It isn't the amp, the guitar, the pedal, or the speaker. It *is* the rig....

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Scott Peterson, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    Over the years, you see lots of folks looking for that one amp, guitar, pickup, speaker, cab or whatever, that'll make it all *perfect*. The folks will talk about the quest, the hunt for the grail and whathaveyou.

    But in looking at what I have gone through when moving from rock covers to country to funk bands and in lots of discussions in real life, online and on the phone with real pros who do it for a living, they assemble rigs.

    Everything matters, not just the amp, tubes, speakers. The entire rig; from the guitar to the effects to the amp (and *all* the parts inbetween) are what makes it come together.

    You see the focus in this corner of the internet on usually one part of that equation. Guys will obsess over the tubes in their amp, the strings on the guitar, the pickups.

    But rarely do you see how it fits in the entire picture.

    What I have learned and I am hoping to communicate and discuss on this thread, is that you need to instead approach your goal with the end result already fixed in your mind and build the rig from the instrument through the speakers as one thing.

    Now this does assume that you have a range of experiences with lots of gear and I do understand that only folks with enough time on enough gear can step back and do this from the get-go; but it is odd to me to see folks that know better still out there chasing that one last "thing" that new this-or-that and looking for the impossilble missing link.

    In other words, every single element needs to work with you as a player to create what you want to arrive it. It isn't the amp, the guitar or the pedals. It is the combination of the elements as a WHOLE that gets you to the promise land. And what works for one player won't work for another everytime, but the weight of the experience that can be shared is indeed a powerful thing.

    I had a thread that was very popular in the Amps section where I requested folks to post a pic of their "A" rig. The range of rigs created by folks was amazing and no two were much alike. I'd like to hear more about the "how" and "why" folks created or arrived at their rigs and less extreme focus on the "what" they have in it.

    When I needed an acoustic setup for playing live in a country band, I tried lots of things and settled on a very simple rig that basically fits the task at hand. After trying lots of acoustics, pickups, preamps, acoustic amps I personally ended up with a Line 6 Variax 700 Acoustic into a DI with the output split to FOH and to a JBL EON G2 powered monitor for me. The backup is a Line 6 Variax 700 guitar. I load them with batteries and play the shows. No feedback, fits the parts, sounds great and exceptionally fast setup and teardown (playing mostly festival gigs). Once I hit that formula that works, I have run that rig since spring 2004 without a hitch and have absolutely no problem sharing that experience or information here on the Gear Page and elsewhere on the net, regardless of the lack of "boutique" snobbery the rig contains. It works *very* well and I still couldn't be happier.

    What I would like to see more of on the Gear Page is how folks arrived at their rigs for different applications and situations; less of the "this amp versus that amp" stuff.

    What are your rigs, and how did you arrive at them? In what context? What drove you to swap elements in/out to arrive at what you did?
     
  2. Glowing Tubes

    Glowing Tubes Gold Supporting Member

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    Wow, great thread Scott.

    I agree its the sum of the parts that make the entire "rig" and any one change affects the entire sound.
    It is a work in progress for many of us and I for one will start with a good amp and work backwards, fooling around with the tubes in the amp then trying different cables, working with different pedals, funny how a pedal is "the best ever" with one amp and "this thing sucks" with another. LOL Different equipment works in such different ways with pedals. Its always a tweak-fest but thats a great part of the fun for me. I have a twisted habit of getting the rig sounding perfect and then starting over with a new one.:NUTS I'll bet Im not the only one who does that.;) I had the most killer rig with my Bogner Shiva and 2 1x12 bogner Cubes, beautiful, crisp and clear. Now Im playing through the Guytron FV. Its just different, next.. Bruno..
    Im basically trying to have two different rigs for different applications.
    Its definately the thrill of the chase to some degree.

    Richard
     
  3. dzeitlin

    dzeitlin Member

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    I was just discussing this with a friend. I think tone breaks down like this:

    50% player/person
    20% guitar
    20% amp
    10% strings/picks etc

    It is definately the sum of the parts.
     
