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Back In Black Tone Project Update (“Critical” info inside, from Mr. Townsend at Avid)

28 Mar Back In Black Tone Project Update (“Critical” info inside, from Mr. Townsend at Avid)

Due to the incredible availability and kindness of Mr. Chris Townsend at Avid – I would like to remind you that Mr. Townsend is Lead Guitar Products Architect at Avid, and he is responsible for all algorythms for FXs and amplfier modeling inside both the Eleven Plug in for Pro Tools AND the Eleven Rack – I have been exchanging emails – feverishly from my side of the ocean lol – talking about my experimentation to debunk, dissect and reproduce faithfully Mr. Angus Young’s guitar sound on the whole Back in Black album.

As this is my personal life-dream (guitar wise), this is all very meaningful to me; so I will take a chance to thank again Mr. Townsend for all of this (thank you, Chris!).

Here is his take on the compression side of the Schaffer Vega:

Chris Townsend wrote:

Hi Fil,

I definitely agree that there was some sort compression (companding) in the Vega system, but I think your preset had way too much compression to match what’s going on in the Vega.  There would be a lot more noise on the original recordings if they used that much compression.

And generally these systems used companders, which compress the signal going into the transmitter and expand the signal coming out of the receiver, which in theory should give you back the same signal coming out of the guitar.  Of course, in practice that ideal is definitely not achievable, and you end up with some compression/expansion “artifacts” (e.g. pumping), but overall the signal is neither compressed nor expanded.

Also, the compression/expansion ratios of these noise reduction companders are typically about 2 to 1, so it’s relatively mild.  On the other hand the Grey Comp, has a nearly infinite compression ratio.  I think you might be better off using the Dyn3 Comp with a 2:1 ratio, although of course to really to get the effect right we need to follow it with a 1:2 expander, but currently the Dyn3 expander is not available in Eleven Rack, although you could use plug-ins at least for experimenting.

I think that until we can implement an expander, using zero (or maybe mild) compression will give you the closest result to the Schaffer-Vega system.  Regardless, all that really matters is how the end result sounds, so I’m very much waiting to hear what you find with your next tests.  :-)

-Chris

 

I find this information to be really critical. More on it in later updates.

Please note: while I will be away (India) for a two weeks long business trip (hopefully will have some leisure time, too) I will still be 24/h, 7 days a week online with you.

I “just” won’t be able to play guitar, but will still be here with you.

Fil :)

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Still working massively on this. Actually, it’s almost the only thing I am doing.

While I was working on the Eleven Rack, I thought “why not to try the newly discovered signal path on the Rack just for kicks?”.

So I did. I applied the same exact signal chain that I think was there in the studio for Back in Black:

 

Guitar -> [Vega Transmitter -> internal boost -> internal compressor] – > wireless signal -> [Vega Receiver -> Boost] -> Amp [2203/1959 for rhythm] [2203/2204/1987 for solos] -> Cabinet with Greenbacks 25watts -> Neumann U67/U87 – Board – EQ – Tape

 

PLEASE NOTE: it is still unclear to me as what goes first, be it boost or compressor! This can dramatically change the outcome. With my “real gear”, the sound you heard on the previous attempt has the BOOST first, then compressor; putting the compressor before the boost completely changes the sound and responsiveness of the guitar, so I think the boost goes FIRST, then, compressor. Once the circuit of the Schaffer Vega/CETEC Vega is debunked, we will know exactly what goes first. This is extremely important.

On our gear translates as:

Guitar -> boost -> compressor – > amp – cab – mike – equalization – hard disk

 

On the Elven Rack sample linked below, I used:

Guitar (1971 SG) – > “White Boost” – > Gray Compressor – > amp -(JCM800) – > 4×12 cab 25w – U67 off axis – > my EQ in protools -> disk

For settings, please see below.

 

(long one huh lol)

 

Here’s the result. Do NOT listen with a preconception: listen with a clean mind.

 

I think it’s as close probably as my last one done with real amps.

I applied my equalization curve (on the Sonnox ProTools plugins) which I think is THE good one, though there is still an intervall of small changes to be made/can be made.

So the Rack comes out to ProTools “unequalized”, i.e., the only equalization is performed on the amp within the Rack. The equlization curve applied in post is ONLY on the Sonnox plug ins, to emulate the studio signal path of back then.

I think I was saying this is also a good one (surprisingly good; yesterday I was in awe, today I’m again on the rational side of myself) because:

 

1) Demostrates how good Modelers are (well, THIS ONE is)

2) It really allowed for a sort of verification of my “theory” (i.e., Schaffer Vega compressor & boost), letting me almost duplicate my results done with “real gear”.

