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Guitar preamp to pair with tube power amp
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX  
Author Guitar preamp to pair with tube power amp
BailyDread
Hi all,

I know this subforum doesn't get a whole lot of activity, but for those of us who both patch and play guitar I have a bit of an obscure query:

Does anyone have any suggestions for a guitar preamp to use in conjunction with a Marshall 9005 power amp? I just scored one of these on Reverb for $350, which I'm thrilled about, as it's built in the UK in the late 80's out of the exact same stock of components that was used on the late 70's leads and super basses (Drake transformers!). It's essentially a power section from a JCM 800, doubled for stereo operation, and put into a rack case. I am building this rig so that I can have two separate 1x12" cabs and a separate rack containing the preamp and power amp; this would allow me to be mobile with a 100 watt rig using my little sedan! I like to play really, really loud with delicious tubey tone razz

So my question is, what preamp would you suggest? I've looked into the following:

Rocktron Valvesonic: I actually ordered this from a seller on Reverb but he's dragging his feet for a full week on shipping; still somewhat interested
Intersound IVP: I know Steve A. from Big Black etc uses one of these, and I've always thought his tone was very unique and interesting. I'm not sure if they're one-trick-ponies though
Hilbish Design Beta: Buzz O from The Melvins uses one of these and his tone is cool, but I think I'm looking for something less "sludgy" and more flexible
Marshall 9001: This was the preamp that was originally supposed to be paired with this power amp. Looks completely uninspiring so pretty much looking elsewhere.
Mesa pres: I've heard they're based on Blackface circuits, which is certainly appealing, but I've heard Mesas are prone to have bad service records due to the way they're made

I'm not a high-gain, nu-metal guy in the sense that I generally don't like straightforward distortion tones much beyond Marshall JCM 800... no scooped mids BS. I like the feeling of playing saggy, tube-rectified amps best, but they're just not loud enough unless you haul around a bassman or something. Looking for something with a "spongey" feel. Distortion isn't the most important tone; if it has a great clean tone I'm still very interested. NOT looking for bells and whistles whatsoever. 1 channel with no EQ would be fine, even. Just looking for a great preamp gain stage.

Thanks nanners It's peanut butter jelly time!
sduck
If I were you I'd search high and low until I found a Mesa Boogie Studio Preamp -



They're basically the same circuits that are in the Mark IIc+, which is considered the holy grail of mesa amps. As far as reliability they're about the same as other amps - it really depends on how it's been treated. Live at home Mesa's like mine (a Mark IV) never have problems - but if you gig with them a lot of course there may be issues. The good news is that you can still get them serviced at the original factory, most likely by the people that designed them in the first place, and that service department has a reputation that's second to none.
Kent
Go with matching gold: JMP-1. This used to be my favorite pre-amp. It is now exclusively on synth duties.

No. 1: Fractal Audio Axe-FX.





Technologear?
I'm saving up for the Hilbish Design pre.
I love that sound, I can pick it in heaps of the recordings of heavy bands I follow.
Not sure it's "spongey" but not mid scooped.
Importantly for me, it has 1 into 2 seperate parallel channels (not just switchable channels). For many pres '2 channel' means 'switchable but not stereo'. Plus it's got send return on each channel. I don't know any other pre that gets it this right.

Alternatively, you could use an ABY pedal (like a radial) and run two seperate parallel pedal chains, then finish those chains through a stereo JDI into your power amp. That particular DI just got noted in the Bass DI topic. If considering pedals, check out the Hudson Broadcast, inspired by console preamps. That's on my savings list too.

Good luck
Revok
BailyDread wrote:
Marshall 9005 power amp? I just scored one of these on Reverb for $350


Nice score! Those amps are really underrated. I generally hate working with Mesa amps but I gotta agree with sduck's suggestion here. The stand alone preamps are really nice and pair really well with the stereo Marshall power amp.

