Gear Reviews

SoloDallas® SD-50 Guitar Amp Head

11 Sep History of the JTM50

The Black Flag JTM50 is a rather rare and coveted after amplifier made by Marshal between 1966 and 1967. It was one of the transitional steps between the JTM45 amps and the plexi panel JMPs and later metal faces. During the short period of time it was produced, the JTM50 saw a few important spec changes that would be a precedent for further development of the Marshall guitar amps. (more…)

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13 Nov Never Underrate Your Equipment – A Marshall MS-4 Demo

 

Dear Rocking Friends,

 

Every one of us has a dream. A gear-related dream, to be precise. A Marshall Super Lead maybe? I think I just said something magical there. But you know, you don’t have to have that kind of equipment to achieve (or at least approximate) the tone you’ve always been dreaming about, as I shall demonstrate with this post. Now to be clear, the aim of this writing is not to say that expensive gear can be replaced, but rather to show you that you can squeeze out a somewhat decent tone – something you didn’t quite expect – even from cheaper gear. To sum this up in a sentence:

You don’t know you’re beautiful you sound amazing.  :-) 

 

So let’s jump straight into the setup I have for this demo:

  • Vintage VS6 SG – This is a $300-ish SG copy, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a decent guitar in this price range!
  • Marshall MS-4 – You probably know this little pocket amplifier already.
  • Shure SM57

Nothing quite special as you can see, it’s a very straight-forward setup. The only thing I did to the recording you’re about to hear, is that I applied some reverb via software. Other than that, this recording is raw, and has not been enhanced in any way. Have a good listen:

 

 

One thing to keep in mind while listening to this, is that the MS-4 has very tiny 3″ speakers inside of a plastic cabinet that barely has any air in it. This is the reason for the boxy sound, and the lack of bass. But once you get over that, it sounds very decent, especially the Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution part! That one sounds frighteningly close to the original in my opinion.

Now let’s take this experiment a little further – in case you’re not impressed already. I added the following items to the rig:

  • Boss GE-7 – Used as as clean boost in front of the amp (via the output volume slider), no EQ pattern was set.
  • 1960A replica cabinet with original 1973 Rola Celestion G12M greeenbacks – I admit that this is a bit of an overkill, but I really wanted to make sure that nothing is holding back the little Marshall from unleashing it’s glory.

In order to plug the MS-4 into the external cabinet, a modification is required to the amp. This consists of bypassing a resistor inside the amp that limits the output signal to headphone levels. After that is done, the headphone jack now becomes a speaker output jack – but make sure you don’t plug any headphone into it anymore! If you need exact instructions on how to do this, please let me know in the comments.

So after the amp was prepared, I hooked up everything, and I was very impressed by the results. The amp sounded surprisingly dynamic, lively, rich in harmonics, and enjoyable. I even managed to get a nice sustained feedback! I mic’d up the cab to make a second recording, here it is:

 

 

Now let me ask you something at this point. Could you possibly tell (without reading the article) that the amp used in the recording is a $50 1W solid-state pocket amp? If this was a blindfold test, I guess you would bet for something way more expensive, wouldn’t you? That’s fine though, I would do the same  😆

 

Before ending this article, let me address one more thing… The whole point of this article is to give you an idea on how to get a better tone from your existing gear. The answer is very simple: take your time! When you’re setting up your amp, miking your cab, or even just setting the knobs on your stomp boxes, remember this: if you think you’re done after a couple of minutes, you’re not! 

Let’s say you’re miking up your cab. What you shouldn’t do is to try out a few major mic positions, and pick what sounds the best for you, or either use a position that you used earlier. In many cases, tiny adjustments (I’m talking about millimeters here) can make a world of difference. When I mic up my guitar cab, I usually spend at least about 30 minutes setting up the mic position every time. Even if I marked a previously used mic position with duct tape on the cabinet, I only use that as a starting point. You should always absolutely geek out every possibility before recording. I find that spending extra time on the setup after you think it’s perfect is almost always beneficial. Of course the same rules apply to all the setup that’s required for playing, and not just miking.

