For the Early Van Halen freaks....Brown Sound

Gainfreak

New member
Taken from the metro Board form a guy who cliams to have known Eddie back in the day and pretty spot on to what Mark Cameron has been saying for years ;)


Introduction:

In those days, power attenuators such as Marshall's Powerbrake or Thd's hotplate were not around yet.
Marshall amps didn't feature an effects loop yet either.

With cranked Marshall plexi's and superleads the main concern was volume: either you'd become deaf or you would blow nice 20-25 watts Celestion Greenback speakers.
Running time-based effects in front of a dimed Marshall wouldn't always sound good, it would add more noise to an already "hissing" amp.

First came the variac: lowering the input voltage by 20 volts would bring the amp's volume down.
With the variac, the amp would feel spongier and the character of the power tubes' distortion would be altered in a very musical way.
Then came "slaving" .
Now you had a line-level effects loop between the 2 amps (after the load ).
The first amp would act as the preamp (the distortion box), and the second amp would act as the power amp stage.
Now you could get great power tube distortion from amp 1 and use amp 2 to set the volume to a reasonable level.
Now you had an effects loop, and gone were the hearing loss and/or blown speakers !


The guitars :

Ed used 3 guitars for that first world tour and album.
I covered this topic in many previous posts so I'll run through it quickly.

Frankie: hard ash body, vintage fender tremolo bridge, brass nut, maple neck with maple cap fingerboard, original Gibson alnico II PAF pu rewounded by Seymour Duncan (prior to the recording of VH1).
Painted by Ed with bycicle paint.
Its neck pocket was not properly cut, the neck was slightly slanted downwards and the high E string was almost off the edge of the fingerboard behond the 12th fret.
It was not a nice job, rather a piece of s..t guitar but Ed made it sound soooo good.

Sharkie: believed to be made of korina wood (but apparently the body was ash and the neck was made of maple), unpainted and uncut for the recording of vh1.
Original Ibanez nickel covered pu was used for the recording of vh1.
Ed took a piece out of the body and painted it prior to going on tour (I think it was Wayne Charvel who did the paint job, but I 'm not sure).
He kept the original pu on it for a short while, then replaced it with a black Hotrodded PAF made for him by Seymour Duncan.
Ed widened the grooves of the bridge to match the string spacing of Frankie.
He put a brass nut on it as well (prior to the recording of Vh1).

Later in the tour, Sharkie was replaced by a white Gibson Les Paul Custom.
At first, Ed put the original Ibanez nickel covered bridge pu taken from Sharkie in the Les Paul. Later he put another Seymour Duncan hotrodded PAF in it (cream colored).

Keep in mind the band saw very little money at the time.


The tubes:

Power tubes were fat bottle Sylvania (later Philips) 6CA7's.
These tubes sound closer to 6L6's than EL34's.
We had cases of these, Ed would burn them really fast.
They were not matched sets, nobody cared.
If one blew, it was randomly replaced.
On his main plexi and its backup (a wonderful 50 watter), the internal bias knob was dimed (yes you read right).
He blew OT on those 2 plexis on many occasions.
We had many spares on hand as well.

He used several brands of 12AX7's preamp tubes.
These were individualy selected for low noise, sound and microphonics.
That's all I know and remember about preamp tubes.


the main PLEXI and its backup:

Ed owned several plexiglas 68-69 Marshalls, 3 of wich were 50 watters,
The wooden plexi was a 100 watter, and so was his main plexi.
His main one was the only one with just one filter cap on top of the chassis, all the others had more than 1 cap on top.
The main plexi and all the 50 watters featured laydown power transformers.
I assume the main one was the earliest model because it only featured one filter capacitor on top of the chassis.

George, is this correct ?

Man, that backup 50 watt plexi sounded sooo good, but Ed favored 100 watters.
We had a dozen Marshalls (plexis and superleads) on tour in 1978.
All of them were the 4 inputs non master volume type.
The metal pannel ones sounded great too, but they were mainly used for slaving(amp 2).


The load-line level box:

Jose Arredondo built a few prototypes for Ed.
The one used by Ed on the 1978 world tour featured 2 inputs, a volume knob, and 3 line level outputs.
That volume knob was used to control the overall stage volume of the rig.
The 2 inputs were fed with the speakers outputs of the main plexi and the 50 watt smallbox plexi.
Both were loaded, but the amp not in use was kept on standby (he didn't use both simultaneously).
So, there were 3 line level cables tapped from the resistive load feeding the top left inputs of 3 Marshall superleads.
The volume on those amps was set at 9'o clock for a clean sound with just a tad of grit.
Ed mainly used 3 stacks, but only the bottom cabs were wired.
It must be said that Ed was really concerned about protecting his hearing from loud stage volumes (in 1984 things got really insane soundwise).
For bigger venues, he'd need up to ten amps-ten bottom cabs, so the extra needed heads were daisy-chained with the first 3.
The overall volume of the rig was set with an adjustable pot located right next to 3 tapped lines out of the resistive load.
An overly loud line level signal would make the 3 amps distort, so the pot was adjusted for no distortion, but it was damn loud anyway.
The main plexi and its backup smallbox plexi were dimed (all 6 knobs on 10) and variac'ed (set for 90 volts).


