The Definitive “Back in Black” featuring an original Schaffer-Vega Diversity System (UPDATED!)

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:


Presence: 0

Bass: 2

Mids: 2

Treble: 4

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:

[nggallery id=24]


Please note: article in progress.

Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri

We Are Rock 'N Roll People.

  • avatar
    Posted at 06:01h, 28 May

    Important note: there’s a bit of an anomaly with the G12-65’s in that they sound better in slant cabs. Yes, it’s counter to nearly all other speakers which seem to sound better in bottom cabs, but I have experienced this phenomena with these and so have others. There is a thread below where the author was so shocked at this result that he actually moved the speakers between cabs to do a scientific test and he proved it. http://www.marshallforum.com/threads/original-g12-65-speakers-variations-through-the-years-and-clones.89692/

  • avatar
    Posted at 04:24h, 21 April

    Hey Fil,
    Great work man!!! But as I’m not that experienced with the speaker thing, could you tell me, what speaker exactly did you use?

    Because if I google up “G12-65” I get results with greenbacks, creamback etc. I want to get the right one!


    Keep Rockin!

  • avatar
    Posted at 00:00h, 31 December

    This might be old news, but I just noticed that Tony Platt says Angus did not have his wireless for Shoot to thrill as it was recorded during the mixing at Electric Lady and it was difficult to match the sound.
    It does have less gain.. but still sounds great to me. Of course I’m sure I will want the Storm once I try it.


    “Angus used a radio transmitter when doing the solos. His guitar was the only overdub and he would then play rhythm after the solo, all the way to the end so the dynamics didn’t drop. However, the sound that his radio transmitter gave the guitar was quite different. In fact, unhappy with the solo on ‘Shoot To Thrill’, he replaced it when we were at Electric Lady to do the mix and, as we didn’t have the radios with us, I had a lot of trouble matching the sound.”

  • avatar
    Posted at 05:12h, 25 October

    What pickups are used in this guitar!? My dad is about to make me an SG and he needs to know what pickups to install. I told him I don’t know because no one knows excactly what Angus used… But this is the closest I have ever heard to his sound so I know that this is the right place to ask. Please Answer Fil! I love you!!!

    • avatar
      Posted at 09:50h, 25 October

      Hi Thomas,

      did you catch my comment here?


      it should supply you with the information that your need 🙂

      Personally i would go with a Angus Young signature that rates at 12Kohm

      • avatar
        Posted at 09:55h, 25 October

        further note: direct link to the post mentioned in my comment 😉


        • avatar
          Posted at 15:12h, 25 October

          Thank you ant. So use Angus young signature for both? Do you know what pickups were used in the guitar in this video by chance?

          • avatar
            Posted at 13:45h, 26 October

            Hi soz i don’t know what Fil had in this one, angus always uses the bridge pickup (treble position) so you would only need the one powerful pickup you could stick a standard hum bucker in the neck pickup

            • avatar
              Posted at 17:05h, 26 October

              Ouch sorry hadn’t seen the question.
              In this one, original 1968 bridge t-top on 1968 std for rhythm, and 1970 original ttop for solos. Usually, I find 70s ttops slightly more aggressive (and amp-driving) and use these. Bridge only 🙂

              • avatar
                Posted at 19:43h, 26 October

                Indeed bridge only. Another ting to debunk : Angus’ tone from 1974 – early 1977. He used almost only (!) the neck pickup. But with 2204’s, the sound has or extreme brightness, or too much bass.

              • avatar
                Posted at 19:52h, 26 October

                Great feedback, Fil. I’ve been exclusively using the AY signature bridge pickup in all my SGs. I’d be interested to hear the difference in the two. I remember a pickup shoot-out here where the AY was recommended. How do you like the T Tops in comparison?

                • avatar
                  Posted at 20:24h, 26 October

                  Yes i am interested in this as well!

    • avatar
      Posted at 06:50h, 20 October

      I find the PAF 36th Anniversary pickup made by Dimarzio to be a good suitor!

  • avatar
    Posted at 07:55h, 17 September

    >>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! <<

    YOU'VE NAILED IT FIL! It's a mystery.
    (Though it is not always like this.- Sometimes the first key of the many has been the right one. That's probably intuition). I had the same experiences a several times. I was ready to give up on my 1976 Gibson SG Standart because studio recordings ALWAYS sounded so dumb and average, just boring, no SG or ACDC sound at all, although she had stock original Patent Number PU's (The problem was epoxy). Since years I didn`t enyoy playing my SG anymore. I startet to search for the reasons and studied guitar and amp tuning – and also the sound and equipement of your SoloDallas account on youtube. After two years of making and rebuilding several amp mods, buying a Plexi 1987x, trying many different Gibson humbuckers ( T-Top, sevaral 70'ies Humbuckers, Angus Young Signature, Burstbucker 2, Tim Shaw, 57 Classic and others, some sounded quite good but not like a classic SG or like ACDC), after trying nearly all Celestion Speakers of different decades I was at the point to give up my SG Standart and to put it aside, but I wouldn't sell it for some reasons. Seemed to be obviously a bad production day or a bad wood. A few months later after installing alu tailpiece and a locking bridge/tailpiece system I took time to install – my very last try – the humbucker into my guitar thats been lying for about 10 months in my cupboard – a burstbucker pro lead, bought via ebay from an US Seller for a very good price.
    Than, playing it with a Marshall 2204 and 4 x G12T-75 Celestion non slanted – Guess what. A REVELATION!
    Original PAF Sound of the 60'ies or 50'ies, this special hollow 3 dimensional sound, and punchy with such balls, nailed almost ACDC, the original and perfect SG Sound , awesome, could not stop playing anymore, played for hours, could absolute not lay my guitar away! In one second my standart was overtaking my other beloved and good sounding Gibsons, greatest change in sound ever.
    Finally, unexpected at the end of my dreams and happy – a happy end after walking a long long and thorny road.
    But do all these kind of storys and experiences not tell us, we shall always follow what our heart long for and never give in?

    Celestion G12-65: Thats weird. I tested them too, but they sounded so scratchy and somekind of too vintage, no punch (maybe it was because of the a slanted cabinet), too less definition. But it's always the combination, I could not test it with a 1959.

    SVDS Replica: After all the comments I've read about the SVDS Replica I am starting to be interested in that thing. That will be probably an optionn for me, later on.

    Thank You Fil for all these informations and for your engagement in finding the perfect SG/Marshall/Guitar sound and sharing this with us all!

  • avatar
    Posted at 12:18h, 08 September

    Man, you really almost nailed it! Congratulations, great work!
    Personally, I would go with a hair less gain, a bit more treble and also a hair less mids.That could be achieved with removing the PU-Covers (which is a logical thing to do, if you think about Angus SGs of that time)-the result would be a more open sound.Maybe a bit less boost of the SVDS..Very Slightly more Room-Mics mixed in and a hair of Platts “doubling Delay” .
    I think that would be perfect. But thats just my humble ideas.
    Keep up the great work!!

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