The High Wattage Guitar Tube Amps
Stage Amps Overall Description
The Muse Guitarist’s studio has seven recording environment source groups designed to capture guitar performances using different collections of studio equipment.
This section will detail the Stage Amps group shown below.
The seven recording environment source groups:
1. Core Guitar Pedals – Front-end pedal collection for a “Dry”, direct input, performance track from a professional recording console channel strip. This creates the “Always On” primary guitar tone for all other recording environments.
The XLR Direct Output of the JHS Colour Box feeds the MOTU 8Pre ADAT #2 input 1
2. Stage Amps – The two high wattage tube amps:
- A vintage boutique ’82 Jim Kelley F.A.C.S. 30/60 with 6V6 power tube combo amp with upgraded new power supply capacitors and tube set driving a Scumback BM75-LD large diaphragm 12” speaker
- A modern 2021 Fender '65 Wine Red Twin Reverb 85-watt 6L6 power tube combo amp, a Sweetwater exclusive, driving a Neo 2x12 Celestion Creambacks combo cabinet
3. Bedroom Amps – The two low wattage tube amps:
- A Marshal style Blackstar HT20R MK II 20/2-watt EL84 two channel tube amp with reverb driving a custom Blackstar 12” speaker
- A Tone King Gremlin 5-watt upgraded EL34 tube amp driving a custom Blackstar 12” speaker. I did not like the KT88 stock tube-sound, and it is cathode biased so I replace the KT88 with an EL34
4. Wet/Dry/Wet Amps | Dry Amp – Wet/Dry/Wet | Dry Amp – A high wattage hybrid solid state amp:
- A Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200 Floor solid state, tube emulation, 200/20/2-watt four channel amp head
- Two 12” Eminence speakers, a Redcoat Wizard and a Reignmaker, are the “Dry” amp speakers inside a Bugera twin 12” Eminence speaker cabinet
- A selectable mono effects pedalboard in the Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200 has onboard Reverb, Delay, and Modulation choices: Chorus Flange, Phase, and Tremolo for the Mono effects chain.
5. Wet/Dry/Wet Amps | Wet Amps – High wattage solid state and tube amps:
- A Hartke HD 150 150-watt dual purpose amp: stereo effects mix left channel or a Bass guitar reamp mic’d amp feeding a custom Hartke 15” speaker
- A Bugera T50 Infinium 50-watt upgraded tube amp driving a Hughes & Kettner TS-112 Pro 12 cabinet with an ElectroVoice EVM12L 250 watt 12” speaker
6. Acoustic and Room Microphones:
- A Nady-TCM1050 condenser tube microphone with adjustable polar patterns for Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Dialog, and Room Tone recordings
- A Lauten Audio LA-220 condenser tube microphone also for Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Dialog, and Room Tone recordings in stereo
7. DAW Direct Outputs and Reamping:
- There are ten direct outputs from various points within the pedalboard chain
- Any track can become a Reamping Source using the MOTU 8Pre-es Analog Output 3
It is possible to record 24 performance tracks simultaneously from the Reaper DAW custom new musical portrait template.
The intent is NOT to use all 24 recorded tracks.
The goal is to capture as many different tone collections as possible and choose the one, or ones, that work best for the composition.
The song tracks not selected can be archived or deleted to reduce the total number of tracks being processed and delivered.
Jim Kelley F.A.C.S. 30/60 Watt Combo Tube Stage Amp:
The studio role for the Kelley is to capture the vintage 6V6 power tube tones with upgraded preamp tubes and new power supply electrolytic filtering capacitors.
Signal from the LPD Buffers use a TC Electronic Transmission System to convert the unbalanced guitar signal to balance lines to eliminate room electronically induced noise.
The Cave studio uses the “Go To’ microphone combination pairing for recording a single 12” speaker combo amp:
A Royer R-121 and a Shure SM-57.
The Royer R-121 ribbon mic feeds an Empirical Labs EL9 Mike-e channel strip to optimize the ribbon microphone characteristics and add compression, saturation, high frequency emphasis sensitivity, and optimum gain-staging.
