Multiple preamp units

Discussion in 'The Rack Space' started by MikeDV, Jun 7, 2019.

  1. MikeDV

    MikeDV Supporting Member

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    Always been a big fan of the preamp/amp setup, currently use a Triaxis rig.

    The stuff below can be folded into a discussion about the huge choices in modeling rigs, but not going there with these questions.

    Question for those who have multiple preamps in their rack - for curiosity, not at all to bust anyone's virtual balls. How do you use them? Obviously, the single (or even two) channel models, pick one for a specific tone. But - I see Triaxis with MP-1, Fish, CAE, 2 or 4 Synergy models etc. Do you - use one unit, multiple channels/presets from one day to the next, just one or two particular sounds from each, or...? Every one I've ever owned (had quite a few) have had a big choice of great sounds - clean, dirty, etc. Being down to just the Triaxis, I still have a great number of awesome tonal possibilities, but don't use them all. Of course, I would love one of those 20 space racks with every single unit described, but at some point, just how different is the clean on the Triaxis from the clean on the MP-1? Yep, there is definitely some difference, but enough for two units for a similar sound? Especially when one additional unit is a programmable EQ, or there is one inside the fx unit. Just wondering how y'all use these fabulous rigs of wonder - that I would gladly own and use somehow if I could afford it, and had someone who would carry it all for me. I get into analysis paralysis, and continually use a slightly tweaked version of each sound. I feel like I can get virtually any sound I could dream up with the Tri (or a Piranha or etc.), and if I want something in particular of a crazy/unusual/similar to some other brand, a $150 pedal easily gets me there - not even touching an outboard EQ unit yet.

    I guess I have the same thought when I see a rack or pedal board with an Eventide multi-fx unit, with a Helix, and a TC G Force - same questions. Use one particular effect, or different combos, or...? I know folks swear that the reverb on X is superior to the one on Y, but the chorus on Y works better than X - I get that, although I'm personally either not smart enough, or have a good enough ear to find significant differences - enough to lay out the $ for the overlap and the physical requirements. I've found that my choices are driven as much by functionality (size, programmability, control) as sound - given that I feel I can make anything sound like (or similar) to anything else - for my ears.

    Not at all against or critical of total overkill - I'd fill a room with the stuff if I could because I love it all, and that's as valid a reason as any if you can afford it. Just comparing to my own outlook. I've got multiples of multi-fx stuff now, drag one out now and then, but end up back to a well-used setup. I just don't know how I'd functionally use them all at once. Anyone care to share their approach or reasoning? Analogies welcome, as i wrote this I thought of a few - for praising and criticizing multiple units, but just starting a discussion.

    I'll check later for responses - got to decide whether to drive my beat up '96 Dodge pickup, or my 2012 Corvette to the grocery store....they both get me there, but....
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
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  2. Coalface1971

    Coalface1971 Member

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    Hi Mike,

    Can sense where you are coming from.

    Being a serial tweaker and a hobby builder, sometimes a dose of reality is great with actual playing environment's

    Never taken a complex rig like it out anywhere before, but took a WDW rig, comprised of a Framus Dragon with an Axe Ultra/Matrix power amp to another forum gear/jam day just last Saturday.

    It was more for the show and tell aspect. For a jam, my SLO or GH50L, no effects with a drive footswitch switch is more my speed. I know it will work better.

    The Ultra had it's own amp models in the outside cabs, Dragon just dry up the middle. Sounded good at volume, but had a hard time dialing in the rig in a new room environment as the hall was, and when the jam started just went mono straight into the front of the dry amp.

    The effect (pardon the pun) of WDW setup was completely lost in room unless standing dead on in front of the rig, and as I suspected, when someone recorded it with a ****** phone, it only captured virtually one wet side of the rig lol. Guy filming was off to the side, and I was standing in front of the dry cab blocking it (I need to lose some blubber lol).

    You'd have to mic up with three mics, mix it etc, to record it. Might be a window into why only the "big guys" with the means like EVH, Steve Stevens, Larry Carlton, Landau etc. use the setup, and why guys like Lukather, Vai, Pettrucci etc. don't (or at least in Luke's case, abandoned it) and go for stereo.

    Could have too just killed off the Framus and used the Axe Ultra through the side speaker cubes, and as Mike you've alluded to, nobody in the hall could have told the supposedly obsolete Axe Ultra Deluxe Reverb model from the Framus clean whilst the drums, bass and three other guitars were playing a crappy A-blues jam.

