Welcome To Elfin Technologies!
NOTE: site under construction! Few links beyond the "Contact" work at this point. But this intro page will explain what I'm up to, and the site will be updated as my projects are completed. Enjoy...
I'm Randy Constan, Inventor, Engineer, Guitarist, and eternal child (at least I like to think so). I've spent several decades professionally involved with electronics and software engineering, mainly related to automation technology in the Electric utility industry. (For the curious, here's my obligatory resume).
So I wear a lot of hats and as a musician, have constantly used my skills to modify existing products, and design new equipment when the things I wanted didn't exist. If you're a musician too you can appreciate how satisfying that can be! How often have you bought a piece of gear you liked, only to end up with a wish list of missing features. Or how many times have you envisioned a product that you knew could be made, that you'd probably buy it in a heartbeat if only SOME company would just make it!
Well this has been the story of my life, and not just in the realm of music. I'd need a specialized amplifier or PA system to work a certain way and end up building my own. And I don't think I've ever owned an effects pedal I didn't eventually take it apart and modify, so it would work as I wanted it to. Sometimes this was just a matter of saving some hard earned cash, which all musicians can appreciate. But just as often the motivation was simply wanting something nobody was making, and deciding to do something about it.
So this is the reason for this site! After many years of basically building things just for my own use, I've decided it is time to share some of these inventions. Some of these projects have been completed and are in the process of being duplicated for sale. Others are future plans still on the drawing board. Here are some of the hottest products that you'll soon be able to get from Elfin technologies.
My favorite product started with this little travel guitar made by Applecreek, which I found being sold at a Renaissance fair. I was very impressed because despite its size, the neck (and hence string lengths) were very close to a standard short scale neck (like a Les Paul,). So a standard set of acoustic strings have pretty normal tension stays in tune pretty well. More important, it was very playable.
Well much like other lower cost guitars, it needed some work, some fret leveling and other tweaks, to attain the intonation and action I expect. So I did that work first and was very pleased. But of course it has a very small body, and can barely be heard in a quiet room. So I set out to amplify it, starting with the installation of a single coil pickup, a volume control, and a strap-jack so it could be easily fed to an amplifier. It took considerable experimentation to find the right pickup, but in the end its sound was pretty impressive... almost like a mini Telecaster! But I didn't stop there… I wanted to be able to use this instrument outside, and at least keep up with other acoustic instruments. But who wants to lug an amplifier around? So the next step was to see if it was possible to build a self powered amplifier right into the guitar!
I'll post more technical details soon For now, suffice to say building an amplifier right into any acoustic guitar is not trivial. For one thing, the right speaker and tone shaping circuitry in essential, to create pleasant tone that doesn't sound like a tinker toy. Next, precisely tuned electronic filters are required to cancel the body resonance, to avoid unacceptable acoustic feedback. Its been a significant R & D effort, but here's the bottom line: I was in able to successfully build in a 20 watt high efficiency class D amplifier, a full range speaker, and a rechargeable lithium ion battery. And by successful I mean that the this tiny guitar now sound of a full body size acoustic, ...maybe even a bit louder, and the sound quality blew me away! This was better than anything I could have imagined!
Now obviously nothing can really substitute for all the tonal response of a full sized acoustic, but I guarantee you will find the tone unbelievable! This is now the ultimate Elfin travel guitar, so I'll call it the ETG-1 (gotta have an acronym, right!). But more than a travel guitar, it is perfectly useable in outside situations such as fairs and festivals, and easily jacked in to bigger amplifiers, for stage use with other electric instruments. The optional Lithium-ion battery will last all day on a charge, and the intonation is excellent due to the custom alignments and fret work I do on each individual instrument , Expect to see a video demo here soon, and availability for orders by late Spring, 2014. Look for a video demo here soon!
How would you like to be able to control multiple audio levels remotely and wirelessly, and maybe even all your pedals too! Well now you can control up to 4 audio levels AND toggle up to 8 pedal effects, from a single 2 inch remote control clipped to your guitar strap! This is what my new WMC series of wireless controllerswill do for you, at a distance of up to 40 feet or better.
As usual this product came about by personal need. We all have volume controls on our electric guitars, but what about controlling the volume AFTER your effects chain? Or maybe being able to tweak your vocal levels, or perhaps the entire mix level of your backing tracks. Sure its nice to have a sound man to handle all this for you, but a lot of working musicians have to do it all themselves. And, lets face it, if a level is wrong when you're mid song, or begin a guitar solo, going over to the PA and messing with levels is far from ideal.
Well there are plenty of wireless products when it comes to mics, wireless guitar links, and even and wireless ear buds to replace heavy monitors. But its always annoyed me that no one product could give me hands free wireless control over my audio levels, especially for my own guitar! Again… guitars do have volume controls, but they won't help you control the level AFTER your effects chain. And volume pedals? Apart from "swell" or pedal steel effects, volume pedals are a lousy solution. Better than nothing, but trying to make a quick and accurate level change with a pedal will usually make you too loud, still not loud enough, or way too low. Let's face it, the human FOOT is lousy at making fine adjustments in a hurry.
And what about some of the other levels youmay have to deal with? At the very least, your entire mix is always going to need a subtle boost mid performance, as soon as everyone's ears get used to the performance level. And finally, besides your levels, how awesome to finally be able to walk around the stage and change patches in your effects unit, right from a little box on your strap, without having to be teathered to your pedal board! This device has made life so much easier for me, and I just know you'll appreciate it to.
But wait… there's more! (I always wanted to say that!) Because both the receiver and transmitter contain programmable microprocessors, I can customize these units to tailor them to your very specific needs, if the options I've already built in are insufficient. Remember when I spoke of the frustration over product features you wish the manufacturer would have built in? With Elfin Technologies, the head Elf in Charge (ME!), will not only listen, but can likely customize or upgrade the device without you having to wait until next years product!
The WCM transmitter also uses a rechargeable lithium battery, that will literally run non stop for days. And unlike a lot of dumb battery operated devices out there, it will shut itself down after a few hours of unattended use. A video demo of the WCM will also be online in Spring of 2014, and will be available here around that same time frame.
Custom modifications of your gear! Obviously to be able to use products like the WCM with pedals that have no provision for external controls, you have to either make some modifications to enable such a feature, or buy even more electronics. I can offer you both options and more, and will also provide step by step instructions for you to do it yourself. In fact over time, you will find this website to be a wealth of information for individuals who would like to learn to maintain and modify their own gear. This is just the beginning! I have a lot of goodies, gadgets, and hardware modifications to share with you. Stay tuned.