The output of the EL9 uses a balanced XLR to TRS cable to switch the MOTU mic preamp to a Line In preamp on the MOTU 8Pre-es analog DAW interface input 1. The 1/4" TRS jack bypasses the mic gain-stage as it is not required for a line level signal and would add noise to the track.
The Shure SM-57, using custom Royer shared mic clip for perfect phase alignment, feeds the MOTU premium Mic preamp on the MOTU 8Pre-es analog DAW interface input 2.
Fender Twin Reverb 85 Watt Combo Tube Stage Amp:
The studio role for the Fender Twin Reverb is to capture a vintage 6L6 power tube tone using a modern reissued platform.
The signal use a TC Electronic Transmission System to convert the unbalanced guitar signal to balance lines to eliminate room electronically induced noise after the direct to Twin switching system.
The pairing of the Sweetwater exclusive 2021 Fender '65 Wine Red Twin Reverb 85-watt tube amp reissue with the legacy boutique Jim Kelley F.A.C.S. 30/60 creates a stage amp pair that blends perfectly for a unique stage sound and a monster studio sound.
The classic Fender Twin Reverb dual 12” speaker combo cabinet tones are captured with two mics.
The Cave studio uses a variation of the “Go To’ microphone combination used on the Kelley cabinet:
A Shure Beta 57A in place of the Shure SM-57 microphone close mic’d at 2” for the left Neo Celestion Creamback 12” speaker.
A Blue enCore 100i mic. a Shure SM57 type mic, in place of the Royer R-121 ribbon microphone close mic’d at 2” for the right Neo Celestion Creamback 12” speaker.
The mics feed the high end preamps on the MOTU 8Pre-es analog DAW interface input 3 & 4.
Tube Stage Amps Load Boxes and Twin Direct In:
The Cave Stage amps are just that: Live Concert Stage Amplifiers. They are very LOUD in the native configuration with the power amp outputs connected directly to the combo cabinet speakers.
As we all know, a tube amp must be driven to the edge of “Breakup” to get that iconic tube sound.
If we want more distortion, we need to push the front-end harder with pedals or the back end with preamp gain. Either way the amps just keep getting louder and harder to manage in a live setting or a studio session.
In the past amplifier manufacturers would provide an external box of well insulated, high wattage collection of resistors to “Share the Load”.
The box would turn the high gain into heat and dissipated it with the resistor collection. A smaller portion would go to the speakers, thus lowering the apparent volume while, theoretically, preserving the glorious tone we would hear when the amp was ungodly loud.
Sounds good right? Not really! There was something wrong with the lowered volume tone. It did not sound the same and it did not “Feel” the same beneath your fingers when performing.
If you want to get the same sound and feel you have to replace the “Static Direct Current Resistance impedance presented to the amplifier through the resistor collection with a “Reactive Dynamic Alternating Current Resistance Impedance”.
When the output transformer of a tube amp feeds a speaker cabinet directly the load impedance changes with the frequencies being reproduced, your guitar performance.
Resistor load boxes create a static, unchanging impedance response to the coils in the amps output transformer.
Reactive load boxes emulate your speaker’s natural ability to change impedance with the changing frequencies from your performance.
Reactive load boxes are much more expensive but what is the purpose of owning quality guitars, precision designed guitar pedals, meticulously chosen amps and cabinets and “Cheep Out” on the last, and most important component, in your signal chain.
Pay the money!
The cave uses two of the top-of-the-line reactive load boxes on the market to manage the air that hits the studio microphones:
- A UAD Ox Box – The “Top of the Amp Box” and stereo direct IR with effects device
- A Two Notes – A reactive load box, a load box output source, and a unique “Reamping” box with a dry instrument direct in for playback gain staging
The amps use a Radial Switchbone V2 active distribution box to send a mono core guitar tone input to two outputs that feeds a PreSonus BlueTube two channel preamp. Channel 1 feeds the input of the Kelley amp and channel 2 feeds the Fender Twin.
Using the tube and gain controls on the BlueTube we can hit the amps inputs as hard or as soft as we wish.
Using the load gain controls on the two Load Boxes we can set the room volume level to an optimized setting for the four microphone DAW tracks.
This configuration gives us Front-end and Back-end control over how we shape our tube distortion tonal wrapper for a perfect blending of the two Stage Amps.