Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: May 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In Willie Mitchell's Recording Studio with Chris Arena

I had the opportunity to accompany a friend of mine, Chris Arena, into the studios at Ardent and Audio Garden for a couple of weeks to help him record his album. Chris used several select pieces of gear from my collection on the record and it was a real pleasure for me to be a part of it. The main amp used for electric guitar parts on the album was my Kingsley ToneBaron head into my Two Rock 2x12 cabinet. I also lent a few of my guitars to the production. Some of the guitars used were my R9 Les Paul, Custom Shop 1960 Strat, Deluxe Tele and James Tyler Strat. The guys of Audio Garden, Mike Wilson and Jason Gillespie, are the very talented duo that coaxed some amazing tones from that gear (and the players, as well!).

The real treat, however, was getting to visit Willie Mitchell's studio for horn parts. Willie Mitchell has arranged and recorded horn parts for lots of famous musicians such as Al Green and, more recently, John Mayer. It was a real treat to see a master like this at work. We all had a great time!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Pedal!! Korg Pitchblack Tuner

Just picked up a great tuner pedal called the Korg PitchBlack. It is true bypass with a fantastic led indicator that is easy to read and see. There are multiple tuning patterns available including strobe. Great accuracy and very well built... and it's a cool black color!

I have had great success with this pedal so far. Check it out if you get the chance!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Groove Tubes Solid State Rectifier for Kingsley ToneBaron

After acquiring the Two Rock 2x12 cabinet for my Kingsley ToneBaron and then fixing the intermittent radio reception the amp was picking up, there was only one thing left I wanted to "improve" upon: SAG.

The ToneBaron has a beautiful tube sag feel to it which makes it perfectly suitable for blues and even some faster linear Jazz runs, but pulling off snappier, super fast “shred” licks is made more difficult because of this sag effect. Since the ToneBaron is a tube rectified amplifier, it was easy to convert it over to solid state rectification using the Groove Tubes solid state rectifier plug in place of the 5AR4 rectifier tube that came in the amp. The SS plug lowers the sag effect significantly and increases the amp's response time to the signal coming from the guitar.

What exactly is a rectifier and what does it do? Well the short answer is this: a rectifier converts the AC (Alternating Current) from the wall socket to DC (Direct Current) which electronic circuits need in order to operate correctly. Batteries also provide DC current, by the way, and is what the typical guitar pedal, handheld gadget and/or children's toy uses for power as well. So, when a tube rectifier is used in an amp as the sole converter of AC power to DC power there can be small current drops to the amp's internal circuits when the amp is taxed by digging in more on the guitar or by playing the amplifier loud. The rectifier tube works harder to keep up with the increased voltage demand by the amp which lowers impedance causing a natural compression in the sound (this compression effect is referred to as “sag”). This compression, or sag effect, can also make the amp feel more sluggish to the player and, therefore, make faster licks more difficult to pull off. It feels kind of like attempting to run in deep, soft sand. A solid state rectifier, on the other hand, is built with semiconductors and has a lighting fast response which introduces little to no sag when the amp requires more power. This, as you might expect, produces a "quicker" feel when playing faster licks and riffs.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to tube sag. Whether or not more or less of it is desirable is totally up to the individual player and his or her style. I personally like some tube sag in my sound and the Kingsley ToneBaron still has plenty of it despite my replacing the tube rectifier with a solid state plug. By using the solid state rectifier plug the amp’s response to input has increased significantly and I am able to play faster licks now while retaining the tone I like from the amp and getting the response I need in order to play my style.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

RF Mod for Kingsley ToneBaron

Ever since I started playing tube amps I have noticed a problem with radio reception here in Memphis with different, random equipment. Not sure what the cause is, but it certainly seems to have something to do with this location because plenty of other locals I've talked to have had similar issues. It doesn't happen with every single amp or pedal, but there is no denying that the potential for radio reception in audio equipment is definitely high in Memphis, TN.

Unfortunately, I was picking up a strong radio reception on my new Kingsley amp and it was distressing. At volume and with copious amounts of gain (which is how I play most of the time) the signal was clear and loud. The station? Kix 106, the Mid-South's #1 Country music station. :)

Behold, the "RF mod"! I had to do something to get that twangy country stuff out of my amp! :) I am a rocker, after all, and I can't chicken-pick so there was no use trying to play along. I got this mod off the Gear Page message board from a post made by Randall Aiken of Aiken amps, a great line of amps in the Marshall vein. He suggests trying this mod if your amp is receiving radio signals only when the guitar cord is plugged in. This usually means your cord is acting as an antenna and that it is less likely that something more internal in the amp is the cause. If you're going to suffer from RF problems, this is the best variant to have because it is totally reversible and very easy to fix.

