Inside the Module
The basis of the Distortion Generator is the structure of all the classic Rockman Amp sims:
Between the compressor and the distortion stage, if we compare the DG with the Sustainor:
While the Sustainor has only presets for its distortion sounds (EDGE, DIST, and a gain boost switch), the DG can be controled with the following sliders, all placed before the distortion:
The combinations are endless, and allow tweaking the sound from a very subtle bluesy overdrive to the most crazy distortion lead sounds.
The DG has the two circuits created for the Sustainor: the Autoclean and the Phase Notcher, then a classic treble slider (to adjust the DG to the type of amp - PA or guitar amp) and an output volume. There is also a footswitch that will boost the sound by a few dB's, during a solo for example.
Let's review now the evolution of the DG between 1987 and 1991: I have actually identified at least four different versions, the last being of course the best one.
The last modification occured between 1990 and 1991: it was, of course, the Lead-Leveller function. The modification is almost nothing: a resistor instead of a LED in the compressor circuit, that reduces a little the release time of the compressor.
Usage, samples and limitations
The DG can be used as an extra channel, either within a Rockman rig (in addition to a Sustainor) or with a guitar amp. It is really an amp sim, and must not be considered as a regular distortion pedal!
The design of the DG being much lighter, most of the people consider that the DG has more gain and harmonics than a Sustainor. It is absolutely true, especially if you can find a recent DG: the sound is rich and creamy, with more sustain than the Sustainor.
In my homestudio, I use mostly the DG when I have to record distortion sounds, and have made several tracks exclusively with it:
The limits of the DG come from what was cleared in order to obtain a cheaper device: no Smart Gate, and no loop for an external pre-distortion EQ. I have corrected that on my September 1991 DG, and added the two features: my DG is now perfect!
Collectibility and conclusion
There are over 15000 Distortion Generators on the market. It is not rare, and it is not expensive: two good reasons to buy one! The only difficulty is to locate a recent model, in order to have a good Autoclean: it's almost the same issue as chasing a good Sustainor 200.
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