Update: all's well now in new rig land :)

Update: all's well now in new rig land :)

Postby Jon S. » Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:51 pm

This is kinda long. Thanks for bearing with me.

I finally got my MC50 back, all serviced and ready to roll. Ran my also-new FYD TR preamp into the McI, and then the McI into my Avatar 1X12, into which I just put an NOS (not like an NOS - a true NOS) JBL E120. I plugged in and started experimented with many different combinations of preamp volume, preamp post-tone stack trim pot output, and McI power settings.

The positives: Holy crap is this rig f- loud! You folks who have posted here that an MC50's not powerful enough for your needs - where are you playing?! And the rig is dead silent. Really. So quiet that when I first plugged in, before I hit a chord, I thought something might be broken.

The negatives: The sound is not as "Jerryish" as I'd hoped it would be. In fact, I think I like my prior rig (SMS preamp into RV300 into 2X12 w/Weber NeoMag and Jensen Neo 12-100) better. At least I did when I A-B'd it with my new rig.

The problem seems to be focused around the high end and lower mids. The unit is not nearly as sparkly on top as I'd hoped. And while it sounds like it has plenty of upper mids, it seems to have even more lower mids that dominate the tone. Also, the tone, for lack of a better word, feels sterile and the response stiff.

When I get a chance (perhaps next weekend), I’m going to break down my two rigs, mix and match all the various components, and see what shakes down. But at first blush, I’m questioning the E120. All of the parts of the sound I’m getting that I don’t like remind me of when I bought a similarly-voiced aluminum dust cap Weber California some years back and why, after six months, I sold it.

It could be that the speaker needs some serious breaking in. It’s also been my experience, though, that breaking in a speaker doesn’t change its essential character. It just makes what you start with “better.” It could also be that I’m simply not driving the speaker at anywhere near the wattage it needs to shine, whether it's new or broken in. I don’t have enough experience with E120s to answer that but if correct, the JBL will have to go. I don’t play at crushing volumes anymore, even performing with my band.

Any thoughts or advice? Anyone find himself in a similar situation? How did you work through it? I’m open to any and all suggestions. Thanks, guys.
Last edited by Jon S. on Sun May 05, 2013 7:09 am, edited 3 times in total.
"For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument." Jerry Garcia
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Re: Issues with "dream rig" - could use some advice

Postby Smolder » Sun Mar 31, 2013 6:24 pm

I think you already know what to do. Set up the two rigs side by side so that you can swap out (yes, A/B) the three major components... I'd start with the speakers... then use the SMS with the new rig.

We get really used to our standard rigs... and that tone. It becomes the normal. Just like trying to run a twin for the first time with the treble way up and the bass almost off... it takes a while for hat to sound normal.

Personally, I'm very curious how you like the new rig over the next few weeks. I just swapped my D120 into a smaller fender combo rig and put the E120 with the SMS/MC50. It's just a bit more strident, but it's working well.

Lastly... I've never had a 'new' JBL and haven't read anything about them having to break in. In conversations with both Vin-Tone and Edgewound regarding newly re-coned JBL's, both dispelled any notion of having to break them in.

Best of luck Jon... btw - I set the MC50 at about half way and have trouble getting the SMS past 9-10 o'clock.
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Re: Issues with "dream rig" - could use some advice

Postby mgbills » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:22 pm

I'd suspect the tone stack in FYD, but doing your A/B test will prove that out.

My MC250 sits at 9:00, and the Gain on the SMS at about 10:30-11:00. Guitar volume around 3-4 is plenty for small jams and the house. Loud drummer...I might hit 1/2 on my 250, but I stopped playing with that guy. I think he was trying to prove he was better than the Mc.

Good Luck. As long as you're eliminating variable you'll find the issue.

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Re: Issues with "dream rig" - could use some advice

Postby playingdead » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:06 pm

I think what you might be discovering, Jon, is that the E-120 sounds pretty harsh and strident when you're hearing it on its own. Something like a K-120 on its own and at a lower volume will sound a lot sweeter and rounder and sparklier and more pleasing to the ear. But when you hear the K in the context of the band mix, it sounds thinner and doesn't cut, where that harshness of the E-120 knifes right through everything and then the guitar sounds "correct" in the mix.

