Simply put, Valvebucker is the only tube driven electric guitar pickup in the world. No more, no less. And… truth be told – the Valvebucker might also be the most important Ruokangas Guitars invention ever. Why? Because it’s seriously out-of-this-world.
How often do you hear a genuinely new electric guitar sound? I mean ‘new’ to the extent that even if sounds great, it makes you confused? ‘New’ in the sense that you can’t place it into any of the familiar S, T or LP style boxes? That’s right. That kind of a new sound is extremely rare. The Valvebucker is that different.
The very beginning of this journey roots back to the year 2007. I was on a car ride with a good friend and he asked me this question: “What if the electric guitar would have been invented in 1895?”. This started an unreal session of brainstorming and fantasizing, resulting eventually in what we decided to call Captain Nemo. A steampunk -influenced one-off custom guitar with an active pickup driven by vacuum tubes!
The guitar looked superb, for sure, but we didn’t really know what to expect from the sound. I guess we were hoping that it would sound somewhat decent – but to our pleasant surprise the tone of the tube powered pickup prototype turned out to be jaw-dropping lively, delicious, rich, organic… It just blew us completely away!
I got the Captain Nemo ready just in time for the first ever Holy Grail Guitar Show held in 2014. Here’s a video made prior to the show where I tell you more in detail about the birth of Captain Nemo. And another video shot at the Holy Grail, where you can actually hear and see the guitar being played live. The Guitar Connoisseur magazine also wrote an in-depth article about the Captain Nemo project – read it here!
We’ve continued developing the Valvebucker ever since, and it is now available as a custom option into any guitar model we make. Notice that we only sell the Valvebucker installed to new guitars. The Valvebucker is not available as a retro-fit part to our own guitars or other guitar brands.
SIGNAL CHAIN 1: Guitar through Lehle splitter to Swart 5W and Two Rock EXO 15W SIGNAL CHAIN 2: Guitar plugged in directly to AER acoustic guitar amp
A Valvebucker equipped guitar is a simple and intuitive instrument that works the same way you’d expect any electric guitar to work. Even though the Valvebucker is “just one pickup”, the controls include a three way switch for different sounds, a volume and a tone knob – and an additional boost switch.
The sound? It’s heavenly! And at the same time it doesn’t make much sense to try to describe it verbally. Instead, listen to the sound samples above for a little appetizer. Search YouTube for ‘valvebucker’ and you’ll find more!
The only difference to a regular guitar from the operational side of things is that a Valvebucker-guitar comes with a Power Supply Unit (PSU) in the size of a standard fx-pedal, connected to the guitar with a standard XLR microphone cable. Other than that it’s all business as usual.
The PSU pedal has an A/B box function – meaning that one input is reserved for your Valvebucker-guitar and another for your regular guitar(s) – so you can easily integrate the Valvebucker-guitar to your rig. It will be the first pedal on your pedalboard, before the tuner.
The PSU pedal connects to the power adapter provided with the guitar – or you can alternatively connect it to your own pedal power with a 12VAC output. Easy!
Developing the Valvebucker would not have been possible without the invaluable input by Junnu “My Favourite Nightmare” Vuorela, Jorma “Father” Kostamo, Jyrki “Son” Kostamo and Lassi “Thunder” Ukkonen. Thank you!!!
Fingers crossed – my crystal ball tells the Valvebucker has a bright future ahead..!
Does it get hot? Is it battery driven? How does it integrate to the rest of the signal chain? On this short video Juha answers to a few of the most asked questions about the Valvebucker.
"It’s the same if I would ask, why isn’t the tube of the Neumann U47 -microphone in the mixer board? It just wouldn't work that way. The sensitive microphone capsule of the U47 captures the richness of sound, but the signal would be too weak to send through passively. Half of the tonal nuances would be lost. That's why the tube circuit of U47 is right there, at the source. Exactly the same applies to the Valvebucker."
– Juha Ruokangas