Angus Young and the mysteries of Power tube compression

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by alanfc, Sep 10, 2006.

  1. alanfc

    alanfc Member

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    Mystery to me anyways....

    here's what I mean--

    I happened to get Back in Black on the radio tonight, I was listening fully knowing that the guy's tones are based in cranked amps..
    There's the overdrive/distortion of course. But there's something else - - - what is the 'pleasing' trait of this type of sound.? Pleasing, meaning, loud with distorted character but not mangey or icepicky.

    My amateur guess is, that its the Compression, at a certain frequency. Naturally occurring. I know that Compression is the really obvious thing about it but, the frequencies that are affected....thats what I'm interested in.
    To my ears it was flattening the 1.5k-3k area in my very uneducated opinion. Am I close? This just dawned on me tonight after a few years with my first ever tube amp.
    They're getting the girth and the liquid sort of volume without the harshness. I know the mixing engineer would use some EQ anyway, even on Angus & Malcolm.
    But Am I close.?
    And,
    are there some power tube brands (I'm interested in EL34/6CA7) whose character is exactly this,,,compressing at a certain point in the frequency spectrum compared to some other brand..
    Am I making sense?
    Thanks if you can help.
     
  2. rooster

    rooster Member

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    According to him a few years back, he runs an old JTM45 with KT66's. But you never know if those kinds of statements are true. I think a lot of his sound is simply him, just like with most of the greats. One of which he definitely is.

    rooster.
     
  3. jezzzz2003

    jezzzz2003 Member

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    A good tube amp that is properly biased will give even harmonic output distortion and it sounds great, thats all I need to know.:AOK
     
  4. daphil

    daphil Member

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    Then you have the room, the mic, placement, volume level, mic preamp, tape saturation...
     
  5. Boogs

    Boogs Member

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    One of the lesser known but very significant factors in the pleasing quality of older recordings.
     
  6. donnyjaguar

    donnyjaguar Member

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    Its the bridge humbucker on his Gibson "student guitar". :)
    I can get that tone myself, but not with a single coil instrument.
    I don't think you have to run your amplifier full-bore to get it though. You certainly don't on mine. The key is to get the overdrive going but not the flat-topping, clipping distortion thing happening.

    I've always liked AC/DC and have owned all their material at one point or another. Growing up with many guitar playing friends I always thought it interesting that nobody modelled their playing after Angus as he's a super player.

    I sometimes wonder what AC/DC would've been like if Bonny Scott didn't drink himself to death.

    DJ
     
  7. alanfc

    alanfc Member

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    aha yes, the tape saturation..

    for my purposes now at the moment, I'm curious about the LIVE effects of the power valves compressing. I"m not saying you've missed my point. I'm just thinking it out better this AM :)

    The frequencies. What range.
    I know it "just sounds that way" and thats the way it is.

    But, I'm curious almost from an audiologists point of view, hearing it live... whats the frequency range wich is compressed and thus becomes "pleasing" rather than harsh.

    thanks
     
  8. cameron

    cameron Member

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    The power tubes are probably contributing to the overall sound. But that compression you're hearing might be due to the speakers. A lot of the AC/DC sound involves sheer volume: speakers being driven hard.

    And yes, mikes, mixing board and tape get in the picture as well.

    And don't forget Malcolm's Gretsch. The image of Angus with his SG is burned into people's minds, but it's Malcolm laying down the wall of noise in the background.
     
  9. AdmiralB

    AdmiralB Silver Supporting Member

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    I'd be surprised if they turn up past '5'. The earlier stuff is fairly dirty, Back in Black a bit less so, then the records thereafter are MUCH cleaner. Listen to BIB and FTATR back-to-back, BIB is a lot more distorted. But the sustain is still there, even on the cleaner tones.

    Recording technique and a TON of volume, I say.
     
  10. alanfc

    alanfc Member

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    OK thanks..
    I know , I'm going to mess with this myself. This is only for live sound I'm looking at...
    I think to rephrase it I was wondering which frequencies do power tubes tend to compress.
     
  11. Rusty G.

    Rusty G. Member

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    You're talking about Back in Black. . .Mutt Lange. . .nuff said!
     
  12. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    http://www.amptone.com/I get your point about wanting live tones. But if you are listening to a CD it was obviously recorded so recording techniques apply. When I record my Non master volume JMP w/greenbacks, it sounds nothing like standing in front of it. Here's a link with some exellent info on what you are asking concerning power tube distortion. There's also lots of other great info on amps in general.
     
