The “Mystery” of AC/DC “Let There Be Rock” tone solved?

13 Nov The “Mystery” of AC/DC “Let There Be Rock” tone solved?

How’s everyone doing? Been away for some time, but back we are.

I *think* I “solved” this one as well. How arrogant of me!
Though I am not an arrogant individual (I hope you folks know me a bit by now πŸ™‚ ).

But chatter apart, I remember some debate about the nature of the guitar(s) sound of AC/DC 1977 album “Let There Be Rock”.
I remember several hypothesis, of amps, boosts etc.
Roe had suggested – for example – that it may be an older Marshall and a treble boost.
I tried that route extensively, but it never satisfied me.

So I figured out eventually why it does sound so special and “raw”. It is – and now that I say, some of you – the interested ones – might “Gee, should’ve though myself about this” because it really is that simple: go back to it some, and listen to it some again.
Do you hear… solid state distortion as well as tube distortion? Yes you do. And do you know why? Because the mic preamp has gone into considerate, conscious (wanted) distortion while tracking. It was meant as an effect and seemingly, it worked out.
It was Marshall 2203s with no boost of any kind, just brand new 2203s (for the time, 1977) with Neumann U47 FETs fed into distortion into the mic preamp of the (I think Neve) console.
That’s it. I have video(s) ready to post, will do so shortly.
I have a very close match and if you think about it some, you’ll agree that it isn’t a strange combination at all.
Both the brothers had always stated that with the exception of Angus on a Schaffer Vega Diversity (that wasn’t there until August of that same year, 1977, so not there at the time of the recording of this studio album) on most of the following album and stage shows, no effect of any kind has ever been used.

They did say the truth after all. Not that I’d ever doubt, but it’s nice to have a sort of “sonic, sound” proof of this once more.


(PS posting videos soon)

Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri

We Are Rock 'N Roll People.

  • avatar
    Posted at 07:10h, 06 April

    I achieve almost the same tone with a JCM900 with 50W 5881 tubes version.

    On the A channel, high mode, with a power attenuator. Just a bit of power amp tube distortion (6 on master, around 7 on the preamp gain), added to this a Black Ross distortion (full volume, almost half way gain). Adjust the treble/presence to get this nice fizzy highs and you’re in !

    This amp is really amazing for the A channel. I don’t really use the B channel, to heavy for me. I can achieve many of acdc’s tones easily depending on the preamp gain, pedal and master level i use..

  • avatar
    Posted at 02:57h, 30 January

    Hi Fil,
    I absolutely have to commend your obsession with Angus tone. I am in fact even moved by this. I absolutely love this tone too. I’ve been listening to ‘Let there be Rock’ album since the late 70’s (I am that old) and it still sounds fresh and exciting. The guitar sounds are so raw and pure. Absolutely magic harmonics on every chord. Angus’ tone on this album is my favourite. Utterly raw and bright. Thanks for your videos and for the fantastic stuff about the Schaffer Vega. Sound is worth pursuing. These sounds are a part of magic that I can go back to again and again in my life. Very best wishes.

  • avatar
    Posted at 02:13h, 03 January

    What do you think of the Revolution SS-distortion compared to the Let there be rock-album?


    As others said, very nice research done here. I always thought LTBR had a very special sound too, and the solid state-type of thing has struck my mind at some point, but then I forgot about it. In fact, I think they have a similar sound on the Golders Green show in 1977, how that can be possible I donΒ΄t know.


  • avatar
    Posted at 07:33h, 31 December

    Are you saying they got the distortion in a similar way the Beatles got it for Revolution (single version) i.e. overloading the sound board? That song has of course a quite different distortion, but it has that in common that itΒ΄s very hard to nail in another way…

  • avatar
    Posted at 02:38h, 31 December

    Speakers…. for those of you who might be interested, Scumback has a series called the BlackBack M: http://www.scumbackspeakers.com/bm_series.html

    & BlackBack H series: http://www.scumbackspeakers.com/bh_series.html

    Their design is based on the “G12H30 speaker tone from 1974-1980”. Here’s an EXCELLENT demo of what they sound like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6U30BV2kFM&list=UUpK5bAA-DFb64eEQ6Oo8OZw&index=1&feature=plcp

    β€” Enjoy.

  • avatar
    Posted at 00:59h, 30 December

    Can one mix that solid state effekt while having the vega boost? Wonder if that would make for a very raw sound πŸ™‚

  • avatar
    Posted at 16:44h, 28 December

    I’m not sure how to search for my own posts. When I click on my name, I see a “No posts found by this author” message in red.

    If someone answers my posts, how can I log in here to find their response?