  4. ned911

    ned911 Member

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    I found while using my GuitarPort that I really dig the sound of a Plexi. Since I split my "fun" funds between guitar/band and a racecar getting a boutique amp was out of the question. This lead me to the Randall MTS series when I got a great deal on a new RM50HB. Controller is a ADA MC-1. FX are a Rocktron Multivalve.

    My current band is strictly a cover band which covers a wide range of tones. Right now I get the basic tones from the RM50, Marshall 1965A cab (have always loved 410 cabs), TS9 and guitar volume knob. Although I would like to expand to the 4 channel preamp for a great variety of basic tones.

    Where I struggle is with the effects. I do 98% of my playing at home using my GuitarPort and do my fx tweaking on this unit. My current live rig (RM50) uses a Rocktron Multivalve but translating the GP to the Rocktron is a pain and time consumer - basically like starting over. I'm considering a POD XTL for this and to replace the MC-1.
     
  5. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    The real difficuty, even for someone as analytical as me, is that a lot of it is accidental. Find a particular piece of gear that works for you in a certain way, then come across something which works well with it, and so on... but if you'd started in a slightly different place, you may have ended up with a completely different rig. Chaos, in other words. I don't think I've ever started right from scratch again since I started playing, so my rig now is the product of all the small evolutionary steps it took along the way.

    One of my pet beefs though (as I'm sure you know ;)) is the insistence on 'purity' that some people seem to have - eg that the "best" tone is always that of a guitar straight into an amp... and they'll spend an enormous amount of effort to try to achieve that - even if their choice of tones aren't necessarily relevant to the music they're playing.

    I'm only interested in what comes out of the speaker, in the context of the music I'm playing. I could not care less about 'true' bypass, or about nailing a particular Strat-into-BF-Fender tone, or whatever... if the sound I hear from the amp is what the music needs, it's the right sound. Usually for me that involves effects and a degree of controlled chaos, but that's not the same thing as not being interested in tone - just that my aims are slightly different. As long as I can get it roughly how I want, and use it to express myself, that's what matters to me.

    Current #1 rig:

    •PRS Standard 22 w/trem, SD '59 & Custom Custom pickups, Snake Oil 11-50 strings
    •Horizon Vintage II cables
    •ZVex Fuzz Factory
    •Dunlop CryBaby 535
    •Boss TU-2 Tuner
    •DOD FX25 Envelope Filter
    •Boss DF-2 Distortion-Feedbacker
    •Frantone Cream Puff
    •Boss OC-2 Octaver
    •MXR Micro-Chorus
    •Boss DM-2 Delay
    •Boss PH-1R Phaser
    •Boss HF-2 Hi-Band Flanger
    •Roger Mayer Voodoo-Vibe
    •Boss DE-200 Digital Delay
    •Vermona DAF-1 Analog Filter
    •Mesa Blue Angel

    It's almost impossible to say how this evolved, other than it was a long process - sometimes trial and error, sometimes individual things were bought for a special purpose and then got used for other things too and got integrated into the rig.
     
  6. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    Good point. At this point, I pretty much know what kind of tones I like most and what features I need in a guitar/amp/effect and what kind of things simply don't work for me.

    For long I have gone with the mindset that one guitar can't do everything, which is why I have guitars ranging from a semi-hollowbody to superstrats. Don't really need more, but will get 'em anyway since I'm a gear whore! :D
    Anyway, I feel I have the guitars pretty much covered, though if I suddenly got rich I'd propably replace them with custom made versions..just for the sake of it.

    Ever since I started playing nice tube amps I've had less need for effects, but want to incorporate them too when I get enough money together to buy some. They're not mandatory for me, just nice to have.

    Ampwise I've recently realized the same thing I did with guitars..one amp doesn't do everything well. I currently have a 15W tube amp that does the the cleans and lower gain tones well, but doesn't quite punch and thump with a tight attack like bigger amps do, for those heavy rock/metal tones. On the other hand, the big amps don't have quite the same sweetness you find in lower powered amps.

