Tone is the thing…

More tone challenges from the alt.guitar newsgroup. Folks, you know I don't  make this stuff up.

Subject: Tone Tips...Please Help!


Date: 4/13/01 6:51 AM W. Europe Daylight Time

I need help with my new amp. I just got a Mesa Single Recto solo head, and a 2x12 closed back Recto Cab with it. Right off the bat with my Les Paul I could not really nail the type of distortion I was looking for, even on the Lead/Modern channel. So I put a new Duncan Distortion in the bridge and did notice a considerable difference in sound. I since added an old Boss 7band EQ in the FX loop and it helped also. Bear in mind though this is my first tube amp, and have always played it at real low volumes like 2. I'm trying to get a real tight distortion (comparable to say Godsmack, I hate using bands for comparison). Basically what I'm asking is:

  1. Would cranking this amp either with the actual volumes or adding a Hotplate make this amp sound better? Am I striving for a sound that can be reached unless cranked or attenuated?
  2. How similar is the voicing of this amp compared to a Dual Rectifier? Can I achieve those tones from the 50w single package?
  3. Does anyone out there that currently has a Single Rectifier have any tips for me?
  4. And finally, did I make the right amp choice, Cause I do like how it sounds, I just cant nail that real tight crunch, maybe I'm too picky.


John Doe   (NOTE:  Not his real name)

First, it is pretty clear that this guy got the amp off of the Internet -- he probably had only looked at them in catalogs or on his 17" monitor. He had read that Papa Roach used Mesas, so he thought he'd give it a try. Right off the bat, in goes a new pickup. He should have tried the Dual Rectifier in person.  He should also be kicked for plugging that old EQ into an amp of the Mesa's stature -- shame!

This goes back to one of my big harps -- you never know how something is going to sound until you hear it personally. Sound simple? Read on…

Last Saturday I traveled to Leverkusen, Germany with my buddy Wolfgang. We checked out a great guitar shop called Real Guitars. They have a web site -- -- check it out.

They had a great selection of very, very nice Fender and Gibson guitars. They had just received a shipment of Stratocasters, and the owner of the shop invited me to check a few out. There were a few relics and reissues, and they were all set up in a very pro manner by the shop. Wolfgang was looking for a two-tone sunburst Strat, so we settled in for a little A-B testing.

I decided to keep the same amp and setting throughout the informal, non-scientific test. I used a new Hughes & Kettner modeling amplifier, and it sounded great. I started out with a Fiesta Red Strat reissue. Sounded cool. Next was a Fiesta Red Strat 60's Relic. Killer. On to a two-tone sunburst Reissue. Sparkly. Guitar four was a Daphne Blue 60's Relic, beat to crap (even more so than normal). I plugged it in, and it was absolute god-tone. It felt so different than the other three, and the guys in the shop perked up when I started putting it through its paces. I played the guitar straight for about ten minutes, and couldn't believe how differently it played and sounded -- for the same price. It was not modified and did not have special pickups or other hardware -- completely stock. I tried a couple of Teles and other Strats, but nothing rocked me like that Relic!

Was it the strings? Pickups? Amp? Wood? Finish? Moon phase? Combination of everything? I'm not sure, but that is question that people are looking to answer. Guess what, guys -- if I had gotten that first Fiesta Red Strat from the Internet, I wouldn't have tried its Daphne Blue brother. Or I could have won the sweepstakes and got the Blue one right off the bat. I got so emotional about this axe that I was ready to trade Yngwie for it -- then I calmed down! Wolfgang even started talking that maybe a two-tone reissue was not what he wanted. The drive back to Düsseldorf was focused on that blue Strat and the "whys" of the guitar's special tone and playability.

Bottom Line: comparison-shopping is a really good idea when buying guitars because they are so different. Even guitars that look exactly the same are different, and you owe it to yourself to try a number of guitars before you buy. Maybe our "newsgroup poster" above would have been happier had he actually tried the amp with his Les Paul before he bought it.

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