Cool Preamps They Don’t Make Any More

 

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.

Marshall 9001

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

Marshall JMP-1


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.

ART Powerplant

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

A/DA MP-1


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.

Soldano/Caswell X99


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.

Bogner Fish


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.

Bogner Enters The Pickup Market

bogner_paf_pickups

Bogner is known for massively high quality amps (there was also the Bogner Alchemist line, now discontinued, which sounded great but had a few quality control problems, if the emails I received from people who read my review are anything to go by). Their pedal line with Rupert Neve Design transformer has just made it to stores, and now they’re entering the pickup biz with a PAF-style humbucker. They’re available in bridge and neck versions (Bridge – Alinco II at 8.5k;  Neck – Alnico III at 7.9k), in Traditional or F Spacing. They have 4-conductor wiring and a Bogner “B” etched into the cover. These are actually being made by Arcane, which is an interesting choice: Bogner’s a pretty small operation so I guess they don’t have the capacity to do these in-house. I imagine folks would be pretty excited about these if Reinhold Bogner himself was winding them in the brief moments in between designing incredible amp after incredible amp. Speaking of Bogner, this has always been one of my dream amps. Some day, Bogner, some day…

 

MUSIKMESSE 2012: Bart Provoost’s Guitar Effects Report

You regularly visit www.effectsdatabase.com, right? Bart Provoost’s site is one of the most informative on the web for pedal fans like you and I. He was recently on the ground at Musikmesse in Frankfurt and he filed this report. Some incredible stuff here by the likes of Amsterdam Cream, AMT Electronics, Bogner, Carl Martin, Ciocks, Dr. J, Ego Sonoro, Electro-Harmonix, Greenhouse Effects, GWires, JAM Pedals, Mooer Audio, Nux, Palmer Audio, Paul Landes, Roger Mayer, T-Rex, TC Electronics, Two Notes, and Yerasov.

MUSIKMESSE 2012: Bogner pedals

Reinhold Bogner is a tone genius (and a very dapper dresser). He’s also about eight foot tall and impossible to miss if you ever happen to walk past him at a NAMM show. His amps are highly prized, but they’re also pretty pricey (apart from the Alchemist). Now Bogner is introducing his first three pedals, based on the Uberschall and Ecstasy amps (the Ecstasy Red and Ecstasy Blue) and made in the USA. These are going to be huge. They take the basic essence of these classic amps and distill them down into foot-stompable form. I can’t think of a single person I know who won’t want one of these.

USA projected pricing is:

Bogner Ecstasy Red Pedal $249

Bogner Ecstasy Blue Pedal $249

Bogner Uberschall Pedal $229

Check out this video from AudioFanzine to see an explanation of each pedal and to hear them in action. Read More …

REVIEW: Bogner Alchemist 112 40 watt combo

This is a re-publish of a review from the early days of I Heart Guitar. I still get a lot of inquiries about this amp so I thought I’d bring the review up to the front page. Enjoy!

I’ll be perfectly honest with ya, I’d been looking forward to the day when I got to test-drive a Bogner Alchemist like a kid looks forward to Christmas. Then again, I look forward to Christmas like I look forward to cranking tube amps. Anyway, the Bogner Alchemist is the first ‘relatively low-cost’ offering from the eccentric, California-based, German-raised amp genius Reinhold Bogner (if you wanna see how eccentric, go to bogneramplification.com and scroll down the news page). Bogner’s modern classic USA-built amps, such as the Ecstasy and Uberschall, are now badged as Bogner Custom Shop, with the straight Bogner name now being used for the Alchemist series, which are built in China. Straight up, let me say the build quality is very high, so don’t let that ‘Made In China’ throw ya.

The 6L6-loaded, Class AB-powered, 40-watt Alchemist is available as 1X12 and 2X12 open-back combos, and a 100 watt head with matching open-back 2X12 cabinet. I tested the 2X12 combo (and I also ran it through my closed-back Marshall 4X12 cab and an AxeTrak isolated speaker box for recording the demo video above). Channel 1, the Gold channel, has controls for gain, treble, middle, bass and volume in addition to slider switches for Clean/Crunch, Bright (treble boost) and Deep (low boost). Next are a pair of switches for channel switching and a solo boost. Channel 2 (Mercury) also has gain, treble, middle, bass and volume controls, along with switches for Punch, Bright and Mid Shift. Next there’s an effect section with delay (Ducking, Analog and Tape) and reverb (Plate, Spring, Hall). Finally, there are power and standby switches, the latter of which has selects between standby, 20 watt or 40 watt operation. The supplied footswitch selects channel, boost, delay and reverb. The effects loop is parallel, meaning that whatever effect is in the loop will be running alongside the unadorned sound. The loop has its own level control, it travels independently of the main signal for improved clarity, and it’s designed for instrument-level effects (ie: stompboxes), although the manual says rack gear can be used too if you’re careful with the levels.

Wanna buy one? Here are some Guitar Center links:
Bogner Alchemist Series 112 40W 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp Black

 Bogner Alchemist Series 212 40W 2×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp Black
 Bogner Alchemist Series Tube Guitar Amp Head Black
 Bogner Alchemist Series 40W HD and 2×12 Guitar Half Stack Standard
 Bogner Alchemist Series 212 45W 2×12 Guitar Extension Cabinet Black

Read More …

INTERVIEW: Megadeth’s Chris Broderick

Th1rt3en is Chris Broderick’s second album in one of the most coveted guitar jobs in the world: Dave Mustaine’s sparring partner in Megadeth. Broderick has some pretty big shoes to fill (Marty Friedman, Chris Poland, Glen Drover), but that’s old news: he brings his own style, feel and technique to the band in a way that they hadn’t really had since the early days of Friedman’s reign in the 90s. Th1rt3en finds Broderick once again shredding with the best of them and weaving in and out of classically Megadeth riffage with confidence and ease. I caught up with Broderick to talk Th1rt3en and, of course, guitar.

