In the late 80s and early 90s, preamps and power amps were where it was at. Amp heads? Pfft. Sure, you put them on top of your dummy stacks on stage, but you didn’t actually use them. In the 90s that all changed and players rediscovered the glories of stacks, half stacks and combos, so everyone sold off their preamps. Now you can’t take a stroll on eBay or through a secondhand guitar store without tripping over a stack of the damn things. That’s very bad news for the clumsy of footfall, but great news for those of us who can’t get enough guitar gear. So I present to you, dear reader, Cool Preamps They Don’t Make Any More.
This preamp holds a special place in my heart because it was advertised on the back page of the very first guitar magazine I ever got – the March 1991 Guitar World with ZZ Top on the cover. Part of the 9000 range that also included a few different power amp options, the 9001 rocked three channels of 12AX7 goodness. It also had a cabinet emulation switch for direct recording applications. It’s not the most well-known and full-featured Marshall preamp – that honour goes to the JMP-1 – and it seemed to be favoured more for its medium overdrive tones than its clean and screaming settings. But it’s still a cool piece of kit.
CLICK HERE to see the Marshall 9001 on eBay
This preamp is an undisputed classic. Real tube operation with the flexibility of MIDI control, this one is still the heart of Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen’s rack, and Iron Maiden has been known to use it pretty extensively. This beast packs four channels into a single rack space: Clean 1, the edgier Clean 2, Plexi-ish OD1 and high gain OD2. I’ve used a few of these in various situations over the years – usually in combination with a Marshall EL34 power amp – and I’ve never been anything less than completely blown away by the clarity and harmonic complexity, especially for fat-ass lead sounds and crunchy humbucker rhythm work. IK Multimedia has a great emulation of this in AmpliTube 4 which does an incredible job of capturing the spirit of the original.
CLICK HERE to see the Marshall JMP-1 on eBay.
Designed by N.S.”Buck” Brundage, this unit was manufactured from 1990 to 1997 and it was a favourite of producer Max Norman – yes, he who worked with Megadeth on Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia, not to mention Ozzy Osbourne in the Randy Rhoads era. Back in the day, ART said: “Power Plant combines the finest elements and saturation curves of 12AX7s into 6L6 tubes giving the user the thickest, heaviest crunch of classic tube amps without diction and articulation of notes! The Power Plant is one of the most versatile studio and live sound production tools available. It has totally separate clean and overdrive channels, master volume control, a switchable effects loop, and a +20 dB output for a power amp feed (this output has a unique equalization and pre-emphasis circuit that reflects the curve of a guitar amplification section).”
CLICK HERE to see the ART Power Plant on eBay
This little beauty was popular among many players in the early 90s, especially when paired with a Marshall JCM 900 amp head. The typical trick was to bypass the JCM 900’s preamp section entirely by plugging into the MP-1 then sending its output directly into the Marshall’s effect loop return. Players who were big on the MP-1 included Nuno Bettencourt, Paul Gilbert, Kirk Hammett and White Lion’s Vito Bratta. Believe it or not, even Billy Corgan used one in Smashing Pumpkins. You get 128 programmable user patches, plus a chorus effect. ADA made an amp called the Quadtube which featured a rather MP-1-looking control section. They also released the MP-2 and the MB-1 bass preamp. Awesome. Now A/DA is back, and you can get the A/DA MP-1-Channel, a pedal version of the MP-1 rack preamp which employs the 4-stage vacuum tube design to achieve the same rich tone that made it the staple for most of the touring bands in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
CLICK HERE to see the ADA MP-1 on eBay.
Another tube-driven preamp with 128 presets and MIDI control, part of the X99’s cool charm is that the passive control knobs are moved by little MIDI-driven motors. The idea is that if the pots themselves were motorised, an additional gain stage would have been introduced, and you’d get all sorts of additional noise. When I was 16 I played in a band with a few older dudes. The singer/guitarist had one of these and an Alesis Quadraverb. I thought it was the coolest damn rig I’d ever seen, and the warmly overdriven sounds were godlike. The X99 is a great choice for rock styles, and although I don’t know if I’d use it for metal, it’s one powerful piece of kit with a killer pedigree. Great colour too.
