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Product ideas for quiet cranked-amp tone; inductive loads

How well do the following devices work to give cranked-amp tone at low room-noise levels?

>>o Marshall Power Brake
>>o THD Hot Plate
>>o ADA Ampulator
>>o Hughes & Kettner Blues Master (called Crunch Master in Europe)
>>o Red Box

>>I am also interested in hearing from people who have used:

>>o Demeter speaker isolation cabinet
>>o MicroRoom speaker isolation cabinet and inductive load
>>o ADA MicroCab

>>I would like a short description of these items too, such as what types of
>>outputs the Hot Plate has. I'm not sure whether the Hot Plate can drive a
>>guitar speaker, or if it only has a line-level output.

>>The Power Brake sounds like one of the most authentic, useful approaches.
>>But does the speaker cabinet really sound any good at very low volumes?
>>Isn't speaker overdrive a major part of cranked amp tone? I suspect that a
>>genuine speaker cabinet is important, but we know that power tube saturation
>>is important too, because a solid-state amp driving a good cabinet does not
>>allow power-tube saturation, and thus sounds flat.

>>The interaction between power tubes and fast-moving speakers, with no
>>inductive load interfering, might be indispensable for the greatest tone.
>>If so, the only way to get a cranked amp tone at low room noise levels would
>>be to use a semi-small amp to directly drive a speaker isolation cabinet.
>>Even this approach has limitations: no room reverb, a claustrophobic tone,
>>and only a single speaker, close-mic'd.

>>I've gotten some good ideas by categorizing this gear related to
>>cranked-tube-amp tone at low room-noise levels, but I'd sure like to hear
>>from people who have worked with this gear. And I'm not the only one. Many
>>guitarists would be interested in this topic, if it got a little more
>>exposure. There *is* a third alternative between blasting amps too loud,
>>and relying solely on line-level preamp tone.

>Read my article "Load Boxes, Tone, and Fried Amps" in the "Fake Book" section at my site, SoundSmith Inc.

>-- Harry Kolbe >harry at soundsmith.com

The article only addresses a couple aspects of gear to get cranked-amp tone at low room noise levels. It doesn't talk about the following:

o Speaker breakup
o The Ampulator or Blues Master
o Speaker isolation cabinets
o The need for low-wattage tube power amps.

The article has great coverage of speaker/tube interaction that makes me feel that you must have a genuine speaker, and should ideally have the speaker connected *directly* to the output transformer. If you have an inductive load or attenuator draining all or most of the power, you will get practically no feedback from the speaker. If speakers are really that important, and you can't just use an attenuator and a low-pass filter as a substitute for a traditional cabinet setup, then speaker isolation cabinets become very important.

As far as I know, the Ampulator and the Blues Master (aka Crunch Master) attempt to fake power tube saturation with a preamp tube in a power amp configuration. They both use an inductive load and low-pass filter.

I guess both these products package together the following:
o A preamp tube run as a power tube
o Output transformer
o Inductive load
o Low-pass filter

They might actually skip the last 3 steps, in which case every processing stage is an emulation of a genuine traditional "guitar amp" component.

How good do these *really* sound, compared to genuine power tubes, output transformer, and hard-driven speaker? They approach the ideal of a footpedal for modularity. All these stages can be pulled into a guitar "multieffects" processor. But I think that skipping the speaker will never produce a first-rate tone.

No matter how good a preamp tone is, it still just sounds like a preamp tone. Rock guitarists should never have to use a raw preamp tone. For convenience, they should be able to buy a multieffects processor containing the Ampulator or Blues Master type of amp emulator. For first-rate sound at low room noise levels, they would be able to use a 5-watt tube amp driving a speaker isolation cabinet. Either way, guitarists would have a more authentic tone than the raw preamp output.

The concepts of "guitar amp" and "guitar preamp" must be overthrown -- we've gotten stuck into assumptions about what must be bundled together into packages, and what sequence the processing stages go in. The definitions are limiting. "A guitar amp makes a guitar loud." "Effects are what goes before the amp." If you think of the Blues Master or Ampulator as *stages*, you quickly realize that these stages can be put into an effects processor, optimally placed after distortion and before time-based effects. Then MIDI control of power tube saturation can be sync'd with the MIDI-controlled "preamp" settings -- that is, effects settings, whether the effects are before or after the "cranked amp module" which is like the Ampulator. Once you have these modules set up, you can provide a speaker isolation cabinet loop for even better tone.

My vision: Imagine a very cranked tube amp driving a genuine speaker and microphone, with echo professionally added *after* the microphone, to avoid beats -- to avoid garbling the Basic Tone of "straight into the amp". And imagine getting that at very low room noise levels, easily, with few cables and no programming. I tested some equipment, and this is definitely achievable. My test setup was complicated only because the components are packaged poorly -- as a traditional "guitar amp" and "effects preamp". I had cables running all over the place.

Any further information on these types of products would be greatly appreciated.

The magazine reviews have been proven unreliable. They reported that the Power Brake, THD HotPlate, and other such units sounded just like the amp. I was skeptical after reading that and after trying a couple of the units. I don't think these reviews are scientifically objective at all. I think the testers were too enthusiastic to judge objectively how hard the tone is impacted when using power attenuators.

I hope you have read some of my recent postings about new product ideas for cranked-amp tone at low room noise levels. There are many possible combinations of loads, speaker isolation cabs, miniturized tube power amps, speaker simulators, room reverberation emulators, and so on. And with all the recent interest in line-level tone generation and "low" powered amps, there is money to be made. I am tempted to start my own company, but I would much rather be a product concept person. I'm not much of an implementor. I'd rather just buy the stuff than design the details and produce and market it.

There is a huge potential demand. This topic is building momentum. I have a nose for trends, and I think that this is going to be the next revolution in guitar gear, because just now, now that we've had a couple years to brag about our wonder *preamp* tubes, we've all learned that *power* tubes are probably more important. The hybrid amps went the wrong way -- the cheapskate, second-rate, fake way: preamp tubes, and power transistors. The only hybrid worth touching is preamp transistors and power tubes.

I want to be able to choose from 100 speaker isolation cabinets in various configurations. I want a pair of effects processors that were *designed* to be placed one before the mic'd tube amp, and one after. I want all this in a single large box the size of a half-stack, including a solid state final amp and full-range 100 watt monitor. With no programming required to get *truly* genuine pro-studio tone with zero emulation. These "artist presets" on the Digitech 2101 are bullshit, because these artists don't put all those echo-related effects before their cranked amp (except for the artists with mediocre tone).

But I respect separates and rack gear too. There are many possible combinations of components for cranked-amp tone at low room-noise level, and various degrees of compromise possible for greater convenience -- such as placing an ADA Ampulator in the effects loop of a Digitech 2101 guitar multieffects processor.

I will check whether general guitar processing equipment is discussed in rec.music.makers.guitar. Maybe I should post hot product ideas there. Some people in alt.guitar don't understand where equipment designers are coming from -- they think the designers are obsessive about circuitry and theories and should just relax and play guitar. Someone suspected me of not being a good guitar player because I spend my time thinking about stages of guitar processing -- as though studying gear is irrelevant to guitar, and playing is the only thing that matters. I pointed out that it so happens that several outstanding players thought about tone as much as music. Even if that were not true, even if the technicians (gearheads) and musicians were separate camps, the musicians should be very thankful for the technicians.

Electric rock guitar is inherently gear-oriented. The gear is half the fun and half the challenge. Playing with effects settings and amp equipment is a blast. But I am not idly obsessing about circuitry. I am communicating a vision about products that will bring cranked-amp tone to all guitarists, cheaply, easily, and quietly. I have a personal goal of being able to feel touch-responsiveness at headphone levels, and I know that I share that goal with many other guitarists -- people who already play and wrestle with the tone/volume problem, and people who *would* play if they could *get* a great cranked-amp tone at low volume. The tone/volume problem is *the* looming problem now for electric guitar equipment. What is the single worst problem with guitar equipment today? The fact that you need to barbarically blast an amp to get a first-rate tone. This awkward situation can easily be solved by various combinations and packagings of *existing* technologies. It really doesn't necessarily require so much innovation, as imagination -- of addressing the problem with full force, and building up interest in the topic.

You don't find speaker simulators and inductive loads in the stores. You find traditional 100 watt monster amps, an occassional loud 15 watt amp with insufficient controls and an undersized cabinet, and crappy transistor amps. You do not find good solutions and choices of gear to produce genuine cranked-amp tone at low room noise levels. There are only a few product reviews here and there, and the extremely rare 6-watt Kendrick amp or 7-watt HiMu amp.

The products that everyone *wants* have to do with quiet cranked amp tone. But these are the products that almost no one is producing. There is a *huge* pent-up demand for effective combinations of components. With what we know now, it will be easy to slap together some existing components to produce products that are highly in demand.

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