 I was approached by Mark Gooday (Trace Elliot CEO) and Clive Roberts (in charge of Trace Elliot sales worldwide) who were concerned that Kaman, the American company who then owned the company were going to close it down as part of the re-structuring of their music division. They asked me to design a product or range of products that they could use as the basis of a new company should this ever happen. I came up with the idea of the Klystron Bass Magnifier and produced a drawing of the proposed amplifier. The name I got from thinking of Flash Gordon saying something like “turn up the klystron bass magnifier Mr Zarkov”. I thought this had a suitably retro feel to it and also totally different to the Trace Elliot products. The amplifier (of which I still have the original drawing - see below) featured the VU meter, the Sub-Harmonics and the now familiar EQ control layout, all of which have since become very recognisable ‘Ashdown’ features.

Mark Gooday left Trace Elliot in March of that year and started Ashdown with a range developed from that amplifier; this became the ABM or Ashdown Bass Magnifier range. Clive Roberts stayed on at Trace Elliot. I continued as a consultant for Trace Elliot until April 2001.

For Ashdown I have over the years designed the following products:

Bass - Ashdown Bass Magnifier (ABM) range, MAG range, Electric Blue range, RPM1 Bass Pre-Amp, PM600 & PM1000 power amplifiers, ABM powered Sub, Superfly, Little Giant, After 8, Perfect 10, 515, Ashdown Labs range, all Bass Effects Pedals, MiBASS 220 & 550.

Guitar: Peacemaker 20, 40 & 60 range, Fallen Angel 40, 60 & 180 ranges, Fallen Angel DSP & Hybrid ranges, Kidd combos.

Acoustic – AAR1, AAR2, AAR3.

I always looked for originality and simplicity in a design and have a good track record in producing reliable products that meet with these criteria. I am not so much guided by past history and what went before but rather by looking to the future and asking myself what is the best possible way of achieving the required goals?

I believe that I have been mis-represented to many people in the music business over the years as to my actual contribution to Trace Elliot and indeed to Ashdown too, with others claiming to have designed products that actually always came from me.

All of my design work can be easily verified as I have always insisted that my name (some times just my initials cb) appears on every printed circuit board in every product I have designed. So if you want to know if it was designed by me just take the lid off (after unplugging it from the mains supply) and have a look inside at the PCBs. That is a positive verification that no one can refute.

Other Clive Button created products 

Prior to Trace Elliot, in 1981 I designed the first Drum Machine that could be played with your fingers, with small dynamically sensitive pads. This was called ‘The Kit’ and was marketed in the USA through MXR (part of which later became Alesis) and in the UK by Bob Wilson through Atlantex (later to become Sound Technology). This was at the time featured on the then very popular TV technology show ‘Tomorrows World’. The Kit was manufactured by MPC Electronics, a company created in partnership with Michael Coxhead in Cambridge.

Also in 1981 I designed the first electronic wind instrument (before Yamaha & Akai marketed their wind instruments the WX7 and AWi) this interfaced directly to a Mini Moog (this was however never marketed).

Next in 1982 came the first Drum Machine in the world that you could interface to a home computer, the Music Percussion Computer (this was pre-MIDI), in the UK the computer was the Sinclair ZX81, in the USA it interfaced to the Timex 1000 the first ever small home computer along with the Commodore PET. This you could program from the computer or play real time to write the rhythms into a graphic display on the monitor screen. Later interfaces were also produced for Commodore 64 & Sinclair Spectrum home computers.

I went on to design full electronic drum kits and drum sound modules and had a lot of success with these for a number of years.

When MIDI came along I designed a 1U embedded processor device to interface between this and all previous Sync formats as used by Roland, Yamaha, Sequential Circuits, Oberheim, Korg etc. etc. This not only interfaced to and from MIDI but also between all previous formats so that non MIDI keyboards and Drum Machines could be used together and with MIDI.

I designed one of the worlds first SMPTE to MIDI devices that allowed synchronisation of MIDI to tape for studio recording and sequencing. This linked to the above unit so that all non MIDI devices could also be synchronised to tape.

I also designed a unit called the ‘MIDI Humaniser’ that produced MIDI clock information from a rhythmic audio input. This allowed MIDI sequencers to be driven from a human input i.e. the sequencer followed the band and not the other way around. All of the above studio products along with a few more were marketed under the brand name of Bokse.

When the Japanese caught up with what I was doing with these products I had to stop as the development time became longer and the product life shorter and as a one man operation I could no longer compete.

It is then that I started doing freelance design for other amplifier companies. Because I was able to do every aspect of the entire job from start to finish I could offer a complete design and development service even as a ‘one man band’.

I have always worked as a freelance designer from my own premises carrying out all aspects of design. This includes the electronic design, the Printed Circuit Board layout, and all metalwork drawings that are required, the Front and Rear panel screen print artworks and woodwork drawings for cabinets or cases as required. I also write test procedures and operating instructions for the projects I have worked on as well as producing parts lists, sourcing and sampling new parts and components plus very often building and testing prototypes too.

All design functions such as schematic diagrams, printed circuit board layouts, front and rear panel artworks, metalwork manufacturing drawings etc. have in recent years been created on computer. All of these functions were originally carried out by hand on a drawing board. This often used to be a very involved and lengthy process.

There are quite a lot of other products I have worked on over the years and when time allow I may put together a more comprehensive list of these.

I have always been a musician playing in bands for most of my life. This is where many of my electronic musical ideas and products have originated. I now spend a lot of my time creating original music for TV, Film and anyone else that wishes to listen.

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Some of the artist who have used or are using equipment designed by Clive Button include: 

Adam Clayton (U2), Colin Greenwood (Radiohead), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), John Entwistle (The Who), Guy Pratt (Pink Floyd), Mark King (Level 42), Paul Jones (Catatonia), JJ Burnell (The Stranglers), Nick Fyffe (Jamiroquai), Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel), Doug Wimbish (Living Colour), Guigsy (Oasis), Glenn Frey (The Eagles), Don Henley (The Eagles), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Jan Akkerman (Focus), Alec John Such (Bon Jovi), Nathan East (Eric Clapton), John Illsley (Dire Straits), Mike Rutherford (Genesis), Rick Savage (Def Leppard), Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith), Roscoe Beck (Robben Ford) Roger Glover (Deep Purple), Greg Lake (Emmerson Lake & Palmer), Dion Estus (George Michael), Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi), Robert Fripp, Seal, Martin Taylor and many more.

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Contact Information

You may contact me by email in the first instance. We will then get back to you to discuss your requirements and give you a price.

Electronic mail:- clive@clivebutton.com
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