    Being just a home hobbyist I'm obviously looking for the best tone at low volumes. For me that means volumes where I don't get ear fatigue after playing guitar for a few hours..loud TV volumes would propably be the best comparison. I've tried modeling amps, very low wattage amps, attenuators and Power Scaling. PS has been by far the best solution and when I grab a bigger amp to go alongside the smaller one, I will have it modded for Power Scaling.

    Over time my tastes have changed back and forth of course. When I got my Stephenson head I was on an old school rock trip (think Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Rory Gallagher, Queen etc.) but now I'm getting back to the hard rock/metal/shred thing hence the desire for a big amp.
     
  7. scottcw

    scottcw Low rent hobbyist Silver Supporting Member

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    Yep, it is the entire signal chain, although I will say that I sound like me no matter what I play, sometimes with better tone, sometimes not.

    On the electric side, I have long ago come to the conclusion that I prefer single coils or P90s, so that is always a starting point. I slightly prefer 25.5" scale over 24.625", but that is not set in stone. With that as a starting point, all my pedals, amps, speakers must complement the guitar I start with. I listen for pedals that let the basic tone shine through - I don't want a fuzz that overwhelms the basic sound or a vibrato that just gets whacky. I like amps that always have some kind of on-the-edge quality... I do not like smooth and refined. All that said, my current electric rig is:

    >Hamer Anniversary semi-hollow with no F-hole, Lollar P90s, Snake Oil strings
    >Pro Analog Scary Face
    >Kometcake
    >Analogman BiComprosser
    >BJF MGMV
    >Ibanez AD-80
    >Gibson GA40T with Jensen P12P

    My acoustic rig also grew from my guitar and is:

    >Gurian S3R Brazilian, FRAP pick-up, Thomastik Plectrum strings
    >DTAR pre-amp
    >Kometcake
    >Analogman BiComprosser
    >BJF MGMV
    >Ibanez AD-80
    >Raven Labs True Blue EQ
    >Board

    The DTAR and Raven Labs are mounted on a rack in a flight case that I can carry with one hand. 10 min. set-up and tear down, tops.
     
  8. matte

    matte Senior Member

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    Great thread, Scott. IMNSHO the most significant element is intention, which is the root of all action.
     
  9. G'OlPeachPhan

    G'OlPeachPhan Member

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    Great thread Scott! Fantastic thoughts of your own, and great topic. I agree. It is indeed the sum of the parts.

    I can sum up my philosophy in two words: simplicity and context

    Find the most simple, minimalistic way of getting comfortable in the context of the music I'm playing.

    John Phillips hit it on the head when he said that sometimes it takes a complex rig to get the tone/feel that makes you comfortable in a given musical context.

    I've generally found a formula that works for me, and it involves a little bit of the best of everything (for me) within reason. When I try new gear, I want to see how well it interacts with what I already know I like over the long haul... in other words, I arrived at the gear I currently own after a process of much trial and error, testing, eliminating what doesn't work, and keeping to what does.

    It IS all about interaction, and the sum of the parts. Everything in the signal path matters. Some components more critical than others, but it all matters.

    Rather than detail my long (and boring) personal tone quest, I'll just say that the most impactful components for me from a *tone* standpoint have been pickup selection, amp selection, and speaker & cab selection.

    From a *playing comfort *standpoint, the most important and impactful components for me are the guitar neck shape, setup of the guitar, as well as the guitars physical balance.

    From a dynamic *feel* standpoint, most important to me are pickup selection, amp selection, and strings.

    I think that separates everything into the basic categories that I ultimately use to evaluate my gear choices, and what I look to tweak if something isn't working well at a given point in time. So it's sort of a basic troubleshooting and tweaking guide that I've learned works for me.

    There are many other components as well (cables, tubes, effects, etc.), but I use all the other things for far more subtle tweaks. This approach has helped me figure out how to make the major changes first, and then season to taste with the more subtle things after I'm 95% satisfied.

    All in all, I like a rig that responds well to playing dynamics and guitar control changes. I like everything to respond according to how I approach the instrument at a given moment.

