31 Oct AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”, The Schaffer Replica™ Series (SoloDallas cover)
With this one I wanted to do something slightly different than the previous two songs: use the TSR™ the whole time. Would it be accurate, fair and sound good all at the same time? I don’t know, let’s evaluate it together item by item.
Please keep in mind that if you are interested in recreating the Highway To Hell sound you should also read the two previous entries, here:
Walk All Over You
Shot Down In Flames
1. Accuracy in the use of the TSR™ for rhythm parts
Isn’t it true that the original SVDS – The Schaffer-vega Diversity System – was used by Angus Young for studio albums mainly on solos? Yes, it is true. So why use it on rhythm parts as well – for studio album sounds? Because. Because it was also used on some rhythm parts! In fact, I want (I’d like) you to try an experiment.
And let’s use this very song here, “Highway To Hell”. In order for you to try this experiment you have to have some sort of audio processing software and the original studio track Highway To Hell. So prior to reading further, go find both (hint: you can download for free the excellent Audacity, available for both Windows and Mac platforms; regarding your copy of Highway To Hell, please purchase it, don’t go downloading it around!).
Now that you are set up on both accounts, open your software – I am making the assumption you have Audacity, but ProTools – just as an example – has the same simple function, too – and load the song into it. What we are going to do is to “mono” the left stereo channel – that would be normally Malcolm’s channel – as I want you to pay attention to one thing.
In order to do this, you have to click on the track tab to the left, and then look for “split stereo track” (or something like this). Once you did split the track, mute the right channel (Angus’) and click on the left channel tab onto “mono” to make it mono (i.e., won’t be all panned to the left, but a comfortable, natural “centre” position).
If you aren’t able to do it, ask me in the comments will try and do it together.
If instead you were able to, now please click play and listen.
You should be listening to Angus repeating his rhythm track in the centre position of the stereo spectrum. This is a “third” rhythm guitar! Angus started adding these since the times of Let There Be Rock, and probably even earlier. It was a trick used by the production so that the guitars sounded bigger, fatter. Usually he copied his rhythm part on the right, but differences occurred in time (one example that comes to mind is “You Shook Me All Night Long”).
In short, you are precisely listening to Angus playing a rhythm track – until the solo breaks in – played with… the Schaffer-Vega Diversity. In fact, Angus laid all of the additional parts from the control room – once the main rhythm backing track had been recorded off of the floor with the whole band.
This was – once again – pretty much a formula that worked (and still works.. they are still doing it this way!) so they simply stuck to this. He was comfortable playing from the control room over the band’s backing track. He’d lay down a few solos, at times guided by the producer (especially for the best albums) and that was that. Now, in the early times, he did play with a cable from the control room. This is simply something that is relatively easy to accomplish.
But since August 1977, Angus was owner of the Schaffer-Vega Diversity, and he liked much the way it operated and sounded. So he used simply that in the studio.
WHY not with the band “off of the floor too”, then?
I don’t know precisely, but I know I can guess.
– Short cables. It is a known fact that if you want your guitar to sound at its best – i.e., leveraging to the most the instrument and amplifier tonal qualities – you have to have short cables. So, in order a great rhythm tone (Angus) they probably connected him most of the times with cables with the rest of the band.
– Hiss. The SVDS (and partly, the TSR™) are hissy.
2. Sound Good. You be the judge. I think it does sound good, “this sound” being an average version between the right channel sound you hear on the song – and that was without the SVDS much likely – and the centre channel sound (with SVDS). My version is in between them, since I still wanted to be on the right – rhythm – but wanted to use the TSR™ on rhythm parts as an experiment.
Settings were very, very mild as always. Presence 0, Bass 4, Treble 6, Mids 5. Master Volume was on 5 and Pre amp was on 5 or 6. The TSR™ was 50% companding and 50% boost. Guitar volume 10, guitar tone 5.
Please note: I think one more or less constant component of the rhythm and at times, solo sounds for Angus on this album is the tone knob of the bridge pickup set at 5-ish.
It might sound not right to you if you listen by ear, but once you shove a microphone in there, you will change your mind. It is also one of the “defining” aspects of the movie Let There Be Rock Angus’ tone side. The closed tone knob. Angus was not at all new to this “studio” trick. Something very common with him (and many, many more guitar players of the era) to close the tone knob mostly for soloing. Reason being the usual one: without the SVDS (or other boosts), a Gibson hum bucker on a Marshall amp can be real thin and harsh when on 10. So you do get more drive, but also a very penetrating sound than can sound thin as heck. Did I mention it can be harsh sounding? So what they did usually was to close the tone knob some, and you’ll get more of the body of the sound. And you’ll still get the high frequencies! But without lots of those HMF (mid high frequencies) that can really be a pain. It’s an equaliser basically, in its own right. Use and experiment with it!
angusfanforeverPosted at 00:32h, 25 August
Fil in your Highway To Hell The Schaffer Replica video,what specific Amp and Guitar did you use to achieve that highway to hell tone?
