• Carpe Demon

    Taking it to the next level

    Howdy all.

    So I have played for a very long time but unfortunately I really haven't learned a lot about amplification and building a good rig that I could use both for recording and performing.

    As it is I have a Line 6 Spider 3 with a single cab and that is it. I do have a handful of digitech stomp boxes from back in the day, a Metal, a chorus pedal and a few others. Though from what I am reading it sounds like the best thing I can do is use the amp, unadulterated, with an equalizer and perhaps a compression pedal?

    So I guess, moving forward what I would like is to really be able to develop my own sound. As opposed to running the Spider 3, I am essentially using someone's already developed sound. I have an idea of what kind of amp I am leaning towards, I have always been partial to Mesa Boogie, but there are a lot of smaller named stuff out there that are worth investigating, so can anyone offer a helpful recommendation as to what is essential for a pedal board? EQ, Chorus, Overdrive, any distortion or metal pedals at all?

    Any and all help is so greatly appreciated guys, thanks in advance!

    • Norseman

      That is so broad and general. I would say you need to figure out who your favorite guitarists are and what they sound like and what they use for their rig (keep in mind some use completely different stuff in the studio than on the road). Then start to experiment. It could take years (unless money's no object), because you have to keep in mind different guitars, with different pickups, played through different amps, played through different cabs ALLLLLLL have different sounds. So you could take a ESP with EMG's, played through a Mesa Dual Rec out of an oversized Mesa cab, and then change one thing - strings, pickups, whatever ...and it's going to be a different tone. Even you playing that guitar and me playing that guitar with the same setup is going to sound different. IF money IS an object, try visiting music stores and messing around with what they have. Also maybe buy stuff used on Craigslist so if you don't like it you can try and get back what you paid for it. I don't know what else I could say based on what you posted. But good luck, man!

    • Carpe Demon

      Yeah, I know it's pretty broad. I feel kinda dumb even asking about it to be honest. After playing guitar now almost 20 years you would think that's something I would know pretty well. I was so happy when I got my first stack, which was a Marshall MDX100w that I didn't care, I just chained some pedals and was happy, sold that and a few years later got a Line 6 because they had so many artist style channels. Now that I have kinda gotten back in the real groove of creating music I feel the Line 6 is not good for creating a sound.

      As far as amps go I have had that pretty narrowed down to a couple that I think are awesome, I just really want to get a great clean sound. I have always wanted the distortion of Hetfield and the clean sounds of Synyster Gates.

      To narrow down a question, What do compression and EQ pedals do to the sound exactly? I never bothered with them as a kid cause it didn't make me sound heavy, at least that was my ignorance at the time, so I never learned.

      Also, preamps. I understand generally the purpose, are they usually only necessary for recording in studio though or is there benefit to using them whenever possible?

    • Trendkill

      The equaliser pedal fine tunes your sound. Can make it sound pretty heavy. My advice, pick one up. It will add an entire dimension to your current set up.

    • JSHRED

      I have to echo the Norseman. It's just a big question. Like "what is a good car."

      I think the people on this forum could just throw out the names of high gain metal half stacks all day long, ranging from the relatively affordable to the stupidly boutique. Bang for the buck, I still haven't found anything better than my Carvin V3 (for the money), but as with all things it's about taste, style feel, personal preference.

      To answer some of your more specific questions:

      EQ pedals are useful, but whether you're talking about a Stompbox EQ or a rackmount parametric EQ, you have to be pretty careful. You can seriously mess up your tone. And even if you think you have a sound that makes you sound like a METÄL GÖD (complete with umlaut dots) you can get into a live setting and find that your epic scoopiness gets lost in the mix. Yeah, that's advanced stuff, but you are taking it to the next level, after all.

      On the subject of compression, I love some compression. It's just hard to understand the value of it right away without having it explained right. For years and years I always just assumed it was about normalizing volume levels. You know, making the quiet stuff louder and the loud stuff quieter, so you have a more consistent volumetric ouput. While that is true, it's not the REAL value, at least not for me.
      For some reason, compressor pedals are all the rage with the Nashville Telecaster crowd. My guess is that they use it to supercharge clean attack so that all those chickeny little runs POP right out of the amp. Which is cool I guess. Me, I shred leads at super high gain, and my right hand technique is fast and light. I have my compressor set up to supercharge the attack on my picking so that all my hundreds of fast light little notes, even the palm muted ones, are banging hard against the 12AX7 preamp tubes and really just sounding killer.
      If you're mostly a metal rhythm player, compression still has value, but maybe not as drastic as what I use it for. But if you're playing Sanitarium or whatever and switching between clean picking and high gain rhythm, a compressor would be useful for keeping things consistent and "Pro."

      Finally I'll mention OD pedals, since that might be something that someone recommends at some point. I personally like an amp that gives you "Your Tone" with the right amount of gain straight out of the box. But some amps can benefit from an OD pedal, whether it's an Ibanez tube screamer, a BBE Green Screamer, an MXR Zakk Wylde pedal, etc. Keep in mind that these are not distortion pedals that give you your tone, you put them in front of a distorted tube amp to really make it crazy heavy. With some tweaking, sometimes I can give my Carvin V3 a little extra screaming juice by using a Zakk pedal, but you just have to be careful of the extra noise.

      Technically it's possible to buy expensive pedals that are actually the entire distortion tone, and put that into a clean channel, but I've never personally heard any that made me want to trade in a high gain amp.

      If you get to where you're amp shopping, the people here will give you specific opinions, just be prepared for a variety of reactions to any given head.

    • Carpe Demon

      Wow I really appreciate the assistance to this! I know it seems super vague and general and I guess part of me struggles with that. It seems like something I should know by now.