    Sold my original Ultra for an Axeii, but was a victim of the environment today of obsolescence fear, and could have still used the Ultra for the same results.

    I enjoy the chase, trying to make new gear/sounds work together is good fun. But jeez I wish I practiced more instead of soldering so much.

    Be interested in seeing some more responses too. Especially how guys here are using there actual gear. In a live/jam environment, mono is practical, sounds consistent, and I can concentrate on playing.

    My complex stuff doesn't leave the garage. Really that stuff is a tweaker's paradise. Only guys who want to deal watching that are other tweakers.

    Chris.
     
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  3. Serious Poo

    Serious Poo Powered by Coffee Gold Supporting Member

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    I like to cook with spices, preamps are sort of like that to me. My main sounds fall into one of 3 types (clean, crunch, or lead) but I like to season them a little with preamps that favor certain gain structures, EQ shifts or resonances. Certain parts call for certain sounds in my head, and certain preamps will do them better than others. Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
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  4. Coalface1971

    Coalface1971 Member

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    Cool Sp,

    Yep, love me a huge rack as much as the next guy (at least the guys on this board). I love gear! But we are a niche. Find it hard to find anyone interested in rack stuff outside of forums.

    As you say, there are horses for courses.
     
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  5. Slicklickz

    Slicklickz Member

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    Basically I started with one preamp,and tweaked it until I got a tone I liked.Then I'd save it as a preset,and find another tone I liked and added another preset.Then I got another preamp and did the same thing.Then I got a bigger rack and just added another preamp to it after I made some standalone presets.I used EPP-400s to switch what preamp was active,and as the number of preamps grew I kept adding EPP-400s.So now I can pull up any preset on any preamp with a single midi program change.It's very similar to someone using an Axe-Fx,pulling up many different presets of different amp models,except I'm doing it with analog hardware.
     
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  6. Shredzilla

    Shredzilla Member

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    I have no idea what you're talking about. :D

     
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  7. Royslead

    Royslead Member

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    The op brings up good questions; and I've often thought the same. Just how many types of chorus or delay or compression, or whatever, do you need? Then I got to thinking: for some, they are all just like tools in a toolbox. Mine, for example - I have more than half a dozen of the same size wrenches, five kinds of a Phillips screwdriver, with the same size tip, four different mini-sized ratchets that are the same drive size. Why? Because, while they are all similar; there are just enough differences in them to use for a specific need.

    Next, you have the collectors. It doesn't matter if it's cars, guns, stamps, wine, or preamps. They are different, and having the most, means you win.

    Then the group that buys them all for different sounds, tries them, gets tired of them, sells them and buys more; sometimes coming full circle, to the first one they had. I think they call that group TGP forum members.
     
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  8. GreatGreen

    GreatGreen Member

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    I use a Triaxis and an ENGL 570.

    For heavy rhythm, I like them both for different reasons. The ENGL sounds more modern with more gain and cleaner, tighter bass, but it also sounds a bit more... dry, like most of the breakup occurs quite suddenly at the highest output of the guitar, if that makes sense.. The Triaxis actually has less distortion, but feels a bit more like the distortion "wraps around" the notes better and is a bit more satisfying and easy to play because the distortion comes on more gradually. I know that's not a great explanation but that's the best way I know how to explain it.

    So basically, my heavy rhythm sound is a blend of the 570 channel 3 and Triaxis Lead 1 Red (I got lucky and got one with the good Recto board). It's right up there with the best high gain tones I've ever used. All my other sounds come from the Triaxis, which is really is an excellent preamp.

    Also, I don't care what anybody says, the Triaxis needs an outboard EQ to sound its best. The Triaxis is so over-the-top mids mids mids all day long, and the Dynamic Voice control just sounds... bad, that you need an external EQ to scoop out enough mids to make it sound even close to "normal" or balanced. The Dynamic Voice control just takes the sound from "old am radio blasted through a megaphone" levels of mids to "the same mids, but weirdly hollow" because the mid scoop's Q isn't nearly wide enough.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
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  9. ctreitzell

    ctreitzell Member

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    That may well explain why the TriAxis sounds better through all four of my amps at once with my rig than thru single amps/cabs...2 of the amps being Fender CyberTwins with all the mid scooping going on....and routed thru the front (preAmp) section of the CyberTwins allows a bit of tone shaping...hmmm
     
  10. Zintolo

    Zintolo Member

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    I totally agree, and I really don't understand why they put this useless voicing. If I were them I would have used the displays to have the classic Mesa graphic eq showing -9 to (+)9 dB on each band (and the dot for the 0.5 dB), and give a great unit what it deserves in terms of post equalisation. But well, if I were them I wouldn't have sold as many, so... chapeau anyway!
     
