Watch Bastl and Mental Overdrive take a step back in time to revisit the Distortotron

Václav Peloušek of Bastl Instruments and Per Martinsen (AKA Mental Overdrive) hae been taking a look at Distortotron, a Norwegian-made analogue downsampler, bit reducer and clipping overdrive effect that was released way back in 1993.

The video takes a look at how the unit first came about as a collaboration between Per Martinsen and inventor group Psybe (Svein Berge and Henrik Sundt), who wanted to add anti-aliasing effects to the ever more clean-sounding samplers of the time. It also explores how Per used it on his Mental Overdrive debut album Plugged, which has just been re-released.

The original box featured potentiometers made up of old capacitors, while the sides of the enclosure were composed of old circuit boards. The labels on the front panel are written in poetic Norwegian language, giving a brief insight into the humor of its creators.

Distortotron has three sections starting with Quante-sprang and Ditto stoei controls, which loosely translates to "quantum noise". It is essentially quantized noise which emulates a loss of bit depth in the signal - a sort of pseudo bit reducer.

Then there's Taste-rate, which controls the pitch of downsampling. It's an analogue sample and hold circuit with oscillator that reduces the sample rate of the signal and introduces aliasing.

Last up are the Avklippings terskel and Ditto stryke which control the clipping circuit with adjustable thresholds and clipping amount.

The Distortotron caught the eye of Bastl Instruments' Václav Peloušek, who loved the effect unit's architecture and decided to use it as the inspiration for a new VCO, Comparator and Sample & Hold module called Tromsø, which is available now.

Simon Arblaster
Video Producer & Reviews Editor

I take care of the reviews on MusicRadar and Future Music magazine, though can sometimes be spotted in front of a camera talking little sense in the presence of real musicians. For the past 30 years, I have been unable to decide on which instrument to master, so haven't bothered. Currently, a lover of all things high-gain in the guitar stakes and never one to resist churning out sub-standard funky breaks, the likes of which you'll never hear.