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Signature Tone vs Amp

Dave da Dude

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I'm a hopeless gearhead filled with gas :freak:


I love comparing stuff, like amps, tone, speakers, etc. Here's my dilema; when people talk about the classic tones they usually refer to either a genre, people, guitars or amps. I'm trying to "put them together" in my head :confused:


For instance: amps; Tweed, Marshall, Vox, who would I associate with these sounds? How much does the speaker affect the amp tone? What speakers were used with these amps? The British tone; what amp? I always thought, Marshall; but now I'm thinking Vox. Which is it? Surf musc; which amp? I'm not even going to get into guitars, I'll just stick with amps and speakers.


I'm sooo confused ... :confused:


Any help out there, other than recommending I seek psychiatric help that is?

Gotta' geetar... got the amp. There must be SOMEthing else I... "need".
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The problem as I see it, is that there are no easy answers. I had a wall of amps in my studio of many genra and vintage, to try to offer my clients all of the options.


Let's take the conversation to guitars, just because it is easier to make the point.


Strat... Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton. Any commonality? No.


It is easy to say "Fender amps" for surf music, because surf music originated in California, home of Fender amps. Duh. But pull out an Ampeg Gemini or ReverRocket... sounds like surf to me! And Peavey has a huge chunk of 80s country music. But Fender and Ampeg and Gretsch and Gibson amps all were there.


I think that it is a lot like cooking, wherein the chef has as much to do with the tastiness of the end result as the component parts.


I know that Hendrix sounds like Hendrix, even on the acoustic videos. He played a couple of Strats, but he also played a Flying V and other Gibsons, too. I know that I sound like me on any amp, because I diddle the dials until I like what I hear. I sound more like me on certain amps, and I find it easier to get sounds that I like on certain amps. But no matter what I am playing, I play like me so I sound like me. If you play like YOU, it will happen for you, too. If you are trying to imitate others, maybe you need to have their gear and learn their styles, I don't know. That is not what I do.


But there is one truth.... amp companies are not stagnant. There are many many Fender designs (I pick Fender because they are huge and have been around a long time.) and few sound the same. How many different Champ models have there been? How many changes to the circuitr in the Super Reverb? And that is after that configuration was called "The Bassman" and "The Concert"? There were about three or four major changes between 1967 and 1971 in that amp alone.


So it is really hard to generalize.


I know that the Who used HiWatt guitar amps. I tried, and I had to play way too loud for clubs to get a HiWatt to sound like Pete Townsend.


The Beatles used a bunch of different Voxes, and Fenders. By listening, can you tell? Of course not.


If I were to re-build my Wall 'O Amps, it would include a vintage small Gretsch, an Ampeg Jet or Mercury (pre '65), and an EchoTwin, a Fender Tremolux and Vibrolux Reverb, a 50 watt tube Marshall pre-master volume, and some vintage tube Vox like a Cambridge. I'd also have the Danelectro/Silvertone Twin 12, which was huge in the 60s and is probably THE amp on more pop hits than we know.


But today, there are boutique amp builders who are advancing the art, and I really suggest that path to anyone who wants to get a great sound today. I cheaped out with a UniValve, and I am perfectly happy with it. But check with Miles... he's got the knowlege about these amps, like Dr Z, Divided By 13, etc.



"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."


Steve Martin


Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.



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For now, I'd be happy with a Peavey XXL amp with 2 different cabs (2x12 for 'typical stuff', and 4x12 for the brutal shows), a Zoom GFX8 multifx, wah, tubescreamer, volume pedal, and a Ground Control unit to control (nearly) everything in real time onstage.


Just a few axes... my 1992 Ibanez RG560, a Les Paul, Strat with locking tuners, Agile or Ibanez RG 7 string... and maybe that awesome Mike Stern Yamaha Pacifica tele, with action set high enough for slide but still normally frettable. =)


I can't say I'd really have a signature tone, anyway. I like a good clean, shimmery tone, guitar volume controllable overdrive, and nearly endless gain for the bonecrushing s**t. The XXL spits all of those tones out in one amp perfectly, for me. :D

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(Dave, check YOUR Profile/PM's, Dude!) :cool:


Originally posted by Dave da Dude:

"How much does the speaker affect the amp tone?"

