Gear Daydreams

Posted: February 22, 2012 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

While researching gear for Guitar World the other day, I started thinking about Alexi Laiho’s, 80’s, “Lee Jackson GP-100” preamp. I remember when Paul Gilbert told me he and Bruce Bouilett, (Racer X guys) switched to these preamps in the 80s.

Continuing thinking about preamps, I thought of Vivian Campbell’s “Marshall JMP-1s”, and back in the 90s, when I played through my old friend, Reinhold Bogner’s “Fish Amp” preamp, it was unbelievable sounding! Btw, Jerry Cantrell, of Alice In Chains, used the “Fish” for songs like “Man in the Box”.

A benefit of a dedicated preamp is that it’s very modular and flexible. You can patch effects processors on the preamp’s input or output and use different power amps to suit your needs. You can also run the preamp at any volume because the power amp determines your volume. Of course you can do all this with a regular amp’s master volume, but the whole dedicated preamp setup is just so clean and simple.

Another thing about a dedicated preamp is that you can insert it into a multiple loop switcher like an RJM Effects Gizmo, and then save preset combinations of the preamp and any other gear in the other loops. The JMP-1 and the Lee Jackson preamps also let you save presets of their settings and switch them with midi. So while switching effects in and out with a loop switcher, you can change your amp settings too.

Since the mass market mostly buys combo amps or heads and cabinets, a lot of these tube preamps are not made any more, but there are some new preamps out there like the Engle E-580.

I’m always on the lookout for gear but I really love the Roland VG-99. This is a next generation, completely digital,  just ones and zeros type unit, no real tubes. I think rhythms sound better with real tubes; and leads sound good with digital models. Or, is it the other way around? By the time your tones end up in a recording, or a mix at the front of the house, you tell me if it’s digital or real.

Whatever you think is best, the flexibility of the VG is amazing, with my regular pickup I can get killer tones, I especially like it’s 5150 amp model. But also with the VG and a GK-3 pickup I can switch to any tone I can dream of, say a 12 string acoustic, can’t do that with a JMP-1 or Fish.

I did some presets for NI’s Guitar Rig program, it’s completly software based. You just need a good computer, no external hardware and it sounds amazing! I guess my Holy Grail gear quest will never end, especially with new inventions coming out all the time. Dang, I just remembered I have a guy working on my old Soldano/Yamaha combo amp. That makes me think I need to email him and find out the progress.

Maybe I’ll keep my eye out for a Fish amp too… but I’ll still sound like me, whatever I play through. Just like my voice still sounds like me over a cell phone or through $5000 Neumann Mic. But gear is fun, isn’t it? 


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