If there is one subject that does not leave indifferent most guitarists, it is amplifiers. And especially those lamps! While you're a fan of big saturations, it's one thing, now, to limit your choice of amp to this single criterion seems to me … disabling. To follow up on the last Youtube video, I'm going to try to prove to you that a low gain amp, well… it can saturate a lot too! 😄
It's not a surprise, but I'm a big gear fan. and by dint of hanging out on specialized forums, I realized that there was a lot of debate around amplifiers. Indeed, many guitarists have a very “particular” vision of sound. If you want big sound you need a High Gain amp. If you want to play Jazz, you need a Low Gain amp. So yes ... but not only, it's time to restore the truth around Low Gain amps.
1. One amp to rule them all and in the darkness... (short)
Well … if you follow the channel (there is interest!) 🤓 you have already seen this little amp: A DV Mark Galileo 15. This is a 15w all-tube amp, inspired by the legendary Fender Deluxe “Blackface” . A mythical amp from the 60s, renowned above all for its clean sound but capable of crunching, even of severe fuzzing.
Problem: Fuzzing a Blackface is like going deaf. Well aware of this concern, the little guys from DV Mark have added a Gain knob to their little monster! Good game.
The thing is, this little DV Mark had some minor technical issues: Too high a bias, a tired power tube, unbalanced preamp tubes and a bit too dirty circuitry. So I decided to take it to the technician to fix it but… not only.
Having already “big sound” oriented amps (Aka ENGL and Orange), I said to myself: “But why not make it an even cleaner amp?” After a discussion with the technician, we decided to change all the lamps for cleaner models and made a small modification to the circuit. Result ? The amp has just lost about 20% of its saturation capacity but has greatly gained in headroom. Youhoo!
Well, there's more to test!
2. A Clean without surprises?
And as describing a sound is not easy, I invite you to go to 2min30 video to listen to this!
It was therefore time to test the latter, starting with … the cleans! For the purists, know that all the recordings come from… real takes! I used my Isocab Box of Doom, which I screwed up in a homemade Isocab to gain even more attenuation (crazy this guy…). The 2 transplant microphones are SM57s, which pass through a transistor preamp (Black Lion Audio Author) to end up in my sound card!
My little Epiphone Les Paul from 1999 (completely modified) delivers a rather round sound. We are very strong in terms of volume but we stay clean! To give you an idea, the master is at 5 out of 10 and the gain at 4 out of 10. Unfortunately, the V30 does not pay tribute to this type of amp (I will remedy that I think) but we are not going to do the choosy.
Well we push?
3. We push the saturation!
Ok, but it seems to me that the challenge of the day was to see if a low gain amp could saturate badly, right? I'm coming !
Following this rather satisfactory clean test, it was time to step up. And the least we can say is that with this new amp calibration, well, we had to push to get real saturation. Despite the relatively powerful humbuckers (customs), I had to raise the gain of my amp to 8 out of 10 and the master to 5. Let me tell you: it's very strong.
But what about the result? I invite you to check out this moment of the video to get an idea. So yes, seen like that, it does not seem super impressive! Before its modification, the amp was able to go further in terms of distortion. But still… there is something.
Indeed, we find the Rock spirit of the late 60s, you know that time when we started to push the ball amps! I think we've found our “sound” base for the little big sound oriented production!
4. The production!
So it's time to test a prod with this setting! For the latter, I decided to use the settings that I made you listen to previously.
We're going to be limited in terms of gain, but after all, in a production context, there's no need to put in tons to have a big sound. To put the odds on my side, I decided to go with a riff inspired by the Stoner/Hard Rock universe. You know, a repetitive and quite heavy tune. I specify that the guitar is tuned 1/2 tone lower.
I invite you to listen to the result here !
Well I don't know about you but... it does!! To be honest with you, I'm going to explain how I managed to get a bit of a massive sound with a low gain amp like the DV Mark.
The first thing is track overdubbing or Overdub. Indeed, there are 2 guitar takes in dual miking on this prod. 2 guitars playing the same thing! This will make it possible to inflate everything and above all to spatialize it. In this configuration, you must of course be square when recording, otherwise the slightest error will be felt!
In terms of processing, I usually keep it simple. Indeed, when you are satisfied with your catch, you try to touch as little as possible! I will explain my treatment to you.
We start with the subtractive, with the excellent Fab Filter Pro Q3. This is a very precise equalization that will allow me to clean the guitar takes: we eliminate a little rumble at the bottom, and we touch a little on the ice pick frequencies of the V30.
On the guitar group, I added in parallel processing a plug-in that I particularly like: the Wave J37. This is a tape saturation whose purpose is to saturate and therefore to inflate the sound a little more. In order to use it sparingly, putting it in parallel seemed obvious to me.
In order to glue everything together, I used a plug-in using the famous SSL console's compressor, the G-Bus, directly on the guitar group. By using the latter with lightness, we manage to glue the guitars and give a compact rendering! Ideal for the cohesion of the whole
Finally, a little ambient reverb (to compensate for the Dry of the isocab) and an aesthetic reverb and we're good! The bet seems raised!
Do you need a high gain amp for big sound and a low gain amp for clean? Well not necessarily. As you have seen throughout the article, depending on the settings and the recording/processing techniques, it is possible to obtain a violent sound with an amp that is not necessarily intended for that. AND remember one thing: even a Low Gain amp can overdrive. The thing is, you'll potentially be deaf before you can prove it! Kiss 😘