This second point is a winner for me/us: I always said that IF it was duplicable, then it was… true.

 

Reflections; I am massively thinking that rhythm tone was from a 2203 (in fact, I used a JCM800 as the amp model in the Rack; the Pexis didn’t work for me; I may be wrong, trying the wrong settings etc. Still a LOT of work to nail it!). I have an unmodded one here with my that I tried for the first time this morning (came in last week) and it’s a BEAST.

All for now.

One bad news: I must leave for two weeks from next monday. I iwll still be connected most of the time via email/internet here on solodallas.com, however I won’t be able to experiment further for two long weeks. It’s also good on a side because my ears are really fried this time. I have a bad case of ringing that scared me last night. Better this morning, but it didn’t go away.

 

All for now, talk later.

 

Love indeed,

 

Fil :)

Back in Black Eleven Rack

 

PS

Please note that I might have exaggerated with the compressor; you can hear that because of the “reactiveness” of my touch and you hear my hand too much on chord switching.

This, or the wrong type of compressor. I still have to learn how to set the compressor properly.

As for the boost, it is still unknown to me whether I have to boost it up all the way and keep a lower setting of master volume and preamp volume on the head, or viceversa, boost less and drive more the head.

As of today, on both real amp and modeler I am using:

 

– boost at max

– master volume 8, preamp 8

– tones: bass 6, presence 0, treble 5, mids 3-4

 

 

avatar
Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri
sd@solodallas.com

We Are Rock 'N Roll People.

74 Comments
  • avatar
    adam10603
    Posted at 22:07h, 29 March

    I couldn’t imagine why are you using a 100W head for the rythm, and a 50W head for the solo. But I realized that the 50W head has a bit more compression, and the 100W has more headroom instead. So you get a big and dynamic rythm with a bit bit compressed solo. That makes sense now :)

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 23:31h, 29 March

      At 3-ish am where I am (India) and without being able to sleep, this is what I’d do buddy. Actually, I did. All my amps went to the shop after I blew the 2204 (which wasn’t nothing important really). Retubing, changing caps, biasing, all basic things that can change dramatically your amp back to original sounding condition or…better! Hugs from warm (I’d say HOT) India, Fil!

      • avatar
        mrkrausman
        Posted at 00:24h, 30 March

        Ah yes the infamous cap job. I just did an old Fender Bandmaster for a guy and he can’t believe the tone but in reality its just restoring to original condition as you say. The electrolytic caps go bad over 20 years or so and you will notice a difference for sure. What brand EL 34’s have you been using? Enjoy resting those ears because we will need em later :-)

      • avatar
        adam10603
        Posted at 16:01h, 30 March

        Wait a minute… changing caps? What do you mean? What kind of caps do you put in your amps?
        I have a 1959 clone, and it’s circuit is an exact replica. It sounds very cool and it’s all point-to-point hand wired.
        I changed the caps in it a few months ago. It originally had orange drop caps (which can be associated with the fender sound, as far as I know) which I didn’t think they were the best choice for a 1959. So I replaced them with TAD vintage mustard caps. What do you think of these? Have you heard about them?
        Btw in the tonestack the amp has true vintage caps. I don’t know where they are from, but I guess they sound right. If you look at the inside of a late 60s or early 70s super lead, you will find those kind of old mustard caps I’m talking about here. So those are in the tonestack, and the rest is TAD mustard.
        What do you think?

      • avatar
        adam10603
        Posted at 16:02h, 30 March

        Oh btw
        Have a good time in India :)

  • avatar
    KyleSG
    Posted at 00:19h, 29 March

    Sounds Great! although the real amp last version you did sounds closer to me.

  • avatar
    solocali
    Posted at 20:01h, 28 March

    Fil 2204 sounds muddy and real low end and Im running through a 1960A cab, is it my head or cabinet? does your 2204 sound real deep?

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 20:52h, 28 March

      Stupid question: do you use the right input?

      • avatar
        solocali
        Posted at 03:41h, 29 March

        I plug my guitar into the top input and my settings are Presence 0-5, Bass 5, mid 4, treb 5-7, pre-amp 6-8 and my cab is hooked up right. My guitar is a gibson SG with angus sig pick up

    • avatar
      mrkrausman
      Posted at 15:47h, 29 March

      Do you have a different head or cab to rule out the speakers? Try changing out your preamp tubes one-by-one. That’s the 1st place I’d look. Also switch out your output tubes.

      • avatar
        banane
        Posted at 15:57h, 29 March

        Hm, I wouldn’t change tubes without rebias. Can go wrong. Instead I would give the amp to a shop for a complete retubing with rebias.

