Posts Tagged ‘guitar cabinets’

Having played with a 1 X 12 for quite some time, which has served me incredibly well for both studio and stage, I had as of late been wanting a bit more bottom end response, especially live, but without sacrificing my ability to naturally cut through the mix when the band is going all out; that is, cut through by virtue of EQ as opposed to volume. I suppose I had just been after a bigger, richer sound.

So I called my close friend Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps – actually several times – to talk about what might work well my Aracom Amps. He’s been testing several different speakers and speaker combinations lately, and who better to strategize with than the manufacturer of my amps? Lately he’s been really big into the Celestion line, and as he knew I love that classic alnico magnet sound, our conversations started turning towards the virtues of the Celestion Gold and Celestion Blue speakers.

I myself had never heard either of those speakers before – well, except for a brief time at a guitar shop through a 65 Amps 2 X 12 – but Jeff has been raving about them, and as he and I like the same kinds of tones, I broke my own rule of auditioning gear before I buy it, and asked Jeff if he could put a cabinet together. He said he could construct a custom one for me but that would take some time, or he had a few Aracom re-labeled Avatar cabs in his workshop and he could load a pair of speakers into one of them. From the title of this article, it’s obvious I went with the latter alternative.

For those unfamiliar, Avatar Speakers has been around for quite some time, and the company is fairly well-established in the guitar and bass community. I used to think they’re a manufacturer, but they’re actually a distributor of cabs as opposed to being a direct manufacturer, so they buy in bulk and have insanely great prices on cabinets, and they’re all great quality.

The G212H Custom is a fantastic cabinet, measuring 21″ H x 28.5″ W x 12 ” D, and made of 18mm 13-ply Baltic Birch. It’s not a small cabinet, but that’s a good thing as its size provides a resonance chamber that really brings out the bottom end – even in a semi-open-back configuration like mine, as shown in the photo of the back of the cabinet to the right.

The build quality of the G212H is excellent. The corners have nickel-plated protectors, and the cab itself is extremely sturdy. The grille cloth is actually screwed in, as opposed to being attached with velcro, and that will eliminate buzzing that can happen with velcro-attached grille cloth.

The only pain that I anticipate with this cab would be swapping out speakers, which I probably won’t do often. But the speakers are front-loaded, which many players prefer, but in order to swap, you have to remove at least two of the corner protectors so you can remove the grille cloth frame from the front of the cab. That’s not really too difficult, but it’s a lot more involved than just unscrewing the speakers like you would from a rear-loading configuration.

As far as speakers are concerned, I’ve had the cabinet configured with a Celestion Gold and a Celestion Blue. The Blue has a nice, smooth, early breakup while the Gold provides a bit more bite on the top-end and a really nice bottom-end response. What a combination! The end result is a slightly scooped tone, and that roomy cab creates an almost reverb-like effect. I’ll have sound clips in the next few days.

Overall, I’m just loving the sound that this cabinet produces. I got my wish for a big, smooth sound for sure!

The Avatar G212H Custom gets a 4.75 only because speaker swapping is a bit of a pain. But from a pure performance standpoint, it gets a 5.0.

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Tonic AmpsFane

I love living in the Silicon Valley. While it might not be considered a “destination” for music and culture like San Francisco, New York, Nashville, and Saint Louis, it is a destination for technology, and for decades has led the world in many of the technological advancements we enjoy today. Having lived in the Silicon Valley all my life, and watching it transform from a largely agrarian economy to the mecca of high-tech and venture capital, one thing has remained the same: The Silicon Valley has a certain magic about it that inspires innovation and invention.

So it is no surprise that there are several boutique amp manufacturers in the area. I’ve written about a couple in the past, namely Aracom Amps and King Amplification, but recently, I hooked up with Tonic Amps, located in Mountain View; less than 10 minutes from my home!

Darin Ellingson contacted me  last week, and invited me to come to his shop. While I knew he built amps, what I didn’t know until I did a bit of research is that Darin is Fane International’s North American distributor for Fane speakers! That got me really interested in Tonic – especially Darin’s cabs. Over the years, I’ve heard so much about Fane speakers, but have never had the chance to hear how they sound. And what great fortune that the North American distributor is 10 minutes away from my house!

In a nutshell, I played through three types of Fanes in 2 X 12 and 4 X 14 cabs: Studio 12L, AXA12, and Medusa 150. Plus, I got a sneak peak at some prototype Fanes Darin is having specially made. Through Tonic cabs, the Fanes sound drop-dead gorgeous! I hooked up three different amps to various Tonic Amps: A Reason Bambino, Aracom VRX18 (tube rectified), and a Tonic Torpedo. No matter what amp I played through, the Fanes sounded crisp, articulate and incredibly dynamic. Folks, this is the way to evaluate speakers. Frequency response charts are useful, but until you’ve got the speakers loaded into a cab, you will never know how they truly perform. Tonic cabinets are absolutely top-notch, and if you’re in the market for a great cabinet, you can’t go wrong with these. They’re all solid wood (no pressboard here), and the dimensions Darin has specified really bring out the best character of the Fane speakers.

