Tag Archives: boutique amplifiers

Gigging With Vintage Tube Amps

GigBeing a guitar player, I take every opportunity I can when it comes to getting out there and playing with friends, whether its in a hotel, a stage or in the corner of a pub. The experience of gigging is something which I feel is invaluable to the growing musician, and something which can greatly help you to hone your skills, improve your listening, and become a better, well-rounded player on the whole.

This experience often comes at a cost though, often there is little money involved, and aonly a few drinks on the house for your troubles. This means that it is sometimes quite tempting to bring as little equipment with you as will suffice in order to get a sound from the guitar. Some may decide to bring only their ten watt practice amp and mic that up, some may go even further and show up toting only a guitar, a strap and an extra high e string, and plug directly into a mixer. This issue gives birth to something of a dilemma: in order to gain all of that vital experience playing in a band situation outside of the home, is it necessary to care about the sound of the guitar and bring decent equipment, or is it ok to make do with the easy option and bring the bare minimum. Do you have to sound good to make the experience worthwhile, or is it enough to just be playing with others, regardless of tone?

The advantage of digital effects processors is that they are usually compact, stuffed with effects and amp sims and – perhaps most importantly – are very mixer friendly. This is why the majority of player will show up for a gig with a guitar and a multi-effect processor from either Boss or Line 6. The best part of the crowd in local bars and restaurants will likely be unable to tell the difference no matter what, and as long as you are in tune, relatively in time and there is always at least one person singing, its all good.

I, however, believe that the tone is always important when playing with other musicians. If you are to really enjoy the night, and therefore play your best and really get into the groove with your bandmates, you must like how you sound onstage. A good sound makes a happy band, a happy band makes good music, and good music makes a good night for everyone involved, both audience and band. This is why wherever I play I bring a tube amp with me. While some may consider it to be an extra thing, heavier than effects pedals and guitar combined and hard work to transport without a car or a taxi and not worth the effort, I believe that the benefits make it totally worthwhile.

A mic'd amplifier sounds better!
A mic’d amplifier sounds better!
For shows in bigger places, your tube combo amp acts as your own personal monitor: no more calling through the mic for the sound guy to give you a little more on the left monitor and less on the right! Not to mention that the sweet, warm tone from a tube amp sounds amazing when mic’d up and sent through a good PA system. As far as gigs in those smaller places are concerned, it is even better. You don’t need any kind of sound reinforcement at all, and are completely self-sufficient. All control is yours, and it allows you to tweak your sound with ease in order to dial in that sweet spot for each song you play.

Given the choice between digital effects into a mixer and a real boutique tube amp having your back on stage like your best friend, I know what I’d take any day of the week.

Pickups, Amps and Effects: Crafting the Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon Tone

Being a company which produces vintage boutique amplifiers and effects, we at Baroni Lab are always searching for different tones, as well as experimenting with different combinations of equipment in order to constantly increase the quality of our products.

This, however, is no easy task to accomplish. The world of tone and guitar performance is a veritable labyrinth, with myriad twists and turns involved in achieving the ultimate goal of a sought-after sound. There is an intimidating amount of variables to consider.

Choosing the right pickup for a sound is very important
Choosing the right pickup for a sound is very important

For example, say I want to create the classic sound of Cream-era Eric Clapton. For the famous ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ guitar riff, Clapton used his famous ‘Fool’ guitar – a 1960s Gibson SG which later came to be a symbol of the era – going through a wah pedal and into a Marshall amp. Variables with the guitar include the wood condition and paint-job, the pickups and selector switch, the tone control and the volume. The angle of the wah as it filters the sound is another important variable. Then you have the amplifier and speakers: model? Year? Bass level? Middle level? Treble level? Gain? Volume? Presence? Reverb? Size? Speaker cones?

Obviously, it is challenging to reproduce certain tones, the ‘Woman Tone’ being a great example. This is why a lot of players wishing to cover ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ get lazy, and will buy a digital effects system and model the sounds electronically, using samples of famous distortions and speaker cabs or, even worse, just stick any old overdrive pedal in the line and crank up the volume on the guitar. These methods will never even get you close to the desired tone. It is a process which takes time, thought and, above all, careful listening. Real Italian-designed vintage tube amps also help a great deal 🙂

One thing which I have become increasingly more aware of is the importance of the pickups used. They come in many different shapes and sizes; single coil or humbucker, covered or bare, active or passive, and they all have their own unique ways of processing the string vibrations into electrical signals.

The Moon Sound is a great effect for lead guitar and stronger rhythm
The Moon Sound is a great effect for lead guitar and stronger rhythm

The latest product video I made (YouTube link below) was for the Baroni Lab ‘Moon Sound’ distortion stompbox. Its a great little effect, designed to recreate Dave Gilmour’s lead tone on the famous Dark Side of the Moon album, and it does a great job. While producing this video, however, I was confronted with the issue of pickup selection. Gilmour used the bridge pickup on a strat for the much of his solo work, and so it seemed the perfect place to start. The Moon Sound was set up to give the perfect tone for the solo from ‘Money’ with this pickup, and the result was amazing. It sounds just like the original in every way, and I posted the exact settings to achieve the tone on the video.

The pickups on my strat are passive, but our guest player for the video played with active pickups. The higher response from the active pickups meant that, in order to achieve the same Gilmour tone, The ‘Moon Sound’ had to be set up differently to accommodate the different pickup types.

This shows exactly how much care and attention is required to produce a great tone – or to recreate a classic one – and can be a lesson for many aspiring rock stars. Equipment selection and setup is vital to a good sound, and is as important to study as learning to play the guitar itself. We take pride in delivering top of the range boutique amplifiers and effects, and every one of them is created with amazing quality of sound as the main goal. Sometimes it can be hard, sometimes nearly impossible, but it is always rewarding, and there is nothing quite like that moment when you strike a chord and hear exactly the tone that you have been trying for days to transfer from inside of your head to the amplifier.

The ‘Moon Sound’ did a great job at crafting the Gilmour sound with two completely different kinds of pickup, and so it truly passes the test for being a wonderful and versatile effect. Check it out at http://www.baroni-lab.com.

Rock on!