        • avatar
          mrkrausman
          Posted at 23:32h, 29 March

          You can swap the preamp tubes without rebiasing but yes if you swap the EL 34s out you should bias.

          • avatar
            SoloDallas
            Posted at 23:35h, 29 March

            This is not only correct, but also, recommendable. I have been plainly told that preamp tubes – not surprisingly – dramatically change things.

        • avatar
          mrkrausman
          Posted at 23:49h, 29 March

          Yes banane has a good point sometimes I forget I’m not on an amp tech forum.:-) So let me clarify.

          1. rule out that the speakers are not the problem
          2. swap preamp tubes 1 by 1 starting with V1 which is the farthest from the output tubes in Marshall circuit.

          Do not switch out output tubes unless you are familiar with biasing yourself. If you are uncertain please take to an amp tech.

    • avatar
      adam10603
      Posted at 22:23h, 29 March

      Maybe it’s your room. Try it in another one 😉

      • avatar
        adam10603
        Posted at 22:24h, 29 March

        or try to move the whole thing around your room. If it’s in a corner, it can become too bassy easily.

  • avatar
    headwhop26
    Posted at 17:02h, 28 March

    Thats amazing, I wish I could talk to software developers like that. Thats definitely pulling the veil away from everyone’s eyes, since he knows exactly how they work.

    Fil, could you take some screenshots of your gear and path and settings. I would like to duplicate it as close as I can in PodFarm. I recently downloaded PodFarm2, and Im trying to use the improvements and updates to make better tones, but so far Im having a tough time.

  • avatar
    rjofig
    Posted at 15:26h, 28 March

    This makes sense – while in theory the expanding at the receiver of a signal compressed at the transmitter should nullify the compression, in practice the signal will change. I wonder if this will serve as motivation for avid to add an expander module? Should not be too complex as far as signal processing goes. Cheers! Renato

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 20:55h, 28 March

      Yeah, right. And what, if Angus uses unsymmetric compression/decompression settings (if adjustable)? Then there will be a compression at the end.

      • avatar
        rjofig
        Posted at 21:16h, 28 March

        Hmm, one would need to take a look at the box to see what controls are there. From the explanation, it seems to me the compression/expansion circuit is there only to deal with the limited bandwidth of the wireless channel; if I had to guess, they probably have not exposed that through a control knob.

        • avatar
          banane
          Posted at 21:50h, 28 March

          Yes, I assumed that too, and it makes sense. Compression/decompression is used only for technical reasons – bandwidth limitation. But what creates the compressed tone then? Maybe it has a very special boost in it, wasn’t there a control knob for the boost?

          • avatar
            rjofig
            Posted at 02:36h, 29 March

            It would be interesting to see the frequency response of the compress-expand combination – the signal will change in the path; I’ll see if there are any pointers on the ‘net.

            • avatar
              Kev
              Posted at 06:24h, 29 March

              but maybe there is a compressor AFTER the receiver unit!
              this would make the signal stronger, in order to allow even more distance between transmitter and receiver??? :)

              • avatar
                rjofig
                Posted at 15:16h, 29 March

                Hi Kev – I doubt it, normally to make the signal stronger what you’d do is apply more power to increase its amplitude. In this unit, compression/expansion is there to push the signal through a limited bandwidth channel – much like you’d compress a file using mp3 to send over a low-bandwidth connection.
                Now, the compression/expansion is not perfect – depending on what this circuit is doing, the signal may be attenuated in some frequencies, amplified in others, frequencies shifted, harmonics added. Then, since it goes in the input of the amp, it gets to be further amplified; subtle changes can be magnified and add to a distinctive character of the tone. But it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on without checking out the circuit, or a model of it :)

  • avatar
    Kev
    Posted at 13:59h, 28 March

    I think that the most important thing is, that you recreate this particular tone, even if you might not use the same technique! And maybe Angus knew that you can compress the sound more than you expand it, which would result in a slight compression :)

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 14:09h, 28 March

      I am fairly convinced that – against the “theory” that wants that “tone is in the hands”, there are particular characteristics of tone that are NOT in the hand and that are instead, “built in” in the gear one uses. Also, when you have a particular sound coming from the gear, you get feedback from it (not feedback as sound going into the humbuckers again, coming out and looping again), i.e., you get inspired by it and play even better reaching higher your potential of play. Ultimately, this is the exact reason why many people – including me – and among rock stars as well, have amassed gear: they just “know” that continuous inspiration is essential. And they “do know” that this inspiration lies in part in gear. We might like it or not, but I think this is just the way it is.