Chris MoinyPosted at 08:17h, 25 August
Guitar was probably a 1969 SG ( maybe a 67 too, can’t tell like that ).
Amp was a JMP 2203.
Guitar doesn’t really matter as long as you have a SG with accurate pickups 🙂
angusfanforeverPosted at 14:33h, 25 August
is this the same amp,Marshall 2203 Master Vol Head.
Chris MoinyPosted at 16:12h, 25 August
No, this is a JCM not a JMP, totally different amp soundwise ( now at least, the very first JCM’s were actually JMP’s )
If you don’t like buying second hand stuff you’ll have a hard time finding a JMP 2203… They were produced from 76 to 80 only
2203/04 is a Master Volume head, not a Lead/Superlead which you posted below. They sound totally different.
My advice though if you want to by something new is to check Friedman or Metroamps. To get a good new Marshall you need quite some luck these days.
DriesPosted at 17:08h, 25 August
Vertical input JCM800’s are identical to a 2203(or 04).
Chris MoinyPosted at 17:24h, 25 August
No mate, they really aren’t…
I have a JMP 2203 and I played quite a few JCM800’s ( Ri’s and vintages ) and they are really not identical.
I’m not talking about vintage horizontal inputs ( because they sound way way different than an actually JCM ), but I think it was a 82, and it sounded way more modern and had more gain than my 2203 ( which is stock btw )
DriesPosted at 06:47h, 26 August
Circuit wise they are though. Are you referring to a early or late 2203? Cause in 78 they changed most of the signal caps from mustards to wimas (red or yellow box caps). JCM800 might have had a little less neg feedback but thats a very easy change with large effect.
Chris MoinyPosted at 10:08h, 26 August
I got a late 70’s JMP ( 79 ).
I know that the very first JCM’s were actually JMP’s with a new design, but from 82 on ( I guess ) they changed quite a few things and soundwise they weren’t the same at all.
Still loving a JCM 😆
lautmaschinePosted at 13:38h, 27 August
There were some changes in the 80s – in particular the with the filtering. Also, the power transformers were changed at some point with the JCMs, which led to higher voltages. I can dig up the details if anyone is interested.
Saul HUDSONPosted at 15:17h, 27 August
It’s always interesting to learn ! I’d like to read you about this changes.
lautmaschinePosted at 22:06h, 28 August
No problem – here’s an article that explains the changes to the 100watt 2203 going from 5 filter cap cans eventually down to 3 cans. http://www.legendarytones.com/marshallshoppers2.html
I can attest having worked on those later Marshalls with the 3 cans, that they are more spongey when pushed. They just don’t have the bite required for AC/DC tone. They are actually pretty good for metal though. The article does not mention the changes to the 50 watt 2204 models. While the number of filter cap cans were not reduced in the JCM 2204’s, they did change how the power supply rail was wired together, which resulted in more filtering to the power tube screens and less filtering and less voltage dropping in the preamp section. This in fact made the 2204’s a bit stiffer in the power amp section and perhaps a bit edgier in tone. While most of these changes occurred around the time of the vertical inputs, new power transformers had already been introduced in the JCM line, which upped the plate voltages overall and these factors combined changed the character of the JCM (especially mid 80s) vs 70s JMP.
DriesPosted at 16:40h, 27 August
Yes, but this was done around 1985. Then the JCM’s became horizontal input models, and had PCB mounted pots. Different amp. But up until 1985 the JCM with vert inputs had the same circuit as the old ones.
angusfanforeverPosted at 14:35h, 25 August
or is this the same amp,Marshall 1987X Classis 50w Valve Head
you see i dont like buying pre owned things and am looking in my guitar store website.
Saul HUDSONPosted at 22:13h, 04 August
Can you tell me what amp and speakers you have used on this nice cover of Highway to Hell ?
Chris MoinyPosted at 11:13h, 05 August
Since Fil is quite busy I’ll answer for him ( I hope you don’t mind brother ! )
He used a JMP 2203 and vintage G12M Greenbacks ( just as they did back then ) 🙂
Saul HUDSONPosted at 20:37h, 05 August
Thanks Chris for your help !
The TSR can be quite noisy if you push it, i think it’s normal ?
