Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Gawd Head

Back in the day when I fronted my band in live situations, I used to have a Crate Blue VooDoo BV120H half stack featuring Crate's top-of-the-line guitar tube head. I am the only person I know of that actually endorses playing Crate amplifiers. Most guitarists laugh at me and buy into the misconception that Crate's are complete crap. I beg to differ.

I've grown up on Crate amplifiers and am well aware of their capabilities. Crates typically have a very useful, wide-open clean sound. It responds quite well to the input being given to it. With the right tweaking, it can sound (almost) as beautiful as a good blackface Fender amp.

Now, here's where Crate runs into a little bit of a problem. When you try to use the gain channels, Crates typically falter a bit behind the other amps in that they distort too quickly and have little headroom above a certain point of gain. they insert a diode in the chain to get that ultra-gainy sound that unfortunately compresses the hell out of the signal it receives. So, once you set the gain knob to "3", you already maxed out your gain of the amp which pretty much sounds like a bunch of white static vs. having some kind of tone with in the sound. all that you can do turn the thing up or down in volume with the channel volume.

Ahhhh, but here's the trick to get around this limitation! The player has to narrow his gain preferences to a small spectrum, i.e., play within the 1-3 gain range Crate gives you. This can be accomplished by setting the channel volume to 10, which on a solid state or tube amp is going to be pretty freakin' loud, and then starting the gain at 0, minutely turn up the gain until the desired gain is created (typically between 1 and 1.5 for high gain music, .5 and 1 for lighter stuff). Once this is done, minutely throttle back the volume know to somewhere between 8-9. When you do this, you are utilizing the full power of the amplifier. Whatever sounds you are introducing to the input chain are being "washed" in the amplifier section. The distortion that gets produced comes mainly from the amplifier stage as well rather than the preamp stage. By doing this, the sound has the most natural, open distortion possible.

I was in Guitar Center today and right up front they had a BV120H sitting right there for $200 (I sold my last one to get myself my MOTU 828MKII sound card). I was hoping that the only thing wrong with it were some cosmetic blemishes on it. I had them set it up and began playing it. It sounded like a few of the tubes had gone bad on it. I kept playing it but my heart wasn't into getting it just yet. I knew I would have to buy all new tubes (four 6L6s and four 12Ax7s), rebias the amp, and then play it even more for me to make it worth it. Since I'm not really fronting anything, and the fact that it would bring up the total cost of having the amp to about $400, I walked away from it. For $400, I could buy a used Line 6 Flextone amp and have many, many more sound possibilities to play with. Plus the thing weighs a ton and I hated carrying it around for gigs as it was!

It was nice to actually play an old friend again. It also gave me more impetus to get the Rue back on the stage again. VERY NICE!

Currently listening :
Every Man for Himself
By Hoobastank
Release date: 16 May, 2006

Note: this was originally posted on MySpace with comments:

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