So this week finds me once again looking for YOUR advice! I’m just now putting the finishing touches on the first “production-run” of ten of my Vaughn Skow amps. Four of them will be 1x8 combos, and they will, of course, be outfitted with WGS G8C’s … there has NEVER been an 8” speaker that sounds this HUGE, juicy, and NOT BOXEY! So, that’s an easy decision … but, what about in the 1x12 combos, where I have SO MANY choices?
First, it was an easy decision to go with WGS speakers exclusively (except for a possible true vintage speaker on special occasion); no other company even comes close! American made speakers with impeccable tone at unbelievable prices! But which specific models should I offer?
Because of my lengthy and thorough time spent with all the speakers … and in a great number of amps … I was able to narrow the field down to my perennial favorites in 1x12 tube combos.
First, the Black & Blue, which seems like a perfect fit for a 15-watt combo. But it’s not, really, because this combo has a lot of filtering and can easily push the B&B out of its comfort zone … so I’ll stick to only offering this in my 10-watt versions.
So, the logical choice is the Blackhawk! My, oh my how I love this speaker in nearly all applications. If only AlNiCo material were not so very expensive! So, for ceramic (ferrite) options…
The ET-90: My new favorite all-around winner in the ceramic category … everything the ET-65 is, but with a little more … for lack of a better word, “balls”.
The G12C/S: This smooth-cone speaker brings out uber-warm smoky twee-tones in spades, but also has a very tight bottom end, and a silky (but somewhat muted) top end.
The Retro 30: A clear winner for having both Fender-ish top-end chime and a VERY solid bottom end!
So, this little video was really just for me … but boy, oh boy would I LOVE to hear you all’s thoughts. So, please, comment away! I’ll take it all into consideration, I promise :-)
Hey WGS friends! This blog finds me needing YOUR help. I often play Fender Super Reverbs and Vibrolux Amps on gigs … but plan to start using my Bassman, Bandmaster, and my own new combos more (All no-verb amps); and so, I’ve decided I need to add a verb pedal to my board. Mostly, I just want good spring verb … something close to what I’m used to in my “Holy Grail” Fender’s.
So … without wasting any more time, here’s the video. Ya’ll let me know your thoughts. Would you all say one might suffice? Do they all suck? Do they all ROCK? Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what they ARE???
I’ve managed to collect some seriously cork-sniffer level gear over the last few decades, but make no mistake: I am absolutely NOT a gear-snob. No way. Not even a little bit. My philosophy is this: a piece of gear is fully awesome if it does what you need it to, and does it well … regardless of price. So, using that convention, let’s talk monkey … BAD Monkey!
I’m a Tube Screamer guy. Oh sure, I dig Fuzz tones and straight-up distortion on certain tunes, but it’s the ubiquitous mid-heavy tube tone of the Tube Screamer type pedals that serve as my go-to dirt pedals. Over the decades, I’ve owned almost every T-S type pedal ever produced, from the original 808’s and Maxon’s to the cheap knock-offs, to the modern boutique re-creations. The one that has found a permanent (for now) place on both of my gigging pedal boards is the under-rated Digitech Bad Monkey. Now, for those of you out there who really ARE gear snobs (or at least pedal snobs), I’m sure you find this to be utter heresy, so please, let me explain. Here are my reasons:
Okay, so there are a few caveats I should mention:
A final thought: Like darn-near every pedal out there, there are several mods available for the Bad Monkey. To my ears, none of them really improve the tone … again IF you actually LIKE the TS-808 sound, so I recommend you just forgo them. However, if you replace the LED with some alternative color and put some kind of a “modded” sticker on it … then caveat #4 becomes null-and-void :-)
Here is my #2 pedal board, used exclusively for playing direct with in-ear monitors. It's quite a mix of high-end, mid-range, and downright inexpensive pedals ... with the Bad Monkey most certainly in the latter catagory!
Hi gang, and welcome to 2014. My world has been seriously Silvertone lately. First, I got to review the “new” vintage reissue Silvertone guitars for Vintage Guitar Magazine, then I wrote a feature story on the history of Silvertone electric guitars, and just last week I had a vintage mid-60s Silvertone model 1482 combo amp on my bench. Don’t tell the folks at Fender, but I’m kinda turning into just a little bit of a Silvertone guy! In case you don’t know, the 1482 is rated at 15-watts with a pair of 6V6’s in the output stage, and has kool 60’s shagadelic power-tube tremolo. I’ve seen it referred to as “the poor man’s blackface Deluxe”. Let’s talk a little about what I learned from my time “inside” the 1482. Sound like fun? Yeah!
First a confession: Before working on this amp, I’d never so much as peeked inside a Silvertone amp. Don’t know why, but life just never took me in that direction. Okay, with that disclaimer outta the way, let’s dig in.
This amp belongs to my buddy and notable Nashville Guitar Slinger Brad Sample. Brad brought it in because it “just didn’t sound right”. It had a certain amount of yucky fuzziness at all volumes, and it had been suggested that it needed a “thorough going-over by a good tech”. I put her up on the bench, brad played just a note or two, and I turned the amp off. “I know what’s wrong” I said, “the speaker’s blown”. And it was. This is ever so common amongst “budget” amps of that era. If an amp was rated at 15 watts RMS, they felt they were doing fine fitting it with a 15-watt rated speaker. Shoot, who on earth would ever push an amp beyond its design specs, anyway, right? Ha! Can you say “overdrive pedal”? This is why I always recommend that folks who plan to actually USE a vintage amp for regular gigging remove the original speakers, put them safely in a box for safe keeping, and replace them with something that they won’t fry!