——-

Hi, is this Peter?

Yes it is. Nice to meet you again! I met you a couple of years ago NAMM.

Oh did you really? Where at? What booth?

The Ibanez booth.

Oh nice! Very cool.

And now you’re with Jackson. How’s your new signature guitar working out for you?

It’s awesome! Dare I say, it’s perfect, for me personally. Because you have to understand, when I approached Jackson they were the only ones that never said no. They said “Yeah, we can do that, and we can do that.” So I built that guitar from the ground up thinking about everything I could from the ergonomics to the weight distribution to the placement of the tone knob. Even the placement of the pickups, in addition to the fretboard radius, the stainless steel frets, extremely tall narrow frets. I built that guitar up to be exactly what I’d want, so for me it definitely is the perfect instrument.

Are you using the seven-string version with Megadeth, or is that more of a ‘just because you can’ thing?

No. Well, I’ve always been more of a seven-string player than a six-string player, ever since they were available in the late 80s, early 90s. So for me I’ll always be playing more seven-string stuff. But since Megadeth is more of a traditional thrash band we stick to six strings just to keep those traditional thrash roots more in focus. So whenever I’m onstage with Megadeth it’s always six string, and when I do my own stuff it’s definitely seven-string.

Read More …

REVIEW: Line 6 Spider Valve

Line 6 has been at the forefront of a lot of sound modeling innovations – desktop units, modeling amps, and the revolutionary Variax guitar. But despite the company’s amp modeling technology finding its way into pro studios worldwide and on thousands of concert stages, purists have been somewhat wary of the lack of valve technology. With the Spider Valve, Line 6 is looking to capture that slice of the market which has been hesitant to try modeling technologies because of the lack of valves.

Line6 turned to amp guru Reinhold Bogner, the man whose namesake company is responsible for the revolutionary Ecstasy, Shiva and Uberschall amps. Bogner Amplification started after Reinhold was brought in to rebuild Eddie Van Halen’s famous 1968 Marshall Super Lead in 1992, so you know he knows his valves.

At first glance, the Spider Valve looks a lot like a Spider III. It shares a similar control layout and 12 amp model types including clean jazz; 1973 Hiwatt custom 100; various Fender valve combos, Marshall heads; a Vox AC-30, Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier; and Line6’s own creation, “Insane.” There are also 7 effect types, and you can store 36 of your own sounds in addition to the hundreds of factory presets.

The signal travels into an analog-to-digital converter, then into the digital signal processor for tone generation, and is then converted back to analog and split to a cabinet simulated direct out, and to the effect loop. Then the signal hits a pair of 12AX7 preamp valves. The first acts as a cascading gain stage, and feeds the master volume which hits the next 12AX7 configured as a phase splitter. This is followed by Sovtek 5881WXT/6L6. There are two 6L6 output valves’s for 40 watts of class AB power in the combos, while the head version has four 6L6’s for 100 watts of class AB power. Bogner specified the use of boutique components such as Sprague Orange Drop and Wima capacitors in the tube section, and the combos are outfitted with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers.

The Spider Valve sounds very much like the Spider III at lower volumes. The same artist and song presets are there, and user-conjured tones are similar too. The amp has been re-voiced to provide more complexity to the mid gain tones, and the best way to hear this in all its glory is to crank the amp. Once the valves start cooking (and the neighbours start knocking), the slightly clinical bass response of lower volumes tightens up. The subtle fizz to the treble, common most high gain amps at low volumes, fades away to be replaced with rich transients. But the real beauty is in how the midrange opens up with lush harmonics, and the amp responds more interactively to changes in pick attack, playing dynamics and guitar control settings. This makes medium gain models come alive, and puts muscle and presence into clean tones. The sound tends to still be a little ‘hi fi’ compared to a 100% valve amp, but it’s a much more organic-sounding unit compared to the Spider III.

But don’t just take my word for it – here’s a video of Guitar World’s Paul Riario demonstrating the Spider Valve (although the treble sounds a bit harsh on this video). Make sure you stick around for the blues sound at 9:40 in the video to get an idea of how the Spider Valve handles non-metal styles.

The Spider Valve is more than ‘just’ a modeling amp. It has its own character, and offers something that nothing else in the industry can do. The design input and endorsement of Bogner also doesn’t hurt in lending some cred in boutique circles.

Shopping links:
Line 6 Spider Valve 212 40W Guitar Combo Amp Standard

Line 6 Spider Valve 112 40W Guitar Combo Amp
Line 6 Spider Valve HD100 100W Guitar Amp Head

How to sound like Jerry Cantrell

With Alice In Chains in town recently for the Soundwave festival and their own side shows, now seems like as good a time as any to look at the guitar tones of Jerry Cantrell. The band’s defining moment was the 1993 album Dirt, which stripped away the slightly 80s-rock elements of their debut and ratcheted up the dark, foreboding, Sabbath-y elements instead. Cantrell’s tone was huge and warm, and a lot more ‘boutique’ than most of his grunge-era contemporaries. Read More …