Hidy-ho fair blog neighbors and a big-ol’ southern Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you! Before going any further, watch this awesome video to put you in the proper mood:
Wow! How about that??? Keith Richards sharing a mic with George Harrison! Like I said … WOW!
I pen these words the day after Thanksgiving, and maybe it’s just the Turkey talking, but I’m feeling awfully thankful. I’m Thankful for my family, thankful for the music that flows through me, and most of all I’m thankful to be living in the USA. Oh, and for all of you out there that may be in the market for a speaker upgrade, you have something to be thankful for, too: THE WGS BLACK FRIDAY till CYBER MONDAY SALE, 2013 … just use code WGS2013 at checkout!
feeling thankful now?
See ya next week with my super-cool, super-long Fender Supersonic speaker shootout.
According to the folks at Fender, the Hot Rod Deluxe (HRDX) is their best-selling amp of all time. So while there are plenty of folks who diss the amp . . . obviously there are many MORE who like the amp enough to actually buy one!
What’s up with that? Seriously, is it a great tube combo or not? If not, what can be done to MAKE it great? A quick Google search returned plenty of “mods” that various folks have tried, with varying success. The average user, however, isn’t going to be qualified to actually whip out a soldering iron and start swapping resistors and capacitors. Bringing the amp to a tech to “mod” it could easily cost more than the amp itself! Ah, but WE know that NOTHING can alter the tone of an amp like the SPEAKER, so let’s look at a speaker upgrade. I always say: Change your tubes or your strings and you’ll see a SLIGHT tonal change … but change your speaker and you’ve got an entirely new amp! So, let’s get to crackin’.
I did one of my infamous, monsterous, totally epic speaker shootouts, and I hope you will take the time to watch all 37 minutes of it. But hey, if ya ain’t so Inclined, I totally understand (Shoot even I can’t take that much of ME sometimes). If ya want the end result here it is:
The Reaper HP was the winner. Several models were very nice in different ways, but the Reaper HP just plain excelled in bringing what the HRDX was missing while retaining what’s already great about the amp. So there, if ya wanta go the whole 9-yards, here is the video:
in case the vid doesn’t display for ya, here is the direct link: http://youtu.be/fvjkdK7KW6Q
See ya all next time around. I’m finishing up another big honkin' shootout with my Supersonic 22 … with a little luck it’ll be ready to go next!
"Big" Al Anderson, real-life guitar hero!
For going on 15 years now I have taught audio, acoustics, and sound engineering at a local college. As part of my introductory day-one lecture, I always make the statement
“I’m going to teach you the rules. Once you have learned the rules, I fully expect, and in fact hope that you will go out and break them”.
In any discussion of guitar tone, this exact same statement can be made. Perhaps nowhere is the statement that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” more applicable than in the hazy, nearly intangible, and oft hotly debated realm of guitar tone. Case in point: a dozen or so years back I had the opportunity to engineer and produce famed NRBQ guitarist “Big Al” Anderson. Al, who really is in fact VERY big, showed up with a vintage PLASTIC guitar, a ¾-size model made for first-time beginners on a tight budget. Between you and me, it was a piece of crap deluxe. Now I don’t know how you would have felt in this situation, but I was a bit, no … make that a lot, concerned. To make matters even more interesting, Al had the little plastic guitar-like thingy tuned down a full step. Those strings were just a flappin’ in the wind; intonation was nonexistent. What the heck?
Then he played.
The dark grey clouds parted and the light of shear rapture flooded my very person. To this day, I couldn’t tell you just exactly how he did it, but Al had used his considerable talent and decades of experience to accomplish something I doubt any other guitar player could. He took everything that made that little toy guitar sound like crap and used it to his ultimate advantage. Every single imperfection, tempered with God-given talent, road-dog experience, and hard work, added up to one seriously cool, totally unique, and absolutely PERFECT guitar sound. But that’s just one obscure example of a much bigger truth: Most, if not all guitar heroes did not obtain their iconic tones by following anyone’s example.
