Using the ART Pro MPA II to Warm Up DI Guitars

Using the ART Pro MPA II to Warm Up DI Guitars

My go-to preamp for DI guitar.

Plenty of people love guitar amp sims, and plenty hate them.  This video doesn’t get into that; it is simply a demonstration of how you can use the ART Pro MPA II to introduce real tube saturation into your signal before processing it with a guitar sim.

There are going to be naysayers.

Plenty of musicians go a bit overboard in their search for tone.  While no one would claim that a sim can recreate the exact sound of a vintage tweed amp, plenty of us get excellent results out of amp sims that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing once it is in a mix.

The purpose of this video.

I’m not here to convince you that you should sell your ’65 Deluxe Reverb.  I’m here to talk to the people that are looking into the ART Pro MPA series.  It will have a discernible effect on your tracks, and you will be probably be happy with it.

Notes:

I recorded this using an RME ADI-8 as the D/A converter.  The guitar was a custom-built Tele with single-coil pickups.  I also had the low cut filter turned up to cut frequencies up to about 150hz.

YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN THIS POST: My Review of the Art Pro MPA II

Apollo Twin Solo Review | The Little Red Light

Apollo Twin Solo Review | The Little Red Light

Maybe more of an overview than a review…

I love this piece.  The Apollo series offers professional quality, it’s built like a brick, it is very portable (allowing me to use it on a few different computers), and it is STABLE.  I’ve never had anything resembling an issue with it.

Installation

The hookup took less than a minute, though I was disappointed to find that the thunderbolt cable that it came with was about 4 inches long (I ended up buying the white one that you see in the video for around $25 on ebay).

The software to control it was a cinch to get installed and running.

The sound

Pristine.

My video overview of the Apollo Twin.

 

1969 Bandmaster Reverb Combo Conversion and “Blackfacing”

1969 Bandmaster Reverb Combo Conversion and “Blackfacing”

Blackfacing a Silverface Amp

What does it mean, and why do we “blackface” our amps?

When CBS bought out Fender in 1965, it was originally hailed as a good thing.  Everyone thought that CBS would bring capital into Fender, increasing production and maybe even lower costs in the process.  What ended up happening was something else.

CBS started cutting corners on production and completely revamping the designs of the Fender lines in 1968.  Players were unhappy with the resulting products, but they doubled down by making more and more changes.  By 1980, Fender was practically broke and CBS was blamed for having run the brand into the ground.

Blackfacing an amp

Blackfacing essentially involves changing the circuit designs that CBS introduced to Leo Fender’s designs.  It is not difficult, and gives great results.  There are several videos online that can walk you through the process; when I did my blackfacing, the videos were where I started.

Why blackface a Bandmaster Reverb and not some other model?

Out of the entire vintage Fender line, the Bandmaster Reverb is the least sough-after amp, and they can be had for $400-$700 on eBay.  The one that I picked up cost me $460.  Most other silverface amps run into the $700+ range these days and IMO, get you no closer to a blackface tone.

Change it into a combo

I had a 1×12 cabinet built by busmc on eBay.  It cost me around $200, and is of excellent quality.  He has a lot of orders coming through, so don’t expect to get it fast.  If you are a bit impatient, there are others that can build one more quickly for you—just do a search.

Get a 4 ohm speaker

I’m not getting into the science behind why you should use a speaker with the resistance that the output transformer was designed for.  Just treat your equipment the way the engineer intended.

The OT on the Bandmaster Reverb wants to see a 4ohm resistance, and the only 12″ 4ohm speakers that I could find were the Weber Blue Dog and the Jensen c12n.

I decided to break the bank and go with the Blue Dog.

The tone caps really mattered.

I was not happy with the low end of the amp until I switched out the tone caps for the blue molded caps that you can see in this picture (see the right side of the amp).  The low end just sounded flabby with the Sprague Oranges that I put it, even though the values were the same.  They ran me around $10-$15 each on eBay. (note: I liked the sound of the amp much more after I replaced some of the original caps.  CBS did not use quality caps, and I noticed that the amp quieted down quite a bit when I switched them out).

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What does it sound like?

I had a 1965 Deluxe Reverb for a few months right after I finished blackfacing this amp.  I compared the two on several occasions; the difference in sound was surprisingly not that great; the BR seemed to have a bit more muscle than the DR(that could have been attributable to the speaker and almost certainly the wattage difference) but the two definitely sounded like they were in the same ballpark.  I ended up spending a total of around $800 for the whole job, I learned a load about tube amps in the process, and I ended up with an amp that could sit in the room with a $3000 vintage Deluxe Reverb (which I sold).

We are all familiar with the HRDX, so let’s compare it to a BR.

It’s hard to get an idea of what an amp sounds like without a basis for comparison.  To this end, I played through the amp, then ran a Hot Rod Deluxe through the cabinet by plugging the speaker into the output of the HRDX.  I set the volumes to be just about the same, and left everything else the same.  Same mic, same placement, same cab/speaker, same interface (an Apollo Twin w/ a 57 on the cab).  It gives you a pretty good idea of what a SF Bandmaster Reverb can sound like with a little work and a tiny investment.

 

 

OktavaMod Tube Mic Modification Review

When I decided to mod my MXL 990, this video was a factor in deciding to try it out.

Michael Joly OktavaMods

Michael has been modding mics for about a decade now.  The stuff that he puts out rivals mics 10x more expensive, as our friends at the Deli Magazine show us in this video.

Skills, not gear.

Any one of these mics is good enough to cut an album with.  There will be differences in sound, but as you can hear in this video, the performance, the engineer, and the room have a much bigger impact on the final results than do the gear.

Amplitube: Playing with the Output Section

Amplitube: Playing with the Output Section

How does changing the output of an amp change its sound?

Any guitarist knows that 6L6s, solid state, and EL34 amps each have their own sound.  One of the cool things about Amplitube is that it allows you to switch out the output section of your amp on the fly.

Let’s take it with a grain of salt.

I’m not going to make the argument that this software is a perfect replication of what a Fender Deluxe Reverb would sound like with a set of 6L6s in it.  What I will argue is that you can find a nice guitar sound with this software, and playing with the output section will affect the sound coming out of your speakers.  Play around with it enough and you will find something nice.

So how does Amplitube react to you switching the output section?

I did a short video playing with the output section of the American Vintage D model of Amplitube (my personal favorite in the software.)  This video illustrates some of the different sounds that you can get with different settings.