Back when I had an analog rig, I played through K-110s first, and loved how they sounded on their own, but it didn't really work right with the band until I went with the E-120s. And I did quite a bit of A/B testing with various preamps -- an SMS that Brad loaned me, a Groove Tubes Trio, a Twin head modded by Joe Martin, an Egnater M4 preamp and a stock Fender Vibrolux reissue. The same proved true with the AxeFX when I had custom impulse response files made of my Hard Trucker cabs ... a 2X10 loaded with K-110s and a 2X12 loaded with E-120s, miked up the same way. K-110 cabinet block sounded so good on its own, but the E-120 is what worked with the band. I even did some re-amping of the raw guitar track from a gig or two trying off the different cabinets and remixing the band and that's what I found.
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Re: Issues with "dream rig" - could use some advice

Postby Jon S. » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:11 am

Thank you so much, Smolder, mgbills, and playingdead for your preliminary feedback.

Smolder, I will, by this weekend, at least run the new preamp and amp through the old speakers, and the old preamp and amp through the new speaker. I'll return to post what I find (and if I can do more swapping, those results, too).

mgbills, I'm not sure why you would first suspect tone stack differences between my SMS and my FYD. The stacks are very close. Both are the BF TR stack with the Wald Electronics web site post-Alembic mods. It is true the component types and manufacturers are sure to differ some but the values should not. It just does not compute for these types of relatively small differences between the preamps to be more influential in the tone differences between the two rigs than the those differences that would occur as a result of using a Rocktron Velocity 300 versus a McIntosh MC50 power amp, and a NeoMag/12-100 pair versus a JBL E120 speaker(s), respectively. But in the end, I guess anything is possible and my upcoming experimentation should narrow things down some.

playingdead, I know you have a lot of hands-on experience with this speaker so I'm greatly encouraged by your reality check. With our other guitarist out of pocket until the end of the month, it may be a few weeks before I can test drive the rig in my usual ensemble setting but perhaps that's for the best, it will give me some time to run my other preamp/power amp/speaker swapping experiments beforehand.
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Re: Issues with "dream rig" - could use some advice

Postby mgbills » Mon Apr 01, 2013 8:19 am

Yea Jon...and I was really just speaking from a point of ignorance on the FYD. I've had a run of caps that are almost 1/3 off from their intended spec. I know Brad's stuff is pretty darn tight. He knows his customers, and it seems they're all tone freaks.
As we all know, there is a wide range in Twin tone.

That was all. You're on the right track.
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Re: Issues with "dream rig" - could use some advice

Postby Jon S. » Mon Apr 01, 2013 7:09 pm

Well, tonight - 2nd night running the rig - I made an interesting discovery ... or should I say, re-discovery: it had already been discussed here before and I was even part of the discussion, I'd just forgotten: viewtopic.php?f=419&t=11016&start=45

With my 1st (original) rig, it never sounded right diming the SMS's rear trim pot so I've kept it around 3 o'clock. That's what I did last night with the new preamp. I adjusted it yesterday all around between 9AM and 3PM but never dimed it.

Tonight I did. In response, I got much improved to my ears tone. The highs and, for lack of a better word, liveliness, are there now. Less mushy/more immediate.

This makes me wonder if rear trim pots could benefit from treble bleed caps same as front volume controls (i.e., so that when you lower the setting, you retain the highs and liveliness). I might even ask my tech if it's worth adding one to the unit.

More to come.
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Re: Thanks to y'all's advice, new rig is on path to better

Postby Smolder » Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:35 am

Jon... I can't find the post, but I do remember Brad (Sarno) explaining that the pot on the back of the SMS essentially functions the same as the Pot on the front of the Mac. That you could use one, the other, or both with the very same effect on the signal. Not sure if that exactly addresses what your experiencing, but maybe it helps.
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Re: Thanks to y'all's advice, new rig is on path to better

Postby SpaceYrface43 » Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:14 am

brad told me if using a Mac power amp with the SmS run the rear pot wide open.
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Re: Thanks to y'all's advice, new rig is on path to better

Postby mgbills » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:04 am

And if I remember correctly...Brad stated that the rear trim-pot wide open gives you the same output as a Twin preamp.