It is generally accepted that if you want to “sound” like Stevie Ray Vaughan, you probably should play a Strat (mostly avoiding the bridge pickup) through something like a Fender Super Reverb or better yet a VibroVerb if ya got the coin. Throw in a pair of Tube-Screamer style over-drive pedals and a cry-baby and there you are. Cool tone? Yea, I think so, but it’s HIS tone. What’s YOUR tone? If this is something you have never seriously contemplated, you are far from alone, most players never REALLY do. We spend so much time trying to nail someone else’s holy-grail tone that we lose sight of the fact that folks like Scotty Moore, Ry Cooder, Chuck Berry, Chet Atkins, James Burton, Jimi Hendrix, and Eddie VanHalen , didn’t really sound like ANYBODY else. That’s exactly WHY we know their names, and that the mere mention of their names instantly causes guitar players to “hear” in their mind the mentioned player’s iconic tone and style.
Not yet convinced? Kurt Cobain, Tony Iommi, The Edge, Mark Knophler, BB King, I should stop, but I can’t. Billy Gibbons, Jack White, Angus Young, Brian May, David Gilmour. Seriously, you heard it, right? All those wonderful, Iconic, yet very different “holy grail” tones. Plenty of other blogs, articles, and various gushing love-fests have been written on how to achieve the tone and/or style of all the afore mentioned guitar players. By all means, read all of them you can! Learn the rules of tone as written by those who made the rules. Then flatter those Guitar-Gods of yore by not simply COPYING what they did, but by actually DOING exactly what they did: Break all the rules. In so doing, you may just find YOUR own personal holy-grail tone.
Les Paul through a Marshall? Cool tone, but you are most certainly not going to stand out from the crowd with that tone, more like blend in. Montgomery Wards Airline through a Silvertone Amp? Cool idea. Been done. Come on, you’re a GUITAR PLAYER, a creative person by nature. Use that creativity. Don’t think in terms of “hey I remember when I heard fill-in-the-blank guitar superstar do this weird crazy thing … maybe I could try that”. No! Challenge yourself to come up with what’s NEVER been done. Yea, I know, that’s like trying to come up with a never before played super catchy riff on the low E and A strings. I didn’t say it was easy, just that the rewards could be great.
In my little blues trio, I’ve been playing a traditional mountain dulcimer on a song or two … through a unique proprietary condenser element pickup. I can honestly say that I have never, ever heard that sound in a blues band before. Neither have most of the audience members we encounter. And it’s not just “weird” either, it’s cool. Seriously. When I wail away on my Strat all up on the neck-pickup doing my best SRV, I might get a few claps and hoots but when I start strumming the dulcimer I almost instantly hear the noise of the room die down as everyone stops what they are doing to actually LISTEN to that SOUND. And afterwards the place erupts in applause. In those moments I think I know how Jimmy Paige felt when he first pulled out a bow on his Les Paul, or how Tony Iommi felt when folks first heard the growl of his tuned-down guitars. Shoot, I’ll go ahead and say that I even know how Big Al felt when he whipped out his little plastic guitar. I understand that little sparkle in his eye when he pulled that thing out. He knew something that I did not. He knew that I was going to be totally and utterly blown away, and that he was going to be the one to do it. It doesn’t get any cooler than that.
Yessiree! Here is a blog I promised a few weeks back. Sorry to make you all wait for this COOL story.
It all started with a craigslist post offering four original speakers from a vintage Fender Super Reverb Amp. Of COURSE I wanted THOSE! Everyone who knows me knows I’m both a speaker nut AND I love, love, love Super Reverbs.
So I phone dude and he explains that all four are in good condition. “Humm, so why are you replacing them then?” I ask. “Well, they sound good, but kind of fart-out when pushed on the low end and plus I’m going on a major tour and needed something I don’t have to worry about blowing”. “Ahh” say I … “and what did you choose as replacements?” That’s where it got really good in a hurry.
“There’s this speaker company called WGS” dude tells me. And then he starts a truly evangelical passionate speech about how much he LOVES WGS. I never, ever get tired of hearing that stuff, but I had to explain who I was and that he was “preaching to the choir” as the saying goes. So it can be said that we got off to a splendid start! Dude’s name is Brett Ashes and his band is Ranch Ghost. If you haven’t, you NEED to check them out. Cool, cool, COOL Stuff.
