A Tale of Two Ludwigs
Greetings, gearheads! Welcome back to Stomp
School. Seeing as we specialize in vintage and
rare effects, we get a lot of repair work in our
shop. We’ve had a lot of interesting pieces
come through, but we recently got one that I
thought would be great to share with you. A
good customer and collector friend of ours,
Gino, recently acquired a Ludwig Phase II
Synthesizer. Readers of Analog Man’s Guide
to Vintage Effects will recognize this as the
second-most rare and collectible vintage effect
of all time.
calibrated, sounds like someone saying “yoy
yoy yoy yoy yoy.” The Ludwig Phase II we
received from our friend had many problems
but, saddest of all, it had no “yoy.”
calibration, and repaired a few of the quick
connects on the main board. We also replaced
a couple of dead indicator bulbs with colored
LEDs, but we needed to add resistance to
keep the LEDs from burning out. Finally, we
replaced a faulty jack and footswitch for the
The Ludwig Phase II we received was in pretty
sad shape. Although I happen to have an excellent working example in my collection to use
for reference, Ludwigs still pose a lot of problems in terms of repair. This unique and complex device was manufactured and sold around
1970, before integrated circuits were readily
available. The circuit is entirely discreet, which
means that it accomplishes all of its electronic
voodoo without the use of IC chips. Looking at
the main circuit board is somewhat reminiscent
of an aerial view of a densely populated city.
There’s a lot going on in this thing. That also
means there’s a lot that can go wrong.
My properly functioning Ludwig Phase II bares it all for
The initial issues we identified were that
the lights on the top panel, as well as the
Animation and Formant Trajectories controls,
were not working properly. The stereo output
switch didn’t work, either. And only a slight
phase-like sound could be heard when you
used the expression pedal. We quickly got
under the hood to see what was going on.
A close-up of the main board, with a plethora of juicy com-
ponents and tasty tropical fish capacitors.
Our tech, Greg, holds the top assemblies to both Ludwigs
for comparison (mine is the bottom one).
Undoing Abominable Work
The first thing we noticed was that someone
had been in there before. This is usually not a
good thing. Over the years, hundreds of vintage effects have fallen prey to amateur electronics hobbyists and well-intentioned radio
and TV repairmen, resulting in many heartbreaking abominations of electrical ineptitude.
In most cases, the person doing the repair had
no reference point, and no established outcome that would let them know if the unit was
properly calibrated. More often than not, they
were in way over their heads.
I wish I could say at this point that our repairs
have been successful. However, at the time of
this writing, the patient is still on the table after
an operation that has already lasted two-and-a-half working days. That’s okay. We’ll just keep
working until it’s finished. Wish us luck!
I have owned a few Ludwig Phase II
Synthesizers over the years, and I’ve had the
opportunity to play several more. Every one of
them sounded slightly different, which was like-
ly the result of the many discreet components
drifting out of spec. The defining sound is the
phased, modulated effect that, when properly
One of the major obstacles to this repair
was that the top board no longer had its
original quick connects—the entire board
was hardwired. This made it difficult to work
on, because all the connections had to be
unsoldered (so we could work on the board)
and then re-soldered for testing. We reflowed
some questionable-looking solder joints,
tweaked several trim pots for a quick and dirty
(a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For
Musicians Only ( formusiciansonly.com) and author of
Analog Man’s Guide to Vintage Effects. Questions or
comments about this article can be sent to:
( analogman.com) is one of the largest boutique
effects manufacturers and retailers in the business, and
it was established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993.
Mike can be reached at AnalogMike@aol.com.