I cranked mine & left it. Love it...more.
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Re: Thanks to y'all's advice, new rig is on path to better

Postby Jon S. » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:12 am

You guys are all correct (and this is the same analysis/advice my own amp tech, Pete Cage, gave me separately yesterday). This is why I edited the title of this thread. I'm no longer struggling with this issue but am on the path now to righteous tone! :D
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Re: Thanks to y'all's advice, new rig is on path to better

Postby JonnyBoy » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:16 am

My Mc100 is at the doctors right now, it's blowing fuses. I have moved back to my MC250 at 50 watts and I am not missing any volume. It's nice to have that little bit extra just in case w/ the mc100, but we mic our stuff these days and I get most of my volume I hear from my monitor. So I could probably get away with 5 watts if I needed to.,,
I agree that Turning the trim pot full blast is what you want to do with the Mac. It helps push the power amp to round out the sound better in a noticeable, but subtle way. If you want to try a speaker like the E120 that has all the character but a more sweetened overtone and mids, my commonwealths really performed well in that manner. Overdrive tones are so much sweeter with the commonwealths v's the E120's. If you pay the shipping, I would be glad to let you try one....but by the time you ship it 2x you could prolly own one, and sell it if u don't want it. Ive been using a K120 and find it more pleasing to the ears than the E120 in the same regards. Playin dead is right though, in the band setting the e120's are Jerry in spades for the 80's tiger tone, even though alone it sounds harsh and bright. I'm just too lazy to install one in a 1x12 for use these days.
I also tried crate power block as a SS poweramp only with my SMS an it sounded great too, almost identical to my Mac through the Aux input. The Mac is a little warmer (less treble), but I'd imagine with a recap or service, my MC100 will sound totally different. We'll see...
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Re: Thanks to y'all's advice, new rig is on path to better

Postby Jon S. » Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:39 am

I just want to add a couple of things.

One, I'm REALLY enjoying my new rig more each day as I'm learning how best to dial it in and making some corresponding adjustments to my M13 effect models. I also am very pleased with my FYD preamp. The reverb, in particular, is to die for - the lush, Fender-style tube-driven spring reverb many of us know and love.

Two, I'm so pleased with what Pat Hickman at Classic Tube Audio did for me in updating and upgrading my MC50, including adding a power switch, IEC power cord input, and 1/4" in and outs (far left = 4 ohms out; middle = 8 ohms out; right = input). It's powerful beyond words (look in the 2nd pic at where the volume knob is set - that was an hour ago playing along with a blasting stereo in a small music room) and so toneful. I'm getting sweet harmonic overtones, particularly on overdriven leads, that I never heard before from my Jerrycaster.

The FYD is "just" a BF TR preamp with Waldo's post-Alembic mods, same as the SMS, which I also own and dig, and the guitar hasn't changed so I know it's coming from either the MC50, E120, or both. I'll put my $ on the MC50 but am still experimenting with mixing and matching my two rigs' components.

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Re: Thanks to y'all's advice, new rig is on path to better

Postby mijknahs » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:20 pm

Jon,

I'm glad you're enjoying the sound of your new rig. Sounds like a killer setup.

I have found that the speaker cabinet can significantly alter the tone of the speaker (and therefore the entire rig). I prefer a cabinet that is totally open in the back and not very deep. I think my 2x12 cabs are about 13" deep. I have a big 1x12" cabinet made by Avatar and it makes the speaker sound very boomy with a lot more mids. I also have a 1x12" Mesa Boogie extention cab (about the depth of a Mark III and I totally removed the back panel) and I like the sound of that a lot better than the Avatar (although I still use the Avatar at home).
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Re: Thanks to y'all's advice, new rig is on path to better

Postby Jon S. » Fri Apr 05, 2013 3:39 pm

I'm using my JBL in the pictured Avatar 1X12 but it's not the large one. It's the Cube model. The dimensions are 17" H x 17" W x 15 1/2" D. The tone is definitely "middier" that I'd expected with the gear and settings I'm using. In contrast, my SSP 2X12 is, like your cab, only 13" deep. Does the extra 2 1/2" really make that much difference in this context (I'm hoping no - I'm running out of cash! :oops: )?

http://www.avatarspeakers.com/g112.htm
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