Do you know when the JMP Fil used was made ? One with a rocker switch ?
Thanks again !
Chris MoinyPosted at 09:04h, 06 August
This is normal don’t worry.
It’s been discussed if the noise should be kept or not, and since the idea was to replicate the SVDS it’s been kept. ( also removing it might have changed the sound )
You can get rid of it at anytime, just use a noise gate ( MXR, Boss etc )
I can’t remember what year exactly his is, but I think it’s a 1978, so yes, with rocker switches 🙂
Saul HUDSONPosted at 23:05h, 06 August
Thanks Chris and Banane !
On the 1978 Marshall JMP, the presence pot isn’t very efficient ! This amp is quite trebly.
Everybody put the presence at 0 for emulating Angus sound ?
bananePosted at 23:26h, 06 August
Yes. Presence 0, Bass around 5/6, Mids at 4, Treble 5, Volume 1 at 6 works best for me on my 1970 JMP 1959. Just at amp breakup with guitar volume 6/7, so I get some more dirt when cranking the guitars volume to 10.
Saul HUDSONPosted at 21:08h, 11 August
Great settings ! Thanks guys ! I read somewhere that for Highway we may slightly (1/4) detune our guitars for sounding like on the record …
Someone knows how having the Angus tone off the solo of Highway … Quite different than the others …
bananePosted at 09:55h, 14 August
Yes, 1/4 step down tuning fits for many of the older songs before Back in Black. Check the Tutorials from our Andre (JaiminhoPagina), I believe he made a Highway to Hell Tutorial and often starts with tuning the guitar in his tutorials.
Saul HUDSONPosted at 12:10h, 14 August
Thanks banane !
An idea about Angus tone for Highway to Hell solo ?
Chris MoinyPosted at 12:12h, 14 August
Tone knob around 5 😉
Chris MoinyPosted at 09:17h, 07 August
Also notice that you might just remove the bright cap from your 2203 and replace it with a different one, making it less trebly.
Not much to do actually
RyleyPosted at 04:56h, 17 August
i actually had the bright cap removed from my ’79 2203… Well, not me, it was done before my purchase. The amp is significantly darker! Especially compaired to my 1959!
DriesPosted at 14:19h, 17 August
It’s a strange thing. I think I have a love/hate relationship with the marshall bright caps. On NMV models (1987-1959) there certainly must be one, with 4700pf the most agressive sounding, but for a more JTM50 type of sound (think ACDC VH1) 500pf-1000pf works great. It just changes the whole voicing of the amp. On 2203 and 2204 models, it’s a bit different, they are already voiced quite present in the upper mids, but removing it never worked for me. It sounds great and ‘fat’ when the amp is played by itself, but in a band mix it just doesn’t cut enough. But that’s just my opinion 🙂
DriesPosted at 14:22h, 17 August
Oh and there are actually 2 bright caps in the 2203 input circuit. The first one over the 470k resistor (470pf) just results in more gain and a boost in the upper mids over the whole volume range. The second one over the preamp gain wiper (1000pf) acts like the one in the superlead, resulting in even more upper mids and highs boosted on lower preamp gain settings. With the preamp gain on 10, this bright cap is out of the circuit.
RyleyPosted at 16:58h, 17 August
Really interesting… Pretty sure its a 500pf that was clipped out of my amp, probably going to put it back in though. I did a comparison video in the studio this week between the two amps, and will be doing a write-up on it shortly. Won’t have the audio files for a while, but it’s coming!
DriesPosted at 20:13h, 17 August
470pf ,500pf , it’s al the same. It was the bright cap over the 470R mixer (actually input) resistor of V1b. It takes away quite some gain too. I think it might be even worth to try a larger capacitor there, as large as 4700pf. Larger capacitors bypass lower frequencies than small capacitors. So for example a 100pf in there would result in the very high frequencies boosted, a bit like the presence. from 1000pf on it would nicely boost the high mids. Never tried it, I should.
bananePosted at 11:12h, 06 August
Yes, the noise is normal. It’s the compressor, trying to compress “nothing” during playing breaks. This raises the otherwise low noise level, because the compressor works all the time. This is exactly the way the SVDS works.
We discussed adding a noise gate, but didnt want to change the original circuit.
Saul HUDSONPosted at 18:03h, 07 August
Can you tell me how many decibels the TSR can add to the original signal ?
Angusrocks101Posted at 23:03h, 17 November
Fil, it would be cool to see a tutorial on how you go about brushing the strings. It’s hard for me to know how light you are actually playing.
KyleSGPosted at 00:42h, 01 November
Amp settings? But Another awesome job!!!!!!!