  13. alanfc

    alanfc Member

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    Excellent/thanks

    My goal is the richness of my cranked master, along with
    not imploding the front row audience's ear drums.
    I don't want to get into attenuators. I believe I can make it work
    with my EQ pedal in the Loop. Capturing the essence of that sound.
    Truly, the audience won't know. I want big warm sound to envelope them and at the same time have clarity and detail. Without killing them.
    I know I can do this with EQ I know it (I think).
    That's why I've been going on and on about frequencies.

    thanks again
     
  14. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Ya, I don't like attenuators at all. Another thing that gets overlooked is speaker breakup. I was running celestion g12-70's and I switched to 25 watt greenbacks. Big difference. The speakers are distorting in a pleasing way. My idea of what your after is kindof like a mix of gains from the preamp, power section, and speakers. With my NMV JMP, there is no gain knob, only volume. So with that amp when you turn the volume up you are hitting pre and power tubes. To put it in terms, the rock sound embodies the idea of pushing somthing past it's designed capabilities. What's your rig?? This might sound like a way too simple solution to your volume problem but it works for me.... Spin the cab away from the crowd! Thats assuming your mic'ing up. If you can't hear yourself, bleed a bit into your monitor. I've also built and used isolation type cabs that just sit infront of the working cab. A roadcase works good too. Lastly, i'd say Angus's tone has WAAAAYY less gain than you'd think. You really do have to be a good player with his tone. Every mistake will stick out big time. Very unforgiving. From my recording experience, I end up turning gain levels down more than I ever thought to achieve that fat, smooth tone. Good luck with your tone hunt! Rob
     
  15. alanfc

    alanfc Member

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    Thanks Rob
    I have a Rivera R55 converted to head, into a open back 2x12 with GH1230 and V30.
    Our gigs are not mic'ed.
    I've found the Greenback tone in all samples I hear, to be THE ONE for me. But I fear my amp will kill them.

    On my Rivera I run the master on 6, with the Master "boost" engaged, the preamp on 3, with an OD pedal. I went with an OD pedal because it was not only giving me a push in the preamp (sounding better than just turning up the preamp), but I wanted it for its qualities as a compressor of sorts, to my ears atleast it has this effect..
    And low output pickups, heavy strings.
     
  16. JohnnyL

    JohnnyL Member

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    I have seen AC/DC many times and I must say, that AlanFC's original post about the tone is evident even in live situations as well.

    I have never heard them sound 'bad' and Angus' tone is always clean and seering at the same time. You can hear it when watching the 'Live at Donnington DVD.' I don't know when Angus is playing through the Marshall or the Wizard! Their Live album is a bit edgier but 'that' tone is always there.

    Hail, Hail to Angus and Malcom for keeping it real!

    JohnnyL
     
  17. alanfc

    alanfc Member

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    Maybe it comes down to speakers..
    I can only do so much with my EQ I believe.
     
  18. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    I was thinkin about this at work today. I'm not farmiliar with the Rivera but i'm almost thinkin your not gonna cop his tone without a Marshall. I've had alot of amps and I have a JCM 800, A JMP 50 watter and recently sold a different model 800. The Non master volume JMP can Nail that tone hands down with a Gibson Guitar. The 800 comes close but has too much gain, it was designed that way. The split channel 800 just wouldn't do Angus very well. The Rivera sounds like a nice amp but If I remember, Rivera designed for Fender?? Could be wrong on that but if that's true, you might be asking your amp to do somthing it wasn't designed to do. Not bangin your amp at all, just sayin even different JCM 800 models had a hard or easier time getting that. Another thing like Johnny pointed out, that tone has a very clean signature to it, so I don't think an OD pedal is in the equation. When I go for angus tone, my Gibson humbucker equipped Jackson plugged straight into the JMP get's me right there. Now if I could only play leads with that Rawkus tone!!!
     
  19. alanfc

    alanfc Member

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    OK thanks yeah my Rivera has a "marshallesque" channel and EL 34's. I use that channel 100% of the time. And get my semi-cleans with guitar volume knob and Strat Pos. #2 -3-or 4.

    Truly, I'm not trying to imitate Angus I just hear this elusive articulate-without-harshness tone from him and Malcolm. And the folklore always was that their 'thing' is a cranked amp. I naturally thought there must be something at work there, compression was my guess.

    I always have to wait for weekends to play loud and experiment so I'll have to read and talk about it instead of doing it for now. I have an EQ pedal in the loop, and have a new open mind about speaker change. Its all about me being fulfilled and at the same time not killing the folks in the front row.
     
  20. that_brianm_guy

    that_brianm_guy Gold Supporting Member

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    never mind that the tune was heard on the *radio* - and stations are known to compress and/or eq their signals as part of the broadcast....
     

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