ARC Quickstart Guide V0.50
A.R.C.
Quickstart Guide
V0.50
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
If you’re anything like me (just smarter and better looking...but I digress), when I get a new piece of audio
gear I get excited and anxious to start playing with it to see what it can do for the sound. I hope that you too
are excited and anxious to plug in your new FMR Audio A.R.C.! Before you jump in, however, I’d like to
take a short moment to say something important: I know that you can choose to spend your money on any
of a myriad of other available products. Whether by chance or coercion, you’ve chosen ours. For this, I’m
grateful and would like to express a sincere...
THANK YOU!
I appreciate you putting your trust and hard-earned cash into one of FMR Audio’s products (or at least
giving us a shot by demoing them)! Even though all of us here at FMR Audio are very proud of our products, the point of what we do is to give you the opportunity to make music without excessively draining
your bank account or making you feel that you must make excuses for the sonic results! I hope that the
A.R.C. helps you realize, at least in some small way, your artistic vision...
Mark A. McQuilken
Designer & Co-owner
www.fmraudio.com
FMR Audio, +1-512-280-6557
INTRODUCTION
This is the FMR Audio A.R.C. QuickStart Guide. The purpose of this document is to:
• Describe the overall features of the FMR Audio A.R.C.
• Describe the basic connection of the A.R.C. to your system
• Describe the top/rear panel controls and connections
• Present the A.R.C. specifications
FUNCTIONAL DESCRIPTION
A.R.C. Overview
Although named for its ability to enhance the sound of many different instruments. The A.R.C. improves
your instrument’s Articulation, Resonance and Clarity (A.R.C.). The FMR Audio A.R.C. has a unique combination of features that you will find equally useful in the studio or on the stage. Specifically, the FMR
Audio A.R.C. provides:
1) A boost function that buffers and amplifies instrument signals to a higher level.
2) A compressor that enhances your instrument’s tone and dynamics.
3) A direct box to interface your instrument to live or recording studio equipment.
4) A studio effect that may be used to process audio tracks from your favorite DAW or
recorder.
It does all this with a minimum set of controls and a look that entices you to plug it in and turn the knobs!
A Brief History
The FMR Audio A.R.C. is based upon our very yellow and nicely tonal PBC-6A. With the ‘6A, I found that I
could make guitar tracks‚ especially acoustic guitars‚ sound sweeter‚ fuller‚ and punchier with the right
combination of PBC-6A control settings. A friend pointed out that his guitar’s sustain was being enhanced
in a “totally natural way”—like the guitar amp was just resonating a little more—without the suck-andswell characteristics we experienced with stompbox sustainers or compressors. Although I suspect that our
‘6A customers are using it on guitar tracks of all kinds (among other things), the ‘6A is a studio effect with
a physical footprint that would be awkward for the performing musician outside of the studio. In addition, the nine adjustable parameters on the ‘6A just might be overkill in a stompbox application. What to
do, what to do...
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After some head-scratchin’, prototypin’‚ pickin’‚ grinnin’‚ and apostrophes, the result is the FMR Audio
A.R.C. With only three controls (plus bypass), it provides PBC-6A tonality in a more convenient, easy-touse format and with features more appropriate to support live and studio instrumentalists.
What’s cool about the A.R.C.?
This is the part of the manual where I trade-in my design hat for my recordist’s hat by telling you what I
think are the cool aspects of our products...in this case, the A.R.C.:
• 4-in-1 Useful Effects
— The A.R.C. provides a really nice sounding, high-
impedance (1M Ω ...to avoid tone suckage) BOOST pedal followed by a special,
tone-extracting and tone-enhancing COMPRESSOR. Pro-level power permits
both the A.R.C.’s usage as a DIRECT BOX for impedance-matching and driving
lines to recording/live mixing boards. The pro-level power also allows the pedal
to be used as wide dynamic range STUDIO EFFECT.
• Subtle & Sweet Compression — For many players, pedal-based compressors
are too over-the-top because they exhibit a suck-and-swell type compression. This
works well for some special effects, but discourages one of the major uses of compressors/dynamic processors: to help balance the tone, presence and performance
of an instrument particularly when it must compete or blend with other sounds.
The A.R.C. works well with electrified acoustic instruments in a live setting—
where the subtleties of the instruments tend to get lost—by allowing the player to
electronically balance articulation, resonance and clarity of the instrument. If you
love the sound of your instrument in an intimate, solo setting then you’ll appreciate how the A.R.C. helps you achieve that experience in live and studio performance settings!
