30 Sep The Definitive “Back in Black” featuring an original Schaffer-Vega Diversity System (UPDATED!)
Well, I was talking over the phone with my long time Italian-Canadian friend “Max” (he’s a member here too). Max has lived for decades with a 1959 replacing his own heart.
Well you get the picture. Max told me “Fil, nice, but something still isn’t 100% right”. I knew this, I even wrote it down here, but I still couldn’t figure out why.
He told me the same old story: “Fil, take out stuff, as much as you can, no plugins, nothing. The sound HAS to happen with microphone, guitar and amplifier”.
He hadn’t implied that the SVDS shouldn’t be used, he just made sure I – once again – would understand that no equalizer in the world would work. Especially me having all the right gear – the very same actually likely used on that album, even including the microphone – I should be able to get it identical, without strange elements inside (talking about unwanted/excess frequencies).
I had told him about the scooped mids thing, he asked what mids setting I was using on the amp and told me flat out “screw it Fil”. Laughs.
So the idea came to me that I should try without the SVDS (but WITH and ON the Celestions G12-65). Because in fact, the SVDS is a terrific clean boost with lots of mids!
And so, this very late afternoon I did.
And boy, there. Angus’ rhythm guitar was a 100% match, no things to take out with eq, nothing. Just guitar at 8, guitar TONE at 6, no SVDS on rhythm, G12-65s and a 1959 and it’s there. I was basically adding mids (SVDS) and then trying to take them out both at the amp settings AND a LOT with the post EQUALIZATION.
This one – SG, 1959 and G12-65s – was basically the ONLY combination I hadn’t tried; in fact, right when I installed the G12-65s the other day it came to me instinctively to put the SVDS on. I always play with the SVDS on now, I just can’t take it off lol.
Isn’t it always the same story? Don’t we end up finding what we wanted just at our latest attempt? Just like when you have several keys in your hand and only the last one is the right one! Damn!
Anyway. Will do shortly another video with the SVDS played only on solos and post it right here. So it will all stay documented (laughs).
To summarize shortly what I think happened likely on the WHOLE Back in Black album, Angus’ parts:
– Angus played rhythm without SVDS WITH the band, live takes. This rhythm guitar is always – or almost always presumably – on the right side of the stereo position.
– Angus overdubbed rhythm (center rhythm guitar WITH the SVDS)
– Angus overdubbed the solos WITH the SVDS
As you heard already in my latest video below, it is not SUCH a massive difference with or without the SVDS. Plus I love having the SVDS on at all times.
But for the sake of accuracy, truth and documentation, I wanted to make sure the community knew this 🙂
End of Update
It’s a long story, and some of you followed me for a few years. So you know already.
I am not going to write it all from the beginning, also because everything has been documented here (luckily). So I’ll get straight to the point: it was The Schaffer-Vega Diversity System.
AND it was Celestions G12-65s. On Back in Black, that is. Someone had already thought about it – our own George aka SGAce (thank you George!).
So after months and months of trying in all possible ways – recently also with assorted Cetec-Vegas and eventually with an Original, Beloved Schaffer-Vega Diversity – also with an original Neumann U67 and hundreds of equalization curves tried, the last thing to try was those damn Celestions G12-65s.
I had bought an old couple (1979) last June, but hadn’t installed them yet. All of a sudden, days ago I rushed to put them in into an old 1971 cabinet. It now has two G12H30s and two G12-65s.
I didn’t put them crossed, just two on top (the G12H30s) and two on the bottom (G12-65s). I just wanted to have the chance to record easily choosing the type of speakers.
So I did, and it was definitely the missing, last link. Now, I don’t intend to say that my sound is identical 100% to Angus’ on that record. That record is still amazingly a work of art; almost un-replicable.
However, I really wanted to get as close as possible and after many, many attempts, this version is my definitive last one. I don’t think anything remains from being discovered, at least for this song.
So my findings (Angus only) are as follows:
Amplifiers used: Marshall 1959, both rhythm AND solo
Cabinet: at least one with G12-65s inside
Guitar: one of his Gibson SGs (or more).
What I used: my 1976 Marshall 1959 with an Aracom DAG Attenuator (what an amazing piece of gear that is).
One non-slanted cabinet with G12-65s in the bottom (see below for microphone position)
One single microphone used: Neumann U67 (Platt used two: an U67 and an U87).
For rhythm, a recently purchased Gibson SG Standard from 1968 (correct date). Vibrola removed (prior to my purchase). All original.
For solos, a 1971 Gibson SG Custom, all original.
A Schaffer-Vega Diversity System (SVDS). A video documentary on the Schaffer-Vega DIversity system will follow shortly.
Please watch the video if you made it reading thus far; will continue right below. While you’re at it, check the VU meter on the SVDS. And enjoy yourself 🙂
As you saw, the SVDS is made of a Transmitter (TX: the cream colored box attached to the front of my strap) and a Recevier (RX: friendly called by Mr. Schaffer himself “The Titanic”, as only these remain).
The TX sends the guitar signal after some cool audio processing (compression mainly, but not only) to the RX, which expands the compressed signal of some amount and then outputs the signal to the amplifier.
These were used both for microphones (Mick Jagger comes to mind) and guitar (countless guitar players among which, Angus Young).
Now, there are two outputs: one XLR output that was meant to simulate the cable (i.e., un-boosted signal but compressed) and an optionally boosted signal (front of the panel: Monitor Out with its own Volume to clean-boost), still compressed.
I used the latter output here, as I have been doing for quite a while since I found out. Not only it does clean boosts, but it also add some nice, strong mid range to the tone, particularly desirable on tube guitar amplifiers such as these very Marshalls.
So I did, and you hear the results.
Now, Back in Black though has a particular tonal characteristic that had eluded me for quite a while (all my life really, until recently): it is mid-scooped! That means, that the mids were literally “carved” i.e., they had been taken largely out of the EQ to make room for vocals, drums, etc.
I had never realized this so clearly until I worked AGAIN night and day on this. With all the right equipment now, I wouldn’t tolerate not getting at least in the credible sonic ballpark as the original.
So I worked and worked. Played with amplifier settings; moved microphone; played and recorded; added Equalization in post; and so on and forth.
I must have made hundreds of takes. Especially since I really realized that a specific, careful and almost unique microphone placement had to be the only way. So you place the mike carefully as you play some with the headphones (if you do it yourself and in the same room), then recorded, apply EQ and then realize it is off.
So you start all over.
I did this for I don’t know how long. And finally, I got content of what you heard is.
It is still not 100% dead on; Angus’ guitar has a sort peculiar character to it that I woud describe as “velvet” HMF (High Mid Freqs). Amazing taste on Mr. Platt’s and Mr. Lange’s part.
Maybe the joint use of an U87 would help out here, but I am content with this for now.
Because mostly it served to really prove down to 100% certainty that it was the SVDS in conjunction with all the other equipment to make it work. And this is what I wanted (besides the personal satisfaction of hearing a 98% correct tone while playing and listening back to it).
So the amplifier settings to mess around are as follows:
Volume 7 (rhythm) and Volume 10 (Solo).
Please keep in mind that this settings thing is really only worth it when recording. The microphone will capture the frequencies in a different way than our ears: additionally, the EQ one adds later will emphasize certain aspects and get rid of others. Such as in this case here.
Please see these few pics for microphone placement for this song:
Please note: article in progress.