Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amps and Other Things

Q: I know you love Marshalls, and I am looking at building a JTM45 head from parts. There is so much to love about Marshalls BUT they are SO loud - and that's the 45, forget the 50s and 100 super leads. What head and cabs do you use, and how do you tame them for say recording? Do you use a hotplate or something? And how do you find the lack of reverb? (I notice you mostly seem to run some delay though).

A: Regarding Marshalls, I definitely like the 100 watts the best. The best thing about Marshalls is that they are easy to rent for a gig, meaning I don’t have to cart my own, I can just rent one and the production company will have it on stage for me when I get there. 
Most smaller to medium size venues in Tokyo already have a Marshall on stage. The 100 watt heads sound great through a 4x12 cabinet. I'll use any marshall 100 watt head they give me but I don't like the three channel heads (JCM 2000 TNS 100). I hate them because the effects loop doesn't work right. Some of my delays sound out of phase and there is always some sort of volume problem when using the loop. If I’m recording I won’t be using the loop anyways so they work fine for me. I just used a JCM 900 yesterday and it sounded great.

Marshalls have some manufacturing issues these days, they break all the time and cabinets are made of crap. Neven underestimate your cabinet, the same Celestian speakers in a crappy cabinet and a well built one sound completely different. When I got my first road job in 1982, my Marshall was a real work horse but those days are gone. They still sound good to me though as long as they work right but they aren’t the same as in the old days. There are amps made like old Marshalls that you can buy, Roy Blankenship or John Suhr makes amps that are built and sound great like the old Marshalls but as I said, you will have to cart them to your gig. I live in Tokyo so I can’t be bringing a Marshall head to a gig much less a 4x12 cabinet.

Using or not using a loop: I don't need reverb, but I absolutely have to have an effects loop. So if you are going to make an amp yourself, definitely get the specs with a loop. I run my delay in the loop and that's it, everything else goes in front of the amp. If you prefer reverb over delay, or use both, you can run a reverb in the loop as well. When recording, you put the delay on after the fact so you don't need a loop, but for shows, I have to use the loop. Why would you record dry and put it on later? Once you record with the delay on, you can’t fix it after the fact. Check out the track below when you get a chance, I recorded dry and added reverb and delay after. There are two reasons for this, first, regarding delay, you have to set up the repeats with the tempo of the song or else you’ll get all this weird rhythmic flams going on. Second, you’ll want to control the level of the effect, what works good on one section might be way too much on another section. If you listen to the track below, you’ll find that I bring up and down reverb and delay levels in different sections. I turn down the delay during the breaks (0:47 for example) but it isn’t completely off either bringing it back up for the head. I actually bring the reverb up and the delay down at 6:05 because the delay gets on my nerves for the bluesy phrases. I crank the delay back up again at 6:20. I bring the delay up even more at 6:53 for the volume swells on my chords. I can do all this with automation when I mix the track. It would be more difficult to do it myself while I record (although I use Xotic's X-Blender live because of its big wet/dry pot that I can rotate with my foot).

Dealing with volume: When I record, if I'm in any sort of decent studio, I can just put the amp in a booth and shut the door. If I stand in the big room, I might leave the booth door open a few inches which leads to all sorts of problems. But as I generally don’t do punch-ins or re-record my parts, it works out OK most of the time. I like Marshalls at 3.5 or 4. They start to sound woofy above that. The older ones didn't have a gain control so you just turned them up as loud as possible but the new ones have a gain control that I set at around 5 or so and I use something to boost my signal and sustain (I personally like Xotic’s BB pre-amp or their EP Booster). Check this video on how I get my tone:

Playing Live: While nobody moans and groans about my volume in a recording studio, playing live can be more of a problem depending on the size of the venue. If the venue is small and I can't get the amp at least in the 3s, the amp doesn't sound very good so you have to position the cab so it doesn't hit the soundman in the face. There are guys that cover three of the speakers with plywood and leave one open for the mic. I like the sound of the amp on stage and don’t really like the amp blaring back at me in a monitor. I might ask for a bit of the amp in my moniters if the stage is big enough but I generally like the amp ten or 15 feet away from me where I can walk out of the line of fire if my own sound gets on my nerves. Soundmen want to control everything but I personally think you need some bleed off the stage to sound good.

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1 comment:

austwa ripk said...

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