• Fidelity — Although the A.R.C. is an effect, the audio electronics are designed so
that the output signal, statically measured, very closely resembles the input signal—a paraphrased definition of fidelity. Each A.R.C. is hand-trimmed for minimum distortion, typically to less than 0.005% Total Harmonic Distortion plus
Noise (THD+N).
• Dynamic Range — The A.R.C. 110dB dynamic range exceeds the dynamic range
of many recording studio devices, let alone the smaller dynamic ranges of the
myriad stompbox effects. The additional dynamic range of the A.R.C. means more
of your instrument can be heard with less noise and clipping.
• Studio Effect Power — Many guitar effects operate with a limited dynamic
range determined by the use of a plain 9V power supply. Such a low voltage limits the technological choices for the analog electronics, forcing reliance on noisy
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and distorted out-of-date devices. The A.R.C. uses the incoming 9V to create a
30V internal supply ( ± 15V )! This permits the use of state-of-the-art devices to
achieve low-noise, wide dynamic range performance.
• Many Power Supply Choices — We specify the A.R.C. to work with the industry-standard BOSS PS-120 type power supply. This center-negative, 2.1mm barrel
connector, DC power supply is used by many effect pedals and is quite easily
found on-line or in local guitar shops. The A.R.C., however, goes one better: the
A.R.C. will run from voltages ranging from 9 to 12V, either AC or DC and from
any polarity!
• All Analog Signal Path — From the input to output connectors, your instrument’s sound is not converted to digital and back to analog. It comes into the
A.R.C. as analog and stays analog all the way to its output jack! The result is a
richer, higher-fidelity effect. The A.R.C.’s main signal path is all analog and is
only assisted by digital/software processes in the power supply and sidechain
circuits.
• Hard-wired Bypass with a Twist — Many effects pedal users insist that their
pedals have a hard-wired bypass (i.e., “true bypass”). The A.R.C. provides this as
well, with a twist: in the rare case of a pedal or power supply malfunction, the
A.R.C. will default to a BYPASS condition no matter what the position of the
bypass switch! The idea is to keep things rockin‚ even under the rare case of a failure.
• Daisy-chained Power Jacks — To help keep things neat, there are two power
jacks on the A.R.C. that allow power fed into the A.R.C. and then out of the A.R.C.
into another effect (see notes on how to do this).
• Minimum Controls, Maximum Effect — There are only three controls on the
A.R.C.: preamp gain (INPUT), amplifier output level (AMP) and the drive control
(DRIVE). Yet, by using combinations of the GAIN and the DRIVE controls, you
can achieve many unique tones. The AMP control, an output attenuator, is
intended to help reduce the differences in the processed levels and the unprocessed levels.
• Cool Blue Effect LED — This blindingly-blue light, displays the amount of processing being done to the audio. The brighter the glow, the more processing. But,
does it really matter? It just looks sooooo cool...
• Perdy Knobs — We designed the knobs to be locally built here in central Texas.
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They’re custom-designed. They’re custom-built. They’re solid anodized aluminum and will last a couple of lifetimes.
• THAT2181 VCAs — These are the same VCAs used in scores of professional
audio compressors, gates and other dynamic processors. We can use these without compromise, in part, because of the higher-than-normal power supply rails.
• Steel Cabinet — There’s a lot of really good effects pedals out there that are
housed in the “standard” Hammond Manufacturing cast aluminum enclosure.
We considered that type of cabinet as well, but decided that the A.R.C. was a little
too different to package it the same ol’ way. Instead, we designed a custom, twopiece cold-rolled-steel enclosure with a sloping front and room for the instrumentalist with prehensile feet. It’s electroplated and covered in a hard polyurethanebased paint to last a good long time.
• Made in Austin, Texas U.S.A. — We want you to know that we do our own manufacturing here in beautiful Austin, Texas ‘cause: (a) We live here. We’re control
freaks. We need things done to standards that are very specific and loftier than
most. Manufacturing products here helps us to control important costs and
reduce waste. All this helps ensure that your A.R.C. will retain its value and continue working for many years to come, (b) Austin’s resources and culture—from a
very lively music scene to lots of high-tech companies/products—help inspire
and maintain our commitment to music and technology, and, (c) In order to help
others, here and abroad, we believe we’ve got to be vital and capable ourselves.
Our first choice is to employ as many U.S.-based resources as possible in the
design, manufacture and distribution of our products.