Turns out that he hired amp tech John Capito to do some fine-tweaking on the Super. Of course, like all in-the-know amp guys, John is a WGS fanatic. John recommended four G10C/S speakers in the Super, and Brett says he’s happy as a clam with the results. Personally, I would have went with a pair of ribbed cone G10’s along with the two smoothies … and Brett says he just MIGHT try that someday … but for now, he ain’t changing a thing!
Seriously, ain’t that a super cool chance meeting? The WGS Gospel is spreading like crazy! Here are some pics of Brett and his extra-super Super:
This is an awesome day to be me … because I get to announce to the world that two of the most requested new models are available NOW!
The G12Q is near and dear to my heart; up to now, it was a model that was only custom-produced in extremely small quantities. Sweet, full, big, rich, expressive, touch sensitive. Yea, it’s all that. This speaker has been taking the breath away from everyone who hears it … and it ultimately won my 1967 Deluxe Reverb shootout!
The ET-90, in fact an ET65 with a Heavy magnet. This speaker has been heavily requested, and limited to only a few custom-produced models for uber-famous guitar-slingers. As any regular reader of this blog knows, the ET65 is one of my very favorite WGS models. However, every now and then I discourage someone for using one, even if the tone is EXACTLY what they are looking for. Why? Because the ET65 is a medium magnet speaker; so, for some folks who want maximum SPL sensitivity or clean headroom, it might not be a good choice. The new heavy-magnet version will change all that.
It’s a good day indeed!
Hi fellow lovers of guitars, amps and … SPEAKERS, of course! This blog is gonna be a blast for me to write and for you to read, too … I PROMISE! Ever wanted a one-of-a-kind vintage rig that you and you alone possess? Option A: spend BIG bucks working with a custom manufacturer. Option B: find some groovy 1960s home stereo speakers and make it yourself BAYBE! (Imagine that last sentence in the shagadelic voice of Austin Powers).
Recently the always groovy Brad Sample took a pair of vintage high-end Fischer stereo speakers and repurposed them into 1x12 guitar cabinets … and it got me to thinking: why not? I mean, really … why not? Totally awesome vintage stereo speakers are available everywhere these days. Garage sales, junk shops, flea markets, and Uncle Albert’s attic; they are everywhere! Coolest part: they pretty much give them away. Big speaker cabs just ain’t in vogue anymore. Folks want cute as a button little “satellite” speakers in there homes these days. But in the 60s, big beautiful cabs ruled! The 1969 Fischer cabs Brad used are a prime example of good quality vintage stereo speaker cabs. They were made of quality components and put together in America by workers whose give-a-damn was properly functioning. These cabs left the Fischer factory sporting CTS Alnico 12” woofers, a pair of cone midrange drivers in their own sealed-tube compartments, and a big soft-dome tweeter. Ah the joy of such speakers playing vinyl and powered by a McIntosh tube amp. Sonic nirvana! And so it was a sad day that found these previously glorious cabinets destined for the garbage heap. Until our hero showed up to rescue them.
If you don’t know Brad Sample, you should. Having spent time on the road and in the studio with artists like Joe West, Alice Cooper, Color Me Bad, Vince Gill, Kerrie Roberts, Ricky Skaggs, Brett Eldredge, Kerrie Roberts, The Drew Davis Band, Sarah Davidson, The Peasall Sisters, The Telecommunicators, and a bunch more, he’s a bona fide super-picker. BUT! He’s also a seriously “outside the box” kinda thinker; his work with his own band, Run With Bulls, is a prime example of this, check them out if you have not yet done so.
So here is exactly what Brad did: 1. Removed all the original speakers and crossover components from the Fischers. 2. Installed dual parallel 1/4" jacks in place of the original positive & negative banana plugs, while retaining the original Fischer jack plate, and its inherent vintage aesthetic mojo.
3. Installed a WGS Retro 30 in one cabinet, for a full-bodied well-rounded cab with lots of highs and lows; and an ET65 in the other to add in some warm and wholly vintage midrange.
4. As of this writing, Brad is experimenting with using the midrange and tweeter baffle cutouts for various porting schemes. The 4” tubes that previously housed the midrange drivers and the square tweeter opening provide quite a plethora of options.
The rig, complete with the original Fischer grill cloth and logos and powered by a Burriss Royal Blue, took her maiden voyage on a festival tour with Kerrie Roberts. It made quite a splash, too! Other artist’s guitar players also choose to play through this unique retro-mod rig, with accolades abounding. Cool, huh? Next week I’ll tell the tale of a super tone-tweakers Super-Reverb adventure. It’s a SUPER (get it) story, y’all come back now.