CLICK HERE to see the Soldano/Caswell X99 on eBay.
This all-tube four-channel blue behemoth is one of the most lusted-after pieces of guitar kit around. Forgive me for going back to Megadeth but if you dig the tones of the Rust In Peace era, they burst forth from this piscatorial pulveriser. It’s also all over a lot of early 90s work by Alice In Chains and Anthrax. The Fish is exceedingly hard to find today, so if you see one, snap the damn thing up.
CLICK HERE to see the Bogner Fish on eBay.
Hafler Triple Giant
The Bogner you buy when you can’t afford a Bogner, the Triple Giant was indeed designed by Reinhold Bogner himself. It’s not quite in the same league as the Fish, but it’s certainly not without its charms. There’s a pleasing depth to the midrange and bass. Just know that if you cover up the Hafler logo with black tape so people think you have a real Bogner, we’re onto you. *cough* Hi Simon.
CLICK HERE to see the Hafler Triple Giant on eBay.
Aah, how cool is this! Reverend Guitars has just unleashed the Reeves Gabrels Dirtbike, a stripped-back, ready-to-get-down-and-dirty guitar inspired by Reeves’ personal history. In his own words:
“What I think is cool about this guitar is the fact that I have a whole ongoing story/reason/explanation of always having a no frills simple, fast and blue thing to zip around on that threads thru my whole life. This guitar is a continuation of that sense of freedom in the form of speed and power stripped down to its essentials. And Reverend Guitars matched the light metallic blue color of both of its two wheeled predecessors. To me a single pickup guitar with a trem is just like my 1966 Schwinn Stingray with the extension spring on the front wheel or my 1971 Honda dirtbike with the raised front fender and slightly extended fork. It’s a guitar with enough agility that it will let you grab air and do wheelies and the power to leave some rubber on the asphalt in front of the neighbor’s house. And, really, that’s all you need. Did I mention it’s blue?” – Reeves Gabrels.
It has a custom Railhammer pickup, solid Korina body, Wilkinson WVS50 IIK tremolo, passive bass contour knob and a 22 jumbo fret Rosewood fingerboard on a three-piece Korina neck. It comes in three colours: Reeves Blue, Violin Brown and Cream. More info here.
Look, there’s no way to get around this so let’s just dive in: Peavey has returned to building guitars in the USA again, in the form of the HP 2 Guitar. And It looks very much like the Peavey Wolfgang. Eddie Van Halen took the Wolfgang design with him when he left to set up his own company working with Fender, but I’m pretty sure Peavey wouldn’t have taken this step without some kind of legal justification for using the design. One thing’s for sure though: this thing looks hot. Seriously, look at it in this pic.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here. When EVH left Peavey, large chunks of the Wolfgang design lived on in the form of the brilliant HP Special guitar for a while. Those things were phenomenal. Does the market have space to sustain two Wolfgang-shaped guitars, one of which has ‘Wolfgang’ on the headstock? I guess we’ll see. I can’t wait to try one of these though.
Here’s the press release.
Peavey® Builds Legacy of Innovation with USA Made HP™2 Guitar
MERIDIAN, MS — Building upon the legacy of its award-winning, USA made guitars, Peavey Electronics® proudly introduces the HP™2 Guitar at the 2017 Summer NAMM Show in Nashville. The HP2 is constructed with leading-edge technology, traditional handcrafted methods, professional-quality upgrades, and customizations. When a USA-made guitar bears the initials of Peavey founder and CEO Hartley Peavey, players can expect an iconic design with its own unique flair.
While the esthetic is classic, the HP2 undoubtedly stands out with its carved top and offset, asymmetrical body design that offers comfort, proper balance, and maximum playing ease. Maple was chosen for the top and basswood for the back; solid basswood construction is also available. Peavey selected these hardwoods not only for their natural beauty and weight characteristics, but also for their specific tonal qualities. Cream or black-edge binding accents the body.
