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Red-Eye Preamp - Some History...

Red-Eye Preamp - Some History...



How did the Red-Eyes get started?




It was a young fiddler that got me to build the first Red-Eye preamp.  Her name was Leah, then the youngest violinist in the Austin Symphony.  She played all styles, and had a really quick ear.  But when she often sat in with bands at one of the many music clubs here in Austin, she’d plug her Baggs Bridge equipped fiddle into whatever DI the venue had.  Most of the time her violin sounded more like a car-horn than a violin!


I’m a “retired” electronics engineer and music fan and vowed to shop the music stores to find a good preamp for her.  She wanted it to be small enough to fit into her violin case, she wanted a solo boost button, she wanted it to run on XLR Phantom Power, and she wanted an effects loop so she could use a stomp tuner or maybe a reverb pedal.  The music stores had nothing like that.

So as any EE would, I had lots of spare electronic parts at home.  So I made her a prototype preamp like she wanted.  But first I studied the physics of the piezoelectric material that is the heart of any acoustic instrument pickup.  It turns out, a pickup’s performance depends greatly on a preamp input stage that matches the pickup input impedance correctly.  The piezo material likes to “ring” and unless its impedance is matched properly it can generate “wolf” notes that are too loud or too soft.


So when Leah tried out her new preamp-DI, the other artists on stage would look over her shoulder and say “Leah, your violin sounds great”...then they would point to the crude preamp and ask “What’s that?”  So I made ten more and gave them away to her friends.  Then the music stores in town started calling for me to make them some to sell and here we are!


The preamp went through many revisions when I asked musicians for suggestions on improving it.  At first they asked “Can you add x, y or z”.  Soon the chassis got full and I’d have to ask “what would you like me to take out to make room for what you want?”  Pretty soon the musicians were answering “Well, maybe you’d better just leave it like it is.”  And we haven’t changed it since.


The Red-Eye name came about later when another young fiddler, a student at U of Texas named Mead, saw the black box with the red stomp button and dubbed it a “Red-Eye”.  That stuck.



Daren Appelt, Engineer, Fire-Eye Development, Inc.

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