      • avatar
        Kev
        Posted at 14:21h, 28 March

        I totally agree with you, why else would there be “GAS”? 😉
        And of course, in order to reproduce as much as possible, I think it’s essential to have similar or equal equipment as much as possible! So did you try to record with a SM-57?
        I think that this could influence the tone in order to become a bit more “harsh”?

        • avatar
          SoloDallas
          Posted at 16:19h, 28 March

          Kev, no 57s were used on guitars in Back in Black. “Only” large diaphragm condensers microphones were used and specifically, one U67 and one U87 (Neumann) per cabinet! VERY important thing.

          • avatar
            Kev
            Posted at 16:24h, 28 March

            OK, sorry!! I thought I had read this somewhere…

      • avatar
        banane
        Posted at 14:45h, 28 March

        Totally agree. I often get asked why a beginner loke me needs all that gear, and my answer is always: its the tone that gets me further. Its just like the button I’m always have on my shirt:”I do it for AC/DC” :)

        • avatar
          Kev
          Posted at 15:14h, 28 March

          :)
          right, my parents asked me: “why do you spend such a lot of money for that gear, you’re not even playing in a band?” I said:”I will have lots of fun playing and practising, so I can play in a band one day!!”

        • avatar
          SoloDallas
          Posted at 16:16h, 28 March

          Uhhh that strikes ANOTHER point I always make to anyone just stating that obvious (and just as wrong, plain wrong) sentence: “you’re just beginning, you can go cheap”.
          NO. It’s the contrary, “almost”. It’s like wanting to go and learn how to jump with a parachute and getting a cheap one, since you’re just beginning. Better gear will save you years of meaningless and poor results. Better gear will inspire you to go further. It will let you learn more quickly. ANOTHER is the case with young folks who are not decided YET if they really want to learn “seriously” the guitar or any other instrument or any other discipline in this sense: if I, as a parent, feel that my son will quit, I may take that into consideration. But cheap gear applies only to this last point in my humble opinion. For all other intents and purposes, buying directly the “right” gear will not only allow you much more as a student but ultimately, also save you money in the long run. There I said it. Thanks for the chance to express this very thought that has been tormenting me for years lol

          • avatar
            Kev
            Posted at 16:26h, 28 March

            You’re right! Why would I pick up my guitar and learn how to play songs, when I’m annoyed by what I hear? 😉

  • avatar
    thedoctor1019
    Posted at 08:04h, 27 March

    It’s unbelievable how close you are, you’re basically there(you have the sound spot on).You should do Sin City or some really raw Bon stuff and try to match those ones

  • avatar
    RocknRoller
    Posted at 22:32h, 26 March

    I like more the Eleven Rack back in black :)

  • avatar
    06AngusSG
    Posted at 17:51h, 26 March

    Sounds great!!!
    I do like the sound of the real amps better but it’s amazing what can be done with technology today.

    • avatar
      06AngusSG
      Posted at 17:54h, 26 March

      By the way I’m (semi) proud to say that my somewhat permanent ringing in the right ear came straight from the Black Ice tour!!! :) Now I have to be careful with it. 😉

      • avatar
        banane
        Posted at 21:19h, 26 March

        Then welcome to the club too :) Jon, please try a recording with your Shure in a 45 deg. angle, I got great results with this, much better than straight on axis.

        • avatar
          06AngusSG
          Posted at 22:59h, 26 March

          Tried that out with mixed results. 😉
          I ended up in the middle at 25-30 deg. That got me the better result.
          I need to get some seperate pedals (comp-boost) so I can do some signal chain switching. I guess my tone research will have to wait until then. 😉

          Franz did Fil send you that raw recording of his YSMANL?
          I’m not sure if he saw that I wanted to get it as well.
          If he did, could you shoot it over to me? I don’t want to be a pest. :)

          • avatar
            banane
            Posted at 23:10h, 26 March

            I took some photos, Jon, will upload them now.
            I tried also 25-30 deg., but had too much bass here.
            But I have G12T75, and I think they are a lot louder and bassier than the Greenbacks or the Vintage30s.
            Basically, the top of the mic points to the outer edge of the cone center cap, while the edge of the mic top points at the center of the cone.
            I took some pix of the pedal settings too.

            No, Fil didn’t send me the raw recording yet. But of course I will send it to you when II get it :)

            • avatar
              SoloDallas
              Posted at 23:14h, 26 March

              sorry brothers just came back from band rehearsals :)
              Tomorrow will send you those :)

            • avatar
              banane
              Posted at 23:22h, 26 March

              Ok, upload done. Pics 4579 to 4581 are the mic placement pics, the other ones are for documentation of the pedal settings. Also, I uploaded 2 recordings. This was maybe the 40th recording, so sloppy playing again, was hard to control my fingers :)
              See here: http://www.banane.at/media/temp/Recording-Doku/
              Needs a lot more tweaking, but I believe, I’m getting further.