At the select birdseye maple neck and fingerboard, players will find unmatched stability and playability. Dual graphite reinforcement bars and an easy-access, adjustable steel torsion rod provide additional strength, as does the bolt-on construction with contoured neck heel. The oil-finished fingerboard is cut from the same piece of wood as the single-piece neck, keeping the color and grain patterns consistent. The stress-relieved lamination also adds increased stability. The HP2 has a 25 ½’’ scale length, 22 jumbo frets and 15’’ fingerboard radius. The 10-degree tilt-back headstock has a 3+3 tuning machine configuration featuring Schaller® tuning machines with pearloid or cream buttons. The chrome-plated hardware finish completes the look.
The HP2’s construction and electronics work in harmony. Two custom-wound Peavey humbucking pickups supply optimal output and tonal response. They’re made using a two-step wax-dipping process that provides ultra-low noise operation and resistance to microphonic feedback. The pickups are mounted directly to the body, further reducing feedback at high volume levels and enhancing response. A Switchcraft® 3-way toggle switch allows selection of pickups in up, center and down configurations. Players will also find either a Peavey/Floyd Rose® licensed, double-locking tremolo assembly or tune-o-matic/stop tailpiece fixed-bridge to complete the guitar. Finishing off the guitar are two push-pull knobs for volume and tone, with the ability to split the pickups individually.
Get a closer look at the HP2 at peavey.com, or if you’re at the Summer NAMM show through July 15, stop by booth #623.
About Peavey Electronics®
Founded in 1965, Peavey® is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of musical instruments and professional sound equipment. Peavey has earned more than 180 patents and distributes to more than 130 countries. Peavey and its MediaMatrix®, Architectural Acoustics®, Crest Audio®, Composite Acoustics®, Budda®, and Trace Elliot® brands and affiliates can be found on concert stages and in airports, stadiums, theme parks and other venues around the world. Chief Operating Officer Courtland Gray says, “We are striving every day to produce the world’s finest music and audio equipment.” To find out more, visit www.peavey.com.
Hey Meet my Kiesel Vader! She’s a V7 with Hipshot/Kiesel vibrato. One of the coolest things about Kiesel is that every guitar is essentially a custom instrument: there’s an almost overwhelming range of options from which to spec out your dream guitar. Funnily enough, there’s a pretty similar guitar to mine on the V7 gallery, but that’s pretty much coincidence: whoever ordered that guitar just happened to have similar tastes to me. There are some differences too though, and as Homer’s assistant Karl said on The Simpsons, “My reasons … are my own.” Let’s break down what I selected and why.
So. Every element of this guitar was selected for a particular reason related to synesthesia. I’ve written about this before, including this article for Guitar World. Essentially synesthesia is a condition where a sensory input will set off other sensory ‘resonances.’ For instance, the number ‘2’ is blue to me, and always has been. It tastes kind of creamy and is very smooth to the touch. My brain has just always thought of it this way, and ditto for the other numbers, letters, shapes. It can happen with anything: particular speaking voices remind me of certain times of day. Certain guitar tones can generate really specific and complex chains of association that might incorporate texture, perception of size, levels of luminance, and so on. I’ve never done mushrooms cos I probably don’t need to. My brain is psychedelic enough on its own. That’s why I dig sensory deprivation tanks.
But back to the guitar: each of my specifications were based on specific things I wanted this guitar to be for. Things I wanted to play on it, sounds I wanted it to make, feelings I wanted it to generate or represent.
* Colour. This particular Aqua Burst reminds me of a shade of blue I often see in my dreams. I have a recurring dream of a futuristic city rising out of the ocean on the horizon, and it’s always an exciting place to visit. I wanted this guitar to embody that same sense of freedom and joy I have in those dreams. That’s also why I selected a flame maple top: to give the feel of waves in the ocean.