SoloDallasPosted at 09:19h, 01 November
Incoming! But as usual shockingly simple.
lautmaschinePosted at 19:08h, 31 October
Very interesting. so what you’re saying is that this is Angus playing an overlayed rhythm track, as opposed to a studio-delayed signal panned to the left? Do I understand that correctly?
I thought I heard AC/DC say that they didn’t do guitar-doubling in the studio. But I agree that I can hear it clearly in a few BiB tracks. I will have to check this out, as I do have Audacity!
SoloDallasPosted at 19:14h, 31 October
What you hear in this exercise (sorry didn’t even finish to write it – working on multiple things) is precisely Angus in the centre (mono) position, having laid down a third rhythm track, played “remotely” (i.e., at some distance) from the control room, overdubbed onto the existing stereo backing track made of Malcolm (left) and Angus (right). You hear it on the left channel – I asked you to do so – because it was the easiest way to spot it. On the right in fact, you have a louder rhythm track from Angus, likely the first one to have been laid down (with the rest of the band). This was the standard procedure: band altogether, then Angus doing some overdubs, then vocals. When you read that they didn’t do “many” overdubs, it didn’t mean they didn’t do any! They used to do a TON of overdubs (in general, recording studios) back in the day. AC/DC were no exception. I can also get to the point of saying that some songs are not even entirely the same version: they are “comping” of two different takes that have been put together. Shocking, isn’t it? But this was done often back in the day and it wasn’t strange nor a “shame” at all. Playing and recording is a very difficult task. Sometimes you can hear it rather easily, as the guitars start tuned in a given way and end up tuned differently (we’re talking about fine tuning here, but still you can hear the difference and especially if you are recording on top of them and playing along to the track).
lautmaschinePosted at 00:53h, 01 November
Fil, you are good. No doubt about it. I raced home and loaded HtH into Audacity. I looped the first few bars of the song before the drums came, then I increased the volume of the left channel by about 11db, so it is more or less even with the right channel. Sure enough, it is a doubled track, and sound coming from the left is different, more compressed than from the right. Angus’ playing is so tight that it’s hard to notice at first!
SoloDallasPosted at 09:08h, 01 November
Heh! Little secrets (now no more), no? I love these lil details that reveal a universe beneath. It IS more compressed – you heard it right! – because… of the compression of the SVDS 🙂 You JUST heard for yourself one of the differences you get with the SVDS! Now tell me. Over 30 years have passed, and I doubt anyone in the world had ever given this a listen, let alone, the reasoning behind and the explanations. And we are here right now doing it, over 30 years later. Now think for a second and tell me: isn’t this maniacally fascinating? Especially considering that it WAS part of the studio sound as well and everyone and their dog have been trying to figure out how the mysterious AC/DC tone (Angus’ side) had been done. And everyone and their dog gave their versions (some even coming to think it was modified amplifiers!!!) of theories and no one ever made you listen to anything. Just chat, talk. “Connect the guitar into the amp”. Straight into the amp… yeah right 😆 I love this.
SoloDallasPosted at 09:14h, 01 November
By the way, look at what you just wrote “Angus’ playing is so tight”. Do you realise this? Do you realise how GOOD he was, he must have been in order to pull this right? No protools to fix things afterwards (especially timing). And people still tell me one shouldn’t try to copy someone else’s style. Fools! When that someone was THAT good, you WANT to learn. Because you’ll learn the Music in it, and the art of it. By god am I not proof of this. Now come, newer generations, and let’s bring the guitar back to those ole great times. I’m finished. For now!
lautmaschinePosted at 14:49h, 01 November
Yes, indeed Fil! This is part of what threw me off. I know how difficult it is to play that way. I have tried myself and heard others try, and it makes the guitar sound there’s a random delay of a few milliseconds – there are odd phase cancellations as the notes cancel each other out. But not here – Angus is so perfect in his rhythm. It is incredible playing.
SoloDallasPosted at 14:52h, 01 November
And he was using TWO different (similar) sounds – not the same one (thanks to the SVDS). So cancellation didn’t occur (additionally, one guitar placed in the centre, the other on the right)
lapata19Posted at 02:14h, 02 December
Fill i do completely agree with you. Its an art. People like you really make a huge difference in the way I see and play the guitar. But I always had a rough time trying to replicate Angus tone, mainly because I tend to have a heavy right hand. Specially when I’m exited by music, and when we are talking about Angus tone it means 99% of the time. What should I do? do you know where can I find some ACDC playing tips for this?
madmaxPosted at 17:59h, 31 October
That’s the stuff!!!! 🙂