    To sum up in a very brief phrase: low watt EL84 tube amps and the right pickups get me most of what I love about the guitar.
     
  10. big mike

    big mike Moderator - EL34 Emeritas Staff Member

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    Well, I started wanting a big open tone. Went through tons of stuff before finding the Z28. I have other stuff too, and enjoy it, but this one always puts a smile on my face. Then I decided I needed it to be a bit more versitile. So I added a pedal, and another, I like how this amp didn't *squash* with the pedal. Didn't get smaller. Stayed big and open. Then added a couple more for different tones for cover band stuff.

    From there it was from friends and such "Here, try this Cable, speaker, pedal, etc etc" That's how i found I like Scumback Speakers and Evidence cables, and Xotic pedals. Not that I was looking for anything, just playing about, and finding other cool stuff.

    The rig now is:

    PRS CU22 or Thorn #018
    DrZ Z28 w/ Airbrake
    2x12 with H & M Scumbacks
    Evidence cable
    All 3 Xotic Pedals, Dunlop Wah (the normal one) and HBE Compressor
    (I change pedals here and there for fun).

    I can do 100% of everything I NEED to do with this rig.

    I have other stuff because it's fun.
     
  11. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    Ooooh boy.

    Though I've been playing guitar for almost 25 years and always been a gearhead, my tonequest has really only been over that last four years or so. During my gigging days in college, my rig was pretty simple. Guitar (Aria or Hohner) into my GK ML250 with a Roland digital delay in the loop.

    I've described my target OD tone as "EVH meets Santana". I've always liked the brown sound but my interpretation has more saturation and less presence.

    After owning a number of high-gain amps, I took a step down gain-wise and settled on the Rivera Rake as my Fendery/Marshally amp of choice. Channel 1 has the right combination of aggression and smoothness for me while Channel 2 suits my increasing desire for chimey cleans.

    As I listened to the recordings of my band, I realized that the Marshally OD on my Rivera was a bit too raw for the band's sound. I added a Rumble Mod to my pedalboard and was very happy. . .'til I tried a Two Rock Emerald. I'd played a Two Rock (Opal or Onyx?) once before and wasn't really impressed--it just wasn't my bag. The Emerald, OTOH captured the tone that I was looking for with my band. Don't even get me started about the cleans. They're not the absolute favorite I've heard but they're close enough, especially given the range of tones available with the OD kicked in.

    As for speaker cabs, I kind of backed into my #1 cab. I'd just bought a 1W version of the AX84 Hi Octane and had only owned combos up to that point so I needed a cab. My gear budget back then was a lot tighter so I went to Music Go Round in search of a used cab. I found a ported 2x12 that was head & shoulders above the others with the Hi Octane. For $120, I figured it was hard to go wrong. Though the Hi Octane came and went, the cab is still my favorite by far. It's delivered the goods with high gain monsters and chimey cleans. It lives in our rehearsal space so I'm looking to find something comparable (Ear Candy?) to keep around the house.

    To be honest, I'm not that picky about FX. Aside from delay and 'verb, I don't use 'em a whole lot anyway. If they're quiet and I can get the goods tonally, I'm a happy camper. On my stompbox-based board, the Rumble Mod is my only true bypass pedal, not that I really care. I flip-flop between my pedal board and my more-convenient POD XT Live.

    For someone who's looking for EVH meets Santana, it should come as little surprise that I'm not a single coil kind of guy. Aside from goofing around on my Variax, my Driskill and PRS guitars get all the love.

    My main cable from the guitar is a Live Wire I bought at the San Jose GC around 1982. Over the years, my ear has becomed accustomed to its treble rolloff to the point where booteek low-capacitance cable doesn't sound quite right to me.
     
  12. Baba

    Baba Supporting Member

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    True words Scott. Tools for the job, tools for the job.

    1. For me, I'll start with the guitar. It could be THE most important part of the equation for me because of the interaction. My guitar needs to be mahogany, two hums, coil tapping, and perfect balance. Check.

