Can this Marshall rock monster be tamed to a sweet clean tone? You bet it can!
Life too short for long YouTube videos? See the ‘Interesting bits and go-to sections’ information below.
Welcome to the show! I’ve been thinking about this for ages. It seems like a crazy question at first glance, right?
But after welcoming Aynsley Lister to the show recently – https://youtu.be/UIRNBtZa_Qo – and watching Dan’s awesome chat with Simon Jarratt – https://youtu.be/xqSLOhou1rY – I thought now was a good time to explore this. Or at least to start re-exploring it.
Disclaimer! This video IS NOT about the Ultimate Clean Guitar Tone Ever (even if you could define it). In fact some of the sounds in this video are borderline ugly. Indeed, if you want a really ‘clean’ clean guitar sound – no harmonic overdrive or distortion at all – neither of these amps is going to do that. At all.
Moreover, what I’m doing here is taking one bastion of archetypal accepted ‘clean’ tone in the form of a mid-sixties-style blackface Fender amp, and asking if its more aggressive, shouty British brother can tame that rock roar back to a sweet clean tone. Well I’ll let you into a secret. We already know it can, evidenced by many top players down the years.
What’s more interesting to me is to ask: what are the dynamic and feel characteristics of achieving a ‘clean’ tone in this way; what else does that offer us as guitar players, aside from the tone itself?
If you can possibly refrain, try not to comment “Doh, I’ve been telling you this for years” or anything similarly smug. Remember that not everyone is at the same point in their guitar journey. Sure there’s nothing universally new here, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be new or interesting to some people who’ve yet to experience it.
Q: Why are there just as many overdrive sounds in this video as ‘clean’ sounds?
A: Because we’re talking about the context of dialling back from an overdrive sound and/or having more dynamics expression available from the guitar.
Q: Capacitance, cables and all that?
A: The tech-savvy among you will know that the loss of brightness from guitar to amp has a lot to do with capacitance, impedance and mitigating that with the buffer. Not all buffers are equal and not all cables are equal. So for the record, my cables are a 15-foot Klotz LaGrange from guitar to the QMX and a 20-foot Evidence Forte cable from QMX to amp. Both are relatively low-capacitance cables.
The QMX switcher is not buffered in any way and is audibly transparent.
The Strat has original 1961 pickups and original wiring – 250k pots and 0.1 cap.
The Les Paul has Gibson Custom Buckers with 500k pots, 0.022 caps and ’50s wiring.
Q: Why can I hear loads of hiss and hum from the Marshall when you speak but much less when you play? And none from the Fender?
A: Because the voice microphone is gained way louder than the amp/cab and room mics. My voice would register between 50 and 60dB, ish, on our dB meter. The amps are hitting 100-102dB. We don’t use any noise reduction on the guitar mics ever. The Fender just isn’t as noisy as the Marshall.
Okay, enough excuses. Please let us know which you prefer!
Interesting bits and go-to sections
- Intro playing: 00:00
- What are we doing today?: 00:30
- Extensive pedalboard and Super settings: 01:34
- Fender on 4, Marshall on 8. Strat: 03:00
- And with Les Paul, Marshall: 03:52
- Strat volume control and Marshall: 04:27
- Brightness loss turning guitar down?: 05:15
- …so let’s add a booster/buffer: 06:35
- Buffer on and off in the Fender: 07:25
- Booster buffer in the Marshall: 08:25
- Reverb from the CXM1978: 10:20
- Booster, buffer, Marshall & Les Paul: 13:08
- …and into the Fender amp: 15:28
- Crank the Super Reverb, Les Paul: 17:25
- …and with Strat: 18:50
- Back to the Marshall, Strat, booster/buffer: 21:15
- Answering the question?: 23:22
- Pedal gain vs amp gain?: 24:30
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