AS EARLY as high school, electric engineer Jobet Claudio has been drawn to music after receiving his first electric guitar from a friend. While he was strumming it, he felt frustrated that the guitar could not emulate the tone he heard on the radio.

He then bought an effects pedal, a device that alters the tonal characteristics of the guitar when activated with a footswitch, adding effects such as distortion, chorus and reverb.

Still unsatisfied, Claudio modified the pedal to improve its tonal output, spending exhaustive nights of meticulous fusing and board mapping, mixing and matching the components.

This knack for electronics eventually led him to invent what he calls a “scalarizer,” a device that can improve guitar tones for a cheaper price.

“I wanted to offer great tone for the masses,” said Claudio, a 1993 graduate from the UST Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE) program. “This way, guitarists on a budget can achieve amazing tone,” he added.

Harmonious foundation

The former UST Golden Corps comptroller loved to read science-related articles in encyclopedias as a child. At 12, he had already made an AC/DC electrical power transformer.

His older brother, an ECE graduate from another school, influenced his love for electronics.

“My brother would bring home science magazines from school for me to read,” said the 36-year-old inventor.

With so much exposure on wires and circuit boards at such a young age, Claudio felt that he would excel in engineering.

By the time he entered college in UST, Claudio had already learned the nitty-gritty of guitar tones and effects pedal modifications.

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Fine woods, hand-wired electronic components and custom-built boutique amplifiers contribute to the warm, rich and crisp characteristics that define excellent guitar tone. The tone, however, does not come cheap.

“Professional audio equipment costs around P10,000 to P100,000,” he said. Because of this, musicians on a tight budget are left to settle for sub-par equipment that often sounds too muddy or shrill.

So what Claudio did was to match the tone offered by expensive pedals with cheaper ones, making only few modifications in the circuitry and cutting the cost in half.

“The price varies depending on how much you want done,” he said.

Before he knew it, he had created improvised pedals that were comparable, and sometimes superior, to branded ones as confirmed by musicians.

Through word of mouth, people started to line up to his small shop at Sto. Domingo, Quezon City to ask for his products. Despite his being a fulltime professor teaching computer networking at DLS-College of Saint Benilde, Claudio still finds time to attend to his clients.

Magic tootsie roll

Not everyone, however, sang praises for his work. There was a time when a skeptic put down his modifications as second-rate.

But to prove himself right, Claudio drew inspiration from Serbian physicist and engineer Nikola Tesla’s study on scalar waves Scalar waves are disturbances in space that transfer energy, particularly sound energy, from one point to another. Their existence, though, has not yet been proven.

From there he developed the scalarizer, a device that dramatically improves the tone of the guitar. The scalarizer gives an overall expansive sound to any guitar. “It removes the harshness of the treble and cleans up the muddiness in the midrange frequency,” he explained.

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The scalarizer transfers energy taken from the harshness of the treble to the midrange and vice-versa to equalize the tone. It is for this reason that the tonal effect of the scalarizer can best be heard on low-quality electric guitars.

Bearing the size of a one-peso coin, the device is attached to the wire of the output jack of the guitar, a bland alteration that requires only light soldering and does not change the guitar’s appearance.

“I wanted to show that getting great guitar tone does not always go hand in hand with how expensive its price is,” he said.

Among users of his product are Ebe Dancel of Sugarfree, Tim Cacho of Imago and Itchyworms guitarists Kelvin Yu, Jugs Jugueta and bassist Chino Singson of Itchyworms.

“One would think that established musicians could afford expensive gears but they choose the cheaper route instead. And that speaks volumes on the credibility of my work,” he said.

The P500 gadget is available only in his workshop as it requires soldering know-how. But Claudio also gives pieces to Lazer, a musical instrument franchise, to distribute scalarizers locally. He plans to distribute them to foreign countries like Singapore, Korea and other parts of Asia.

Although not yet patented by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, Claudio recently finished writing the patent documents required for filing.

The capabilities of the scalarizer, Claudio believes, will threaten established effects pedal manufacturers and distributors once the device makes its debut in the international stage. But this does not faze him.

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“Now that we are aware that there is a cheaper way to produce quality tones, musicians might start to think differently on the standard norms of the guitar industry,” Claudio explained.

Despite serving as an innovator in electric guitar tonal development, Claudio stands modest and humble. Although he knows that he can earn a lot by selling his inventions at a higher price, he refuses to do so, believing that a cheaper route to attain excellent tone is his best gift to Filipino guitarists. “It is my passion for music that comes first, not riches that I could earn,” he said. Paul Nicholas P. Dimerin and Ayn Rand I. Parel

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