    2. I need wireless, it makes me a much better and more comfortable performer.

    3. I use a wah only sparingly, but I like it nonetheless, so I have one.

    4. I like to be in tune, so I have a tuner on the board.

    5. My head and switcher are a combination of multiple tones, including great cleans and distortions, plenty of versatility, and complete control over those functions.

    6. My tones come from a 4x12. Until I find something smaller that sounds/feels EXACTLY like a 4x12, that's what I use.

    7. I like a clean setup, that means 1 snake from pedalboard to backline.

    8. I also like a fast setup/teardown, so I've attached a power strip to the back of my 4x12 for the several wall warts I use.

    9. I like delay on my soloing, that is achieved by a pedal sitting on top of the amp, into the loop.

    So it's:

    PRS Custom 24 or Navarro Signature
    Sennheiser G2 wireless system
    Steve Vai bad horsie II wah
    Korg DT-10 tuner
    Pedalsnake
    Rivera Knucklehead Reverb
    Avatar 4x12
    Digitech digidelay
     
  13. Swarty

    Swarty Member

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    The process for me starts between my ears. The sounds that resonate in me are the sounds I grew up with in the early '70s when I really started to listen. What I was most drawn to was the heavier bands, the common denominator was that blazing Marshall tone, but I also love those pristine, sweet SF/BF Fender sounds. My sound is not complete until these sounds that resonate in me complete the cycle and I hear them pouring back into me from my speaker(s).

    I've got a bunch of amps and a bizzillion pedals. Over the years I kind of morph in and out of amps, pedals and guitars, but the sound does not change much.... It is still me and it is still those early '70s sounds.
     
  14. mad dog

    mad dog Silver Supporting Member

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    Great thread Scott. You are so right about this. Matte calls it "intention". I hear it called "mission" in aviation (I'm a private pilot), where gear is so expensive that you can't afford to experiment.

    The idea as I see it is to assess your needs in a relatively structured manner, encompassing not only the tones desired and type of music played, but also venue, how much you are willing to carry, various other practicalities. The right gear for the right job.

    Being driven by amp lust, I'm experimenting by buying. It's fun but impractical as hell. I'm one more amp away from really having to think this through a little bit. No money, no space. Also, I'm thinking about it because of the remarkable BFSR that I never play anymore. It's too heavy, too much amp for most of the playing times I get into now. As good as it sounds, what's the sense in owning something you never play?
     
  15. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    The more experienced I get, the more I recognize that I like some pieces of gear only in the context of the right rig. The things that matter most, IMO, are the relationship between:

    1. Amp and speakers
    2. Guitar and amp
    3. Pedals/effects and amp

    And of course...the type of music I'm playing influences all the choices.

    The amp is absolutely central to everything working. Another thing I've learned about my own proclivities is that I just CANNOT TOLERATE delay in front of the amp. Ugghh. Maybe it's okay if you're playing blues, jazz or country...but when you're playing with some gain, it's just a recipe for mush. Get that delay AFTER the gain and if possible, after the entire amp.

    With these proclivities in mind, I find myself sacrificing a great deal of convenience for tone and I drag around a rack with a couple of devices in it (and pedals) and sometimes, a stereo wet rig (which adds a power amp and two 1x12s for wet signal). But since I found the Orange Rockerverb (and its fantastic effects loop) in early 2005, I've only been using it + rack. I've found that it works quite well with several different speakers but I normally bring my 1x12 Bogner Shiva cab (now loaded with an Emi Wizard) because it helps keep the volume down and it's small and portable. I still schlep my SWR Cali Blonde for the piezos.

    The other thing I REALLY HATE at a gig is having to hit a pedal board with buttons in hard to find places, at all different heights, banging knobs accidentally with my toes, etc. So I've been using a Ground Control Pro to control my rack effects and my pedals and absolutely love it! Again...I find myself willing to sacrifice simplicity for function. A choice most real musicians would not make! hahha!