What sucks about the A.R.C.?
In each product guide, I try to summarize the product’s strengths (see: What’s cool about the A.R.C.?) and
weaknesses from my view as the designer and user. This is no exception:
• Few Panel Controls — Many recording studio signal processors have lots of
panel controls to afford maximum flexibility to the recording engineer. It’s almost
a requirement for the studio environment. For an effects pedal, lots of controls
could be an unnecessary complication for many musicians. We tried to balance
complexity of controls and ease-of-use and gave the A.R.C. three rotary controls
and a bypass switch. Some will find this complement of controls to be too few,
while others may find it still too complicated.
• Large & Heavy Enclosure — As previously mentioned, we decided to use a nonstandard cabinet for the A.R.C. This will be a problem for some musicians since
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it’ll be more difficult to make room on a crowded pedal board for a larger-thannormal enclosure and, for even smaller set-ups, the larger enclosure will add
more weight than most. Despite these concerns we chose this path for a couple of
reasons: (1) there’s more electronics in the A.R.C. than normal that, without
resorting to more esoteric/expensive electronic assembly techniques, require
more spatial volume, (2) we wanted enough panel space to permit control adjustments with your prehensile feet, and, (3) wanted a slanted top to make reading
and adjusting the controls a tad easier.
• Confusing Bypass Indicator — This one will trip up some of you: when the
A.R.C. is engaged, the GREEN light is lit and when the A.R.C. is BYPASSED, the
RED light is lit. Technically, with this kind of presentation, the control should be
labeled SYSTEM STATUS with GREEN indicating ENGAGED and RED indicating BYPASSED. Since SYSTEM STATUS sounds really pompous and nerdy, I
opted to just label it BYPASS. Why the two LEDs? Primarily to combine the
engaged/bypassed indication with an ad hoc power indicator. Besides, watching
the LEDs go off and on in response to the footswitch is cool.
HOOKING-U
P
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A.R.C.
To use the A.R.C. as intended, there are three things you must do in roughly this order:
• Apply power to the A.R.C.
• Connect the audio source and destination(s) to the A.R.C.
• Play!
Connecting the A.R.C.
Here’s some specific details about hooking the A.R.C. up:
1) Connect the Power Supply — Using a BOSS PS-120 type power source, plug the
power supply into the jack marked “Power In”. We recommend applying power
to the A.R.C. before any audio cabling is connected to avoid any “pops” occurring downstream when the power supply is connected. Although this is rarely
injurious, it is annoying!
2) Connect the Source — The A.R.C.’s input is 1/4" unbalanced, high impedance
(Hi-Z) phone jack. Because of the A.R.C.’s BOOST feature its hi-z nature, we recommend that your instrument be directly connected to the A.R.C.’s input for best
results. The A.R.C. may also be inserted further along in your instrument’s signal
chain without ill effect. So, for example, if you’ve got your favorite XYZ pedal that
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you plug into first, just put the A.R.C. in the chain where you’d like it using a regular 1/4" phone plug cable. Remember, since the A.R.C. has a wide dynamic
range, you may also use the A.R.C. as a studio effect! In that case, just hook it up
with an unbalanced cable as you would any other studio effect...
3)
Connect the Output(s) — There are two outputs on the A.R.C.: a 1/4" unbalanced phone jack and an XLR connector. For a regular instrument set-up, use the
1/4" output to go to your instrument amp. Should you also need a separate feed
for stage monitors and/or front-of-house (FOH) applications, you may additionally use the XLR balanced connector by hooking up a regular microphone cable
from the A.R.C.’s XLR connector to a mixing board. Also, you can use the A.R.C.
as a direct box in either a studio or live environment by using the XLR connector
to connect the A.R.C. with a mixer or A-to-D converter.
You don’t have to do things in the order listed above for everything to work. The above order is only a suggestion and has worked well for us.
Figure 1: The A.R.C.’s controls
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OPERATING THE CONTROLS
Control & Indicator Descriptions
There are four top panel controls on the A.R.C. (see Figure 1):
• INPUT LEVEL — This knob controls the gain of the input preamplifier. This control is used in combination with the DRIVE control to change how the A.R.C. will
effect your instrument’s sound. This control will effect: the XLR output, the 1/4"
output and the amount of input signal to the compressor.
• AMP LEVEL — The 1/4" output jack is intended to drive the input to an instrument amplifier. This control effects only this output and allows you to match the
level coming out of the processing circuits in the A.R.C. with the level you get
when the A.R.C. is bypassed. This control doesn’t effect the XLR’s output level.