    Question if anyone can answer:
    What speakers, cabs was Malcolm using when they recorded “If You Want Blood”. I’ve seen the video many times, and I know the intro chords are played by him – but what speakers was he using? Thanks.

    • avatar
      Posted at 09:21h, 30 December

      Every time you are interested in a topic, you can click “follow topic” πŸ™‚

      • avatar
        Posted at 02:06h, 01 January

        Awesome – I just realized where that follow topic link is. Thanks.

        • avatar
          Posted at 14:24h, 01 January

          Can I follow a topic without replying to it in the first place? If so I canΒ΄t find the link.

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:07h, 25 November

    I’ve heard that they use an avalon preamp for the microphones. On the Stiff upper lip Live dvd there’s an interview showing the avalon preamps.

  • avatar
    Posted at 15:50h, 22 November

    Thanks for the warm welcome SD,much appreciated.
    Here’s some relevant info on the Aphex exciters.When they first came out they were considered so special they were only rented out at $30 per minute! ..lol
    I would imagine one or two may have found themselves in Albert Studios by Early 1977…

    “The Aural Exciter is said to enhance clarity and intelligibility by adding phase shift and musically related synthesized harmonics to audio signals. The Big Bottom circuit combines a low-pass filter and dynamics processor to compress and delay incoming low-frequency information. The process is reverse amplitude dependent, meaning that more is applied as the input level drops and less as the signal gets hotter. Together the dynamics processor and time delay create sustained bass frequencies that are perceived as being louder yet do not noticeably increase peak output.

    The first Aural Exciter units were available exclusively on the rental basis of $30 per minute of finished recorded time. The unit became so popular, especially with the Los Angeles music and recording studio scene, that Aphex had to move to Hollywood. In the 1970s, certain recording artists, including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor stated in their liner notes “This album was recorded using the Aphex Aural Exciter.” Other users included Donna Summer, Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac, Olivia Newton-John, Alan Parsons, and Warren Zevon.

    Recognizing that there was a much bigger market than just the rental business, Aphex started selling the professional units, and introduced two low-cost models: Type B and Type C. The Aural Exciter circuit is now licensed by a growing list of manufacturers, including Yamaha, MacKenzie, Gentner, Emu and Bogen. The original Aphex Aural Exciter, first offered in 1975, came without the Big Bottom circuit, which was added in 1992. Later revisions of the Aphex Aural Exciter included the Model 104 Type C and Type C2 units. Aphex has now released the Model 204 Aural Exciter and Optical Big Bottom, yet another refinement of the original unit. According to Aphex, the Model 204 updates the Aural Exciter and Big Bottom processor blocks with improved circuitry, including an optical gain-control element for the Big Bottom compressor.”

  • avatar
    Posted at 07:16h, 22 November

    Hi,Im new here and just want to say a huge thank you for all your hard work and passion on this great site.I’ve just discovered it and am delighted that there are others out there really deep into the specifics behind those great tones and albums.I was beginning to wonder if it was just me obsesssing about the AC/DC tones all day,for years,but having found this site i feel happy that there are other folks out there just as serious about exactly how those magical tones were achieved.They really have something very special going on and as there’s very little in the dataspehere about how AC/DC record etc it’s a real pleasure for me to find this site.

    With regard to this specific post i think you’re bang on the money with your theory about SS/console overdrive.LTBR is a unique sounding album.It’s just so downright nastier,punkier than any of the others and i do wonder if the studio it was recorded in had just taken on some new or different equipment.The real tell tale sign for me,in regard to your SS/console OD theory, is listening closely to the cymbals.I know that may sound strange but i do hear the same overloading on those.I definitely hear what i suspect to be Aphex Aural Exciters at work on the cymbals and wondered if they were fronted across all input points and the final mix.I think a combination of overdriven SS/preamps/console and aural excitement are the key to the guitars AND whole unique album sound.Listen real close to those cymbals(especially on Dog Eat Do;,at times they almost disappear with what sounds like brickwall limiting but i think its really preamp/console overdrive.Same on the guitars so,yes,i think your theory is spot on.

    Just my $0.02 worth of course…:.)

    Keep up the great work,i’m delighted to have found this excellent site.

    Best wishes,

  • avatar
    Posted at 06:39h, 20 November

    for anyone who would like the multitracks for this song.

    here is the link

  • avatar
    Posted at 23:37h, 19 November

    I dont know why but i didnt like the ltbr album when i was younger. it had that distinct “shitty”, forgive me, sound to it. More like a bad recorded punky album. but the amps are set great, never knew what it was, live record of the era were just fine … highway to hell for instance sounded totally different.
    Might be worth to check some mic distortion,


  • avatar
    Posted at 23:20h, 14 November

    Hopefully you will do a version of Whole Lotta Rosie (Studio Version). I am having a hard time looking for changes in the end, because the outro solo kind of all blends in making it difficult to memorize. (It’s still one of my favorites don’t get me wrong lmao). Just figured you have the skill to do it.

