Kahn's tone on Garcia Live, Vol. 1

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Kahn's tone on Garcia Live, Vol. 1

Postby Lunchbox16 » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:15 pm

Perhaps Rusty knows the answer to this. I love John Kahn's tone on the above recording. Any knowledge of what he was playing on this tour? Axe? Rig? Love that warm, fat, yet articulate sound.
"Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir." Time is a great storyteller. -- Irish Proverb
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Re: Kahn's tone on Garcia Live, Vol. 1

Postby brbadg » Wed Mar 27, 2013 8:21 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPrBpS7jFdw

Here's some video.Looks like the same bass rig.Different p bass though.
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Re: Kahn's tone on Garcia Live, Vol. 1

Postby jenkins » Wed Mar 27, 2013 8:52 pm

Personally I think the mcintosh was a critical element to kahn's tone, if not THE critical element.

He was using a fender bassman,iirc, into a mc2300 powering 2x15" JBL cab.

I'm a guitarist mainly but due to the overall lack of bassists I've played bass in a few projects that ive done.
At this point I pretty much don't like playin bass if I don't have my Mac on hand (mc2120), all other power amps sound sterile to me and lack that warmth & depth that only a Mac can deliver, IMO. The power section is something that many bassists over look thinkin they all sound the same but I completely disagree.

When I play bass I use a bk butler 'real tube' preamp into my mc2120 and it sounds awesome, very similar to kahn's tone. I have an 80's ibanez bass that has active electronics, which I think also helps sound like Kahn. I'm not sure but I believe he had some sort of blaster or buffer in his fender bass, but don't quote me on that.

The first time I ever used my Mac I actually was playing bass. I brought it to a rehearsal and set it up thru the real tube ore and didn't even adjust any knobs yet from where I had it set for my guitar. We were all setting up/noodling around and I hit one note and literally everybody in the band stopped what they were doing and looked up at me like 'holy shit'. It was awesome, it was just one of those moments in life when you're like yea!! We were all blown away by the quality and depth of the tone. I had just thrown it together and it literally was the best sounding bass rig that I've ever played or heard up close like that. That jam session was by far the funnest jam sesh I've ever had on bass & the few shows that we played that followed it over the next month were the funnest shows I've ever had playing bass as well. I could crank up the bass noce and loud and nobody ever complained about it being too loud, unlike the hartke rig that I had used previously to play with this group. With that rig they always kept telling me to turn it down, bc it would distort & hurt ear drums.


Bottom line- mcintosh for bass is the absolute shit & if you want a tone that's like kahn's get one, it does wonders. Even with the real tube pre, which is more like a tube assisted solid state pre it sounded incredible, I can only imagine how awesome it would sound with a bassman head...prolly EXACTLY like kahns!

So in reality kahn's tone should be the easiest tone to achieve out of any of the GD's family of players, if you have a few bucks. Fender bass with a blaster/buffer>bassman or other nice pre>mcintosh(prolly a 2100 or 2120 unless playing huge venues) and you'll be there. I got there just using a decent ibanez and a decent pre, that's why I'm so convinced the Mac is really the key. Nothing delivers the warmth & depth of tone that a Mac does, IMHO.

I think macs are so underrated for bass amps, if you can't tell from my post lol.
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Re: Kahn's tone on Garcia Live, Vol. 1

Postby Lunchbox16 » Thu Mar 28, 2013 6:25 am

Many thanks for the feedback guys!
"Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir." Time is a great storyteller. -- Irish Proverb
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Re: Kahn's tone on Garcia Live, Vol. 1

Postby Rusty the Scoob » Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:01 am

1980 Kahn is two different Fender Ps, his favorite 1958 P seems to have been temporarily replaced/supplemented by an Olympic White P with what appears to be a 76/77 to 82 logo, a rosewood neck and similar mods - Leo Quan Badass II bridge and DiMarzio pickup. Both helped a lot with clarity and punch on stage plus added a little high end clarity, but all are pretty out-dated now. Flatwound strings of course, it's extremely noticeable in 1982-3 when he switched to rounds on that G&L L2000.

I'm not sure but I believe he had some sort of blaster or buffer in his fender bass, but don't quote me on that.


I've had this theory off and on. I have a DiMarzio/BAII bass and a Waldo TPC but haven't put them together quite yet. Some afternoon I'll try it and see how it comes out. On the flip side I've been dying to have at least one lousy passive bass but they all keep coming out active. :lol: I do think there's a little extra clarity to both of the modded Ps that passive Ps don't quite match.

Hartke stuff is pretty awful... if that's all you compared the Mac to, I'd say that's not a fair comparison. But I'll admit I'm curious about Macs.

For amps, I just aim for 15" speakers rather than 10"s. He used a pair of what appear to be D140s with the silver domes, unless they made an equivalent E or K 140 with the same dome. I haven't played a Mac but I've played an F2B through my power amp into my random cabs and it was a little more Kahnlike than my SWR/GT preamp, but has some issues due to age.

The biggest factor in JK's sound is his technique of course. He's a remarkably fast player but with a VERY inefficient left hand, which gave him a very staccato style with little sustain on the faster songs, especially the two-beat country stuff. Most of his speed comes from a precise right hand and his use of open strings, he really thought like an upright player even into the 90's. You'll notice on That's All Right Mama when he's doing those two-beat root-five country beats, an electric player would just fret both notes with different fingers but you can't do that on upright, your hand would wear out and they'd be out of tune.

Long story short, put flats on any P and play like John and you'll be ahead of just about every other bassist around. It'll come out more 73-76 but still in the ballpark. Bonus points if it has some sort of heavier bridge and onboard preamp.
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Re: Kahn's tone on Garcia Live, Vol. 1

Postby zambiland » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:01 pm

I started using a Mac 2105 for bass in 1979 and it was pretty cool, but I have to say that it wasn't the be all and end all of bass amps. That honor goes to the monster Crest amps. The 2105 runs out of headroom pretty fast unless you've got super efficient cabs. I blew up JBL 15s in a very big 2x15 cabinet left and right back in the day with the Mac and never felt like the low end was really right. These days I use a big QSC, which is less than half the weight and in mono 10 times the power, and the Mac powers my studio monitors. The Mac does have a pretty cool overdrive sound, though.

Gotta agree about Hartke. When I saw them as backline I always knew I was going to have a very bad time.

While I don't believe that all power amps sound the same, most good ones sound similar enough that it's not a big issue, not nearly what it is for guitar. That said, I'd love to play through a 3500 sometime!

Part of the appeal of the Mac from back in the day is that they were very simply built, bulletproof, conservatively and accurately spec'ed and the competition was mostly crap. I know people were fond of the DC300s, etc., but there's just no comparison of sound quality. Since the late 80s, though, there's been a lot of competition.
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