• DRIVE — This knob sets the gain and mix levels of the internal compressor. When
used in combination with the INPUT LEVEL control, this control will change how
the A.R.C. will effect your instrument’s sound. This control will increase the
aggressiveness of the compressor and the amount that the compressor is mixed
with the unprocessed signal.
• BYPASS — When the GREEN light is on, the audio at the output connector is
taken from the A.R.C.’s main signal path. When the RED light is on, the A.R.C.’s
internal circuits are not engaged and it’s as though you’ve plugged your instrument directly to whatever you’ve got connected to the output jack of the A.R.C.,
typically your amplifier.
• PROCESS LED — Simply put: the brighter this light, the more processing that’s
being done by the compressor. Even though it’s not a multi-segment meter, with a
little practice, this LED becomes a quick and useful indicator to help you judge
how much the A.R.C. is processing your signal.
We figure that the most used control will be the DRIVE knob, so it’s a little bigger than the others!
Initial Settings
Although the A.R.C. can achieve a wide range of sounds with minimum controls, it’s still impossible for us
to specify exact settings for all the possibilities you may have for the A.R.C. Despite this, we can give a recommended starting set-up. For these initial settings, we’ll assume that you’re using an instrument, such as
a guitar, plugged into the A.R.C and the output of the A.R.C. is connected to an instrument amplifier. With
this set-up in mind:
• Set the AMP level to the most clockwise position, the INPUT and DRIVE controls
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to the fully counterclockwise positions and make sure the A.R.C. is bypassed (i.e.,
the RED bypass light is lit).
• Set the volume of your guitar and amplifier as you normally would with the
A.R.C. bypassed. Since the A.R.C. is starting in the bypassed condition, setting the
volume of your instrument and amplifier is as though the A.R.C. is not in your
signal chain.
• Engage the A.R.C. and adjust the DRIVE and INPUT controls to give you the
desired effect (see “Application Configurations” starting on page 8). While playing, alternate between bypassed and engaged. When the A.R.C. is engaged, adjust
the AMP control so that the loudest parts of the musical passage are the same in both the
engaged and bypassed conditions.
Now we’re ready to see how the controls vary the depth and character of the effect on your instrument!
Taking Control
As already mentioned, although we can’t give you specific settings for the INPUT and DRIVE controls,
there are a couple of guidelines that we can give you to help you more effectively pilot the A.R.C.:
1) When the DRIVE control is fully counterclockwise (CCW), the A.R.C. acts mostly
like a preamp and the compressor’s effect is minimized. In this configuration, the
INPUT and AMP controls dominate.
2) Regardless of the INPUT control’s position, as the DRIVE control is rotated clockwise (CW), the A.R.C.’s compression action will be increased and the balance
between the unprocessed/compressed signals will increasingly favor the compressor.
3) The XLR output of the A.R.C. is always active when power is applied. No matter
what you’re functionally using the A.R.C. for, the XLR output is available!
APPLICATION C
ONFIGURATIONS
The A.R.C. as a “boost” pedal
In this configuration, we don’t want the A.R.C. to do much more than just amplify your instrument’s signal. To use the A.R.C. as a boost pedal, we keep the DRIVE control set to a minimum, the AMP control to
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“0” (i.e., fully CW) and use the INPUT control to give you the desired level.
Figure 2: Using the A.R.C. as a BOOST Pedal
Banjo*
Amp
Use this control
to give you the
desired "boost"
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* — the banjo is shown for illustrative purposes only. The A.R.C.
works with many instruments, stringed or otherwise, including
the banjo.
The A.R.C. as a direct box
A “direct box”, also known as a “direct input” (D.I.), is primarily used to permit the connection of an
instrument-level device to a line-level device, such as a live/studio mixer, analog-to-digital converter
(ADC) or recorder. The A.R.C. provides this function whenever it’s engaged because the XLR output is
always active. The D.I. signal is effected by both the INPUT and DRIVE controls, but not the AMP control.
The AMP knob only controls the A.R.C.’s output level to the 1/4" output jack.
To set up for the D.I. function, generally you’ll want to get as much signal to the mixer/recorder that’s
required for a good signal-to-noise ratio. With the gain control on the mixer/recorder set to “0dB” (consult
your mixer/recorder’s manual for the details), adjust the A.R.C.’s INPUT control to give the desired level.
