Help Me Sound Rad: Gain Staging on an AC15c1

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Veeseaczar, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. Veeseaczar

    Veeseaczar TDPRI Member

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    So for awhile I've been trying to solve a problem that seems *juuuuuuust* out of my grasp.

    I am the only guitar player in my 5 piece band. Our style is punk/emo/indie at most basic DNA. I say that to give you an idea of what I have to play: sometimes dreamy, sparkling arpeggiations, sometimes aggressive, send-it-to-the-rafters strumming. Usually in the same song.

    I have been trying to find coax an overdrive sound out of my AC15C1 that can both speak articulately and also roar when it has to. My single notes (even on the low end) need to be clear and jangly, my strumming has to hit you in the gut. But I find myself at an impasse: set my rig to be articulate, my strumming sounds strident and harsh. Set it to full throated roar when chording, the single notes fail to shimmer and pop, while riffs on the bass strings sound farty.

    So to summarize, my goals:
    Find a setup with my existing tools that is both articulate *and* huge-sounding, or that lets me slide between those two modes in a cohesive way. (i.e, I want the sounds to be related to each other, not living in different worlds).

    Relevant Gear:
    Semi-hollow p90 Tele
    Spark Booster (either clean boost or mid boost setting. Can't decide.)
    Xotic SP Compressor (mostly use this as a preamp. I like its sparkle)
    MojoMojo OD (doesnt seem to play nice with the AC15, so right now its off my board)

    Amp settings (at base, I like these):

    Top Boost Volume @ 10:30
    --Bass 10 o'clock ish
    --Treble 1-2 o'clock ish

    I noticed that out of the whole rig, the Vox itself has the best sounding overdrive. Its very coherent. I had the idea of using the pedals to push Vox's preamp further into drive territory. That's yielded much better results than using a drive pedal to get the sound, but its still not totally there. I still experience either overly harsh high end, or muddy low end. Sometimes, depending on the EQ, both.


    Help.


    Also I will answer any questions that will help clarify.

    And thank you.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  2. Veeseaczar

    Veeseaczar TDPRI Member

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    Simplification: I need a Twinkle mode, a Jangle Crunch rhythm mode, and a Big Ol' Slapper mode. Preferably, Twinkle mode and Jangle Crunch mode would be the same, the main difference playing dynamics.

    For reference, I point now to equal parts latter day Green Day (much cleaner sound than you think), Jimmy Eat World (Clarity, Futures) Mew (No More Stories), Blink-182 (Blink-182)
    Gin Blossoms, and The Goo Goo Dolls.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  3. dogmeat

    dogmeat Tele-Afflicted

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    maybe a different OD pedal... or maybe 2. I like "The Archer" for clean with just a bit of grit... the kind of sound that is "your guitar" but just a little bit more. other favorit is "The Dude"... it's more fiddly to dial in but its got the tones. good touch sensitivity too
     
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  4. Mark the Moose

    Mark the Moose Tele-Meister

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    FWIW, I don’t know anyone who loved the MojoMojo. For me and a bunch of guys I’ve worked with, it was always almost good. I like a Timmy, it’s flexible enough to sound good with anything and it has a wide gain sweep.
     
  5. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Friend of Leo's

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    I can’t speak to the specifics of your goals or rig, but an EQ pedal might help with the frequency problems you are having. I realize it isn’t part of your existing rig as you asked, but they are very inexpensive. They are great tools that can be used as both an “eq sculpted” boost/cut, or a flat boost or cut as well.

    Do you ride your guitar’s volume and tone knobs? I have found lots of great uses for them once I realized they were there!

    I would suggest you look into a wet/dry rig for “dirt with clairity” but that would require more expensive, additional equipment. Good luck!
     
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  6. stnmtthw

    stnmtthw Friend of Leo's

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    The best OD I've found for my AC15 is a regular, boring old Boss SD1. Drive knob down, level knob up, tone knob on the pedal at about 11:00 with the bass and treble on the amp set up like the OP's. Weird but true. And of course, your mileage may vary.
     
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  7. GuitLoop

    GuitLoop Tele-Meister

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    You didn't mention it so thought i would...The tone knob on your guitar can be a great tool to tame or scale back any harsh high end you may hit. The bonus is you can adjust it easily on the fly if your ear doesn't like what it's hearing.

