Thursday

02011-09-15 | Uncategorized | 3 comments

What a fun day in the studio. Recorded a bunch of guitars for a groovy new tune. Used the Blanca for most of the rhythm performances and the Negra for the melodies. Right after lunch I received my new guitar amp, a Mesa Boogie 5:25 Express with a 10″ speaker.

Yesterday I came across the bill for my first Boogie, with a 15″ speaker, which I bought for $1,330 in June of 1979. I used it on The Hours Between Night + Day and on Opium, but in 1996 I started using a Groove Tubes amp instead, and eventually sold the Boogie. The GT uses tubes to create the guitar sound, but since simulates the load of a speaker it is therefore silent on stage. I used the GT for the last time on Little Wing, I think. Then I tried different digital amp-simulations. On “O Little Town of Bethlehem/City of Tihuana, the second track on the album Winter Rose, I used the “Guitar Rig” from Native Instruments. That software and pedal has been unused in a cupboard in the studio for six years because I hated the latency of Guitar Rig. Live I have been using a Line6 Pod-Pro, which features tons of simulated amps… but does not sound very realistic. Stephen recorded his solo on “Silence…” (The Scent of Light) with a Pod and while I like what he played I am not crazy about the sound.

So, fast forward to 2011 and I got sick of the Line6 sound during the Summer tour and started looking for a “real” guitar amp. Jon lent me his Fender Princeton, I borrowed a Champ from Santa Fe’s Kelemen, I considered a Vox AC15 hand-wired… and in the end I ordered another Boogie. The Princeton is super quiet and nice, but doesn’t get the sustain unless one plays really loud. The Champ was a favorite, a little noisier, but with a sweet tone. I could have made this work if I wanted to continue to use the Line6 for effects and sustain. The Vox was out after I found out that everything is made in China.

Well, I turned on the Boogie and it was love after a few notes. I used the amp in the 5W Class A configuration, which is plenty loud. In fact I think I will use it next year without any pedals or effects: just the guitar plugged straight into the amp. And the Boogie is made in Petaluma, California.

I think this is symptomatic for my attitude towards digital tools and the internet, which is this: it’s time to get real, to figure out what works and discard what does not work. Where digital tools are an improvement over the analog world we should of course use them, but where they are not, we need to support analog manufacturers before they go out of business. The same is true for the internet. There are many ways in which our lives can be enriched by the WWW, but we need to drop the stuff that does not. Time to make a few choices.

3 Comments

  1. Victor

    I so agree, I have found that while I really tried to like digital, it promised the ease of use and cheeper than the real thing. It just can’t get the vibe of analog. I recently put a pick up in on of my DeVoe’s and what a mistake it was, I tried a pedal that models the guitars wood and a Neumann mic. Well it just can’t capture the sound of the real one. I think I will just have to learn how to control feedback issues and will go back to a mic and mic pre when I play live. I hope my Blanca will forgive me too. On the tube amps I just don’t think you can get the real mojo with out them. I think that we have just decided that we want stuff and settle for check copy’s I think of all the great carpentry that used to be made but now we go to ikea and place like that. Then with music we want stuff cheep and not pay for quality. Kids don’t even pay for music. Then there those that make Les Pauls and Strats for 100.00 what are they kidding. Well Im stoping hear. I cant wait to hear what comes out of your studio soon.

    Reply
  2. Gerry

    Hi everyone,
    Thanks for the invite email Ottmar. I was listening to Opium yesterday, thinking how much I love the electric guitar sounds on ‘Chi-Wahwah B’ and ‘Tremulo'(I love the trippy vibe that the whole album has!) – and I read here that you used a Boogie. Well there’s the proof. Whilst technology can do many things, Amp simulation isn’t one of them. On this subject – yesterday I recorded a rhythm part 1st time using Digidesign Eleven, 2nd time using a 15watt all tube amp. Then I did a quick A/B playback – no contest.
    I don’t think I will ever use Eleven again. The tube sound is just so smooth. It’s like comparing Kraft to Brie!
    P.S. I hope we get to hear that new Boogie soon.

    Reply
  3. Ottmar

    Gerry: I am not surprised as what you write mirrors what I am hearing. BTW, “Chi-Wahwah” is probably the track on Opium I have listened to the most. I love the vibe, the 5/4 meter of the song, the sounds, everything.

    The Boogie is insanely great. Playing the strat yesterday I decided to plug straight into the amp for next year’s tour. No pedals, no nothing, just fingers. The architecture of the Boogie amp allows me to have a clean and a distorted, sustained sound at the same volume… just by using two different gain stages. Brilliant.

    Reply

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