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"So, then, what guitar preamp/processor do you recommend for DI and headphone-level genuine cranked-power-tube Tone?"

Many people ask me this. Due to arbitrary design conventions, there *is* no single unit yet that combines a power tube with effects processing, for a fully processed and highly customizable DI sound. The Ampulator and other power-tube saturation pedals and low-power rack tube power amps lack adequate preprocessing, such as compression and EQ -- yet despite these omissions, these units are still priced very high, such as $500-750. The modelling amps lack a power tube. The preamp/processors lack a power tube. The power-tube saturation pedals are overdesigned and expensive and discontinued. The attenuators sound fizzy at full attenuation. When the Bass control is reduced, typical rackmount amps don't have enough gain to drive the power tubes hard enough; I always find I need a preprocessor to add compression and EQ (often, cutting the bass and boosting mids) and then boost the level way up. It's easy to overdrive the power tubes of almost any tube amp by turning up the bass, but this type of saturation sounds crusty and cruddy. What we need is good levels for pushing the power tubes with strongly boosted mids.

If you are determined to buy a single unit for DI and headphone-level actual cranked power-tube tone, there are many units that try to fulfill this request: the Signature 284, the Studio by London Power, ... the ones that have an actual power tube have grossly inadequate pre and post processing, and the ones that have extensive processing, lack an actual power tube. Clearly what people actually need is to combine the current "competing" technologies:

This combined technology should be packaged in *all* of the following ways: If people want to put together a DI *system* by combining several processors, no problem; you could even achieve this using all vintage equipment, such as by chaining together the preamp of a large amp, the power stage of a 5 watt champ, the speaker cab of the big amp, and a mic. But I suppose when people say "DI" they mean, sans *guitar speaker*. "Sans Amp" should not mean "without tube power amp", it should only mean "without guitar speaker and mic", or "without hearing loud sound in the room".

There is no single piece of guitar processing gear I recommend for DI. The Signature 284 has a preamp, tube power amp, and speaker simulator, but lacks effects and programmability. Same with the Groove Tubes STP-G and the Interstellar Overdrive. The only way you can buy new equipment, and get authentic cranked power tube tone, and observe the principles of ideal effects placement, is to buy a combination of equipment. Personally, I would buy footpedals or processors to construct this chain:

Instead of the guitar speaker and mic, you can use a dummy load and cabinet response simulator.
o Dummy load or full attenuator: use the one in the above amp if it has one, or a separate dummy load unit.
o Cabinet response simulator: use the one in the above amp if it has one, or a separate outboard unit, or the one in the post-amp multifx processor, if it has one.
For particular models, which is what people are asking me, see the categories below. I guess I should list out some configurations that would probably work.

The EQ after the mic should really be combined with a sweeper/curve analyzer. This could compensate and normalize for mic placement and speaker, cabinet, and mic response, and adjust so that the miked speaker in the loop sounds similar to when you use the load-and-filter option instead.

"Which processor do you recommend for DI?" None of them, because none yet have a power tube and the ideal fx chain. You currently have to go with separate components; for example, this chain:

  1. Rocktron VooDu Valve
  2. Crate VC508 (ignore its preamp; plug halfway into its effects jack, install a speaker jack and disconnect the stock speaker)
  3. Demeter Silent Speaker Chamber, Celestion Greenback speaker, Shure SM57
  4. DigiTech 2120 preamp/multifx processor (don't use its distortion stage).
That is just one possible set of new products that will produce genuine, non-simulated, headphone-level cranked-tube-amp tone, for ideal DI sound. You still have to dial-in the distortion and power-tube saturation voicing; for blues, try cutting the bass and boosting the mids a little, before distortion and before the power tubes. The next setup I would suggest would use no guitar speaker:
  1. Rocktron VooDu Valve
  2. Crate VC508 (ignore its preamp; plug halfway into its effects jack, install a speaker jack and disconnect the stock speaker)
  3. Palmer PDI-03/05/09 - whichever has a dummy load but no cabinet response simulator
  4. DigiTech 2120 preamp/multifx processor (don't use its distortion stage) (use its cabinet response simulator)
There is no single DI unit that has the important components along with effects processing, but I have given two sets of particular products that are available new - one with an actual guitar speaker and mic, one that just uses a speaker simulator.

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