As I write today’s blog, the Memorial Day holiday weekend is just beginning. Here in the southeastern United States high temperatures are running nearly 100°F, and so it almost feels more like the Fourth of July! My little rock ‘n roll band is gearing up for an outdoor show in an airplane hangar. It’s going to be hot. But man oh man is it going to be awesome!
I love holidays, and I love the United States of America. I know many of you reading these blogs are not Americans. Whoever you are and wherever you are, my wish for you is that you have received all of the amazing opportunities that I have received. The American way of life is truly fantastic. From my childhood years growing up on a farm, to my years as a young man playing in rock ‘n roll and country bands, to my current life as a Nashville music guy; it cannot be said that I have left the opportunities afforded by the American system of freedom slip through my fingers. I have milked freedom for all it’s worth, and the rewards have been great. Again I say, wherever it is that you are reading this from, I truly hope that you have had the freedom to be all that you can be.
Please forgive me if I’m sounding a little bit overly romantic towards the American way of life, on national holidays it’s easy to feel that way.
Now please don’t misunderstand me. I am well aware of the historical failures both of America as a country as well as some of America’s citizens individually. We are after all a country of… Well… People, and people can be unpredictable. Some are good, some are bad, and some fall in the middle. In fact, the Memorial Day holiday officially began on May 5 of 1868, right on the heels of one of America’s darkest moments: the American Civil War. Personally, I sure am glad that those on the side of freedom for ALL MEN were the victors in that little disagreement. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day was set aside as a day of remembrance for those who died in the nation’s service. That’s important, and it’s usually forgotten these days. The Civil War is now a century and a half behind us. World War I is now a century in the rearview mirror. And even in the case of World War II, there are very few people alive today who can personally remember it.
We must remember.
The classic line is “those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. This has been proven time and time again. Let’s not make that mistake. Whether in America, or any country on earth, we can all leave this planet a little bit better than we found it by simply learning from the mistakes, the successes, and the sacrifices of those who came before us. Around the world tensions are growing between groups with differing beliefs and points of view. Whenever these tensions break out into outright hostilities, innocent people suffer and die. No matter what God you believe in, or even if you believe in no God at all, if you are a good and decent human being you will want to do all you can to prevent this from happening.
We’re just a bunch of guitar players, singers, and songwriters; what can we do? We can play guitar, sing, and write songs. History tells us that the musicians, the artists, and the poets often are the ones to administer a soothing balm of reconciliation and healing to conflicts that can seem hopeless. Personally, if posterity remembers me at all, I hope it remembers me as a peacemaker; I hope it remembers my love, my kindness and my forgiveness. I can’t imagine the horror of living through times like either of the big world wars or the American Civil War. If ever put in such a situation, I’d like to think that I would do the right thing, regardless of the outcome for me personally. And this Memorial Day I remember those who did the right thing, and it cost them everything.
Bear with me folks, this might be a fairly lengthy blog! A few months ago I received this email from a very knowledgeable fellow, Rasmus in Denmark. Read along, you’ll be glad you did:
Hi Vaughn,Thanks for all you efforts - and thanks for you pushing speaker business in the right direction.
Long story short, I have been at fender guy all my life and a tone seeker for about 20 years. Been tweaking at noodling with amps, pedals, pickups etc. etc. Recently I have been through at seek for the right 10" for my vintage 65 Princeton Reverb, and been buying: Eminence 102, 105, Jensen RI P10R, WGS Vet10, WGS G10a.
In general I liked your speakers best but.... all I tried is too loud for finding a sweet spot at home studio sound levels. It seems all brands are trying to increasing effeicacy which is not necessarily good for everyone! This week I went bazurk and did a chemical ageing with acetone - fabric softener - and mild sandpaper treatment on the cone of the Jensen p10r - which I considered the worst speaker among them. And now it sounds just FANTASTIC. Breakup at low level, good bass, articulate etc. etc. All positions on a strat sound right. This amp has turned into something I wouldn’t even have dreamt of. I don’t know if this is common knowledge among you guys, but to me it was really a breakthrough tone wise. Actually it makes good sense, because by thinning and softening the membrane it moves much more freely and tone becomes dynamic and nice for the ears. And natural breakup at home - NICE.
