Posts Tagged ‘amplification’

If you look on my rig page, you’ll see that for my solo gigs, I use the very wonderful Fishman SoloAmp. This is a great, integrated PA that I’ve been using to great success for the past year or so. Very easy to set up, and it has a nice on-board mixer with decent reverb effects (which I never use, since I always use my vocalizer’s reverb). But the other day, I demoed the HK Audio Elements system while I was browsing “The Music Tree” in Morgan Hill, CA. This is an audio system that is similar to the Bose L1, but unlike the Bose L1, the Elements system allows you to expand by adding more “elements” as your audience size grows. Super-cool!!!

Sound-wise, I plugged an acoustic guitar directly into the system, and was absolutely blown away by the sound! While I love my Fishman, and it has served me well, compared to something like the Elements system, a subwoofer really makes a difference, despite the fact that the SoloAmp’s speakers have good bass response.

But honestly, this entry isn’t about the Elements system. 🙂 While trying to get more information online about the Elements system, I ran across another, just-released, integrated PA system from HK Audio called the Sound Caddy One, that is based upon the same audio technology as the Elements system. But with the Sound Caddy One, there are NO parts to put together! The line array is housed within the PA’s body (which also serves as the housing for the subwoofers), and to set up the system, you release the line array, that pops up out of the housing, secure it, plug in, turn on and you’re ready to go! Damn!

Check out this demo video from Musikmesse 2011:

Here are the Sound Caddy’s technical features:

Max SPL calculated 125 dB
Max SPL peak 125 dB
Max SPL 120 dB @10% THD
Output power system 600W Class D
Frequency response +/- 3 dB 49 Hz – 18 kHz
Frequency response -10 dB 42 Hz – 18 kHz
Connections integrated 4-channel-mixer
LF Speaker 3x 6″
Mid/High Speaker 6x 3,5″
Directivity 70° x 15°
Crossover frequency 150 Hz, 12 dB/oct.
Enclosure 15 mm (5/8“), 13-ply (plywood)
Dimensions (WxHxD) 27 x 102 x 34 cm 10-5/8“ x 40-5/32 x 13-25/64
Weight 29 kg / 63,9lbs

Delivering a max 125dB at 600 Watts, this unit can move some air. Some people have said it isn’t powerful enough for their uses, but for a solo musician, this is more than enough power! Also, I have to question the negative feedback because systems like this are all about sound dispersal, getting an even volume anywhere within the sound dispersal cone which, for this system, is 70 degrees. When I first started using a line array system, it took me awhile to get used to the volume seemingly not being as loud. But it’s deceptive with a line array because the sound actually reaches fairly extreme angles, and what you’re trying to do is get your sound dispersed, and not necessarily through volume.

I dig that unlike the Elements system which is pure sound reinforcement, this has an integrated 4-channel mixer, which is an absolute MUST for me. But the only thing that I’d be wary of is the stability of the system. The base seems rather narrow, and I’m wondering how it would fair in windy conditions. In any case, here’s another demo video that demonstrates the sound. The singer aside, even through the camcorder’s microphone, it’s clear that the Sound Caddy One provides some very clear, clean sound.

As for cost, the video above mentioned a price of “2000.” If that’s in German deutsche marks, then the price would be around $1450 USD. That’s not bad, even as an MSRP, which would make the street price even lower. I’ll have to find out more information.

In any case, for more information on HK Audio products, go to: http://www.hkaudio.com.

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In my previous article, I cited the Marshall Shoppers Guide as the definitive resource to help you make a decision in purchasing a Marshall amp, both vintage and modern. In that article, I mentioned that my very good friend, Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps was especially helpful in guiding me towards the type of Marshall amp sound that appealed to me. Jeff specializes in building vintage Marshall-style amps, and in order for him to be able to build those types of amps, he had to acquire quite a bit of knowledge about the vintage Marshalls. On top of that, he’s also a collector, and has an original JTM 45. Niiiiice!

Jeff’s such a great guy in sharing information, and he has written an EXCELLENT article that covers the vintage Marshall amps from 1962 to 1973. It is entitled: “History of Early Marshall Amplifiers.” In the article, he talks about the various Marshall amps and their configurations. It’s lots of information that is really geared towards the collector.

So now there’s another definitive resource on vintage Marshall amps!!!

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Before I got my Les Paul R8, I spent over two years searching; not just for the right deal, but sifting through all the different models. That meant reading lots of articles, joining several forums, and participating in lots of discussions. I’m glad I took the time, but looking back, it would’ve been great to have a single, definitive source for information on the different Les Paul models. It probably would’ve cut my search time by a significant factor!

As if searching for a Les Paul was bad enough, I was also at the same time looking for an amp. Having cut my teeth on the Fender sound, once I started writing and playing more heavy stuff, I started gravitating towards the Marshall camp. Now luckily for me, I met Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps who not only builds vintage-style Marshall-esque amps, he owns several Marshall amps from, including a 60’s JTM 45 that is an absolute tone monster! What a machine! Anyway, he has been my source for Marshall amp information; without him to guide me to the type of sound I was after, I probably would’ve had to resort to my method for finding a Les Paul (Jeff was also instrumental in that camp as he is a Les Paul collector). In the end, the tone I dig from Marshall amps comes from the JTM and Plexi camp. By the way, he’s coming out with a new 50 Watt amp called the “FlexPlex” that includes circuitry for both JTM and Plexi amps, and even has some Dumble-esque features. That’s my next amp!