Brad just happened to have on hand a “one-of-a-kind” black ET-65 that, as he put it was “made for the 1482”. So, as far as the speaker is concerned, he’s good to go. But …
The old gal had a few other issues. Truth be told, these amps look to me like they were NEVER really built to take the rigors of serious professional use. And of course, they in fact were not. They were sold through the Sears-Roebuck catalog to an almost exclusively amateur demographic. Be that the case, they are still cool as heck in a “definitely NOT a Fender” kind of way.
Here are a few factors that distinguish these amps as most certainly not resembling Fenders in any way.
So having pointed all this out, you might begin to believe that I downright dislike the little Silvertone combo … but you would be ever so wrong. Truth is I flat out LOVE it. But! I believe it’s important to understand what it is, and what it is not. First, it certainly is NOT a poor man’s Deluxe! It’s also probably not a very good choice for a hard-gigging player. What it is is an amp that can dish out knarrley, raunchy, 60’s garage-band rock tones in a way that will NEVER EVER be produced by any form of “modeling”. You just can’t model that level of imperfection. All of the shortcuts and cost-saving measures employed in the design and construction of this amp add up to an amp of unrivaled glorious imperfection. This is the antithesis of hard-hitting gut-kicking scooped-mids nu-metal tones … it hits with a fluffy velvet glove and has a big-fat mid-section even a middle-aged Italian mob boss would be hard-pressed to best.
And, when it comes right down to it, no other amp is “sexy” in quite the same way.
Ho Ho Ho from the frozen north land … of WGS. Okay, that’s corny, but hey, ‘tis the season to be silly … fa la la la, la la la la! I hope Santa brought all of y’all a bunch of super-cool guitar goodies.
As I reflect upon 2013 (wow, we’re already “reflecting” on 2013) I gotta say that, while the year has not been without it’s challenges … it was a banner year for WGS. We’ve released some new models, which in itself would be no big deal, but oh, what awesome models they are. The ET90 is a big wow-factor speaker that more than delivers on its promise to take the ever-loved and ever-popular ET65 into new territory, and the little G12Q is quite possibly the best sounding low-wattage, small magnet lightweight vintage 12 this side of 1965.
Also new for 2013 is WGS’s worldwide acclaim. The U.S. and most of the “western” world have known of the superior tone and quality of WGS speakers for years now; in 2013, however, the gospel of tone has found its way into most every nation on the face of the earth. In an era of decline among most American manufacturers, WGS stands out as a phenomenal story of success. Don’t ya just love it when the hard-working, good natured underdog comes out on top? It’s sort of the “feel-good” story of the year :-)
And now on to the sneak-peek I promised. In 2014 I will officially launch my own all-tube amp line, creatively named after myself! (Hey, if Leo Fender can do it…) These amps have been nearly 40 years in the making, since I tore my first cassette deck apart at age nine to turn it into a guitar amp. They actually sport a logo I first used on drawings of amps I dreamed of building at about age 14. Those amps looked like the proverbial “wall of Marshalls” so famous in the late 70’s. The amps I actually have ended up building bear little resemblance to those dreams of youth. However they do, in fact, bear much resemblance to the Woody, Tweed, and Brown Fender amps that were among the first amps I owned and grew up playing through. As the amps mature, I’ll do my best to keep y’all informed of the progress. For now, here is a sneak-peek of three models: A 12” combo, an 8” combo, and a head. All sound downright amazing, and I’ll be using WGS speakers exclusively, of course (except for possibly a true vintage speaker from the 60’s from time to time). The 12” combo, with a Black & Blue Alnico sounds fat and brilliant in a way never before experienced, and already has enough pre-orders to keep me busy for the first part of 2014 … but the 8” combo is the real startling surprise. After hearing the amazing luxurious tone of the 1x12’s, I almost didn’t continue with my plans to build a “champ sized” 1x8” combo; I’m SOOO glad I gave it a shot. The combination of an extremely fat & juicy, very vintage amp and unique tube complement with a cabinet of hand-selected finger-jointed pine and walnut, slightly oversize from a traditional tweed Champ, and outfitted with the WGS 8” results in the biggest, warmest, fattest, juiciest little combo the world has ever known. Okay, enough tooting my own horn! Here are the first pics :-) Talk to y’all in 2014!
Hi speaker friends! Today I deliver on the promised Supersonic speaker shootout. First off, I gotta say that this amp probably makes my top-10 list of all time. It’s an absolutely marvelous little Deluxe Reverb sized grab-n-go amp that will fit many gigging situations with nothing more than a guitar and a cable. It’s cleans can hang in there with the very best vintage blackface cleans, and it’s gain channel is probably the best you will EVER find in a stock Fender amp. The spring verb is, once again, second to NONE, and the boost and effects loop switches on the included 4-button footswitch really nail the “no pedal board necessary” vibe. If, like me you just gotta have a delay (I think of reverb and delay as the audio equivalent of meat & potatoes … while chorus, phasing, flanging and the like are but mere spice) … then it’s oh-so easy to keep a delay pedal in the back of the amp hooked up to the efx loop and switched with the amps footswitch … so ELEGANT!
Okay, now on to the speaker upgrade shootout. Here is where I need to come clean and say that I was dead wrong going into this shootout. I thought I LOVED this amp just as she is, but it turns out that amp-love can be a fickle thing; once I heard her with the proper speaker, I find I can never go back to loving her just the way she was. Does this make me a bad person?
Okay, anyway. On this one, I’m not going to give away which speaker I perceived as the winner … you’re just going to have to watch the video to find out. Truth is, ALL the speakers I tried sounded better. The real surprise to me was in the amazing improvement in the “burn” channel. That channel actually was what I would consider a total transformation with the right speaker. Okay, so now that I’ve teased you enough, let’s roll the video. Please, please, please post your comments here and let me know your thoughts on this very close shootout.
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: