Home (amp tone, fx placement, quiet cranked-amp tone)

Eddie Van Halen's Rig and Tone Techniques


The new EVH MXR Phase 90 adds a Script switch, which logically confirms what I've always asserted: despite all the magazine articles, I've always posited, the block MXR Phase 90 cannot possibly produce the VH1 sound such as Eruption; it turns out that only a Script MXR Phase 90 can, because the Script switch does what I was surmising that Eddie did: it mixes some dry signal with the wet signal, to give the key, necessary *mild* phasing which the block Phase 90 cannot do.I suspected as much the moment I saw the EVH phaser, and confirmed it a week ago by demo test (around July 21, 2006).

I've read reviews of the EVH Phase 90, and the reviewers have a poor grasp of this subject, because of poor understanding of the interaction of fx involved in pre-distortion EQ.The block-logo MXR Phase 90 sounds awful, with brick-wall processing, unmusical; Eddie would never have used it, and the crap tone that kids have when they follow the bad advice from the magazines is all too typical of bad-sounding use of effects in the 80s and 90s, that awful result of hooking up a bunch of brick-wall-processing fx pedals and then wondering why it sounds horrible compared to the album.

I'd like to make a sick-humor page that shows actual tone-disaster diagrams from books and magazines � a recent diagram shows Eddie driving the output of a solid-state power amp directly into the input jack of a Marshall head.My guess that Eddie modded his Phase 90 to mix dry in with it was probably wrong, but I was essentially right, in that he did not use "the MXR Phase 90" � he used the early, script-logo MXR Phase 90; there were two significantly different-sounding versions of the MXR Phase 90, and though I'm anti-vintage, this is a clear-cut case of an early design being musically superior to later versions of guitar gear.Confirming the anti-vintage argument, the third version of the Phase 90 is better than the first � it offers both the original subtle and the later heavy blends of wet/dry signals.

If you learn about the relation between the 3 MXR Phase 90s here, regarding Van Halen's required use of earlier, milder phasing as pre-distortion eq, and you write as much elsewhere, please mention where you found it out: "Michael Hoffman at Amptone.com pointed this out."Citing Amptone.com as the central concentration of this information helps the whole industry and leads to better products, because I am a revolutionary activist designer out to change not only product design, but the entire paradigm of "good tone is hard to obtain". � Michael Hoffman, July 29, 2006


Preamp-centric vs. power-tube-centric distortion voicing

July 2006: I feel that the details of how I've dialed this in have led to too much centering of the sound around preamp distortion; I suspect I need to take a fresh approach by re-centering the dialing-in of the sound around, first, setting up the power-tube distortion to sound right.Just as Zappa claimed that he's closely reproduced the VH1 sound in Guitar Rig or Amplitube, I now think that I can hear the difference between any preamp-distortion-centered emulation of the VH1 sound versus the actual album sound which is based more on power-tube distortion.

Once I get the Amptone Reamp Project fully going, I can confirm this easily, including mp3 samples.I need to upload my mp3 A/B samples of my "Running with the Devil" tone-cloning, which is very impressive.Many people would say, based on that A/B clip, that I've basically used Van Halen's same formula and have completely nailed the essence of his sound � however, I can hear still the inferior dynamics of my relying too heavily on preamp distortion, in my distortion voicing strategy for that clip.

I've got very well dialed-in, primarily preamp-centric distortion, with a moderate amount of power-tube distortion � what I hear on the album is the reverse: primarily power-tube distortion, with a moderate amount of preamp distortion.As we find with amp modelling that's preamp-centric, no amount of perfecting the voicing in the preamp distortion can ever truly nail the dynamic depth and response of power-tube-centric distortion voicing.


This is the setup I use. It nails [but see above] the Van Halen I Tone at any volume.

Bridge double-coil pickup

Slow phaser mixed with bypass to make subtle

Frown curve EQ

Preamp distortion

Moderate smile curve EQ

Power-tube saturation

Dummy load

Moderate smile curve EQ

Right channel: amplifier, guitar speaker

Left channel: reverb, amplifier, guitar speaker


Optional: feedback device


No variac, but it would be a good idea, to reduce voltage for longer power-tube life. Don't pummel the power tubes as hard as possible with bass power chords, or the power tubes will start cutting out and will need to be replaced.


Here is another, more detailed expression of the same chain:


I believe that this most accurately represents what was used for the Eruption tone in the studio:


Double-coil bridge pickup

EQ 1 ("guitar eq") with frown curve

Slow phaser mixed 50% with dry signal

Preamp distortion

EQ 2 ("amp eq") with slight smile curve, or flat

Power-tube saturation

Variac (optional)

Dummy load

EQ 3 ("speaker eq") with smile curve

Tape echo

Branch: reverb on one channel

2-channel solid-state power amp, pushing the speakers into distortion/smoothing

Guitar cab 1 with guitar speakers -- non-reverb channel

Guitar cab 2 with guitar speakers -- reverb channel



Monitor speakers or headphones


The above chain is the shortest possible summary of my explanation at Amptone.com of the Eruption and basic VH1 sound. That way of wording the chain is also very instructive and gets people to think in terms of processing modules, rather than in terms of particular product models and brands, to master the underlying principles of the EVH tone and not just mimic the setup without comprehending it.


This chain also includes the entire signal path starting with the guitar (which type of pickup selection) and ending not with the guitar speaker, but rather, with the full-range playback monitors. This is important because guitarists need to think in terms of the entire recording studio as a sound instrument -- I especially have in mind the home studio.





Brent Harmon's collection of Eddie Van Halen gear info - URL coming soon. Brent Harmon: peaveyplayer at musician org.


It is very important to credit and link to the original authors and researchers -- detectives who have labored to experiment and research the EVH tone. It can also be tricky determining who to credit for what, in the history of research in any area.


I've been experimenting with rig chains especially in the context of quiet home studios on and off since about 1981 (22 years), and my expression of the VH1 rig chain represents much of the fruit of these decades of research and experimentation, communicating efficiently, in a nutshell, many of the most key overlooked basic principles of amp tone to beginning and experienced guitarists, with special emphasis on the SPL-restricted home recording studio.


I claim credit for the following conclusions:

o Use of 50% wet/dry mix in the phaser

o Emphasis on the key importance of putting phaser *before* preamp distortion

o Emphasis on the key importance of the EQ before preamp distortion

o Need to push the guitar speakers into speaker distortion, for the most authentic cranked-amp tone


Other aspects that I emphasize that most other treatments of the EVH rig don't:

o The need to think in terms of total signal path from pickup configuration to full-range monitor speakers

o De-emphasis of importance of variac; it's merely one of some ten innovations in the EVH chain. People obsess and fixate on the variac, adding a variac to their rig, but totally botching the rest of the chain.

o Vertical chain listing notation, expressed in terms of audio processing modules (writing "preamp distortion, tone stack, power-tube saturation" rather than "Marshall amp").

o The need to throw away the artificial division into "amps" and "effects" and think in terms of sound-processing modules, independently of how the modules are grouped and packaged into products such as a "guitar amplifier".


In turn, I try to credit those who have emailed me with helpful information that confirmed the suspicions and conclusions I already reached about the VH1 chain. I have also linked to the VH Tone sites I'm aware of. I have to double-check with what the other researchers have found. I don't claim uniqueness in these conclusions, but I do claim to have "independently" reached these conclusions or this particular set of conclusions, and this set of emphases -- the other treatments of the VH1 rig generally have a set of emphases that slightly misses the mark, in my view.


I published my proposed VH1 signal chain on the Web before reading other Web pages with their proposals, and I continue to have a somewhat different characterization of the VH1 rig chain than at the other sites. My proposed VH1 rig has been developed over the years partly in contrast with other people's description and explanation -- some contrast of emphasis, much agreement.


I have also studied and reviewed all available books about running guitar equipment. The books' diagrams are largely incorrect and confusing; most authors don't even know the difference between pre-dist eq and post-dist eq, or between a dummy load, power attenuator, and cab-sim filter, or between pre-dist phaser and post-dist phaser. Web pages have higher-quality information.


Every beginning electric guitarist ought to fully understand the EVH rig and variations of it, including variations of a power-attenuator based rig and variations of a dummy-load based rig, and the tradeoffs in using a cab-sim filter rather than a miked guitar speaker.



includes article

http://www.amptone.com/g214.htm -- 3-stage rig architectures using various combinations of guitar speaker, full-range speaker, dummy load, cab-sim filter, and mic










I hope lots of people provide good amp tone clips online and have "emulation wars". One of the least convenient things is to set up an A/B system to compare the clip to the album clip. I hope to take the time to upload my MP3 proof of superior Tonal awesomeness.


Noteworthy things about my chain:


o Tone is independent of volume; it sounds perfect even if barely louder than the unplugged guitar. Totally neighbor-friendly with no compromise of Tone, great for home recording.

o Pre-distortion phaser placement slowly warps the preamp distortion voicing

o The phaser isn't 100% depth, but only around 50% mixed with bypass

o Reverb is on the left, dry on the right


The concept of "an artist's Tone" is overcrude; each artist uses many. It's only meaningful to talk absolutely specifically of "The guitar Tone in Running with the Devil at 2:38".





http://www.legendarytones.com/EVHProf6.htm or http://www.legendarytones.com/EVHSetup.htm


Tenma: Variac - variable autotransformer for AC. A variac is a power supply that goes between the wall socket and the guitar amp. It can reduce the supply voltage from 110 volts AC, or 140 volts in my house, to lower, such as 50 volts. This causes the power tubes to saturate at lower power levels. A related but even more powerful idea is that of Power Scaling, used in London Power amps (search the home page for "london").

Christopher Michael wrote:


>I can go into detail about the Eddie Van Halen method of loading the amp then driving the effects and echo at line level into a power amp (he used H&H power amp) then into 4 paralleled cabs into 4 ohms.

>I've seen it with my own eyes and heard it from the horse's mouth!!

>The setup is a 100 watt Marshall plexi with Sylvania 6CA7's. The head is plugged into a Variac to lower the mains voltage to about 90 VAC or whatever he's in the mood for. This browns the sound slightly and helps lenghten the tubes' life. The speaker out is set at 8 ohms. The dummy load resistor is adjusted to about 20 ohms. Then the load resistor is tapped at center and sent to a box with a potentiometer in it and and output jack. The output jack is a line-level low-impedance source and will not muddy up the tone anywhere. The pot. is adjusted for whatever drive level you want. It then goes into the MXR Phase 90, MXR flanger, and Echoplex-EP3. This then goes to the power amp, usually a low-powered one, 100-200 watts. This is to prevent fucking up good real low-power vintage speakers, as opposed to today's higher-powered shit Celestions. The final power amp he used was by H&H and he paralleled 4 cabinets down to 4 ohms to connect it to power amp. This IS the setup for his early days. Nowadays it's a chorousy-sounding pile of buzzy horse shit!

>The reason why the load resistor is set higher than the selected impedance of the amp selector is because a 100 watt Marshall head at full volume into a resistive load set to the same impedance as the head will put out way over 100 watts, try 160-180 watts. This is because the amp will go into class B mode. When a cabinet is being played at full volume its impedance climbs, especially higher if it is a sealed closed back cabinet. This higher load tends to keep the amp at around 100 watts. A head played into a resistor of the same value will fry the primary windings of the transformer due to the excessive A.C. currents. So increasing the load resistor by at least twice sort of keeps the A.C. currents in the range that the output can deal with, at full volume. This does not muddy the sound. After the potentiometer, it is low impedance source and can drive the effects with no problem. That's why his flanger had so much of a strong effect. The Echoplex is quiet in this setup. If you were to connect a EP3 Echoplex in front inputs to a 100W Marshall on full volume, the noise and hiss levels would be insane.

>I hung and partied with this guy for years. He even told me about his guitar: the body is from a 65' Strat he use to play at the Whiskey A Go Go and is Alderwood. The necks were from all over, some from Mighty Might and some from old Charvel and some from who knows where. The pickup is from an early sixties 335 and was dipped in Dr. Zogg's Sex Wax. This is surfboard wax that he melted in a coffee can and potted his pickup in. This is probably the key to his sound. Since the capacitance of the pickup was increased a lot, it will brown the sound, roll off the highs and will also be more distorted sound. His amp itself was dead-stock. The person who introduced him to this amp setup was Jose Arendondo.

-- Christopher Michael

C.M. added:

>When I explained about the value of the load-resistor and the wattage the amp produces, there is a line that says the amp breaks into class B; that is incorrect. When the load increases with pentodes in P-P, the power outpout goes down and the distortion rises. BUT the Class will remain in AB1. The only thing that can change the class of operation into B is by changing the bias to cut-off, which can not happen on its own.

>As for the Phase 90 it was a script logo version and it was connected in front of the amp, not afterward. He had a EP3 in the loop AFTER the load with MXR flanger, and some Univox echo unit in the bomb shell next to the H&H amp.

>Prior to going to the H&H amp it went into a EQ. I never knew the brand but I can remember what it looks like. It was AC operated and was kind of had big huge sliders. It was not rack-mount but it looked like something that was a small mixer.

>Probably the key to how he got his crunchy tone was that he used a MXR 6-Band EQ in FRONT of the amp with the phase 90. The EQ shape was a horse shoe shape, with mids boosted, bass and treble cut. [frown curve -- that's what I used before my 5410 Marshall 50-watt 6-knob tube combo amp -- Michael]

>The other big thing with getting his tonality was the type of maple neck he was using. [that's what I used -- Michael] His necks were maple-CAP necks. This is a two -piece laminated maple board. These maple necks have great tone without the shrill. Albert Collins' tele was maple cap. Hendrix had great strat tone without the shrill because he also used maple-board strats. These necks have a great honk in the mids.

>I have some outtakes from VH-1 and have some of the original tracks from the early master. You can hear the hiss from his amps and his sound is not cool. You can hear a lot of fizzy-ness underneath the chords and his sound is very midrange oriented. After further mixing they re-EQ'ed this and added more compression that eventually formed his tone.

>I have a bunch more details if you care to listen.

-- CM

I wrote:

>>Are we hearing the dummy load setup on the studio album? I wondered if the dummy load approach was only used for live club gigs and the Marshall head was simply blasted full-strength into the mic in the studio with no H&H amp used. That's my biggest question. Did he always use the 3-stage (or power-slaved) amp approach? (preamp dist, power-tube saturation into dummy load, final amp)

CM wrote:
>From what I can gather when I spoke with him many years ago, it seems the 1st album was done with full system [with dummy load etc.] and he mixed the sound of two Marshall cabinets. One cabinet had JBL D-120 speakers and the other was green back celections. He said he used 20's, 25's and 30's in his cabs. The second album was done with just the head and cabs on full volume [a conventional setup]. He was not happy with the sound of VH-2, and went back to the full [3-stage amp with dummy load] setup to do Women and Children First. As for what he did after that in the studio, I don't know, because this is [after] the era that I saw the set-up and spoke to him.

>I did go back-stage for the Diver Down tour and we spoke. For his live setup then he was using almost the same setup except that the H&H [SS power amp] was gone and he was using three 100 watt Marshalls acting as his [final] power amp section, or whatever [heads] he got his hands on, like old Laneys and Hi-Watts, etc.; the roadies were buying up everything in sight while touring, to use as [final] power amps. But he still used a 100 watt plexi for the pre-amp section. But it was not his #1 plexi, it was another one. He said he starting playing live with this set-up durring the Fair Warning tour, and retired the main plexi in fear of losing it on the road.

>He also added a ADA pre-amp booster [MP-1?] somewhere in the chain. I did not get to see where it was wired in but assume it must be in the front of the head. He did once mention that his pick-up was rewrapped to be hotter by someone in Santa Barbara. I can only assume it was Seymour Duncan when he worked out of a tiny shop when he was only localy known. I did not see him again until Cardinal Knowledge tour at Jones Beach NY. I got backstage but Ed did not care anymore about talking Marshall since he is into this 5150.

>-- CM

Summary of Christopher's description of the classic EVH processing chain

  • Guitar using bridge humbucker
  • MXR 6-band EQ (frown curve), and MXR Phase 90
  • 100 watt Marshall plexi with Sylvania 6CA7's; powered via Variac to lower (brown-out) the mains voltage from 120 down to 90 VAC.
  • The head's speaker out impedance control is set at 8 ohms.
  • Dummy load resistor, adjusted to about 20 ohms
  • The load resistor is tapped at center
  • Box with a potentiometer in it and output jack (the output jack is a line-level low-impedance source)
  • The pot. is adjusted for whatever drive level.
  • desktop EQ
  • MXR flanger
  • Echoplex-EP3
  • 100-200 watt power amp
  • final power amp by H&H
  • guitar spks: paralleled 4 cabinets down to 4 ohms to connect it to the final power amp.
  • EQ and compression at the mixer

Clarifying further:

  • bridge humbucker
  • frown EQ
  • tube amp powered via variac
  • dummy load
  • time fx (phaser, flanger, echo) and EQ
  • final solid-state* power amp
  • guitar speakers
  • EQ and compression at the mixer

Christopher Michael, did not specify whether this is a solid-state amp. From newsgroup postings, I am *assuming* that it is solid-state. It doesn't matter very much, because the *main* tone generation has already occurred, in the tube amp prior to the dummy load.

You can achieve the classic EVH processing chain many ways, such as with the Guytron amp:

  • Guytron's low-wattage tube power amp
  • Guytron's dummy load
  • Guytron's fx Send
  • outboard time fx
  • Guytron's fx Return
  • Guytron's final power amp, which happens to be a *tube* power amp
  • Guytron's guitar speakers

The Guytron's final tube power amp, or EVH's possibly solid-state power amp, are not where the main classic amp-breakup Tone occurs. These rigs both use a power tube as well as preamp tubes. The power tubes in these rigs contributes much more to the resulting Tone than does the preamp tubes.

Rex Jackson wrote: [synopsis]

>Christopher describes the Marshalls as being stock, and he credits Jose Arredondo with introducing Edward to stock Marshalls. But actually, Jose modded Edward's Marshalls; Edward's Marshalls were not, in fact, stock. It was a pretty extensive mod that cascaded the two channels for additional gain.

>Some of the techniques Christopher mentions, he described as techniques used with the early setup, but in fact they are things Edward has only done in the last ten years or so. [late 1980s - late 1990s]

Rex Jackson's Van Halen resources, Hi-Mu amp page

David Scott wrote:


The largest example of volume being an issue that is overlooked by alot of people turns into an example of success, and supports your ideas.

Eddie Van Halen's early Marshall amp (a completely stock Marshall Plexi from 1969) used from around 1974 on, purchased from the Rose Palace in Pasadena, California, was his gigging amp; this is clearly documented. That stock amp was what he played and gigged with for the first few years. He constantly stated that it was too loud. I have owned and still own several of these heads and yes, they are loud as hell. The guitars he used were a 1955 Gibson Les Paul Junior and a 1965 Fender Stratocaster. The tone he had then were the tones he liked, and there was no need to mod these, to get some other tone. It was simply the tone of a stock Marshall head and cabinet with a stock Gibson and Strat. The only problems were volume, hum, and tuning -- *not* tone. The Plexi head was too loud, the single-coil pickups hummed from the lights on stage, and the Strat's vibrato bar would not stay in tune.

I have bootlegs of Ed with his famous variac'd stock head into the attenuator or dummy load with all his effects. These recordings sound like I would expect from stock gear: they sound like the stock Plexi with the Les Paul Junior, his favorite guitar. The famous Van Halen I sound is that stock Plexi tone, with a Ted Templeman and Don Landee production added: a slight 10 millisecond delay added to the dry tone (after the power tubes) with a Evantide, and a hard pan from the output of an EMT plate reverb. This approach was used on Montrose albums and such; it was a very standard Ted Templeman and Don Landee production approach. Factor in a little live mike bleedover, and slight EQ and/or aural exciter added, and that essentially stock tone is the tone folks drool for days over.

His stock Plexi with a single cabinet was too loud for practice and club gigs, but not loud enough for larger venues. That was the beauty of the attenuated head, amplified through a power amp: it was very flexible. His setup allowed him to deal with both too much volume, and lack of volume.

Everyone makes such a big deal about the many various hotrodded mods Ed made to his guitars and amps. But these mods stay firmly within standard, popular equipment territory. The hot rodded Red Devil guitar had a tone equivalent to a Tele or a Les Paul Junior, with a vibrato bar that would stay in tune, and that didn't hum. So his sound actually was based on stock amp sounds, potentially stock guitar sounds, and stock recording techniques, but using a power attenuator. His innovations were thus not based on mods, but on his use of a variac along with smart signal routing and recording techniques.

Rex Jackson, a friend of Eddie, claims that there were some gain-boosting mods done to the amp. I'm willing to accept this. I don't consider preamp distortion boosting voicing to be very difficult, mysterious, challenging, or significant; it's straightforward, compared to other considerations for quiet cranked-tube-amp tone. Power-stage tricks or mods, and smart setup of processing chains, are more interesting, mysterious, and challenging.

An Eddie Van Halen article lists the Palmer Speaker Simulator but not the variac. Full coverage of EVH rig, including diagram p. 41 Guitar Shop Spring 94. Shows 5150 head driving a Palmer Speaker Simulator as a dummy load [or is it used as a power attenuator? check article again] but it's totally unclear what the signal path is, with multiple interconnections between multiple amps and cabs. EVH said "My Palmer Speaker Simulator takes the load from my amp and distributes it to my H&H power amp, which powers the two wet cabs that have the effects. My 5150 goes right into the dry cab, which is miked. I have a mix of all 3 on stage."


Tenma - Variac - variable autotransformer for AC

PlexiPalace - EVH

EVH's gear - add to variac page

EVH rig site

Eddie Van Halen's Amp Tone

To: guitaramps at amptone.com
Subject: brown sound.
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 18:40:22 -0500 (EST)

What amp have you played through that comes close to the EVH brown sound.

  1. Boss 7-band EQ (quieter rack eq would be better for pre-dist) with bass cut a little, level and other bands boosted
  2. Marshall 50 watt combo with gain at max (amp's preamp dist. sounds duller as you turn this up, even with power amp quiet, that's why need to cut bass before amp input)
  3. Amp final volume to elbow where starts to mush out
  4. Amp's tube power amp with 2 EL34's
  5. Homemade resistive soak to cut volume by 1/2
  6. Combo's 1x12 speaker -- 25 watt Greenback or stock 70 watt Celestion speaker -- can't recall which

>What's the best solid state/digital amp for metal/rock music?


Randall has the reputation as "the" solid-state stack for metal.

Question 1: What type of speakers does EVH use in his wet cabs, and does he also use speaker simulation rolloff in the wet path, via the Palmer?

Question 2: Does EVH use the Palmer as a DI box, as a cabinet simulator (speaker-simulating filter), as a load box (fully attenuating/ dummy load), as a power attenuator, or as some combination?

Question 3: Does EVH drive the wet cabinet via the amp head's Spk Out jack, or via the Palmer's Spk Thru jack?

Question 4: Does EVH run the miked dry-cab signal so that it feeds the wet path?

The approach in question 4 is the traditional recording studio approach; studio reverb is fed by the mic signal, in this chain:

  1. tube power amp
  2. guitar speakers
  3. mics
  4. mixer
  5. studio time-effects (reverb, flanging, delay)
  6. powered full-range studio monitor speakers

Ken wrote:

>The main principle in Eddie Van Halen's amp and effects rig is the principle of tapping a line-level signal from the Speaker Line Out from the tube amp head. This signal must be "shaped" before going thru the effects processors. This is where the difference is between just a DI and a speaker simulated signal. Both the high and low frequencies have to be cut in order for it to sound good, like a typical Celestion speaker, which has a frequency response of 75 Hz to 5 KHz. The Palmer PDI-03 and -05 nail this down, as far as signal shaping goes, pretty realistically. Some "cab simulator" models capture the frequency response incorrectly, due to the fact that they add a cabinet's "resonating" frequency instead of just the speakers response frequency. If you were to steal that signal from the speaker line and send it through a processor like an Eventide, to a solid-state amp driving real 4x12's, it will sound close, but will still sound cruddy. The speaker cabinets will resonate by themselves along with the resonation characteristics of the cabinet simulator, placing two stages of resonance, in series, which is excessive. But the Palmer is a "speaker simulator", not a "cab simulator"!

>And that is how Eddie does it. He takes the signal containing the preamp and power amp characteristics, takes the signal from the speaker line, shapes it in the Palmer, cuts highs and lows without adding complex cabinet resonance, sends it out to the time effects which will send the preamp and power amp sound along with time effects such as pitch shifting and delay. That signal goes to a good, clean solid-state power amp (H&H V800) that will accurately reproduce everything as it is without adding additional distortion and *pushing* the sound out of guitar cabs, much like you would by miking a guitar speaker cabinet and sending that signal through a P.A. system. If you just fed the effects with a DI signal that didn't chop off the high's and low's, you would have a very wide-frequency response that was too hi-fi and unnatural sounding.

I recommend that rig designers get in the habit of *vertical, not horizontal* notation. It's the only way to swap list items in chains quickly and see the chain clearly.

Your theory is more clearly notated as the following alternatives:


  1. preamp
  2. tube power amp
  3. tap the tube amp head's line-level signal from the Speaker Line Out
  4. simple hi & lo rolloff via PDI-03
  5. time effects
  6. non-distorting final amp
  7. guitar speakers in cabinets


  1. preamp
  2. tube power amp
  3. load box (full power-attenuation)
  4. simple hi & lo rolloff via PDI-03
  5. time effects
  6. non-distorting final amp
  7. guitar speakers in cabinets


  1. preamp
  2. tube power amp
    1. amp head Spk Out jack
    2. dry guitar speaker cabinet
  3. Speaker Line Out jack of amp head (no filtering here, but some speaker back-response)
  4. simple hi & lo rolloff via PDI-03 (spk sim, not power atten. or load box)
  5. time effects
  6. non-distorting final amp
  7. wet guitar speakers in cabinets

Setup C would result in a 2-stage rolloff series for the wet line -- in the PDI03 and in the wet guitar speakers/cabs. Could sound muddy, in wet path. D.

  1. preamp
  2. tube power amp
  3. Speaker Line Out jack of amp head
    1. PDI-03's Spk Thru jack
    2. dry guitar speaker cabinet
  4. PDI-03's line-level out jack (includes back-effect of spk on pwr tubes)
  5. No hi/lo rolloff in PDI-03 (PDI-03 used as line-level tap, only; simple "DI box")
  6. time effects
  7. non-distorting final amp
  8. wet guitar speakers in cabinets

In setups C and D, the wet line does not hear the dry cab through a mic; it hears the power tubes, which are back-influenced by the dry guitar speakers. The total wet chain is:

  1. preamp
  2. tube power amp, including dry speaker's back-response
  3. DI (Speaker xfmr Line Out) jack of amp head
  4. time effects
  5. non-distorting final amp
  6. guitar speakers in cabinets

Setup D is theoretically pure in that the wet path has only a single stage of speaker rolloff. C adds speaker rolloff simulation in the PDI-03, as well as in the wet speaker cab -- in series in the wet path. You *can* get good tone, but it risks muddiness due to double-rolloff.

You can also do simulated speaker rolloff and use full-range speakers in the wet speaker cabinets -- some models of "guitar speakers" are essentially full-range speakers. Play a walkman through a Roland Jazz Chorus and you'll see -- there is a startling absense of the expected rolloff.

Again, be sure to study my systematization of 3-stage amp rigs:

Traditionally in the studio, the high-end time effects processors are *not* fed by a DI box or a tap off the tube amp head's output transformer, but are done more honestly, by making a loud noise with the amp, capturing the Loud Noise via mics, then taking that signal and adding high-end time effects, often applied *after* the mic signal has been recorded on one track of the tape. It is not most common for them to record the mic signal to one track and a DI Box signal to another then apply time effects to the DI Box track. Actually, I *have* read of all combinations of these being done. In the studio, all these have been tried by someone.

Be sure to study my list of all possible permutations of chains for full-range speakers, guitar speakers, DI boxes, load boxes, and 3-stage amp rigs. Your message posed 3 systems (a, b, c above). I have already gone to the trouble of enumerating these systems, and the question now is *which* of the identified rig architectures does EVH use in the studio and at home and on the stage. My systematization of 3-stage amp rigs was a response to someone's misunderstanding of Eddie's setup as "he uses a solid-state power amp so power tubes aren't key". Since he has mastered the principles, perhaps as systematically as I have, we should assume unless we hear otherwise, that Eddie has used *all* of the setups I have systematically identified.

>Remember, guitar speakers are not hi-fi (full-range), but actually roll off the high and low frequencies. If you were to use full-range speakers here, your time effects would get ahold of that extra-wide frequency response and try to match it, making additional, unwanted hi-fi sounds. That is why some people end up with a very high-frequency addition that shouldn't be there. "Cabinet resonance" is mostly related to sound pressure level (SPL). Some frequencies in the upper bass and lower mids can be boosted to add a sound like real cabinet resonance, hence the "Resonance" control on the 5150 amp head. In terms of a 5-band graphic equalizer, the first band from the left is the low bass. The second band will add a ''whoomffaa woomffaa" character when you start to boost it. But if you do this boost on Metallica's "And Justice For All" album, it makes it sound muddy. Therefore, you have to actually cut this frequency a little. I think this is where cabinet simulators and speaker simulators really differ. Cabinet simulators roll off the high and low frequencies but also add the "woomffaa woomffaa" character by putting a spike around the frequencies that cause the resonating effect. You do not want that. Speaker simulators are actually plain old high- and low-pass filters that simply slope off the high and low frequencies on an even and natural taper that sounds much better.

That is interesting terminology. Most speaker simulators probably can be divided into simple rolloff filters vs. complex cabinet-simulating filters, even simulating the mic response and angle, as well. My main groupings are: power attenuators, load boxes (fully attenuating), power attenuators, and cabinet simulators. I include speaker simulators in the category of "cabinet simulators". I should also think of that category as including mic response.

>You can send the re-amplified signal out through guitar cabs again (like sending it out through P.A. speakers) because the frequencies it will have to produce match exactly to that 75hz to 5khz response of the guitar cabs anyhow, even though you could use real P.A. speakers, instead. But they too will only spit out 75hz to 5khz due to the fact that there are no higher or lower frequencies, thanks to the Palmer's high- and low-cut filters. This whole setup will work for recording or for live sound. Getting the power amp section in front of your time effects is proven to be the best-sounding chain possible. You should not use a tube power amp (such as the VHT 2150) for the final amp in place of the solid-state H&H V800, because this will put power amp distortion on top of power amp distortion and be far less controllable. Also, it would put power amp distortion on top of time effects, causing intermodulation distortion between the original and delayed signals. The H&H solid-state amp will add no extra distortion because it is solid state and high-power, and is made to stay faithful to your input signal, a simple linear amplification.

>The overall volume, though, is an issue. Eddie's 5150 amp is really too damn loud. But he runs his dry cabinet anyway. I think he runs through the Palmer, and on the way to the dry guitar speaker cabinet he probably has a load box (a full power-attenuator with no speaker simulator or cabinet simulator) inline with the dry guitar speaker cabinet out the same way the Palmer is hooked in. One thing is for certain: someone really does know exactly how Eddie does it. We just need to find him and beat him senseless until he spills the secrets we all should be allowed to hear. I am in the process of writing Bob Bradshaw, who really ought to know alot more since he designed wet-dry-wet rig setups. I hope to reap some very good legitimate information, God willing!!! But aside from the particulars of EVH's use of the Palmer in his rig, this article does identify the difference between cabinet simulators, speaker simulators, and DI units.

>- Ken



Tenma - Variac - variable autotransformer for AC

EVH diagram

(plexi palace?)


EVH demonstrates 5150 amp - online video


The whammy in Eruption comes up very sharp at 0:44, and perversely, he lets it -- tricky-sick! The bastard is so good, he makes an ironic inside-joke out of it all. It's taken me 22 years to "get" this musical joke. The non locking nut tremolo *insists* on coming up sharp and there is *nothing* you can do about it. So, let it. It's always been jarring, the transition from 0:44 to the next passage, and now I know why. I thought he must have been a genius for knowing how to keep that whammy type in tune, but now I know he's a genius for knowing how to make a joke out of the fact that it's impossible to keep it in tune. By placing the radically off-key note there, in isolation, with a gap before the next passage, you can trick listeners into thinking that they misheard what was an in-tune note, as though the listener is to blame, having forgotten the key... when actually, the note really was way off key but EVH avoided any nearby notes for you to compare it to. Now I'll be able to play this part of Eruption correctly -- way off-key!


He sustains the final decaying E by stepping on an echo box. Actually, the descending tone may be the EchoPlex increasing delay time rather than a whammy.

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