The A.R.C. as a compressor
Set the A.R.C. up as described in Initial Settings and for either boost and/or D.I. function(s). To add compression, merely rotate the DRIVE control from it’s fully CCW position until you’re hearing the amount of
compression you’d like. The DRIVE control will both change the amount of compression as well as the balance of the compressed signal with the uncompressed signal. In general, the settings to the left of the 12
o’clock position are relativly subtle. Beyond that, the compression effect becomes more pronounced and
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may be too extreme except for a “special effect”. Find the balance that’s good for your circumstance.
Figure 3: Using the A.R.C. as a D.I.
Banjo
Mixer/Recorder/ADC
Use this control
to give you the
desired level at
the XLR output.
This control DOES NOT
effect the XLR line output
level. It only effects the
level of the 1/4" AMP
output jack.
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Turning this CW will
give more compression
on both the AMP
and XLR outputs!
The A.R.C. as a studio effect
Hook up the A.R.C. as you would a dedicated studio effect. For example, let’s say you’ve recorded a vocal
in your digital audio workstation (DAW) and want to process it with the A.R.C. instead of a software plugin. There are two parts to this: setting up the software and setting up the hardware (you’ll need to confer
with your DAW’s manual for routing an external “insert”). To use the A.R.C. as an external effect, plug an
appropriately configured DAC channel from your interface into the A.R.C.’s input jack using a standard
1/4"-to-1/4" phone plug cable. Then, connect the A.R.C.’s output, either 1/4" jack or XLR jack, with an
appropriate cable into a channel on your ADC.
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Figure 4: A.R.C.Rear Panel
1
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#
Control Description
1
Power Out Jack — This jack is actually wired in parallel with the POWER-IN jack and is
intended to permit the “daisy-chaining” of the A.R.C.’s power source to other effects pedals.
Although either may be used as an input or output, BE CAREFUL to observe the detailed electrical
requirements of the other effects you’ll be connecting to.
2
XLR Balanced Output — This output will product up to +20dBu of level in a full balanced, differential manner. Use this output when you want to interface with equipment that uses XLR
connectors for their inputs. This connector emits a signal whenever the A.R.C. is active (i.e.,
unbypassed).
3
Unbalanced Out (to AMP) — Connect this jack to your instrument’s amp. This output is
effected by all of the controls on the A.R.C.: DRIVE, INPUT, AMP and BYPASS.
4
Unbalanced INPUT — Connect your instrument into this jack with a “standard” instrument
cable, i.e., 1/4" phone plug-to-1/4" phone plug.
5
Power Input Jack — This jack is wired in parallel with the POWER-OUT jack. See “Power Out
Jack” (above) for more details.
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Figure 5: A.R.C. Top Panel
1
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Control Description
1
DRIVE Knob — This control increases both the amount of compression as well as increases the
mix between the compressed signal versus the uncompressed. When turned clockwise (CW),
the unprocessed signal is decreased in relation to the processed signal and the compressor
forced to simultaneously increase compression levels and ratios. In the fully counterclockwise
(CCW) position, no measurable compression occurs.
2
DRIVE Level Indicator — This bright blue light-emitting diode (LED) proportionally varies its
intensity with the amount of signal compression. This feature is additional proof of the A.R.C.’s
utility: the LED is so bright that with the right DRIVE level and musical performance, the
A.R.C. may be used as a flashlight or, if engaged in official activities with SETI (www.seti.org),
as a tool to aid in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence! We do not warranty the A.R.C. for
such uses, however.
3
INPUT Gain Knob — This control changes the gain of the preamp stage from 0dB to almost
20dB. This is not an input attenuator. This control actually varies the first amplifier stage’s gain.
In this way, gain is applied only as needed and signal-to-noise can be maximized.
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Control Description
4
AMP Attenuator Knob — This is the gain control in the last stage feeding the OUTPUT jack,
but it only causes signal attenuation. This control varies the OUTPUT jack signal from 0 to 25dB
of attenuation.
5
BYPASS Indicator — These two LEDs show whether the OUTPUT signal is coming from the
A.R.C.’s circuits or from the source signal connected to the A.R.C.’s input jack. When the OUTPUT signal is taken from the INPUT jack, the red LED illuminates indicating a BYPASSED condition. When the OUTPUT signal is taken from the A.R.C.’s circuits, the green LED illuminates
indicating the ACTIVE condition.
6
BYPASS Switch — This switch causes the A.R.C. to alternate between the BYPASSED and
ACTIVE conditions.
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