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Need Advice on Rack Gear for Live Shows!

Hey guys,

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond here.

I've been rocking now for over 13 years, and playing live professionally for most of that time. Toured the world numerous times...yada, yada, yada. The style of music has always been aggressive, in the vein of the more heavy parts of metal, i.e. Metallica, Tool, Sepultura, etc.

Now, for years and years I have tried various amp heads/cab combos through the years of touring, but never really liked anything enough to make the leap and actually buy something, and not for fear of spending money, but more for the lack of a tone I could really get into.

Here's some of my tastes for what I have experienced...

- I've tried Mesa Boogie Rectifier heads in all formations. I've always loved the low end tones these suckers produce, and while they sound great while the guitar player is playing by himself, when you stick the head in a live band situation, I've always found the raw Mesa tones to lose all of that great low end (probably because the frequencies matched that of my bass player, or even the drum tones too much) when you start jamming with the band.

- A setup I used during a month of back-to-back shows on tour was a Marshall JCM-900 head, through a Marshall cab, blasting through an Ibanez Tub Screamer pedal, which I used to boost the low end of the amp. While the tone was cool, and the mid tones seemed to cut through really nice, I found the setup to still lack a really good "chug" of low end for the music.

My setup of choice for years now, and the setup I keep falling back on is an old guitar AMPEG SS-150H head (from the late 80s), running through some celestian speakers, busted through a MXR EQ pedal. God! I love this tone!

Well, as the story goes, my poor little AMPEG can't handle anymore tours, and has become too fragile for any kind of heavy, I am forced to move on...

So, for a few months during the recording of the band's new record I had borrowed a first generation Line 6 PODXT (rack mount), along with a Mesa 2:100 power amp setup. Now, as far as tone goes, this setup has impressed me more than anything I have come across in recent years. Using the a nicely dialed "Brit Hi-Gain (Emulates a Marshall head)" tone, this sucker has produced a nice mid range crunch that cuts through the rest of the low end of the band, but still preserves a low end "chug" that is unique to just the guitar in the band.

So, after the recording of the new record, here I am. It's to hit the road again, so I went out and purchased this rack setup for my own use...

- The new Line 6 PODXT
- A new Mesa Power Amp 2:100 Watt Channels

Well, after tinkering and tinkering I cannot, for the life of me, emulate the tone I was getting from the OLD PODXT, with my new PODXT. The low end is there, but mushes too much with the other low-end elements of the band. And this new POD just doesn't have that mid-range cut through the old POD I was using did, and as soon as the band starts to jam, the guitar is left in this high-end fuzz zone that doesn't cut through.

So, that's why I'm here! I need some advice!

My thoughts right now are to do one of the following, but given my history, and my extreme pickiness, I'm not the best route. Hopefully someone can help...

Initial thought = This ALL digital pre-amp stuff isn't gonna cut it. I need a preamp. So, I'll get one, then I'll use the POD for effects and some EQ if I need it.

So, my solutions, being powered by a Mesa 2:100 & running PODXT for effects:

- The Recto Preamp

- The Mesa Triaxis

- The Marshall JMP-1

- Maybe get an Equalizer of some sort for these as well?

- Or even do something extremely crazy and try to find someone that can 'Rackify" the preamp on my old AMPEG?

These are my ideas. ANY FEEDBACK is greatly, greatly appreciated!

Thanks for listening,


SonOfSmawg Sun, 03/05/2006 - 21:14
Flesh ... dude ... the problem is not in the Pod, nor in the power amp. Guaranteed, the problem is your speakers.

Many guitarists make the mistake of using a modeling device through "standard" guitar speakers, then they get their panties in a wad because their new modeler doesn't sound at all like the presets they are "supposed" to sound like. For instance: how can a "Black Face" preset sound like your favorite old Fender if you're playing through a Celestion Greenback-loaded 4x12 cabinet? The answer is simple ... it can't.

As for the fact that you can't get the bass end out of your presets on a stage that you did in a small room, again, it's the speakers. A 12" driver in a standard, front-loaded cabinet can sound huge in a small room. This is part of a phenomenon called cabin gain. Take the same signal and pump it through a standard 4x12 cabinet in a big room and *poof* ... the bass end disolves into thin air ... literally.

And now for my rant:

90% of all guitar cabinets made are an acoustical abomination. The worshipped "King Of All Guitar Cabinets", the 4x12 Marshall, is just plain acoustic absurdity. The extent of the forethought that went into the design was very simple ... the four 12" drivers were put into a box that they would fit in. That's IT! Ask Jim Marshall.

The 2 by 2 driver formation is audio suicide. It destroys your dispersion and causes the entire enclosure to act as a comb filter, destroying your amp's sound. Guys will spend two or three thousand dollars for a good 100 watt tube head, only to have the "popular" speaker cabinet configuration masticate their sound into mush.

The popular 2x12 configurations are no better. The side-by-side configuration of the "Twin" and "Bandmaster"-style cabinets are designed so that you will only hear them, with any accuracy, standing directly in front of the speakers. If you move more than ten degress to one side or the other, the frequency response is totally shot to hell. Some will then try to defend the design by saying they get more bass from this horizontal configuration. The truth of the matter is that you may gain 1db in the lower end, tops. The Bandmaster-style cabinet has it's drivers several inches off of the floor, and the Twin, although it's drivers are at the bottom of the cabinet, loses it's possible benefit due to the casters. Add to that the fact that these cabinets were originally designed with "tilt-back legs", and many still have them, and any possible arguement "for" any benefit in this design is lost.

