Jimmy Douglass and Joel Scheuneman

The Senator began one evening when Joel Scheuneman, Chief Technical Engineer at Manhattan Center Studios, relaxed in front of the TV.  “I had a very ‘pro-audio’ entertainment system at home,” he explains, “it was a DVD player connected to a small mixer and some self powered speakers, with a video monitor.”  Frustrated by not having a remote control for the volume, he did what any self-respecting studio tech would do – build his own!  With 15 years of experience as the go-to guy for major recording artists, film productions, and TV studios, Scheuneman knew he could make it work.  “Once I decided on the DIY route, it seemed like a small step from controlling the volume by remote control to controlling volume automatically.  That’s how I got started experimenting with VCA’s and especially the whole non-linear side-chain concept.”

After completing the home stereo pre-amp, Scheuneman brought it into the studio to show longtime friend Jimmy “The Senator” Douglass.  A Grammy-winning recording engineer best known for his collaboration with hip-hop producer Timbaland, Douglass was someone Scheuneman could trust to give him constructive feedback.  “I thought his home stereo unit was cool,” says Douglass, “but I was most interested in the compressor he built into it, which really had a unique sound.  I would have started using it right then, but there were no controls on it!  So I asked him if he could make a pro version, with level controls and meters, and a proper balanced interface.”

Inspired by Douglass’s input, Scheuneman went back to the drawing board and developed variable curved compression.  Within a few months, he had assembled the first working prototype, with all the pieces compiled into a Shoe Box.  Once again, Scheuneman brought his creation to the studio for a meeting with Douglass.  “When I first saw The Shoe Box, I was really blown away,” Douglass recalls. “At first, I wasn’t even sure it would work since it was made out of cardboard.  But it actually worked really well.”

Over the next 2 years, Scheuneman set up The Shoe Box many times, each time improving the design.  And every engineer who used it voted unanimously: The Shoe Box rocked.  Encouraged by users feedback, Scheuneman continued to evolve the design, giving it printed circuit boards, a metal enclosure, and a name. “It only made sense to call it The Senator,” Douglass says.  Then 2 more years of development brought Scheuneman to the point where he could offer The Senator to the public. Some units have already been produced, with more on the way.  Who got the first one?  It was Jimmy Douglass, of course.  “I’m using it all the time now,” he says.  “I can’t go back.”