Circling back to searching for a Marshall amp, I recently came across two articles that include pretty much everything you need to know about the different flavors of Marshall amps, collectively called the “Marshall Shopper’s Guide.” The articles are very detailed, and more importantly, they’re unbiased. Here they are:

Part I: Marshall’s Plexi Era

Part II: Vintage “metal panel” through JCM 2000 Series

To say I was thoroughly impressed by these articles is an understatement. The author, David Szabados, really did a great job with them, and my hat’s definitely off to him for providing such rich information. So if you’re looking for a Marshall Amp, at least in my opinion, there is no better source for getting information on Marshall amps.

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For a long time I was – and pretty much still to this day – an overdrive pedal lover. I have several, and am waiting for my new Paul Cochrane Timmy to be completed and delivered in the next few weeks. I’ve been wanting one of these for awhile now, and finally bit the bullet and got on the waiting list. So excited! But using an attenuator  – specifically the Aracom PRX150-Pro – changed the way I use overdrive pedals.

In the “old days” before I used an attenuator, I used an overdrive pedal to get grind through a clean amp. Early on, I was using my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe that was all about loud, clean headroom, and I couldn’t get the volume above 2 or 3 before it would be just too damn loud; not to mention, the tubes weren’t working that much at all at that level. Yeah, I could crank the volume then set the Master to about 1/2 to get some dirt, but the pre-amp only distortion of that amp never really appealed to me. So I used overdrive pedals to get that soft-clipping on the front-end, and especially looked to pedals that provided a bit of color.

But once I got an attenuator, the entire game changed. I was able to crank my amps to get both the preamp and power amp sections saturated. For a long while, I actually stopped using overdrive pedals altogether because I was getting all the drive I wanted. I still sometimes just go to my gigs with only a tuner pedal and just plug directly into whatever amp I’m using, though I’m now starting to introduce overdrives to add gain stages to my chain.

But that brings me to the crux of this post… I used overdrives because I couldn’t get sufficient grind at reasonable volumes. But once I got a real transparent attenuator like the PRX150-Pro (I had an AirBrake and tested several), I could finally hear what my amps sounded like fully cranked. But here are some things I discovered once I was able to crank up my amps that I’d like to share:

  • I have 8 amps, and with the exception of two, once I cranked them up, I did not like their fully cranked up tone.
  • A common thing that I found among all the amps where I didn’t like their cranked up tone was a certain harshness or in some cases “fizz” that was not at all pleasing to me.
  • As opposed to getting rid of the amps, I swapped tubes and speakers until I was able to balance out their tone. For instance, with my Aracom PLX BB 18 combo, which is a replica of a Marshall 18 Watt Blues Breaker, the cranked tone was horrendously fizzy to me. So I replaced two preamp tubes with NOS Mullard and GE tubes, and to tame the natural brightness of the amp, replaced the stock Eminence Red Fang with a Fane Medusa 150 which really emphasizes the low-end. It’s now gorgeous, and I use that amp regularly!

The point to all the items that I shared was that once I was able to crank up my amps, most of them just didn’t sound all that good. Lots of folks who are new to attenuators complain about different artifacts being introduced by the attenuator, but based upon my experience, I think a lot of those “artifacts” have a lot to do with them never having cranked their amps all the way up. To me, it’s definitely a case of “you may not like what you hear…”

So if you ever do get a hold of an attenuator, and you crank your amp up, if you don’t like the tone, don’t immediately assume that it’s the attenuator. Especially with the latest generation of attenuators that are much more transparent than the traditional ones, the likelihood that they’re introducing artifacts is pretty low. Look to your amp first, and see what you can do to adjust it to deal with its cranked tone. Personally, I’d start with tubes first; especially replacing new production tubes with NOS pre-amps. I know, they’re getting more and more scarce, but I’ve gotten the best results in smoothing out my tone with NOS pre-amp tubes.

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I was answering a comment on one of my videos this morning on YouTube, when I came across a great series on understanding tube amps posted by Old Tone Zone (http://www.oldtonezone.com). It’s a 7-part series, and goes through various features of tube amps. Here’s the first video in the series. If you want to view it with the playlist, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc-78AKIo5A&feature=BF&list=PL2D0A1CC3FC96F1CA&index=1.

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My good buddy Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps (http://www.aracom-amps.com) is in a bit of a quandry. His attenuators have been incredibly successful and very well-received by both amateur and pro guitarists. He actually built the attenuator in the hopes that it would raise awareness of his wonderful amps, of which I own three with a fourth on the way. Unfortunately, it sort of backfired because his attenuators are so great that they’ve completely overshadowed his amps. That’s too bad, because they’re great amps, and they’re all I gig and record with.

So to try to raise more awareness of his products, Jeff compiled a few videos that feature moi, Clint Morrison – who’s a pro player out of Austin, TX – and Doug Doppler. Check ’em out. Clint’s and my videos feature both the PRX-150 Pro or DAG, and Aracom amps.

Yours Truly:

Clint Morrison:

Doug Doppler:

For more information on Aracom Amps products, go to the Aracom website!

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Yeah, I mention it a lot, but I thought I talk about it once again, because it truly has had a HUGE impact on how I approach amps. To me, there’s simply no attenuator on the market that can touch the quality of its sound; well, it doesn’t produce sound of course, but it lets all your tone come through, but more importantly, no matter where you set it, you will always have your dynamics. In any case, I recorded a couple of videos this afternoon, talking about this wonderful device by Aracom Amplifiers.

Part I: Discussion

Part II: Demo

BTW, recorded these clips with an Alesis VideoTrack. Nice little unit. Not sure how long I’ll actually use it because I actually do want a better picture. But for now, it’s great to have an all-in-one solution to get some video out!

For more information on this great attenuator, go to the Aracom PRX150 product page!

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