  11. Zintolo

    Zintolo Member

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    I agree both for food (I always come back from my business trips with some local spices or special food) and sounds. I'm working (very slowly, because of other priorities) on implementing a midi switcher into one of my preamps, to switch between different configurations then sounds on the same preamp, and being so able to have very different characters on the basic three channels. This is to avoid having more than one preamp in the rack to be switched, to save space and weight (but mainly to keep the mind active on this topic).
    There's also something more I'm trying, but it will take more time.
     
  12. MikeDV

    MikeDV Supporting Member

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    Great thoughts coming. I certainly get that "spices" or "different versions of the same tool" analogies. Similar to OD or distortion boxes. Two or three overtones is the difference between pedal A and pedal B. With the control possible with racked preamps, along with pedals and EQ, the flavor choices are virtually (pun, maybe?) unlimited. The ability to MIDI switch stuff -e.g. Switchblade - makes it all accessible. I used one of those with a JMP-1, Triaxis, MP-1 rack of doom. Programming it all was a real undertaking, and if you enjoy that sort of thing (I do), it's a fun challenge.

    What got me to pose this question: What I found, finally was that no matter what unit, pedal, EQ I used, I headed towards the big 3 - clean, breakup for rhythm/leads and OD for leads/rhythm. I realized that I would go to the "sound in my head" thing for each, no matter the unit. The JMP-1 would be different from the Triaxis, but I would still zero in on that "sound". Some wouldn't get it at all, but most would get a great variation of a version of same. So - which would I use of the choices? For me, copping the exact (as close as I could get it) sound of my favorite artist was not the goal. Cream Clapton and Bonamassa - at any stage of his career - were the same to me - that is, hum buckers into Marshall-ish (JB is now mostly Fender - but he sounds very similar to me) - which is the sound I prefer. Clapton Strat or Jimi are awesome, but I don't play Jimi, I interpret (probably poorly) with my fingers. So, I jam with Jimi with my hum buckers into Boogie - "my" sound, their songs and vibe as close as I get to it.

    Bottom line - which/how do you choose which of the 2,000 possibilities for a crunchy rhythm sound? If you're in a cover band, and want to exactly mimic the sound the original artist, I can see that - modelers are great for this kind of stuff. NOT providing a judgement on that, it's one valid way to roll. Also, a 20-space rack of preamps, or a room full of actual amp heads. I'll play Layla-era with my PRS custom, bring up my crunchy rhythm sound on my Triaxis, roll back the volume knob for rhythm parts. It's my homage to Clapton, with my line-up of frequencies. Given the huge possibilities - do y'all have 8 cleans, 6 crunchy, 9 leads - and choose them on the fly? Food-ish - 2 burritos (one with whole, one with refried beans), 3 rice (different seasonings), etc. They're all damn good, but you only go out to dinner one meal at a time. I guess I'm wondering about final product, go-to sounds, how you would gig. Getting down to the 3 sounds, with a choice of about 6-7 effects was my version of simplifying. Again, just wondering about more opinions about this, it's what I think of when I see one those awesome NASA-type rigs. Great insight, great replies so far.

    BTW - had: JMP-1, Rocktron Piranha, ALL of the Mesa preamps, Carvin Quad-X, VHT GP-3, ADA MP-1, Digitech GSP2101, Engl E570, Tech 21 PSA 1.1, Soldano SP77, and a couple more of the older units I just can't remember. I could get a great sound out of all of them, each with their slight differences - functionality being one of the big differences. I shudder to think just how good I would be if I had put the hours I messed with the gear into playing the guitar. Like many of us, though, this is part of the fun/enjoyment. I might have been 'none' better, or maybe I would have taken up golf with that time.
     
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  13. teofilrocks

    teofilrocks Supporting Member

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    I was definitely interested in the idea of many different preamps. Still am. Tried the Synergy system with 4 different preamps modules, including an older MTS module from Salvation Mods, a Mesa Boogie Studio Preamp, Brunetti Mille CR, Kingsley tube preamp pedals, even the preamp section of a Lexicon MPX-G2. But there are two issues that I hit.