  • avatar
    Posted at 16:43h, 14 November

    Once again, great discovery, Fil πŸ™‚ Without you I probably wouldn’t even know what SVDS is, let alone knowing that AC/DC used it. Thank you for your hard work πŸ™‚

  • avatar
    Posted at 03:47h, 14 November

    but, what about the vega svds?

    • avatar
      Posted at 10:38h, 14 November

      Wasn’t used here yet. Angus simply didn’t have it yet.
      LTBR was recorded in circa March 1977; Angus got his SVDS in August 1977. I am not talking about “Let There Be Rock The Movie”. I am talking about the studio album here.

      • avatar
        Posted at 18:40h, 14 November

        The pursuit for tone continues. We are not talking about years/albums here, but months πŸ™‚ The searching area is thinner now. Good find Fil!
        P.S.: waiting for samples… πŸ™‚

    • avatar
      Posted at 13:52h, 14 November

      would be good if we had a time line of what gear we believe was used to make it clearer and have markers on it to indecate suspected gear used

      also maby a solodallas project page on the site that covers each album and thier current status research

      just a couple of ideas πŸ˜›

      • avatar
        Posted at 13:56h, 14 November

        absolutely. Will do. I was waiting on it once everything is pretty much proved done as much as possible.
        Additionally, I have done intentionally so for now to oblige the reader to follow everything, so not to make it too easy for others to just copy this information and re-distribute it before I have done some more things…. that are coming πŸ˜‰

        • avatar
          Posted at 14:15h, 14 November

          ahh i see, a tactical approach for sure! Great planning sir!

  • avatar
    Posted at 02:33h, 14 November

    Fil, we pretty much ended up with the same results on our “journeys”! πŸ™‚ Recently I always add an effect called “exciter” to my records (basically it’s distortion). This way I’m getting a very nice old-school AC/DC tone.
    Interesting… we “work” without knowing about each other’s stuff, and end up with the same thing πŸ˜€

    • avatar
      Posted at 10:39h, 14 November

      once one enters experiment world with the right approach, the world of secrets of recording opens up slowly but firmly. πŸ™‚

  • avatar
    Posted at 19:29h, 13 November

    Wow ! Pretty exciting !
    Could it be that Angus up until the SV didn’t used ANY amp boost on previous albums and live shows?
    Oh well… They have magic amps anyway πŸ˜‰

    Keep up the good work!

    • avatar
      Posted at 19:35h, 13 November

      I am now actually pretty sure that none of the two brothers used anything except REGULAR amps until the mid ’80s (were they likely started getting the amps modded). NO special amps at all. And the introduction of the SVDS in August 1977. That is it. πŸ™‚

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:57h, 13 November

    Hope to hear you do Overdose, man what cracker of a cut that is!

    Love the album as a whole,great tones all over it πŸ™‚

    • avatar
      Posted at 00:34h, 14 November

      I agree with Cody, Overdose and also Go Down are two AMAZING tracks!

      • avatar
        Posted at 02:11h, 14 November

        I also agree with these two, you should try to nail the Overdose tone as it is the most unique tone in my opinion on that album. Angus probably messes with his tone and volume knobs for that intro.

        • avatar
          Posted at 12:55h, 14 November

          Oh yeah!

          The solo from Overdose is a MUST!!!

          One of Angus’ best – heaps of feel, anger, expression, speed.

          Love it!!

          Please Fil – A full Overdose solo transcript!

    • avatar
      Posted at 10:48h, 14 November

      I may do that one as well. At this point, I think the whole album was recorded the same way. Different settings and mike (U47 Fet) position, same amps (Marshall 2203s) and that Solid State (SS) distortion going on almost everywhere on guitars (mostly Angus). The SS distortion may have been a result of the following:

      – Mic Preamplifier (on console) distortion (raised mic levels)
      – console channel distortion
      – recording tape pre-amp channel distortion (NOT tape distortion alone! this would give a completely different result; we’re talking about SS distortion here, so one of the pre-amp elements of the chain went into “wanted” distortion).

  • avatar
    Posted at 18:27h, 13 November

    LTBR album is simple one of their best! I like all their albums but that album is one of those who i most oftenly listens to πŸ™‚

    • avatar
      Posted at 10:50h, 14 November

      Agreed! To me it’s one piece of the golden era. Golden era (for me) goes from beginning (circa 1974) to 1981.

      • avatar
        Posted at 16:03h, 16 November

        I agree about the Golden era. Great sound, great voice (Bon was perfect for that sound).
        About live I love IYWB…

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