X100 or Sustainor

New to Rockman gear? Here's some help. Questions are welcome.
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2021 3:38 am

X100 or Sustainor

Post by Journxy »

Pretty new to gear and at first I wanted to find an X100, but it seems the sustainor is better for the Tom Scholz tone. Do I go for the X100 or should I go for the sustainor and get the better tone?
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 656
Joined: Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:01 pm
Location: Vicksburg MS, USA

Re: X100 or Sustainor

Post by rbc »

I think it depends on how you want to use it. The X100 is designed specifically to be a headphone amplifier, though it can be used as a DI.

The Sustainor is higher quality, but a component of a system. It does not include chorus or delay. You will have add chorus and delay to a Sustainor if you want those effects. You'll also need to use extra equipment to monitor the Sustainor. I use a mixer, though you may be able to come up with other solutions.

Don't forget about the Distortion Generator. It doesn't have the channel switching of the Sustainor, but does have a simple built-in EQ, and perhaps a better auto-clean circuit than the older Sustainors depending on the vintage of the Distortion Generator. Like the Sustainor, you'll have to add chorus and delay as needed.
Keep rockman-gearup.com advertising free. Make a contribution: https://paypal.me/rockmangearup/5/
Posts: 71
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:40 pm

Re: X100 or Sustainor

Post by Dale »

I would start with a X100.

Posts: 2
Joined: Mon May 03, 2021 6:07 am

Re: X100 or Sustainor

Post by VenturiTek »

I started buying Rockmodules back in 2006 with the intention to someday put together a complete rig, starting with the Distortion Generator. I never got around to completing the rig and sold the DG, but in the interim I acquired a Sustainor Model 100, a Chorus/Delay, a Sustainor Model 200, and most recently, an X100 rev10.

I'd recommend reading all of David Accommando's articles on Rockman gear here:

https://web.archive.org/web/20161219062 ... icles.html

As well was all of Jark's articles on https://www.rockman.fr.

It's a lot of material to wade through, but it's extremely fascinating and very helpful in determining what piece(s) you may wish to purchase.

You'll want to factor in the costs of a refurbishment of any Rockman product you end up with; they all need a thorough inspection and new electrolytic capacitors before they can perform their best. There are several companies which specialize in repairing and refurbishing all SR&D gear. They also correct certain manufacturing defects and other quirks that appear to have affected all Rockmodules.

Famed Rockman guru and retired refurbishment tech David Accomando had many a module on his repair bench. Here's what experience has shown him:

"All Rockman Rockmodules left the original SR&D facility with faulty design characteristics…some faults were of an assembly nature…other faults were in the circuitry itself... The Rockman Rockmodules were and are capable of sound no other company has been able to emulate. The problem was and is purely a manufacturing one…an assembly one…a lack of quality control."

After spending quite a few hours reading every article from the above-mentioned websites, here is a summary of what I found to be the most interesting:

All the Rockman stuff went through several evolutionary stages. The later examples of each are more desirable because their function is more refined. This is particularly true of the Autoclean feature on the Sustainor; which, with few exceptions, never really worked quite as intended on early models.

There are also differences between the design of the overdrive circuits in the Sustainor and Distortion Generator.

From the Distortion Generator article on Rockman.fr:

"It is often said that the Distortion Generator has a richer sound than the Sustainor, and as a matter of fact, it is more versatile in the complete range of distortion sounds... The design of the DG being much lighter, most 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 fact, parts of the Sustainor were later repackaged as separate modules with more controls and/or improved circuit designs. These include the Smart Gate, Guitar Compressor, and Distortion Generator.

SR&D made a lot of quirky design decisions too. On the Chorus/Delay module, for example, you have a choice of activating either the Chorus or the Delay, but not both at the same time. If you wanted both, the only option was to buy a second identical module and set one for chorus, the other for delay. Later on, you could purchase separate chorus and delay modules, again with improved circuit design and better controls.

Conversely, the Rockman headphone amps allow selection between just chorus or delay, or both together. You can't adjust them, but they sound so good in their hardwired settings that it's an acceptable compromise.

Learning about all of these differences between the modules has only increased my appreciation of the X100 and its potential. With a pair of 10 band guitar EQs placed before and after, a very wide range of tones are possible in a very convenient package.

It's also worth considering that the majority of Rockman tones you hear on famous '80s rock albums all came from an X100, not the modules. So if you want "that tone", an X100 would serve the purpose very well.