The Rockman is a headphone guitar amplifier. The original Rockman was developed and built by Scholz Research & Development, Inc., a company founded by Tom Scholz, who is also the founder and a key member of the rock band Boston. Scholz Research & Development was sold to Dunlop Manufacturing, Inc. in 1995. Dunlop continues to manufacture the Rockman Ace, and Tom Scholz's signature still appears on the unit.
The Rockman offers four guitar effects: compression, distortion, stereo chorus and echo. It has a stereo input jack so that a guitarist can play along to an audio program coming from another sound source. The distortion and clean settings both sound very similar to the "Boston guitar sound" which was previously achieved by Scholz only through endless experimentation with amps, microphones, equalizers and other gear.
The high signal-to-noise ratio means it can be used in professional studios. Third-party companies manufactured solutions to integrate the Rockman into rack setups for the stage and studio use as well.
Though the Rockman lacks tone controls, tone can be adjusted in other ways: via the guitar, the mixing board or the amplifier (if the Rockman is being used as a pre-amp).
Among the many well-known guitar players who adopted the Rockman early on are:
- Tom Scholz of Boston
- Steve Stevens
- Alex Lifeson of Rush
- Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go's
- Phil Collen and Steve Clark of Def Leppard
- Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top
- Megadeth on the album So Far So Good (1988)
- Bernie LaBarge on his CBS album Barging In (1983)
- Neal Schon of Journey
- Curt Kirkwood of Meat Puppets on their album Up on the Sun (1985)
- Buckethead soloist mainly using rockman
- Joe Satriani Not of this Earth, Headless Horseman, Ice 9, Midnight & Circles to name a few songs
- David Gilmour of Pink Floyd on his solo album About Face (1984)
- Dave Mustaine of Megadeth
SR&D later developed and manufactured so-called Rockmodules, which were half-rack effects units that modularized the features of the Rockman and gave the user extensive control over the parameters of each effect. These units were also branded under the Rockman umbrella.
The Rockman Sustainor is the basis of the Rockman system. The Sustainor was essentially a configurable two-channel preamp with compression. Other Rockmodules included the
- Instrument EQ
- Stereo Chorus
- Stereo Echo
- Stereo Chorus/Delay
- Distortion Generator
- Guitar Compressor
- MIDI Octopus
Today, a vigorous market exists for used modules in the Rockman line with some units commanding a higher price than their original list price. In particular, the Stereo Echo remains widely-regarded as one of the finest analog delays available.
Sale of company
When Scholz sold the rights of Rockman to Dunlop, the manufacturer actually ceased the production, keeping only the last economic headphone amplifiers called 'Ace series'. In the meantime, the equipment began to be refurbished by avid Rockman enthusiasts such as Perfect Sound Rock Refurbs and David SG Ferringer of 12 volt electronics inc.