Now, on to the drivers:

Speaker companies manufacture their guitar drivers to try to fulfill the desires of as many players as possible. Guitarists search for the amp/speaker combination that will give them their desired "signature" sound, therefore drivers are designed and manufactured to be very different from one-another, in order to give guitarists a wide range of choices. The practice of designing drivers in this manner is refered-to as "voicing", which means they are not designed to accurately, evenly reproduce sound, but are rather designed to "colour" the sound.

FINALLY, this is what brings us to your modeling dilemma ...

You laid-down some pretty hefty bucks on a good modeler and a good tube amp, and then ran them through a speaker system which never stood a chance at accurately transfering that sound into the air. The voicing of the guitar drivers mutilated the carefully modeled tones, and the poor configuration of those drivers just added insult to injury.

NOW ... rather than just telling you what I think you should do, or trying to "sell" you on "my solution", I'd like to do you a BIG favor (though you may not see it as one, YET). I'm going to give you a few clues which, if you follow them, will likely lead you into some very interesting education, and allow you to solve your problem at the same time.

1) Try these google searches:

* horn loaded

* line array length

* vertical driver alignment dispersion

* comb filtering

* cabinet driver loading space

2) A driver specifically designed for modeling is not necessarily your best solution (in fact, it probably isn't). You will need drivers which will cover the range of the guitar and it's harmonics with very even frequency response, from about 70hz to 4500hz. A good typical example is the Eminence Alpha8. Besides Eminence, there are many other good manufacturers such as JBL, Beyma, B&C, Precision Devices, Ciare, PAudio, RCF, 18sound, Fane, and ElectroVoice.

3) Throwing a lot of money at a problem does not always solve it. Knowledge and careful thought solves problems.

4) Follow the norm and you accept mediocrity. :roll:

If you have any questions or would like any more of my help, you may feel free to email me at


cfaalm Fri, 03/03/2006 - 05:04
If you are open to somehting entirely new: have you tried any stuff from [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.engl-amp…"]ENGL [/]="http://www.engl-amp…"]ENGL [/]like the 530, 570 or 580. Good cabinets and poweramps too.

I own a 570. I guess if you play heavy rock, you should check it out. It can be bypassed if you want to combine it with any other (pre)amp.

Rock on!

SonOfSmawg Mon, 03/06/2006 - 21:47
So what you are saying that no guitar cab out there is good enough?

No, I did not say that. I brought to light the fact that many popular, commercially available guitar cabinets are far less than optimum in design. This is not new news.

There ARE a lot of perfectly acceptable designs out there. A perfect example is the humble 1x12 combo amp. If placed correctly in a room or on a stage, they can be absolutley wonderful. Another example is a cabinet that I previously noted ... the 2x12 cabinet! The problem there is not the design, but rather it's intended placement. Most 2x12 cabinets were designed to lay horizontally, by virtue of their handle, feet, and logo (ala Fender Bandmaster). If you turn the cabinet 90 degrees, so that it's drivers are vertically aligned, it behaves completely differently, increasing it's horizontal dispersion so that it is better heard throughout a much larger part of the intended listening area.

Or is it but he shoudl jsut change the drivers?

Absolutely. Flesh obviously has not considered his speakers as being of much importance. He went into great detail about all of his other gear, but when it came to speakers all he said was "some celestian speakers". He didn't say which model of Celestions, what size, how many, nor did he say what type of cabinet(s) they are in. For me, this immediately threw up the red flag.

But just changing drivers will probably not remedy his problem. If his cabinet is a 4x12 cabinet, for instance, and he buys some Eminence Modeling 12s (for example) to stick in it (figuring they are MADE for modeling ... right?), I will guarantee that it will not fix his problem. First, even though those drivers are intended for some modeling amps, they are really not optimum for most modeling situations. Their SPL graph unmistakeably shows that they are more akin to a "standard" (voiced) guitar driver than they are to a typical PA driver, which is designed to attempt to accurately reproduce the sound source. Secondly, the comb filtering of the 4x12 cabinet is again going to destroy the accurate reproduction of sound.

what woudl you do if you were in his shoes?

Well, I'm a knowledge-hungry sort of person, so I would take the information given here and look into it. I would especially find it intrigueing that someone took the time to share this sort of knowledge, yet did not "give me a fish", but instead tried to encourage me to learn to fish, and still offered to help me learn if I needed it. I would start with the suggested Google searches and strive to discover what really would be best for the situation. Then I'd email me for help! LOL

Is a good pair of Full range speakers the way?

He does NOT need a full range system, such as a PA cabinet or a studio monitor. The object is not to increase low and high extension. The object is to simply accurately produce the sound which is coming from his modeler and effects, within the guitar's bandwidth.

If he were using a guitar synth, then yes, a separate full range system would be best.

(y) Happy Hunting!

Tommy P. Sat, 03/04/2006 - 05:41
Benefits, yes plenty. All analog signal path, tube or solid state or both. MIDI controllable, 128 patches. Gets great crunch/old school metal tones. If you must have rack gear, its a worthy piece. There's always some on e*bay. They're not made anymore. You can also find some in great shape and specially modded here :

Check out the sound clips from that site(scroll down to the middle of the page for the MP-1 clips):

There are some downsides.

Davedog Sat, 03/04/2006 - 10:36
If yer playing large venues and volume isnt an issue, theres very few amps ever made that approach the tone of an OLD Marshall 100 watt. I'm talkin JTM here. Even as far back as a non master model. It's crunch with crush. Cabinets will also get you that chug a lot easier than a head will. Something tight and high end wood.

As far as the modern chug sound, yeah you hear that trip recto sound all over the records made today and in the studio environment its much easier to isolate that and reproduce it. Live is another scene.

The ENGL stuff is really good as is the Diesel. Theres Bogner heads that get that kind of noise also, and the Bogner cabinets are superb.