Italian super-fan uncovers the secret to AC/DC’s guitar tone after years of searching
The latest episode of AC/DC Beyond the Thunder features Italian AC/DC fan, Filippo “SoloDallas” Olivieri, discussing a story spanning four decades, three continents, a prolific inventor and eventually a summons to the recording studio from the world-famous, Angus Young. During the show, Olivieri, an inventor and an obsessive music aficionado claims he was successful in copying the highly coveted AC/DC philosophy, sound and guitar tone that had otherwise been lost forever.
Born in Texas and raised in Rome, Fil Olivieri, founder of SoloDallas, had been obsessed with AC/DC’s Back in Black. In a quest to replicate the album’s distinctive guitar tones, Olivieri began purchasing the same equipment used by lead guitarist Angus Young, but as close as he got, it was obvious there was still a key ingredient missing. “The sound still wasn’t there,” claims Olivieri, “I had made so many mistakes, so much money had been spent. The secret ingredient was this unthinkable thing.”
Three decades and tens of thousands of dollars later, Olivieri was stumped, until he discovered the antiquated Schaffer-Vega Diversity System, a wireless device previously used by Angus Young to run around on stage while playing, but since defunct.
This was the missing link to AC/DC’s elusive tone.
Early adopters of this rare device include: KISS, Eddie Van Halen, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Bootsy Collins, Peter Frampton, Frank Zappa and of course AC/DC, who began using the Schaffer-Vega Diversity System as an effect in the recording studio, beginning with 1978’s Powerage, right up through to 1988’s Blow Up Your Video.
Over the years, original inventor, Ken Schaffer, had stopped producing the device and AC/DC was forced to shift its signature sound for the next 25 years. It was Olivieri who finally tracked Schaffer and received his blessing to hire a team of electronics experts to reverse engineer his technology, under the new company name SoloDallas, and roll out the first units appropriately titled, The Schaffer Replica.
Throughout the program, Olivieri performs several AC/DC classic cuts, even offering up a before-and-after demonstration using his device, showcasing a sound now dubbed by the industry as, “Instant Angus”. After witnessing ‘SoloDallas’ meticulously replicate several AC/DC classics on YouTube, a fan sent a handwritten letter to Angus Young which read, “This crazy Italian guy has this thing. You need to hear it, it’s great, it’s going to give you your sound back.”
After AC/DC’s guitar hero had caught wind that someone had discovered his long-lost guitar tone, the saga came full circle when Schaffer and Olivieri were sequestered to meet Angus Young at the Warehouse Studio in Vancouver during the band’s recording sessions. “I’m next to my hero, I don’t know what to say,” laughs Olivieri, who was then granted permission to play several of Angus’ guitars. “I was ready to be blown away, it’s got to be a magic guitar, my hero only uses magic stuff,” he thought, “No, he uses regular guitars and regular strings!”
Olivieri then presented Young with The Schaffer Replica GT #001, the very first unit produced. The Scottish-born Australian guitarist was so impressed how perfectly this device reproduced his signature tone, he ended up using The Schaffer Replica during all future AC/DC records as well as live concert tours.
The Schaffer Replica’s reputation within the SoloDallas community has grown steadily with a roster that includes: Foo Fighters, Muse, Steve Stevens, Richard Fortus, Ronnie Wood, Dweezil Zappa, Tony Iommi, Richie Faklner, Green Day, Johnny Lang, Neil Schon, Sting, Lenny Kravitz and many more. This device has since received the Guitar Player’s Editors’ Pick award, and stand-alone effect was selected for inclusion in Guitar Player Magazine’s Hall of Fame.