That got me to thinking! I remember doing this same trick on a terribly stiff Jensen repro a few years back, also using the acetone based fabric softener. My results were not as good as Rasmus’s, so I enquired as to just exactly what his technique was. I think we can all benefit from his answer:
I think the key to my success with the Italian Jensen is to weaken the surround, not sure the acetone/fabric softener is all that important. In addition to sandpaper, I worked the cone surround good with my nail. So I really softened it being quite physical. If this should be recommended to anybody they should know that you easily destroy you speaker by doing this. But the reward is really worth taking the chance I think. At least with the Jensens RIs. The speaker cannot be played at high levels because it goes into extreme flapping. But before that there is now a very useful interval of tone heaven - which is perfect for at-home-use. You see, I have spent a fortune on overdrive pedals in my life, but this is IT. (Much of the secret of many great recordings is much more in the speakers than many of us believe.)
Thanks for taking time to discuss,
Interesting! I was afraid to go so far as physically trying to scrape, and thereby weaken/soften the surround. I merely applied the acetone to the surround … and even then I was afraid to use very much. I got rid of that stiff Jensen as quick as I could … but if I ever encounter another equally stiff cone, I think I just might try the combination of chemical and physical loosening of the surround!
Of course there is also the age-old method of just blasting the crap out of a speaker for many hours on end to get it to loosen up. I remember trying that trick in the garage. I had some SRV on a loop alternating with sine-wave sweeps blasting at about full-power on a 60-watt driver. Let’s just say that my wife is not a fan of that method, if you know what I mean. Yea, now that I think about it, I DEFINITELY like Rasmus’s idea better :-)
See all y’all next time around. Stay loose!
When I was about 14 years old my band was playing a gig at a little Bar-n-Grill in Superior, Iowa; a scruffy fellow walks up at break & invites us to his place to see how a REAL guitar player plays. We were all little teenies and, lured by the promise of seeing a “real” Les Paul, off we went. We arrived at this … well … it wasn’t quite a shack, and it wasn’t quite a trailer; truth is, it didn’t really look like a place any human would inhabit. As we were all getting used to the stench and filth, out from under the bed comes an honest-to-goodness gold-top Les Paul. Dude starts playing, and, yeah, he really WAS a spectacularly talented player. We all wanted to get scruff-man in the band, but he couldn’t stop cussing & swearing at us long enough for us to even ASK him. Do you all see the point to this story?
There wasn’t anything special in the water of Superior, Iowa. Truth is, there are very gifted musicians under most every rock in most every town. Many, like scruff-man, will rarely if ever know the sheer joy, and utterly thrilling fulfillment of playing in a great band with other talented musicians. Why? Because they are, for lack of a better word, jerks. Jerks don’t usually have many friends, and they sure don’t get many gigs.
As a guitar player, I’m what they refer to in the south as “fair to middling”. I’m okay, but I’m in no danger of ever reaching “guitar God” status. I live in the Nashville area, home to the best musicians in the world. Within 20 miles of my house there are probably thousands of guitarists who are better than I am, but I play out more than all but a handful of them. You see, it took some time(!), but I have figured out how to be the kind of guy that people want to hang with. That trumps sheer talent on about 99 out of every 100 gigs. Look at it this way: If your spouse and/or significant other were absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, but made you feel like crap every day of your life, would you stick with them?
And so it is that I am routinely approached at a show by some new version of scruff-man. Dude tells me how much I suck and how much better he is than I am. I smile, look him right in the eye and say “that’s awesome dude, I bet you are”. Then I get back to playing guitar.
This blog is one that has been heavily requested, and it’s one I’ve been just itchin’ to do myself. In my earlier blog: Paper or Plastic? The Great Kapton vs. Plastic Former Question!, I used up all kinds of words describing the subtitle sonic differences between a speaker with a voice-coil wound around paper as compared to one wound around Kapton. This week I put my guitar where my mouth is!
For those of you who don’t want to watch the video, here is the skinny:
The paper sounds just a little brighter than the Kapton. There ya go :-)\
Roll the Video!
See ya all next week!