 

Another very important thing is that you should always think of your whole rig (from your hands all the way to the speakers) as one big instrument! I cannot emphasize this enough. You’re not only playing the guitar, and having an amp that only makes it louder. The whole rig is one big instrument, but most importantly an instrument that has soul (not literally of course). Every piece in the rig is equally important. You have to spend time with your gear getting to know it, thus being able to use what is has to your advantage. A good rig is not just something you play on; it’s something that helps you expressing yourself, and also makes you feel good doing it!

 

I hope you find my thoughts useful, and will benefit greatly from them, just as I did. As the title says: never underrate your equipment!  :-)

Finally, here are a few pictures I took during the recording session:

 

 

Have a good day!

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18 Jun K.O.T.S. Schaffing it up at Sweden Rock 2014

This article (or to be more precise an e-mail on which this one is based) was originally intended for Fil & Franz only. But since I was asked to write something for the whole solodallas.com community and I accepted – here it is then. To you all (Krokus, anyone?).

The whole story began over 2 years ago. Killing time (Starfighters, anyone?) at work, I was reading one of my favourite music blogs. Author was talking in superlatives about one (for me then) unknown Aussie hard rock band called Kings of the Sun. I have never heard about them, so I checked their (old) website, which also had the KOTS Radio – a web player with all songs from their first 3 albums. I hit play and… was instantly hooked! It didn’t matter which song was on, I was tapping my feet within a few seconds (they passed the so-called “shit test”). No wonder that among the fans of the band are such heavyweights as Gene Simmons, Billy Gibbons, Steven Tyler, Eddie van Halen, Jon Bon Jovi and even O’Keeffe bros (Airbourne) were inspired by them.

Fast forward a few months and I was sitting in a pub in Surfers Paradise on Gold Coast, QLD – having a nice chat with the band’s founder Clifford Hoad and his family. I was in Sydney to see the last three gigs of Heaven’s Twenty Twelve reunion tour after 30 years and took advantage of an opportunity while down under to meet my idols.

Btw. Mark Evans was once a member of Heaven band as a rhythm guitarist (!). And if some of you wondered, yes, I met him – actually he introduced himself to me after Allan Fryer (Heaven’s singer; btw. he almost got a gig in AC/DC after Bon died), who was having a chat with Mark, called me to join them! Talk about a surreal event – same feelings as Fil meeting Angus or anybody else meeting his/her idol.

Did I mention that all these blokes are great guys, too?

qcliff

Quentin Elliott (lead guitarist) and Clifford Hoad (drummer & singer) unwrapping the yellow box.

But let’s get back to KOTS. At that time of me meeting Cliff, the Kings were disbanded and he had an accident with a broken jack and almost lost his finger (a falling car cut his finger badly). However, since then he managed to recover, resurrected his band and wrote and recorded an amazing new album called “Rock Til Ya Die” which was released last September and heralded as “the best hard rock record coming out of Australia in the last 25 years” and “album of the year 2013.” I strongly recommend it to every Aussie rock fan – check it out and you will hear for yourself (yes, this is a shameless plug)!

Fast forward to 2014 and Kings of the Sun won a voting competition and got a 45-min slot to open the Friday string of gigs at Sweden Rock Festival 2014.

The TSR pedal that was purchased for the band was delivered to Sweden in advance, so it could be used during the rehearsals and guys had some time to get familiar with its features and capabilities.

Below, you can see some photos from the soundcheck.

thumbs_up

Quick thumbs up and let’s go for it!

taipan

Plugging the Taipan in.

quentin

Let’s tune this baby!

sandals

Sandals & pedals.

amp

Dialling the rock ‘n’ roll.

dave

Dave tuning his Destroyer.

talking

Talking guitars with Q.

final_setup

Final setup.

As you can see on the picture, the final setup of the pedals that Q used was a TSR and a custom-made wah-wah pedal (and a tuner). He usually uses more pedals, but as he personally told me, while we had a chance to chat during the soundcheck, he was going to keep it simple for the gig. Rock ‘n’ roll – he should know better as an Australian.

Q’s main axe is a custom-made Taipan loaded with Mick Brierley’s hand-wound PAF pickups. The other one that he plays is also a custom-made Mongrel guitar loaded with the hand-wound B-90 pups (Mick Brierley’s take on a P-90 pickup in humbucker size). Both guitars were made by Ray Carlton. Australian guitars, Australian pickups.

Dave Talon, band’s rhythm guitarist, plays his beloved Ibanez Destroyers and also a Gibson Explorer.