The settings on the amps:

The loaded plexis acting as distortion boxes (preamps) were dimed all the way on that tour.

The plexis and superleads used for slaving had both volumes set at 9 o'clock, but the inputs were not jumpered.
Ed said that the normal volume (last knob to the right) adds warmth to the sound.
Only the top left input was used.
Using the bright channel for slaving would really offset the overly bassy flubbiness from the dimed plexi, and it would smooth things out.

On the superleads (metal pannel), the preamp knobs were basically set as followed, but with some slight changes depending on the amp:
presence: off
bass: 10
middle: off
treble: off

Live, plexi's were seldom used for slaving (amp2), but the preamp settings were not the same as the superleads because they sounded darker and cleaner than the superleads.
The amp used for slaving on the first album was the wooden plexi often seen in many of the pics uploaded on this forum.
The wooden amp was modded by Jose Arredondo to act as a pure poweramp prior to the recording of the second album.


The pedalboard and effects chain:

Ed used this crappy plywood pedalboard for his effects pedals.
The 2 Maestro Echoplexes were sitting next to the amps on ED's side of the stage, but their footswitches were located next to the plywood board.
The Univox was shelved in a real WWII bomb standing to the right of Ed's cabs.
It was just unbelievable you know, those were really the good 'ol days.
On the board, Ed's guitar would hit the MXR Flanger, then the MXR Phase 90.
From the ouput of the phase 90, a long cable would then reach the 2 echoplexes (wired in series).
After the echoplexes, another long cable would go back to the stage pedalboard to the input of BOX 1, then out to the input of BOX 2.
Yet another long cable would connect the ouput of BOX 2 to a "Y"-type splitter , and then hit the top left inputs of the main plexi and its smallbox backup.
BOX 1 and 2 were loopers for the MXR 6bandEQ 's Ed was using to boost his signal prior to hitting the plexi.
Most of the time, Box2 was not used, but from time to time he would have a second MXR EQ on his board.
The MXR EQ's were replaced by The Boss EQ's in the summer after the japanese leg of the tour.
Btw, Ed was not using a wireless yet in 1978.
The MXR pedals were stock script logo pedals.
In the early 80's, Ed had them overlooked by Jose to reduce unwanted noise (shielding and replacing cheap components with better ones).

The main plexi and his backup were loaded and the line level signal was fed to the univox before it was slaved to the superleads and out to the cabs.

One last note: The magic lies in Ed's hands, not in his rig.
And the rest is history.
 

RaceU4her

Well-known member
Gainfreak":1q6ebeym said:
On the superleads (metal pannel), the preamp knobs were basically set as followed, but with some slight changes depending on the amp:
presence: off
bass: 10
middle: off
treble: off



interesting
 

stratotone

Active member
I've heard live bootlegs of VH though from before VHI 's release... and thought the guitar sounded like shit. I think a lot of that tone was also Ted Templeman's work in the studio.

As far as it being in Eddie's hands, have you heard the Zero demos that were bankrolled by Gene Simmons? (I think it was Gene anyways.) Those had pretty generic 70s rock guitar tones in my opinion. Probably was Ace's Marshalls or something, but if the tone was all in Eddie's hands then it should have sounded more like him.

Pete
 

bmf5150

New member
i dont trust him,he had an avatar pic up of rudy l then when dave friedman started asking question that rudy l would only know he took the pic down and said he was not rudy l.kind of shady if ya ask me..
 

ratter

New member
Was this a new post somewhere? It all looks pretty familiar to me like I've read it before. But anyway...

That rig sounds totally feasible to me except I would have guessed that the slave amps would have the mids on 10 and everything else on 0 for a flattish response, not the bass on 10 and everything else on 0.

Funny also that he mentions using the slave setup to run time based effects after the 'preamp' amp but then goes on to describe how the echoplexes are in front of the amp...
 

RockNRollBabyHead

New member
Excellent information Gainfreak.
But I have often pondered, why in the world would one try to duplicate that sound if one does not own the players hands?
It amazes me how some people will go to such great lengths to create a sound that is not original. I would surely put my effort into creating a sound that no one has made before.
I know for a fact that if I plugged into " ENTER FAMOUS PLAYERS NAME" amp, I would still sound like ME playing.
Just food for thought.
RRBH
 

Gainfreak

New member
Stan, I don't think the person is who is claiming to be but it might be someone who was around VH back in the day.

