How To Dial In A Tube Amp

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by AustinCityLimits, Mar 22, 2019.

  1. AustinCityLimits

    AustinCityLimits TDPRI Member

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    Hello TDPRI. I am no good at dialing in amps to get the tones I desire. My brother gave me a VOX ac30cc2 last night and want to get the most out of it. Knowing the wisdom this board possesses, I figured I could get some tips here. Specifically, I want to know how to get a Keith Richards Tone (Monkey Man, Can't you hear me knocking etc) AND a good country Tone (Pete Anderson, James Burton).
    I will be playing my newly aquired 1982 52RI through it. I'm really exited to read your responses!
     
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  2. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

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    A lot of players set all their dials at midpoint and adjust from there to their preference, but that never worked for me. I start with all dials at zero, set the volume first and then fold in the other settings one at a time. That has always worked for me and if it is a Fender amp, the volume is often set at 4...seems to be their sweet spot.

    You could just do the BB King method, dime all the amp controls and use the guitar dials to modify. That seemed to work out pretty well for him.
     
  3. tubedood

    tubedood Tele-Meister

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    That is one of the wonderful things that a tube amp (or any amplifier) becomes... the other half of the sound of our guitar.

    Set the amplifier up a little hot (loud and bright) on the tone and gain, and roll the volume on the guitar down a little... once you find the sound you like you can decide if turning the guitar volume works for you to adjust or if you prefer to dial that sound in at the amplifier and not fiddle with the guitar knobs. I like the guitar volume to control if I want a little more boost by simply turning it up a bit for times I need more.

    Keep us posted on your findings!
     
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  4. Andy Summers

    Andy Summers Friend of Leo's

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    It’s an ongoing process for me. What I thought sounded amazing yesterday just isn’t cutting it today...don’t know why that is, but it’s been my own private little (first world) hell for years.
     
  5. Dixon in Korea

    Dixon in Korea Tele-Meister

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    Hearing is a bit like taste in that what came before influences the perception of what comes after. For example, if you drink wine (or just about anything) right after brushing your teeth, it tastes very -wrong-. It’s generally not that extreme, but your hearing perception is definitely affected by what you’ve already been listening to. Another factor is that things like pressure changes or allergies/congestion can also have a significant influence on how you hear.

    I’ve never used an AC30, so I can’t offer specific setup advice. Just keep in mind, the suggestions you get will be starting points. And it might not sound the same to you tomorrow.
     
  6. jrblue

    jrblue Tele-Afflicted

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    It's not possible to give adjustment specifications verbally. With so many interactive elements, you really do need to develop a process for dialing things in yourself. A couple of good suggestions were listed above. Try them and develop your own ears and rig skills. Guitars, amps and rooms are so interactive that giving verbal instructions online is pointless. It's an undesirable approach anyway.
     
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  7. kelnet

    kelnet Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Textually, on the other, is quite possible. :D
     
  8. gusfinley

    gusfinley Tele-Holic

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    The first thing you need when dialing in a tube amp is new tubes and new speakers..... at least thats what it seems is suggested or done sometimes!
     
  9. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    Bass notes take more power to push out - often the higher you set volume, the more bass and mids you have to pull out to avoid unpleasant distortion. This video is far from the worst way to work it out. Note he starts with treble - that's how I'd do it too



    The way the traditional Fender-Marshall- Vox tonestack works even without a separate preamp gain, the treble control acts like a master EQ control.

    It you set everything at noon it is often not a terrible compromise. But setting the volume to where you want and adjusting treble to where it's cutting but not harsh, then tweaking mids/bass is usually good.

    Sometimes if you raise master volume you have to cut mids/bass from what works at lower volume settings to cut farting. That's why they give you take adjustment range.
     
  10. TokyoPortrait

    TokyoPortrait Tele-Holic

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  11. MilwMark

    MilwMark Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    The way to get really good tones out of an AC30 is to play Wembley with the amp behind plexiglass.
     
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  12. milocj

    milocj Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    One thing to remember with a Vox is that the cut control works the reverse of what you would think, and it works globally across all channels.
     
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  13. teleplayr

    teleplayr Tele-Holic

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    :lol:
     
  14. perttime

    perttime Tele-Afflicted

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    I just heard that SRV:s method was to set everything at 6.
    (His tech would then modify the pots so that it was dimed when everything was at 6)
     
  15. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    Back in the late 70's I was on a similar quest. I was using a blackface Bassman through a 4x12, but desired something more. I visited every music shop in the SF Bay Area. Tried every amp that seemed possible. I played two guitar parts: the intro for "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and the intro for "Luxury". It took about 20 seconds per amp to know if it was gonna work... and most of them did not pass. Until the day I plugged in to an Ampeg V4. It took 20 seconds to say "THIS is the one!"

    I don't recall trying a Vox in those days - they weren't very present on the scene. So I can't give advice, only share memories and appreciate your choice of tone.

    I'm pretty sure you can get close to Pete A and JB with that rig. Don't know about the Keith. The Ampeg had a mid-range select/boost circuit. I can't for the life of me remember how I set it. I remember that it was quite intuitive, and once I set it, that's where it stayed!

    PS: the first 10 seconds of "Dance Little Sister", I used that too!
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
  16. KC

    KC Friend of Leo's

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    AC30 can be a tricky amp to dial in. Try setting everything on the top boost channel at noon, then dial in the master to taste and use the cut control to dial out the "blizzard of nails" effect. Cool so far? Probably doesn't sound much like Keith yet. Try dialing up the treble & down the bass (not much -- one o'clock and eleven to start) & goose the channel volume. This seems backwards but seems to work for me. Now give it some volume on the master & dial back the guitar volume. Getting closer? Hope so. back off on the cut if its still too bright. And you may need some volume for the amp to sound right. AC30 is not at its best at bedroom levels.