What was my favorite? It’s a toss-up between the Medusa 150 and Darin’s prototype that he will hopefully bring into production soon. I love the scooped tones of the Medusa and the mid-ranginess of the prototype. Hmmm… can you say 2 X 12 cab with these in it? HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Dammit! Gave myself GAS again! It’s probably a good thing I can’t afford them right now – I will have to save my pennies. The speakers and cabinets don’t come cheap, but for this tonal quality, it’s worth every penny. You wouldn’t put a great speaker in a cheap cabinet… maybe… No, I won’t even get into that debate… 🙂

Torpedoes Away

Based upon the classic Trainwreck circuitry, the Torpedo is a pedal lover’s wet dream! I played the 50 Watt version, which is powered by a pair of EL-34’s! Folks, we’re talking clean headroom with this amp, with minimal breakup at the top end of the volume sweep. The tone is thick and rich and very well-balanced. I didn’t notice an overabundance in any part of the EQ range… well… it did have just the slightest amount of midrange, but that’s good though, because this amp’s tone will play nicely in a mix.

At any volume level, the amp sounds great, but its true character comes out when you dime the volume and play it through a 4 X 12 cabinet. Throw a couple of pedals in front of it (we used the British Ball Breaker and a prototype GeekDriver/GeekRanger pedal in front of the amp), and the amp’s tone combined with the 4 X 12 will knock you across the fuckin’ room! Can you say wicked overdrive that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? It was amazing to witness!!!

The “Torpedo” moniker is totally appropriate for this amp. It is meant to fire out a shot of gorgeous tone, blow you out of the water, and knock you into tone heaven! Even at the volumes we were playing at, this tone isn’t a face-peeling raucous. Granted, a lot of that quality had to do with the Fane speakers we were playing through, but just as with you not putting great speakers in a shitty cabinet well, you don’t play a great amp with shitty speakers either.

If you live in the Silicon Valley, I encourage you to contact Darin and check out his workshop. It’s set up for jamming, so bring an axe or two! Darin’s even got beer! Though next time I go to his shop, I’ll bring a 12 pack. BTW, he like Tecate. 🙂  For more information, check out the Tonic Amps web site! To get a reference for how great Tonic Amps sound, check out Darin’s YouTube site at: http://www.youtube.com/user/MrTonicAmps.

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Aracom Amps VRX22 - First in the series

Aracom Amps VRX22 and Aracom 1 X 12 Mini-cab

I know, I know… I’ve been singing the praises of this amp and cab for the last couple of months since I got them. But folks, what Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps has put together in the VRX22 is simply magic. I just can’t say enough about how much I love this amp. It doesn’t matter what guitar I plug into it, the VRX22 delivers the goods.

A New Option for the VRX22

I have the standard production model, the first in the series. In its stock mode, I wouldn’t change a thing. But I know there are some vintage gear and tube amp buffs out there that would frown upon the fact that the VRX series in stock configuration has a solid state rectifier. For me, it makes not a bit of difference; I just love the tone.

But for those that require a tube rectifier, Jeff also offers an option of a GZ34 or 5AR4 tube rectifier in place of the solid state rectifier. An A/B test didn’t reveal a tonal difference, but for the purists out there (and by no means do I mean this derisively), this is certainly an option, and a reason why you should consider this amp in your amp evaluations. And here’s another consideration: All Aracom Amps are hand-wired, and cost FAR LESS than equivalent amps. For instance, the VRX line in stock configuration costs $895! That’s unheard of in the boutique market!

Have a Cab, Will Travel

But on top of all that, the 1 X 12 mini-cab that Jeff custom built for me is simply magical as well. Jeff went against the common wisdom of not using a cube shape and porting and such, and built a simple cube shape with a width that exactly matches the width of the amp (about 19″ wide). Amazingly, this cabinet is incredibly resonant. The reason for this is that instead of using 3/4″ board, Jeff opted with 1/2″ board. This resonates a lot more with the speaker, and provides a bass response that adds depth to the output. Granted, I also have an absolutely kick-ass Jensen P12N Alnico speaker, but that cabinet even sounds good with just about any speaker you put in it. Like I said, amazing.

To further demonstrate the versatility of the VRX22 and the Aracom 1 X 12 mini-cab, I recorded a short blues clip using three different guitars, all running straight into the VRX22 with no effects. There are to overlapping rhythm parts panned left and right, and a solo in the middle. For the left pan, I used my gorgeous Prestige Heritage Elite (“Sugar”) plugged into the VRX22. For the right pan, I used my Strat (“Pearl”) plugged into my Fender Champ 600 and ran the speaker out into the 1 X 12 (I didn’t think the Champ could sound this good wow!). For the lead, I used “Sharkie,” my PRS SE II Soapbar with P-90’s in the bridge position straight into the VRX22.

Sorry for the slight mistake in the solo; or as my buddy Phil calls it, a “clam.” But overall, I was just amazed how good Sharkie sounded on that clip. I added a touch of reverb to that track, but made no modifications to the guitar signal at all. It was the guitar plugged straight into the amp.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m not affiliated at all with Aracom. I’m just a faithful customer, and just can’t sing the praises enough for the job Jeff has done!

For more information, visit the Aracom Amps web site!

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