Contrasting gain structures of "clean" amps

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by Wrecklyss, Aug 8, 2020.

  1. Wrecklyss

    Wrecklyss Custom Speaker Cabinet Builder

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    I've been a DIY'er for most of my life, and about 8 years ago started my side business building extension cabs and front of house systems using a more scientific approach than most mass produced builders. My friend and band mate is a Ph.D. candidate of aerospace engineering (literally a rocket scientist) who has recently taken an interest in amp modding and is doing some pretty cool stuff with a project blackface Bassman he picked up as a "test of concept" platform.

    Last night we got into a pretty interesting discussion on how different amps are the way they are, and how their electro-mechanical properties shape their sound. I'm no stranger to amp mods myself, although he's more willing to do major surgery than I am. We started talking about the gain structures of 2 iconic "clean" amps: Fender and Vox. I personally disagree with Vox being a clean amp, as they always have a little dirt (not 5150/Rectifier/Uberschall/SLO/Hebert level gain, but certainly not Hiwatt pristine) in their tone even at low volumes, but I understand why they get classified as such.

    In a way, the gain on Fender and Vox amps works opposite of each other. Fender amps start to break up in the treble first, leaving the lows/low-mids clean (think SRV with snappy roots walking in a 12 bar pattern and gritty lead embellishments). Vox amps break up in the lows/low-mids leaving the highs clean (think Brian May, although there's gain in his treble also due to running his amps full tilt). Vox most likely gets labeled as clean because even when overdriven, the way it overdrives allows all the notes of a chord to still be heard.

    So... how does this relate on a forum made mostly of metal enthusiasts (sorry for the generalization, I know many people here have eclectic musical tastes, but metal is the leading cause of discussions here)? I was wondering if anyone has tried a stereo rig using a Fender and Vox together. Both amps actually do overdrive, but from different ends of the audio spectrum. In concept, blending the two tones together could have the effect of producing a clean and dirty sound in simolution, yet if done in stereo, the L and R channels would be inversely clean and dirty creating a very textured tone.

    In no way would I expect this to replace the current selection of amazingly well designed fire-breathing high gain amps, but as a thought experiment, I could see this as a unique sound that could yield some creative results.

    Anyone tried this? Might try it? Or are we just a couple of engineers with a cool concept on paper that doesn't produce the predicted results in the real world?
     
  2. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    This is an intriguing idea. Bumped.

    As much as I like my molten metal tones, I love good cleans too.
     
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  3. jwiltz2072

    jwiltz2072 SS.org Regular

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    I saw Tantric at a club in Lafayette, LA when the first album came out and the guitarest used a clean/dirty tone blend live. It looked like a Fender Twin and a Rectifier. When he used a clean tone, both amps stayed clean and when he when to a dirty tone, just the Rectifier switched but the Fender stayed clean and both amps were on the mix so you hear the blended clean/dirty tone. I had never seen a setup like that up until then.
     
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  4. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    I've used the AC-30 / JC-120 combo for cleans panned hard, gives quite a contrast. I personally feel that it makes the best cleans in single coil voicing, ideally a Tele with the pickup switch in the middle. Seems like the best balance overall.
    Kind of like Robbie Blunt's clean tones on the first Robert Plant record, ala "The Big Log", but with a lil bit o hair on one side. Seems to me like you get a wider guitar sound spanning the low/hi range of the guitar from a left/low to right/high perspective. So, in a audio visual way, the way my mind works sometimes, as I look at an eq graphic, low is on the left, high is on my right. Sounds quirky, but I like it.
    It's on my HD-500X, so I'd have to lay something down with it for you to get an example.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2020
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  5. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

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    Gonna give it a whirl in the digital realm.
     
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  6. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    If you really want a spread on the stereo field, you can do a "pre" delay of anywhere between 7 & 20 milliseconds on one side.
     
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  7. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

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    Write that down, folks.
     
  8. TheWarAgainstTime

    TheWarAgainstTime "TWAT" for short

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    I've done a similar setup in my Axe FX and it sounded great. Just an optical compressor in front, then split into a crystal clean Fender Twin on one side and a tiny bit of grit on the other side with the AC30 model, then two open back Mesa cab impulses and stereo reverb and delay. Each amp fills in the sonic space left open by the other, so it sounds really huge and pleasing, especially with a ping pong delay. Great for ambient/P&W stuff where you need a huge wash of delays, but it's all still very controllable.

    My main "real" rig sort of approximates that sound for all my cleans. One side is a Mesa Mark V on Tweed mode covering the Fender-style pushed cleans, then the other side is my VHT Ultra Lead, which has a more British type of clean with a different kind of breakup. Not quite the same effect as the Fractal setup, but close enough for when I'm just jamming at home.

    Wrecklyss, be sure to keep us posted on how the mods on that Bassman go! I've been curious to pick up a dedicated clean amp for recording and this isn't helping my GAS at all :lol:
     
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  9. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Hey...how did everybody get in my room?

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    I’ve got a few old Fender handwired amps, including a Twin Reverb, and an AC30. I don’t typically run them together, but both do get into pushed mid gain territory incredibly well. You have to watch the low end with the TR and the treble with the AC30. The AC has so much low end filtered out of the preamp circuit that it’s mostly all mids and treble. The TR lets the whole frequency spectrum through, so the low end can dominate. I have no doubt that I could get a metal tone with the combo; especially with a boost.

    I often use the AC30 or Marshall Origin, neither boosted, as a third center guitar track on records. The bright mids and treble compliment the usual high gain heads I’ll use out wide. I can go for darker, less fizzy sounds; because the other amp will fill out the top end.
     
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  10. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    I'd always thought the Fender/Vox or Marshall pairing worked because of scooped voicing vs more middy voicing so this is a really interesting thing that I hadn't considered at all.
     
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  11. cGoEcYk

    cGoEcYk SS.org Regular

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    I seem to like the Voxy stack for cleans (Fendery cleans are almost too clean for me). Enjoy a light OD more on the midrange but with some top end.

    Some of my fav cleans were through an Orange Dark Terror. Has a good note saturation thing going on. I think it's a little underrated as a clean amp.

    There is also the Baxandall type of tone stack (where the bass/treble interact).
     
  12. SnoozyWyrm

    SnoozyWyrm SS.org Regular

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    I remember the best clean I had achieved with an old pedal-rig was a Vox BritBoost Overdrive (the cooltron tube ones - with the humongous case) dialed on almost full-tilt for level and gain between 3 and 4. This went into a Fender Twin.

    Rolled off the guitar volume to clean it and if you dug in a little bit of Voxy growl came through.

    Best full fat luscious cleans I have ever achieved.

    Funny thing was that the Vox pedal was pretty awful sounding can-of-bees, if used for distortion.
     
  13. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    I've done a track or two with a Marshall JTM 45 on one side, and an AC30 on the other with a bit of Tube Screamer on it, and it was pure Brit Bliss for that type of tone. On the Vox, it's a balancing act with how much the amp is pushed on its own, and how much of the Tube Screamer into it.
     

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