Here is the thing, the weird settings on the slave amp was because Eddie was supposedly running his main amp into a dummy load which had a built in step down circuit (Mark Cameron can explain it better..Think of it as a line out with a cap/variable pot across it to tame the level even more) He ran that signal Into the front end of another marshall. The second marshall was set rather clean with a bit of grit and when the loaded Marshalls signal hit it, it would distort more giving him the sound. i think of it as adding gain stages by linking the two amps together. Now where that differs from regular slaving is that you would normall bypass the preamp stages and go straight to another power amp stage at the slave amp. Ed essentially plugged one amp into another and the only reason why it would work is because Jose built him the load box with the step down. These days you would never plug into the input of another amp because you have effects loops.
 

Gainfreak

New member
RockNRollBabyHead":oucu3ml0 said:
Excellent information Gainfreak.
But I have often pondered, why in the world would one try to duplicate that sound if one does not own the players hands?
It amazes me how some people will go to such great lengths to create a sound that is not original. I would surely put my effort into creating a sound that no one has made before.
I know for a fact that if I plugged into " ENTER FAMOUS PLAYERS NAME" amp, I would still sound like ME playing.
Just food for thought.
RRBH

It's because there are great tones that work and we are talking about tone not technique. You'd still sound like yourself through eddies rig but the underlying tone would be killer.

Like Pete said....listen to Eddie Van Halen's guitar tone on the Simmons demo. His tone sucked on those cuts IMHO...you can tell it was him playing but the tone sounded like any other plexi/distortion box tone. Now fast forward to 77-78 when he hooked up his gear a different way. HUGE difference in tone.
 

Superunknown

Active member
Gainfreak":350dom7y said:
It's because there are great tones that work and we are talking about tone not technique. You'd still sound like yourself through eddies rig but the underlying tone would be killer.

Like Pete said....listen to Eddie Van Halen's guitar tone on the Simmons demo. His tone sucked on those cuts IMHO...you can tell it was him playing but the tone sounded like any other plexi/distortion box tone. Now fast forward to 77-78 when he hooked up his gear a different way. HUGE difference in tone.

+1.....
 

thegame

Well-known member
Slaving an amp, any number of ways, can turn it into a completely different animal. Just ramming a 100w stock Marshall through a resistive load box compresses the shit out it. In this scenario, more compression = more distortion, sustain, sizzle, etc. It can give the illusion of drastically increased preamp gain. I have no idea if his main amp was modded (for gain) but slaving can dramatically change the character of a given amp. At least thats what my experiments with slaving have taught me. The only downside is having all that extra gear to hookup and move around and its easy to accidentally plug something in wrong.

I'd much rather have 1 amp simply plugged into cabs but slaving can lead to unique sounds, next to impossible to get otherwise, for sure.
 

Telephant

New member
I have to try this. Ralph, is there a way to slave my Superbass into my 2210? I want to use the superbass for gain and the 2210 for power. I currently have two cabs at my house, both 16 ohm. And where in the chain does the delay go? If it sounds good I'll post some clips! Thanks!
 

BleedingEdge

New member
Dimed internal bias pot, burning through Sylvania 6CA7s (which can take a beating unlike any modern tube) frequently.

THAT will be the one thing that people today cannot and will not replicate.
 

dstroud

Well-known member
Telephant":37emqtlf said:
I have to try this. Ralph, is there a way to slave my Superbass into my 2210? I want to use the superbass for gain and the 2210 for power. I currently have two cabs at my house, both 16 ohm. And where in the chain does the delay go? If it sounds good I'll post some clips! Thanks!

I'm not Ralph, but I'll chime in - you need a Hotplate, or something like it that acts as a dummy load and has a line out - Hotplate is probably the most popular one. The delay goes between the line out of the Hotplate and the power amp in of the 2210.

BTW - that rig should sound killer set up like that! :rock:
 

Gainfreak

New member
Telephant":2yxodi35 said:
I have to try this. Ralph, is there a way to slave my Superbass into my 2210? I want to use the superbass for gain and the 2210 for power. I currently have two cabs at my house, both 16 ohm. And where in the chain does the delay go? If it sounds good I'll post some clips! Thanks!

Sup Bro!

here is the thing. Any of the current attenuators wont have a step down transformer meaning that if you send the signal into the input of another amp it will sound like shit. With that said and since I know how you play you could load down the Superbass with a hotplate and send that signal to your effects and then to the return of your 2210. it will sound sick! :rock:
 

mentoneman

New member
All I know that the first time I hooked up my peacemaker wet/dry using this basic concept--
Peacemaker hit w/ pedals, attenuate w/hotplate dry to cab one, then line out to replex delay and that feeds coyote input to wet cab two

It was as eddie tone as I'd ever heard and close enough to really feel like mission accomplished.
Rockstah and ralle have perfected it even further but when I was as close as I was I didn't care about going further.

Gainfreak owns :rock:
 

bmf5150

New member
i tried slaving my metroamp plexi into my home made load box with a line level out into my friends 50 watt plexi.it sounds ok,i like the added gain but its kind of nasaly sounding with not enough lows,i played with every eq config on the amp i could think of.,as well as various gain settings. .i like going through my peavey clasic 120+120 power amp better than the other marshall 50 watt plexi.it just sounds better...
 
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