Edit: Also worth noting that these are not as crammed as Mesa combo amps are are actually a breeze to work on.
hex
ada mp-1
BailyDread
Technologear? wrote:
I'm saving up for the Hilbish Design pre.
I love that sound, I can pick it in heaps of the recordings of heavy bands I follow.
Not sure it's "spongey" but not mid scooped.
Importantly for me, it has 1 into 2 seperate parallel channels (not just switchable channels). For many pres '2 channel' means 'switchable but not stereo'. Plus it's got send return on each channel. I don't know any other pre that gets it this right.

Alternatively, you could use an ABY pedal (like a radial) and run two seperate parallel pedal chains, then finish those chains through a stereo JDI into your power amp. That particular DI just got noted in the Bass DI topic. If considering pedals, check out the Hudson Broadcast, inspired by console preamps. That's on my savings list too.

Good luck


I ended up getting a refund from the seller who was dragging his feed and pulled the trigger on the Hilbish design pre! Totally agree regarding the parallel channels, each with FX loop(!). I've built up plans for using two of those waza chorus/vibrato pedals (CE-2W) set to different rates within each FX loop... UNISON GUITAR!!!!

The signal flow will be in CE-2W :vibrato" mode, using the wet output into the signal return. This will hopefully give a different effect than dry + vibrato creating the chorus... it will be vibrato + vibrato in parallel, with no dry. I have other plans for the dry outputs thumbs up
Technologear?
BailyDread wrote:
Technologear? wrote:
I'm saving up for the Hilbish Design pre.
I love that sound, I can pick it in heaps of the recordings of heavy bands I follow.
Not sure it's "spongey" but not mid scooped.
Importantly for me, it has 1 into 2 seperate parallel channels (not just switchable channels). For many pres '2 channel' means 'switchable but not stereo'. Plus it's got send return on each channel. I don't know any other pre that gets it this right.

Alternatively, you could use an ABY pedal (like a radial) and run two seperate parallel pedal chains, then finish those chains through a stereo JDI into your power amp. That particular DI just got noted in the Bass DI topic. If considering pedals, check out the Hudson Broadcast, inspired by console preamps. That's on my savings list too.

Good luck


I ended up getting a refund from the seller who was dragging his feed and pulled the trigger on the Hilbish design pre! Totally agree regarding the parallel channels, each with FX loop(!). I've built up plans for using two of those waza chorus/vibrato pedals (CE-2W) set to different rates within each FX loop... UNISON GUITAR!!!!

The signal flow will be in CE-2W :vibrato" mode, using the wet output into the signal return. This will hopefully give a different effect than dry + vibrato creating the chorus... it will be vibrato + vibrato in parallel, with no dry. I have other plans for the dry outputs thumbs up


That will be a totally unreal setup!

Post an update once you've settled in to it. I'm particularly interested in your feedback on the hilbish fx sends and it's non-overdriven tones
BailyDread
Absolutely will keep you all updated...

[i had revealed my secret plans with the two CE-2W dry's here but i change my mind so i have to edit lol ]

STOKED!!! nanners It's peanut butter jelly time!
Technologear?
BailyDread wrote:
Absolutely will keep you all updated...

[i had revealed my secret plans with the two CE-2W dry's here but i change my mind so i have to edit lol ]

STOKED!!! nanners It's peanut butter jelly time!


I'd send the dry signal through a crossover at 180hz, lows through a 15 or 18 cab, highs through a fuzz pedal and a 2x10 cab or a guitar combo.

The leftover dry I'd send through the weirdest EQD pedals I had, pitch shifting delayed octaved bitcrushed arpegiated, through another combo.

These three cabs/amps I'd stack low to high, with your two chorus ones either side.

Balancing all the levels would take time but be worth it. That's 5 amps of signal for one instrument. Beautifully excessive.
BailyDread
Woah, now that is really something eek!

I have other amps (a tone king comet 40b and an orange ad30r) and spare FX pedals... I think I may be able to execute something like this. Recommendations for a crossover (pedal?) are appreciated
BailyDread
Finally got to plug in my new Hilbish Beta....