              • avatar
                06AngusSG
                Posted at 23:46h, 26 March

                That’s pretty similar to my placement. Works much better. :) Thanks for the tip!!
                Sounds like that Styrmon is working to your advantage. A little reverb and that intro would be just tasty!!! :)

                I’ve only been micing my Greenback for tone tests. The V30 seems to be better for louder playing. It doesn’t “break-up” as easy.

                FIL, thanks I know you’re busy. No worries :)

                Time for me to go Jam with the guys. Talk to you fellas later…..

                • avatar
                  banane
                  Posted at 23:53h, 26 March

                  Hehe, fine :)
                  Yes, sounds much better now, and I hope I can get even more out of it .

                  Alright, have fun, later then :)

  • avatar
    headwhop26
    Posted at 17:46h, 26 March

    Wow, I feel bad for grouping all modelers together. I have Line 6 PodFarm simply because I didnt want to drop a load of money for a modeler, and I sure got what I paid for.

    I be Avid loves you, youre getting all you can out of their software.

  • avatar
    Ryley
    Posted at 17:11h, 26 March

    holyy shitballs Fil that sounded great! ur reallyyy hoaning in on every little detail of that tone

  • avatar
    adam10603
    Posted at 16:46h, 26 March

    Wow, this sounds really good 😀
    btw, can you do me a favor, Fil? The next time you shoot a video, I would be really happy to hear and see your ’93 SG korina again. :) I really like that guitar and we could only hear it once, in the metro session. Can you include it in your next video? :) thanks

  • avatar
    banane
    Posted at 16:42h, 26 March

    Welcome to the club, Fil. Messed around the whole day with the booster/compressor pedals, now my right ear almost said goodbye, loud ringing all the time. Will listen to your track later then :)
    At least I had some nice findings with the mic placement. The Shure records much more details and closer to the original when placed in a 45° angle to the speaker.
    Now I’ll place myself on the sofa, have a nap and hope that I’ll be able to hear something later at our family birthday party (wife’s mother).

  • avatar
    Jason
    Posted at 16:19h, 26 March

    WOW!!!!!!

  • avatar
    nitroangus23
    Posted at 16:16h, 26 March

    Holy F#ck,

    Never thought I’d hear a software that got THAT close to a real amp.I honestly don’t think I could tell the difference had you not said it was Eleven Rack.

    Amazing.

  • avatar
    Tyler
    Posted at 15:40h, 26 March

    These modelers make me want to forget real amps lol, it’s great to get tone that close without having to crank an amp super loud! I just saw Thin Lizzy last night in nyc and it killed my ears lol, still a little hard to hear with my left ear, I feel your pain lol

  • avatar
    Lemmiwinks
    Posted at 13:33h, 26 March

    That tinnitus is not to play With. I know from own experience now lol. I feel your pain mate. I recommend every one who has loud amps to use earplugs and attenuators at home. The earplugs only might not help on its own.

  • avatar
    Kinglance
    Posted at 13:29h, 26 March

    Spot on!! Perfect!! Could u send me the settings?(jl_demurie@hotmail.com) I’ve got the Eleven Rack also :p
    And the playing is incredible good as always. Greetz

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 13:40h, 26 March

      Of course I can and will. Did you purchase their update? not going to work without it

      • avatar
        Kinglance
        Posted at 13:43h, 26 March

        Ah, didn’t purchased it yet. I will look for it on their website.

      • avatar
        Kinglance
        Posted at 14:11h, 26 March

        Will take some time to have the update. Need to check if I have some ProTools updates. Where can u find our current ProTools version (visible when u start up ProTools?)

        • avatar
          SoloDallas
          Posted at 14:18h, 26 March

          you must have protools 9.0.2

  • avatar
    Lemmiwinks
    Posted at 13:26h, 26 March

    This should maybe be in the what to do next thread but i personellt think you have nailed bib tone already. All thats missing is a proper studio and two neumanns. Ballbreaker tone would be intresting to dig in to. In that time they went back to jtm and began using other brands like wizard. :)

  • avatar
    Angusrocks
    Posted at 13:20h, 26 March

    Sounds fantastic !!!!!!!!
    Original Back In Black !!
    Impressive how close you can copy the style of Angus. I would never could do this.
    Go on……..and thank you !!

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