    The only issue I can see in relying purely on the amp for overdrive is it can box you in on volume. This is all personal preference but I prefer pedals for drive so I can achieve my desired drive in a wider range of volume...and even on a wide collection of amps.
     
  8. stnmtthw

    stnmtthw Friend of Leo's

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    Another thing to consider that might help tame the high end would be switching from P90s to Humbuckers.
     
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  9. GuitLoop

    GuitLoop Tele-Meister

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    I should also mention I have 3 OD pedals that provide me with varying levels of OD...and also produce interesting results when used in combo.
     
  10. Veeseaczar

    Veeseaczar TDPRI Member

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    Re: Eq pedal
    Yeah that makes sense, and is why I currently have the Spark Booster, granted it only has a two band eq. If you mean basically a Boss EQ pedal, I'll look into it.

    Re: Wet/Dry
    I have definitely dreamed about having a Fender Princeton and an ABY box for this reason.


    Re: Knobs
    Frequently. Though given that we move a lot on stage, the more I can set and forget, the better. I'll grant you that I can build a more active awareness of those circuits. I definitely like the way the guitar sounds with the volume pots back at 8 ish. The tone is weird because the P90s are kinda dark, so I've always figured I'd need all the top end I can get.

    That's definitely the challenge. though I have toyed with the idea of solving this by setting the amp super dirty and loud, and then using the pedals as gates ahead of it.... so, by turning the pedals *off*, the rig opens up and starts to roar.
     
  11. Veeseaczar

    Veeseaczar TDPRI Member

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    I definitely *need* the high end in many scenarios though.
     
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  12. Veeseaczar

    Veeseaczar TDPRI Member

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    Man I'm really considering the whole tone knob thing now...

    Now I have to go play with the interaction between the guitar's tone control and the Tone Cut control on the Vox for like 4 days.

    Jesus.
     
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  13. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Here's what I'd suggest:







    .
     
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  14. 1300 E Valencia

    1300 E Valencia Friend of Leo's

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    I try to dial in a clean or almost-clean sound first. I use clean Fender amps rather than Vox (gotta get one though!), but if possible, set the amp to get the *Jangle* when the guitar is turned up, then *Twinkle* when you back off the guitar volume.

    A compressor with a tone control to add some sparkle might help, although you's need to hit a pedal to go between the two rhythm tones.

    But! Generally, guitars get darker when you turn the volume knob down, so maybe that's another option, or maybe assign one pickup for *Jangle* (bridge?), and the neck for *Twinkle*. Use the Sparkle boost as a treble boost for *Twinkle*?
    Just spitballin' here.

    I find once the cleans are dialed in, I can use a variety of pedals (with their own tone controls) to get crunch and lead tones. And, at various volume levels. There are a couple tunes we play the require a fat, cranked tone but at quiet back-up levels, and pedals seem to work for me. If you have to crank the amp for a saturated lead sound, it's more difficult to tame it for semi-clean *Jangle*.

    Free advice! Worth every cent!
     
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  15. Veeseaczar

    Veeseaczar TDPRI Member

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    So I don't know if this is a quality of P90s in general or has something to do with bar magnets, but this guitar doesn't get less toppy when I turn the volume down. It actually seems to get less mid range. Its gets, as it were, janglier. Also I tend to almost uniformly use the middle position, and bias the volume controls slightly to the bridge. The mid-range presence there helps cut through our dense mix. Also, the demure character of the middle position suits us best. We're a punk band, but we're a *romantic* punk band.
     
  16. Veeseaczar

    Veeseaczar TDPRI Member

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    Also guys, provided that this models scales as the master volume increases, I rolled several suggestions into a meta-solution that I *think* solved the issue.

    Current chain: Spark Boost > SP Compressor > Vox
    Settings: Spark--Treble boosted a bit, bass cut a bit, volume maxed; SP Comp--Volume set at 3/4 Amp level. No Comp; Vox--Top Boost volume set at noon, quite pushed. Master wherever is appropriate.