      I suppose amp wise I have always known the amps I could go for to get the tone I seek. Mesa Boogie has always been expensive and subsequently not an option for me. That's not so much the case now. I would really prefer to be able to get the tones I want without any unnecessary pedals. So amps, guitars/pickups and perhaps an equalizer and some sort of wah pedal. I have actually spent like the whole week really looking into amps, pedals and what have you.

      MXR has a 10 band EQ, to which the Kerry King sig was based off of, so I am looking into that, it has a lot of positive reviews, a lot of people saying they will never need another EQ.

      I was looking at some Krank amps, namely the Krankenstein. To my understanding Hetfield used in during Death Magnetic, and ultimately the sound pretty awesome. Blackstar also has a couple of amps that sound pretty great. The Marshall JCM 2000 also seems like a good option. The JCM 800 is a pretty sought after amp and I presume the JCM 2k is it's successor. I also compared the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier and Mark V and I actually like the Mark V better. So that is what I am looking at right now. I am going to test out all the amps I can at Guitar Center tomorrow. I am hopefully getting the EQ pedal this weekend, as a new amp rig will require some saving but at least I can see what I like most.

      My main goal is to try to nail down my own signature high gain tone as well as a very pretty chorus-y clean tone. As I think I mentioned, something in the realm of a Synyster Gates clean tone, think Buried Alive (I love the clean tone on the guitar in that) and a Hetfield high gain tone.

      But really guys, I want to thank you so much for your help. It's awesome.

    • Carpe Demon

      I would like to say this. Guitar Center's (or at least the one near me) has terrible selection. Out of the four amps I wanted to look at, they had one, which was weird because it was the one I thought they probably wouldn't have. The Mark V is a pretty awesome amp. I love the fact that I was just plugged into an amp it got the sounds I love. That being said I do want to try out a Krank, the Marshall and the Blackstar, but they had none of them. All they had were Vox, Fender, Line 6 and Orange amps (aside from the Boogie.) I did pick up the MXR 10 band EQ and I definitely like what it has done to my guitar tone. definitely defines it. I also found an old Synth Wah pedal I can use for an auto wah which gives me a pretty accurate Hammet Wah sound, really dig it for that reason.

    • Norseman

      My turn to echo JSHRED ...I have a Mesa Roadster and a Mesa Solo 50. In my opinion, the Mesa Dual Recs are some of the best amps you could get for the money. Don't feel silly for not knowing this stuff either. Playing 20 years doesn't mean you should automatically know this stuff. I don't profess to know everything. It's always going to be a work in progress for me. I don't see me at some point going: Ok I'm all set ...never have to buy another piece of gear, amp or guitar again. LOL

      I was a Marshall guy for years, but I never had an actual Marshall "tube" amp. I had a MF350 that was loud as fck, but extremely difficult to get a good tone out of. The cleans were horrible, but honestly ...I don't think the cleans out of Mesas are all that great either. Maybe I just don't know how to EQ a good clean tone lol. So I ended up in a band with this guy who plays out of a Mesa Triple Rec. His guitar cut through the mix so much better than mine. I was going to get something like a Marshall JCM, but the day I went to plunk down, I did what you did and played on all different amps at GC. I played the Marshall, Blackstar, and then when I played through the Roadster I was like " aaaah this is the one." I then held off on buying that day. I went home and did some research online and youtube and stuff ...then went back and bought the Roadster. Then I wanted to get a 2X12 cab and ended up buying a used one off Craigslist, but the guy wouldn't sell me just the cab. He insisted on selling me the Solo 50 too. So I bought the rig planning on selling it, but after gigging with it a few times, I ended up keeping it. It's a badass little amp! So who knows how you'll end up finding the amp you want to settle on, ya know? But again ...like JSHRED said: just try as many as you can and don't let anyone pressure you in to buying something. Good luck and let us know what you settle on!

    • Carpe Demon

      Thanks guys, I really appreciate the help. I love this community man, everyone is pretty awesome!

      I will say that it seems like they haven't really made an amp with a good clean and a good high gain. It seem to be one or the other and I can't figure out why. Perhaps there is something mechanical that makes it impossible to do both in a high quality? I am looking up where I can find some place to try a Blackstar and the Marshall I want to try. The Mark V really kicked ass, I felt it made me sound better than I have before but who knows the others could too. Plus 2250 plus whatever a cab would cost kinda is expensive lol.

    • JSHRED

      Well, when it comes to clean, there will usually be a little compromise involved, no matter what you do.

      When you're recording in a studio, I'd say the most common approach is to use your high gain beast for the distortion parts. You may even have one amp for the rhythm parts, and another for the lead parts, depending on how crazy you want to get.

      But for any clean parts, in the studio a lot of guys will get out a Fender Twin (if you want warmth) or a Roland JC-120 (if you want super clean, like Operating Room sterile).

      Of course, lots of pros today are using a Fractal Axe-FX modeling setup for EVERYTHING at home or in the studio, and with good reason. Some even use it live, but most pros record with the Axe FX and then use their favorite tube rig on the road. But modeling gets into another topic entirely.

      My experience is that a good Mesa or Marshall will give you a great gain, and fairly good clean, at least good enough for most gigs. I mean, if anyone is going to praise your live tone, they'll be talking about crushing high gain before even thinking about the clarity of clean passages.

      Among high gain heads, some are better than others for a good clean channel, but in reality none of them are that bad, as long as they have a tube clean channel. Besides, you can always add a little shimmer with chorus, delay, reverb, whatever else, and that might distract from your clean channel not being anything to write home about.

    • Norseman

      Yeap ...J knows his stuff, man. I agree with everything he just said. I use a Boss chorus and Holy Grail Plus reverb to brighten my cleans. Works just fine for live sound.