Both plugged their axes into the Festival’s backline of amps. Q into a Marshall JCM2000 (with “too many knobs” as he remarked) and Dave into a JCM900.

The TSR was turned on for the whole gig. I had a chance to hear when Q turned it off and on during the soundcheck and I would describe it as getting from “clean to mean.”

When I later asked Q what his settings were like, his reply was:

“Just a Mal cleanish bite with a touch of gain, then schaffed the rep ON.”

I think he might have invented a new term: “to schaff the replica on.” What do you think Mr. Schaffer?

He also added: “I can’t wait to try it with my other amps.” Those are: Metropoulos 10,000 series, a couple of Sligo amps and a Marshall 2203 if I remember correctly. Talk about tone heaven.

Now, let’s get down to business.

setlist

Menu provided by the King of the Sun.

Here is the official video made by the Festival with an opening track of the KOTS show called Rockpile. I must say, that the sound of it doesn’t do a justice to the real thing I was listening to live. It was effin’ awesome and 45 min they got went really quick.

Thankfully, here is also a video of the full show thanks to Shar of the Nitestar band with much better audio quality if you ask me. Enjoy!

If you want to learn more about the Kings of the Sun, I recommend these links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kings_of_the_Sun_(band) (most complete bio of the band)
http://www.kingsofthesunband.com/ (official page with a whole discography to listen to)
http://www.youtube.com/user/CliffordHoad (official YouTube channel)
http://www.facebook.com/CliffHoad.KINGS.OF.THE.SUN (official Facebook page)

If you are interested in a gear mentioned in this article, check these links:

http://www.carltonguitars.com.au/
http://www.brierleyguitarpickups.com.au/

P.S.: There are more articles in the works and also a new section that should be introduced this summer. Stay tuned!

P.P.S.: Support your favourite bands. Go and see them live, buy their music and merchandise, because that’s the only way they can keep going.

…and remember: “ROCK TIL YA DIE!”

cliff

Photo by Ronny Jonsterhaug.

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28 Mar “Gone Shootin’ Gallery” Gold Tag TSR vs. Old Gear.

Hello Fellow Members!!!

 

Here we go with my 2 cents on the Amazing Gold Tag TSR #29. First off I have to give an immensely huge THANK YOU to Fil and Franz for their relentless work on this

project. This unit is beyond compare to any other pedal I’ve owned before.

 

To start out I’ll begin with the unveiling of the package. As described by others when the Yellow package arrived with, for me, a foreign language on the outside I knew precisely what was inside. The TSR that I had awaited for. For at least two long years I had waited for this and now it was here!!!!

 

1

IT’S HERE!!!!!!

As said It was packaged like everyone else’s in a Yellow “Austrian Post” box that had seen it’s way half way across Europe, over the Atlantic ocean and crossing the US to the West Coast of Oregon. For the path it had taken it didn’t seem too worse for wear.

As I began to unpackage I could see the level of safety concern for the unit that Franz had taken. Everything was wrapped in bubble wrap and/or foam wrapping.

Stuffed I tight and cozy for the Looooong journey.

Stuffed I tight and cozy for the Looooong journey.

Of course, Next on the list was to run to Radio Shack (all speed limits obeyed of course……. 😉 ) to get the plug adapter for use here in the USA.

With that all said and done it was time for the party.

I think it compliments the Aracom quite nicely...

I think it compliments the Aracom quite nicely…

 

So for my audio/Video review part of this I’ll let the sound do the talking. The audio only clip is of my old “AC/DC” set-up.

It consisted of My  2203, 2 x 12 G12-65, Aracom, Dyna Comp, Tube Screamer and a Box of Rock.

I had to EQ a decent amount as well as add treble and reverb to the sound to achieve what the final result is. As per usual, a good sound but none the less not good enough.

Video clip is of the Marshall, Aracom PRO-2 and the GTTSR. NO EQ only slight reverb added.

Amp settings are P:0 B:5 M:4 T:5 Master:6 Pre: 4-5.

As a disclaimer of sorts; the TSR is not the only change in gear between the two samples. In the audio only I’m using an Angus Sig. pickup and in the video I had installed a Manilus T-Top. Which by the way is $ well spent. Mick’s customer service is outstanding and the sound and quality of this pickup is nothing short of awesomeness!!