    Notes: Basically, with all the pedals off (the base, unaltered tone), the amp is really cracking and mid-heavy, very classic rock. Adding the SP puts in top end and brings the level *down* (gain stage 1, Twinkle). Engaging Spark Boost drives the lower gain sound into saturation (gain stage 2, Crunch). Lifting the SP out of the loop has the Boost (hot) going into the Vox (also hot) for a huge, climactic sound (gain stage 3, Finale)

    Also, I rolled the tone of the bridge pickup down to like 7. It's a very subtle difference, but it took shrillness out. Definitely gonna pay attention to how the guitar volume effects each stage. But the simpler the better. I have to sing harmonies and play percussion parts man. Too busy to tapdance.


    Anyone else ever try that? Using the pedals as *limiters* in front of your amp, and getting more volume by removing them from your chain?
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
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  17. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    EQ pedal, roll off the bass. That's what bass players are there for. Five piece?, keyboards too?. Keyboards do bass too. Boost the mids a little. Less bass = less fart. You'll still be heard.
    Try a volume pedal that has presets for the sweep.
    An AC15?, are you ragging it volume wise?. There's only so much a pair of EL84 can do. While the amp may sound quite glorious when cranked, there won't be much left to play with. Do you mic through the PA or is the amp competing. If the former, turn the amp down and let the headroom through while the PA does the lifting. Get some headroom back. If the latter, try using an amp stand.
    What gain/volume settings are you using on the amp?, may help generate some ideas.
     
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  18. Veeseaczar

    Veeseaczar TDPRI Member

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    See most recent post for some more details. And to your credit, recently when we were at practice, I rolled the bass out of the amp and all the sudden, I could hear the guitar clear as day, and the bass guitar snapped into place too.

    I generally try to elevate the thing.

    Also, not ragging the amp for being quiet at all. Mostly worried that the solutions I'm finding rn only work when the amp is at quiet volumes. I prefer the sound of the thing blended between pre-amp and power-amp saturation, but at my current test volumes, the pre is taking care of most of the amp tone.

    No man, that thing is hugely loud when you turn it up all the way. Granted, the bass cab could probably eat it for breakfast wattage wise, but it can def blast. I generally have it mic'd if we can arrange it, which is usually. But from there its a question getting that full tone for the big parts that can only come from the amp's master being cranked high... the pre-amp, as you said, lacks headroom. Once you get it sounding good, there's little room left to go.

    Current Settings:

    TB, Volume 10:30-12 o'clock ish. Master 7:30 o'clock ish (low for testing) Bass (now) at 10 o'cl or less, Treble up around 1:30-2
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  19. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    'Ragging it' may have different meanings around the world :) My fault. 'Ragging it' in the sense this cave-dweller was using it does not mean doing it a disservice, it means working it very hard. Cranking it up, doing a Spinal Tap with the controls. Running it ragged = running it toward the upper end of its capabilities power wise. It's a colloquial thing.

    You may find swapping out the first valve for something lower gain helps too. It seems paradoxical. A 5751 or 12AY7 gives finer control over the pre-amp stage, yet will still get to full-on grind levels if so desired. This can allow less pre-amp/more power stage balance and gives you a little wiggle room. Valves are fairly inexpensive and just plain nice to collect.

    Another thing to consider is we hear things differently at different volumes. Getting that sweet, sweet sound at home-acceptable volumes, then just turning the volume up at practice rarely works. The gain stage interactions are different, Fletcher-Munson effects come in and it all gets a little messy. Although not perfect, an attenuator may help here. It'll allow you to run your 'out and about' settings at home. You'll not get the speaker interactions and Fletcher-Munson does come in to play, but the guts of the amp will be working as if you are.

    Swerve alert!. One of the best things I learned is that on stage sound does not equal front of house sound. A cheap wireless system between your guitar and pedals ( or long, high quality cable ) during setup allows you to go to the back of the room to hear what you actually sound like to others. This really helped me set the amp in the mix.

    There are many ways to skin a cat.
     
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  20. Veeseaczar

    Veeseaczar TDPRI Member

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    Or a stupidly long cable.


    Thanks for the information though. I'll look into different V1 valves.

    And sorry. I committed the first American sin of assuming by default that you're American too.

    Ragging here--also running it ragging, working it hard, but has the connotation of criticizing it--being worked hard psychologically. Americans are very feelsy.

    I keep editing this:
    It's fair to say that my "sin" and the colloquial understanding of that mutually held English phrase would seem to indicate that America as a culture suffers from pervasive and naive narcissism.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
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