Woah, this thing is a lot more complex than I thought, and sounds terrific!! it has a totally unfamiliar playing style, almost like the opposite of a tube rectified amp but my hands are quickly adapting to getting really neat dynamic sounds out of it. Words I would use would be "tight" and "grainy" but the graininess is that elusive "tuned tearing velcro" tone, and the craziest part is that there's all these middle setting where without even changing volume knob on my guitar, I can go from crystal clear to meltdown just with my hands. It's a very exciting amplifier to play, although I would say the clean tone is very unforgiving. The clean tone is most likened to playing through a DI, really. It's unforgiving in terms of feel... if your fretting hand technique and timing isn't very tight with your picking hand, it will be very obvious. this gives a certain directness though that has an appeal all its own. Clean, it has a very pleasing and usable sound, warm and quite Orange-like that would be great for pedals, especially because it is exceptionally quiet for the amount of gain/distortion you have on tap if you so choose. it really creates a huge dynamic between playing and rests that certainly lets the guitar cut through the mix in a way I have not heard from only tube amps. I am going to be experimenting with running compressors in the effects loop to change the feel of the clean tone a bit. the saturated tone is a lot juicier to play though, but also surprisingly "twangy". I am getting a very tasty Moorhead type tone at the moment, but because Im using single coils, the definition of the picking is just astounding. it really is an amp that suits itself well to rhythm playing, IMO. I am not at all a lead guy... i'm all about the guitar as a pitched rhythm instrument.

my initial plans with the chorus pedals didn't work. they zapped too much tone due to the bucket brigade circuitry and the unison effect sounded more like a shitty Leslie impression. instead, my best setup so far has been to use the Waza delay to split the signal, dry signal into channel 1, wet, slightly delayed signal into a CE-2W with wet vibrato output going to channel 2 (channels are summed internally, @ output). turns out they're phase inverted from one another and will phase cancel... at least I think that's what's happening. When I was running the two chorus pedals in parallel effects loops, I wasn't getting a sum, I was getting cross-modulated vibrato. would have been very interesting on a synth patch, but sounded very unnatural on guitar. but it really was like a 1/4 note LFO three times followed by a 1/8th note LFO 6 times, and over and over. I don't know the technical term for this, but I do it in eurorack a lot. this was super unexpected, and leads me to think that the channels are inverted from one another, to cause this subtractive effect rather than the additive unison of different pitches. at first I was upset about this apparent phase cancelation thing but then realized this is what gives the level of crazy responsiveness. you're playing two different gain stages against each other. the signal that comes out is just terrific. very aggressive but not harsh. the Waza delay feeding the phase canceling channels has some major effects for sure. the delay is like 3 ms, and the vibrato on the front end makes the distortion harmonics have a wonderful tuned quality, and then these delayed, pitched distortion harmonics are apparently subtracted from the other channel. this gives an amazing sustaining pulsing quality and richness to the sound that is not particularly like chorusing or really anything. maybe a weird patch involving a gentle notch filter? the extremely short delay on one of the channel inputs also causes the sound to have a fantastic "ambience" that isn't at all like reverb. it almost sounds like a very well miced guitar cab, even though I've been listening to it direct into my interface. Can't wait to hear it through speakers.

one thing that I've found that I'm REALLY loving, that others might hate, is that you can clip the output stage (I think that's what's clipping... can't be sure). If you crank the EQ's, they have such a massive boost that the signal is enormous, and the clipping sound that results is nothing less than perfect velvet underground "run run run" guitar (the one panned right). it is the most delicious clipping sound ever... kind of like when a Neve 1073 gets a particularly hot signal. I have not had an opportunity to connect it to the Marshall 9005, but I'm extremely excited to see the way that this thing drives that power amp section. I love power amp distortion, and this thing chucks out so much gain I'm actually slightly concerned it could harm the Marshall. I will be careful tho oops but the clipping sound + the power amp distortion from the Marshall's EL84's is going to be just incredible!! this is so much better than buying heads or combos hihi
Technologear?
Great write-up BD. I want one even more now.