    First, I got caught up in the idea of shear number of different possible tones than I actually knew what to do with. Perhaps for someone who already has the command over their playing that they want - the next step is creating, recording, coming up with new sounds, and having many tones to choose from to meet that goal. But I’m not in that position. And when practicing, switching between Vox, Fender, Mesa/Boogie, and Marshall makes all of them sound a bit off becuase they’re all different and my ears can only re-adapt so much. That’s not even getting into the different overdrive level options. So, since I’m not typically creating different parts to a song or recording, having many tonal options actually just gets in the way. I like a clean, gritty clean, crunch, and high-gain sound options. I can get the first two sounds either by adding an OD pedal to clean, or rolling back the guitar volume on gritty-clean.

    Second, I found that running all preamp flavors through the same tube power amp didn’t work for me. Power amps sound different. For instance, a Marshall preamp through a Mesa power amp doesn’t sound the same as a Marshall amp. In fact, I was a bit disappointed in my Brunetti preamp until I paired it to a 2204 power section. Definitely changed the character to what I had been wanting to hear. So, pairing a preamp with the right power amp is a thing for me. But also an expensive trial-and-error proposition.

    Combining what I learned from the two issues above, I decided that the best thing for me was to go with 2 dedicated amps. Having 20 different amp tones doesn’t practically help me (as much as I am drawn to the idea), and the seperate pre/power amp route was likely going to be too costly the way I wanted to do it. So I picked up a used rackmount Mesa Mark III red stripe for $500 (needed new tubes) and ordered a customized JCM800 2204 clone from Ceriatone (~$850) that came in a 17” chassis I could rackmount as well. I’ll be keeping one preamp, the Brunetti, just becuase it sounds awesome through the 2204 and gives me clean, crunch, and lead Marshall sounds. Add two boost pedal flavors (klon and tube screamer), and that’s my catalog to choose from.

    With all of the additional tonal options from adding effects processors and using impulse responses for different cabinets/speakers/mics, I think I have more than enough to be distracted with and experiment on.
     
  14. Serious Poo

    Serious Poo Powered by Coffee Gold Supporting Member

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    Insightful post, thanks for taking the time to share that.

    You raise a great point with the limitations of playing different preamps through the same power amp and cabinets. I ran into the same thing and wound up with a different solution for my needs. However, I think gets to same sort of end result and I thought it might be interesting to share with everyone.

    My rack system is controlled with a Switchblade, which is basically a matrix switching system that can dynamically reconfigure all of the audio paths via MIDI. This let me try something fun - I’m now running my preamps and effects into either a Mesa EL84 based power amp feeding a pair of open back 2x12 cabs, or a Mesa 6L6 based power amp feeding a closed back 4x12 wired in stereo. This lets me match cleaner preamp sounds with brighter and more open sounding cabs, and heavier preamp sounds with the darker sounding, punchier power amp and speaker cab. Fender & Vox sounds get routed into the more appropriate power amp & cab, Marshall & Engl sounds get routed to the better match for them. Fun stuff!
     
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  15. jaykay73

    jaykay73 Member

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    @teofilrocks can you please post pics of your rackmount Ceriatone.

    JK
     
  16. teofilrocks

    teofilrocks Supporting Member

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  17. JDB30

    JDB30 Member

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    I use multiple pre-amps that a switch between: CAE, RM-4 (w/custom Jaded Faith modules that Rob built me to spec) & a custom made Fender twin circuit. My setup and signal chain is wired purely for recording: I run a stereo “dry” signal into a stereo pair on my DAW and then another stereo pair of just my wet effects, and, for good measure, a direct, un-amped mono signal. This gives the mixer total control or even the ability to re-amp what I’m doing. This system takes up 3 racks of gear and I’d never use it live—it’s just way too complicated and there’s just too many potential failure points, especially moving it around. The MIDI path alone is insane, with multiple merge & split points. The way I approach choosing which pre-amp to use is mainly based on which guitar I’m using. If I’m using my tele and going for Keef, i’ll choose between a bassman, twin or, sometimes, even an AC-30 module from my RM4. If I’m going for something with a bit more crunch/gain, i’ll use a Les Paul with a Plexi module from my RM4. If I’m going for something cleaner, usually a strat with my custom fender twin pre & if I’m going for something more modern, a PRS w/my CAE. I use 2 loops of my GCX to switch between the Pre-amps. You mention switching between yours with “EPP-400’s.” Do you basically just set up different patches that recall one preamp loop per Patch? Do you ever use the stereo capability to combine 2 different pre-amps (L/R) simultaneously?
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2019 at 10:28 PM
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