All you have to do is open up the amp, solder one lead of a .01 mF capacitor to the ground (sleeve) lug or the tip lug of your input jack and the other lead to the chassis of the amp.

(See photo left, note green capacitor soldered to the input jack)

Problem eliminated. And I mean completely eliminated as in zero radio signal heard at any volume. Basically what is happening is the amp is still picking up the radio station, but before it can pass through the cable jack and into the signal path, the capacitor "grabs" the transmission and sends it off to the chassis where it can cause no harm. Pretty cool.

Best of all, the mod costs only a few dollars and you can easily find these caps at your local Radio Shack or similar electronics store.

Monday, May 05, 2008

New Cabinet!! Two Rock 2x12

I love my Kingsley ToneBaron amp, no doubt about it. However, I was having some doubts as to whether the tone I was getting out of it was really something I liked. Since, at the time I took possession of the amp, my only cabinet was my Bogner Over-Sized closed-back 2x12, I had only experienced the ToneBaron through that cab. Big mistake. The ToneBaron seems to require an open-back cabinet in order to sound the way it was intended (after all, Kingsley amps are built and tuned with open-back cabs).

Enter, the Two Rock 2x12. ;)

My buddy and band mate, Doug, has a lovely collection of amps and cabs and is always looking to flip gear for something else. When I met Doug it was at the local Guitar Center and he was looking to trade some amps and cabinets for some other gear... and he just happened to have this particular open-back Two Rock 2x12 with him. I liked the sound of this cabinet from the instant I played it and never forgot about it. So some time after I joined Doug's band I remembered the Two Rock cab and inquired about it (luckily he still had it). I wondered if my Kingsley might sound better through it than my Bogner cab. Doug offered to let me take it home and play it for as long as I wanted to make sure I liked it. And boy do I like it. :)

This is an older model open-back Two Rock vertical 2x12 cabinet, with two (Eminence made) "K&M 65-16" 12 inch speakers at 16 Ohms running in parallel for a total load of 8 Ohms. These particular speakers are said to basically be the same as the Eminence "Red White & Blues" speaker model. They have a fat, round sound with notched upper mids to keep fizz and harshness to a minimum. This is a great sounding cabinet. My Kingsley instantly lost all the fizziness and artifacting that was present on the Bogner cabinet, and the notes got fatter, juicer and more sustainful. The problem with a closed-back cabinet like the Bogner is that the notes are "choked off" by the sealed back design... they never have the chance to sustain and decay. On an open-back cabinet like the Two Rock you get a much more three-dimensional, widely dispersed and less directional tone with notes that ring out and sustain due to the speaker cone being able to vibrate to its full potential. The quick response and low-end of the Bogner 2x12 is great for fast, chunking metal rhythms but not so much for liquidy, searing leads on a Les Paul. The Bogner sounds great, but I think it will sound even better as an open-back cab. I have a spare back panel for this cabinet that I plan to cut to convert it to an open-back cab. Can't wait to hear it this way!

So I finally got to hear my ToneBaron on a cabinet that is much closer to what the builder originally designed the amp around. I have decided to purchase this cabinet from Doug, and I am happy I found it. My Boogie sounds great on it, too! And it is much easier to carry around due to its smaller size and low weight. This was an excellent find and a good purchase.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Boogie Mark III Retubed (again)

Well, I just can't leave well enough alone I guess. ;) I had been doing some research into Mesa Boogie's non-adjustable fixed biasing and realized that the JJ power tubes I bought were not likely even close to what the fixed bias would be for a Boogie Mark III. So after looking around a bit I came upon Doug from dougstubes.com. He has a reputation for really testing his tubes thoroughly with top notch, high-end equipment so you know you're getting good matched sets and power tubes that fall within a certain range of bias.

Doug also happens to have a nice preamp tube "recipe" for Boogie Mark III's. Very cool! So I called him up and he recommended this specific mix of 12ax7 tubes, in order starting with V1:

- Tung Sol 12ax7
- Mullard 12ax7
- Penta 12ax7
- Shuguang 12ax7 9th gen. (V4 - reverb)
- Sovtek LPS 12ax7

According to Doug, the JJ 12ax7 preamp tubes I had in every position before are too harsh for this amp, particularly the V1 position. The Tung Sol is a current favorite for the V1 position in many amps (my Kingsley also came with a Tung Sol in V1). It really did help smooth out the tone and reduce the harshness I was getting from the JJ.

And for the power section Doug recommends a matched quad of SED "Winged C's" that were tested and verified for the Mesa Boogie bias range.

The result of all this? A much more balanced tone with sweeter, softer clipping on both gain channels. Warmer cleans and a much warmer, pleasant sounding tone overall. This tube recipe took a great sounding amp off the charts and turned it into a true tone machine. Got a Boogie? Well, I recommend to you talk to Doug. ;)