* Fingerboard. I always feel musically influenced by the colour of a fretboard. I feel like I play more ‘sunny’ on maple, and more ‘dark’ on rosewood. I chose Zebrawood because its mix of light and dark colours will (hopefully) encourage my subconscious to blend those two approaches.
* Neck. This is a 5-piece Black Limba/White Limba neck-thru. I wanted something that had more of a natural, ‘this used to be a tree’ look, and the particular colour of Black Limba reminds me of tree bark. This is a pretty futuristic-looking guitar so I wanted to balance that with something a bit more earthy.
* Body. The body is Alder, and I chose a natural finish because, again, I just wanted to offset the futuristicness of the design. And the almost desert-like colour balances really nicely against the Aquaburst top. It kinda makes the guitar look like Scarif from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
* Satin finish. I didn’t want this one to be shiny: sometimes it feels like a glossy finish is a barrier between me and the guitar.
* Pickups. This guitar as shipped has Kiesel Lithium pickups, but I’ll be installing my Seymour Duncan Custom Shop model, the Magnetar, soon. The bridge Lithium has an Alnico V plus ceramic booster, and a DC Resistance of 13.16k, and the neck model is Alnico V with a reading of 7.78k. The Magnetar is a pickup that MJ created for me when I asked her for ‘A pickup that sounds like the look of sunshine through a glass of beer, the feel of freshly-sanded wood and the taste of creme brûlée. It has an Alnico 8 magnet and it sounds both woody and airy, with a nice kick in the upper mids. Not too hot, not too gentle. This guitar will also have the first neck version of the Magnetar, and I’m going for a Zebra look for the same reason as choosing a Zebrawood fingerboard.
* Logo. I went with a white logo with black shadow because it stands out nicely and I wanted to proudly display the Kiesel name. Also another Zebra/light-dark balance thing.
* Seven strings. You can get a Vader in 6, 7 or 8 strings in standard or baritone scale or multiscale. I selected 25.5″ 7-string because 7 feels right to me, and I tend to be most comfortable on 25.5″ 7-strings rather than longer scales because I like to think of the 7 as a 6-string with a few extra notes when I need them, rather than orienting the whole guitar design towards those lower few notes. And I went with standard instead of multiscale because my multiscale heart belongs to Ormsby Guitars. Heh.
* Tremolo. Because whammy bars is fun.
So what does one name an instrument like this, designed to evoke both natural beauty and a certain space-age aesthetic, and to hopefully serve as a catalyst for better things?
If you look in the current issue of Mixdown Magazine you’ll find my interview with Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor about the band’s new album, Hydrograd (released today). We had a great chat about the band’s incredible new album Hydrograd. But we talked about a lot more than could be fit into that article, so I thought you’d like to see some other highlights from the interview.
I Heart Guitar: One moment in the single Fabuless really made me laugh: the ‘motherfucker’ in the chorus. I have a running joke where I insert unnecessary motherfuckers in songs that really don’t deserve it. Steely Dan or the Beach Boys or something.
Corey Taylor: [Laughs] Thats funny because I do that all the time when I’m in my car, singing. I’m always adding an unnecessary motherfucker to what I’m singing along to, where it just needs a little more, y’know? I mean I’m sure they would have gotten to the motherfucker eventually but they were too busy with the notes, so people like you and me provide the motherfucker for them.
That song is so eclectic. How did it come together?
That song came together from Tooch (guitarist Christian Martucci) and Roy (Magora, drums) jamming together. It was one of those songs where when we heard the demo we were like ‘Holy shit.’ It took a little arranging because it was all in different spots – it originally had a totally different feel to it – but the riffs themselves all had a great vibe. I took it and did my magic on it and worked it in with the lyrics that were going on in my head and different melodies and stuff, and it came together really quickly. It was a matter of arranging the puzzle so that the song fuckin’ figured itself out.
The first few times you listen to it you don’t quite know what could happen next.