    I've been playing a wide variety of classic rock stuff live, so most of my gear is oriented towards those sounds. And as much as I'd like to drag my Les Paul, Strat, etc. to every gig...I don't want to have to breakup groups of songs that keep people on the dancefloor just so I can change gutiars. So I prefer a guitar that is very versatile and does a very good job 'mimicing' the classics--Les Paul, Strat, Tele...and acoustic). Thus I rely on guitars like Thorn Master Artisan #009. It does it all and it does it quite convincingly.

    So...I guess we all decide where we're willing to make compromises...and we're all different. But with this rather cumbersome rig, I find myself able to produce a vast array of sounds and get IMHO, a very, very high quality sound.

    To summarize:

    Guitar: Thorn Master Artisan #009 (#012 or Strat for b/u)
    Amp: Orange Rockerverb 50
    Cab: Bogner Shiva 1x12 with Emi Wizard
    Rack: Rocktron Replifex
    Acoustic amp: SWR Cali Blonde
    Pedals:
    - MIDI controller: Ground Control Pro
    - OD: Line 6 Crunchtone
    - Fuzz: Fulltone Ultimate Octave
    - Boost: Time Machine Boost
    - Compressor: Blackbox Oxygen
    - Volume: EB
    - Wah: Fulltone Clyde Wah Deluxe
     
  16. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I agree with you, Scott, everything makes a difference -- to a point.

    I've always been able to run a particular amp with several guitars and effects satisfactorily. And I think I'm pretty picky.
     
  17. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

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    I agree that they assemble their rigs. But "rig" sounds too complex for what pro players use. They may have a lot of gear, but only bring the barest spartan "rig" of only what's necessary for the date, and nothing more. With most professional nightly gigging players, by that I mean their income is solely derived from playing guitar, usually you will see them with something as pared down as a Strat with a Deluxe or Super Reverb and limit the pedals to a DynaComp and a Distortion +, or equivalant. When asked, the reply is always, "I got tired of lugging all that **** around".

    Kelley
     
  18. rwe333

    rwe333 Supporting Member

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    There ya go - well said brother Matte!
     
  19. tommyg

    tommyg Member

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    My rig was simply based on the notion that I wanted as pure a sound as I can have. I want it to be nothing more than my hands, my heart, and my soul working through a guitar and an amp.

    With that, as you can tell, I'm a "purist".

    The only pedals I use are a Morley volume pedal (for "rolling off" during rhythm parts) and a wah pedal (Morley-Tremonti). The Tremonti came into use because it did NOT color my tone (or was very very minimal in coloration) and all you have to do is step on it to activate it; when your foot is off of it, the unit is off. The tone I strive for and have achieved - at least to my ears - is a cross between that smooth and creamy "Ford/Carlton" tone from my Heritage 535 to a biting sweet "Bloomfield (ala "Super Sessions")" tone from my Heritage 150.

    It took me 20 years to find this tone; a true result of perfect synergy based on combinations of guitars, pickups, strings, cables, slides, speakers, power tubes, preamp tubes, constant amp tone adjustments and lastly "hands, heart, and soul".
    :dude
     
  20. Red Planet

    Red Planet Member

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    I would say my rig has morphed from trying to get the sounds I desire. I've tried many amps, pedals and guitars that just didnt fit.

    Each sound is specific to the indavduals needs or wants. For instance I prefer a clean sound that is warm and round but not steril and lifeless. I've tried a number if amps that have gotten me the most pristine three deminsional clean sound on the planet but I dont like it that way. I like it more primative and warm with less shimmer and a little something wrong with it. If that makes any sense.

    Im at a three amp rig right now though I have more. I have a number of pedals though I rarely use them. I have a few geetars but only one that counts.

    For now I'm using as my ultimate rig.

    Fender 52 reissue Telecaster

    into a Boss Blues Driver

    into AB Box

    into Balls M-18 2X12 Combo and SDG Vintage Tweed Proluxe 1x12 combo.

    If I want to grab and go one amp no pedals I substitue my Lonestar Classic 1x12 combo and use the channel pedal for it.

    When I'm playing live I use a Shure Wireless. I run sound at the same time as playing.

    Thats it. I have other guitars, amps, and pedals but that is just icing on the cake.
     

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