So without further adu, adoo, adue, ado????

 

 

 

 

Audio only Pre TSR Gear:

 

 

Video with Gold Tag Replica

 

So there’s my take. I’m not professional by any means. Just a regular guy giving my experience. For those of you waiting for yours believe me…. it’s well worth it!!!!!!!

Any impressions, criticisms, questions ect. are welcome in comments. Until next time this is

06AngusSG (Jon) Signing off…………… 😉

 

 

 

 

 

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14 Feb Playing with a Marshall YJM (quick initial impressions)

Marshall YJM poster.

So, just got a used (but like new) Marshall YJM, which is a signature amp (Yngwie Malmsteen). While I never cared for Mr. Malmsteen not even for two seconds in a row (with Respect), I love the amp.

It is basically a regular Marshall 1959 Super Lead, 100 watts amplifier (which is my favourite amplifier type in the world), loaded with additional features that the vintage ones don’t have. Including a boost, reverb, noise gate and embedded attenuation via a modern “EPA” electronic circuit that lowers the voltage going to the main (EL34) tubes thus reducing the output up to bedroom levels.

I immediately tried the EPA function, which didn’t strike me as the best attenuation method available – it lets the amp drive way less and subtracts high frequencies, at least compared to my Aracom.

Expect a much better review of this soon – I am very interested in the differences between new and vintage amps, attenuation technologies and tone in general (you knew it didn’t you). I think these right here are all the necessary tools for us bedroom rockers, and I will not stop investigating.

Edit: after speaking with friend CrossroadsNYC (moderator at the marshallforum.com) it turns out that these are known characteristics, and it is just normal for the EPA to behave like that. I still like my Aracom a number of times better, however keeping in mind that the Aracom is a few more hundred bucks and the EPA is included with the amp… you know the math.

 

I made this little AC/DC copycat thing this morning to let you have a grasp of what the YJM sounds like. All parts played with a 1967 Gibson SG Standard (the one that was recently repainted), stock pickup (which I don’t even know if it is a t-top anymore, it came with the guitar and it is rather old). Cabinet is a Marshall B type with vintage 1970s G12Ms “blackbacks”. Microphone was  my newly acquired Neumann U47 FET (god I love it).

IMG_1009-2

 

The two guitars on the sides were played with NO TSR; the solo in the centre was played with TSR in standby for its first half, then TSR on (you should be able to tell when this happens).

The Marshall YJM settings were P0, M4, T6, V4 (yep, voume on 4), attenuated with my Aracom. Guitar volume and tone both on 10.

Like it?


Wanted to add the backing track in case someone wants it

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02 Feb Now a GREAT example of an Old Times “AC/DC Microphone” Would Be… a Neumann U47 FET (Audio Update)

Minor update (2 audio files) please scroll to the bottom to hear a Wizard Modern Classic/The Schaffer Replica® GT combo recorded with this Neumann U47 FET!

—–

Oh yes. It is my theory in fact that most (if not all) of early (up to 1977, including “Let There Be Rock”) AC/DC studio album recordings were mostly recorded – guitars and Bon’s vocals – with Neumann U47 FET (NOT the tube versions!). And maybe – just maybe – even bass drum with it (the Neumann U47 FET is also famous for that).

For the technically curious: Neumann U47 FET

My own Neumann U47 FET out of the Vintage King Audio packaging! Near Mint.

My own Neumann U47 FET out of the Vintage King Audio packaging! Near Mint.

I just got my own unit. I am not sure yet of its date of manufacturing (they were made from ’69 to the early 1980s), just got this yesterday.

Unopened Package from the great Vintage King Audio guys - thanks Nick Buzinski for trading with my Neumann U47 Tube

Unopened Package from the great Vintage King Audio guys – thanks Nick Buzinski for trading with my Neumann U47 Tube

This is an extremely expensive microphone, and a rarity too (especially in this near mint conditions). So given the times – where I already have spent quite much for the development of our beloved Schaffer Replicas™ – I traded this for my original, 1950s Neumann U47 tube version, that was specifically used on vocals, and that I had saved from my Studio58a times but was mostly useless for me.

Microphones for me are for recording guitars mostly, and the Neumann U47 FET was used countless times for guitar recording in the past.

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