You have some great options with those amps. You could try:
Toneking for clean or modulated fx. I love the headroom on amps like that.
Orange pushed hard to get it to overdrive big, with a creamy ooey gooey fuzz sound. I know they can get to this really lovely happy stoner rock sound but not sure how much of that tone is in the fuzz pedals.
Then aim for a punishing distorted tone through a Hilbish channel. Ugly and sharp. It'll compliment the orange.
Remaining Hilbish channel for whatever other role, maybe an octave up fuzz, delay, assuming modulation fx were well covered already.

Crossovers- I've never found a pedal do it right, only rack gear. Most pedals sum whatever crossover-ing they do back into a full signal again, not enable seperate outs of a seperated signal.
BailyDread
Technologear? wrote:
Great write-up BD. I want one even more now.

You have some great options with those amps. You could try:
Toneking for clean or modulated fx. I love the headroom on amps like that.
Orange pushed hard to get it to overdrive big, with a creamy ooey gooey fuzz sound. I know they can get to this really lovely happy stoner rock sound but not sure how much of that tone is in the fuzz pedals.
Then aim for a punishing distorted tone through a Hilbish channel. Ugly and sharp. It'll compliment the orange.
Remaining Hilbish channel for whatever other role, maybe an octave up fuzz, delay, assuming modulation fx were well covered already.

Crossovers- I've never found a pedal do it right, only rack gear. Most pedals sum whatever crossover-ing they do back into a full signal again, not enable seperate outs of a seperated signal.


thanks man!! I totally recommend one. I just edited my post a bit now that im more awake for even more info. you gotta get one of these things!

The orange can go gooey stoner on its own, without fuzz, you just have to dump a whole bunch of level into the front of it... which is what I always do anyway, because I can just back down on the guitar volume for cleans. If you dump enough level into the front end it actually has this kind of "meltdown" sound because the rectifier is so overwhelmed... very neat. I bet that would couple well with the super-fast solid state attack of the Hilbish.

The tone king takes modulation super well... Right now I am considering the Waza dimension chorus. I'm a sucker for Waza stuff atm haha. It's nice and quiet.

do you have a go-to for a rack crossover? I am definitely curious about this idea. I'm wondering if I could use it to split between channel A and B, A processing the highs and B the lows. B/c they're phase inverted and their gain stages seem to be almost subtractive to one another (tone wise... NOT level, of which there is more than I know what to do with), this could give an extremely interesting tone. one thing tho, the crossover would need to handle unbalanced signals. idk if that's an issue
BailyDread
https://soundcloud.com/user-46294225/hilbish-design-beta-pre-demo

tone I came up with so far hihi I can't figure out how to embed lol[/s]

signal:
fender Mexico classic 50s series Strat
boss tu-3
vb-2w in custom, unlatch mode
dm-2w
[dry of dm-2w]fmr-arc into "both" input of beta preamp
[wet output of dm-2w]ce-2w, vibrato mode, wet output with dummy plug in dry output
strymon el capstan stereo out into channel a and b inputs

nothing in the fx loops (yet Miley Cyrus ), direct into a universal audio Apollo twin line input

I personally am a huge fan of ratty sounding stuff, but I also am excited to hear how this mellows through a UK made vintage 30. I intend to have 2 separate cabs with 2 separate speakers, likely a UK V30 and a fane A60. I'm not sure that I want to go with closed back though, as I am more focused on capturing the sound of the speaker than the cab and open might be cheaper. I might even get some weird peavy cab that is kind of junky.

it should be noted that in the sample above, the fmr arc radically raises the 60 cycle hum of my single coils. it also introduces a very pleasing white noise, unintentionally, but I love it because it compresses when you play so it just gives a sweet effect in the room applause

I will also add that with the addition of the fmr arc, this is the juiciest feeling rig I've ever played through. you barely have to touch the strings and you get amazing bloom with such a nice bass attack

EDIT: sounds terrific on bass too, love the splatty attack. I may try putting a RNLA in the FX loop tho to trim down the transients a bit

https://soundcloud.com/user-46294225/hbpsou88
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