Ultimately, it can affect it quite a bit, both as a final 'filter' shaping the overall tone, and as an integral component within the output-section, interacting with the output transformer, the tubes, any negative feedback circuits like presence or distortion suppressing designs (if used in the given amp).




"What speakers were used with these amps?"

...on many better amps- especially since many "classic" tonal recipes were recognized- the designer(s) took the speaker into consideration, and selected one based in part on how it might tailor the overall sound and feel of the amp.


Many classic Fenders used Jensens; it's not much of a stretch to think of them as a good example of an "American" tube-amp speaker. Mosy or all used a seamed paper cone. Many Marshalls and Voxes used Celestions, while classic Hiwatts often had more heavy-duty Fanes. Many or all British speakers (Celestions) used seamless paper cones.


All of these used alnico AND ceramic magnets at various times, and neither is necessarily better or best; they're just different. (For example, many classic "blackface" and "silverface" Fenders used ceramic magnet speakers from various makers, including Jensen and Oxford.) The ceramic versions tend to sound more modern, and in a good way, too- more robust, bigger lows and more presence overall.


Again, often enough a better amp will already have a speaker that was considered optimal for that amp. So don't sweat that untill you've really got everything else sussed-out in your



:idea: Hey, Guitar Player recently had an issue with an article comparing a number of new "Patriot" and "Redcoat" speakers from Eminence, often comparing them to the Jensens and Celestions that inspired the lines. You should read it; if you can't find which issue it's in, lemmee know, I'll look it up for you.


"The British tone; what amp? I always thought, Marshall; but now I'm thinking Vox. Which is it?"

All depends: which "British tone"? The Kinks, the Who, the Beatles? Yardbirds? Peter Green? Clapton? Bluesbreakers? Cream? Led Zeppelin? Jeff Beck? Deep Purple? Black Sabbath? Rory Gallagher? Judas Priest? Iron Maiden?


Voxes, Hiwatts, Marshalls- combos AND "stacks"- even "tweed" and other Fenders and lesser-known European brands... all (and who knows what I'm leaving out) were used. It's more a matter of attitude and deployment- cranked, maybe overdiving the mic(s) and recording-console's input, often heavy compression-limiting at the 'board, present and peaky EQ obtained from any of a number of ways (possibly the least of which would be actual EQ-knobs at the desk, more often amp-settings and wah and "treble-booster" pedals, etc.)...


"Surf musc; which amp?"

Bill put it very well above. And like the Brit thing, it's more about what you do with it than what you do it with. Generally- but not always- cleaner, tighter sounds with more attack. Powerful amps like Fender Twin Reverb and Dual Showman amps, back in the day with closed-back Fender cabs; the trend of that time and place looked towards amps and speakers designed and chosen for more power and headroom to be more "professional" (like Lee/Ellwood's transitional "brownface" Pro Amp 1x15 combo, Dick Dale's favorite Dual Showman cabs with 15" speakers, pedal-steeler's beloved Vibrasonic 1x15).


:idea::idea: If you've made it this far, I think that you should try out some of the better digital modeling preamps out there- through headphones- and tweak and sculpt some sounds with your guitar(s) that YOU like, and then- regardless of the amps claimed to have been "modeled", simply seek out those amps and effects that will enable you to go in the tonal directions you've found there... trust YOUR ears and likes/dislikes.

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?


~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Don't forget that many Fenders were sold with a JBL upgrade (before the 'special designs'...); and it was not unusual to dump the crappy (and blowup-prone) stock Celestions of the early Marshalls with something better. EV, JBL orange backs, Gauss (my favorite in a 10"), even Utah blue backs were common. One of the first 'mods' we took on were speaker swaps, since it was a no-brainer. Beofre you could buy aftermarket pickups, necks, tuning machines, or other parts, and when the only effects were from Vox (everyone else was playing catchup...) ANYBODY could buy different speakers for their amps to change their sound.


Hell, we left them out in the rain to change their response, slit the cones with razors, repaired the cones with nail polish...



"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."


Steve Martin


Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.



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