Exactly. And that’s the cool thing. I feel like a lot of music doesn’t have that feeling any more, and you can anticipate what the next part is. With a lot of bands you can almost write the fuckin’ next riff in your head before you’ve even heard the song all of the way through for the first time. With this song it keeps you guessing right up until the last minute.
So this is the first record written with Christian Martucci and Johnny Chow.
Working with those two, honestly, was so effortless. The great thing is it all starts with us just getting along. Really getting along. We all hang out, we all love hanging out and talking shit and joking, and we’re all such dorks that it doesn’t really matter. So writing together is the same thing. We just love what we do so much that we get excited when we hear what we’re doing with the music.
How’s the spine coming along after your operation? Has it affected your range? I was thinking about how when Frank Zappa got pushed off the stage and broke his neck, and after he got rebuilt his voice got lower.
Yeah, that didn’t happen to me. It’s really only a physical thing for me. I’m slowly but surely starting to get my mobility back, and that’s even after a year. It’s been pretty crazy. But luckily I didn’t lose any of my range – actually I got some back because I quit smoking over a year ago, and I’m starting to get my range back because of that. God, if I’d know that would happen I’d have quit ten fuckin’ years ago. But I’m still in the process of rehabbing all that shit, and I’m slowing but surely getting my body back. It’s a fucking pain in the ass but I’m getting there.
I don’t think people realise how physical singing is – how much of your whole body goes into it.
Oh yeah. You can lose your chops really easily. And not only lose your chops but you can let your talent go to fuckin’ shit, and it can take you years to get that shit back. About six years ago I started to really try to keep myself in shape as much as possible, and as long as it’s worth it you just keep trying, keep going for it.
What guitars are you using at the moment?
On the road I have three guitars that I’m using, really. I have a 2008 Gibson Firebird that has a couple of Seymour Duncan pickups in it. It has a nice chunky edge to it and a really killer clean tone. Those guitars have a great clean tone. I also have a 1987 Gibson SG out with me that smells like the dude who owned it chain-smoked around it for about 45 years! It’s got the colour, but unfortunately it’s also got the smell, so I named it Keith. So I’ve got that out with me and I’ll probably bring that down with me to Australia when we get down there. And I’ve also got a Framus and I’m thinking about working some magic with those guys. I actually have a Stevie Salas Idolmaker model that I’m using right now and they’re fuckin’ pretty dope, dude. I wanna have them use that base and make a custom for me but give it more of a hollowbody vibe, and put a couple of humbuckers in it and see what happens. I think that could be really fuckin’ cool, because it plays amazingly. It’s got such fuckin’ chunk to it. It’s really great. So those three I’m kinda rotating through, just feeling them out every night.
PRESS RELEASE: TOLEDO, OH (June 14, 2017) – Reverend Guitars and Matt West united to create a signature model just in time for Neck Deep’s Warped Tour jaunt. Based on the Jetstream platform that West loves, the guitar has a single Reverend CP90 pickup and a Wilkinson tremolo. It’s topped off with a reverse headstock and West’s wizard logo on the back. The model is available in Midnight Black and Powder Yellow, both with tortoise pickguards. The guitar will be released this Friday, June 16, 2017, in conjunction with West’s Warped Tour appearance. Read More …
PRESS RELEASE: AKRON, Ohio — Ohio-based extra special effects pedal manufacturer EarthQuaker Devices will host the second-annual EarthQuaker Day festival at their downtown Akron facility (350 W. Bowery St.) on Saturday, August 5, 2017 from 1:00pm until 8:00pm. Read More …
PRESS RELEASE: Melbourne rock outfit Drunk Mums return with a new single ‘Ode To Death’ The first single of their forthcoming EP Denim.
The track continues from their recent homage of hard rock and punk heard on their latest release Leather.Taking influence from Johnny Thunders and The Stooges the band takes a step back with this one, or so it seems, considering the lyrics have a pretty bleak undertone. Don’t let that fool you though, it is still something you could probably show ya parents and hell they’d probably like it too. Read More …