    Now replace the reverb tank and you're in business!
     
  17. Obelisk

    Obelisk Tele-Afflicted

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    There is no recipe for properly dialing in a guitar amp One has to do it by trial and error. Being a bit of distance from the amp helps get perspective of what the amp is sounding like for most of the world. If you are trying to get a guitar tone while sitting next to it, you miss how its sound is dispersing into the room. With that being said, a Vox AC-30 might not get the tones you are looking for unless it is turned up a bit. This might be impractical for where you are using it. The Vox AC-30 also works better with a treble boost pedal in my experience. One sets the amp up to be on the edge of overdrive then kicks it up a notch with a Rangemaster type boost pedal. That has been a successful sonic recipe for as long as I have been alive.

    I don't know much about Pete Anderson except that he is monster player and a hell of a producer. I do know that a Vox AC-30 is a finicky amp. Though not quite to the same level of a Hiwatt(my personal favorite), the Vox is a pretty unforgiving amp in that it magnifies a player's mistakes. That is one reason they became prized amps for the guitar players who really want to be articulate in their sound, but that comes with some acknowledgement that a player really has to work the amp to get there. Country pickers love the Vox platform for their ability to sound clean when driven hard which would be why Pete Anderson would have gravitated towards them. Though I have never owned one, I have recorded a bunch of them. The Vox AC30 is definitely an all time classic. Besides The Beatles, I really think of Brian May when I think of the AC30. He probably relied on them more for his sound in Queen than The Beatles did who ended up using many Fender amps among others.

    With that in mind, the Vox never really overdrives quite the same as a 6V6 based amp. Some of Keith's best recorded sounds would be using a tweed Champ or Harvard which are worlds different than an AC30. When I think of Keith's sound, he is more likely using 6V6 and 6L6 based amps after the late 60's. In fact that was probably happening earlier as The Stones recorded a bunch of stuff on their early US tours. Many of those recordings use whatever amp was around the studio they were in which were often Fender amps. For sure live Keith has been using Tweed Fender Twins and Bassmans for quite some time now. Most of the 70's stuff was Ampeg based for live with smaller amps used for recording. With Keith's abilities, he makes most any amp sound like Keith. He's always going to be the most important part of the signal chain regardless of what amp or guitar is being used.

    James Burton is very much associated with Fender amps for most of his career. With Elvis he used a Twin Reverb live, but I think of a 64 Deluxe when I think of James Burton's recorded tones from the 60's. His website claims he used a Vibrosonic for some of his work with Ricky nelson. While you can get some great country tones from Vox amps, they are more of latter day addition to the country pickers catalog of amps. US amp companies didn't use them much in the 50's-80's. I came up playing in the late 70's and 80's, and the EL84/6BQ5 was thought of as Hi-Fi tube. They really don't break up the same as the other more conventionally used power tubes(6V6, 6L6 or EL34). It's not that they don't get to a state of harmonic overdrive, it's just always a bit more crisp and somehow Hi-Fi.

    Keith definitely did some time with Vox AC-30 for some of the early days of the Stones. Pretty much all of the UK bands used a Vox AC amp at some point. The Stones had their endorsement deal with them that was later changed to Ampeg for the 69 US Tour. You would have to look through the recording locations to speculate when Keith may have been using a Vox AC30 for recording. By 67, you start seeing way more Fender amps around studio shots for The Stones, but they also used the Vox that had the solid state front end with tube output for a bunch of Their Satanic Majesties Request(I forget the Vox model-2000 Light Years From Home is an example of the mid boost distortion circuit of that series). For sure the the V4 is a Keith touchstone for his live sound of most of the 70's. The Ampeg VT40 would be the amp that Mick Taylor used on many tracks for The Stones. In fact he is still using them when he plays with them live. Great amp that is heavy as sin.
     
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  18. RadioFM74

    RadioFM74 Tele-Afflicted

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    Sorry to be of no help with Voxes and Keef. My .02$ is: really believe in “set it with your ears, not your eyes”. If you really listen (it’s difficult!) you’re bound to find the sweet spot!
     
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  19. bumnote

    bumnote TDPRI Member

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    For the last couple of decades Keith's main amps in the studio have been Champs and Harvards, and he plugs into input 2 (low gain input) for both single coil and HB's. Pretty sure he dimes out the volume and uses the guitar's volume and tone controls for adjustments.
    In the earlier days Vox AC30's, AC100, Supremes and Fender Concerts, Showmans and Twins were commonly used in the studio and for "Let it Bleed" too. "Gimme Shelter" was played thru a solid state Triumph Silicon 100, and Keith was using a Maton SE777 hollow body for most of the album, probably what he used for Monkey Man since it's what he used for Gimme Shleter and Midnight Rambler. The neck pickup fell out of the guitar at the end of Midnight Rambler and he's never fixed it.
    On "Can't You Hear Me...", according the excellent book "Rolling Stones Gear", Keith's playing his Black Beauty Les Paul and Taylor a 355, what type of amp isn't listed, probably an Ampeg. Taylor said a tight echo effect was used on the guitars.
    If you really want a great book that runs down all The Stones gear,
    "Rolling Stones Gear" is a great read. It's the ultimate in guitar porn.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
  20. Shuster

    Shuster Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Brother, I hope you work out your settings, and I really need to get a new set of friends and acquaintance's!!!
    I mean, one guy gives this guy a guitar or an amp, or my cousins cousin gave me a drum kit, my brother just gave me a sweet amp another guy gets a 4000 PRS as a employee bonus!! WTF,,,
    guess I'll just keep fishin my pot hole:(
     
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