Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #55714  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Thu Jan 29, 2009 4:23 pm
Very cool stuff on the chronology and use of McIntoshes. MC275's huh? Thanks for that info for sure.

Agreed on his mastery of pick control. I swear that's a HUGE factor, just huge. It's quite hard to play super clean without having incredible control over the pick dynamics. This was sort of like manual compression in a way.

Sort of off-topic and speaking of Jerry's amazing picking; I'm sure a bunch of you are hip to the show, but I've really been re-digging the "Love in the Afternoon" from 6-16-82, Music Mtn. NY. Holy crap, he's doing things in that song that could convert any guitar snob. I consider this show to be a great example of Jerry's picking at its finest. And tone to boot.

 #55720  by Pete B.
 Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:01 pm
Hi Brad,
Welcome aboard!
Hey, have you tried your pre-amps through the GD Walker Stero Steel power amp?
Just curious.
I don't have alot of power amps to test (never used PA power amps for guitar or steel), but have been running my Alembic F2B into the AUX In's (1/4" jacks on the one I have) on my Stereo Steel amp with good results (in mono or stereo).
Just curious if you have used one to power any of your pre-amps, or have any Jerry-biased opinions on that flavor of SS power amp for Jerry tone.
Looking forward to test-firing your new Jerry rig!
Pete B.

Hey that 6-16-82 JGB gig is available on SugarMegs for all that want to check it out.
 #55721  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:27 pm
Hey there Pete!

I've heard that people have tried using my steel pre's thru the Walker power amp and enjoyed it. But personally, I really like the Walker preamp section too, at least for steel. It's kind of cloned after the vintage Peavey Session 400 preamp section which is done solely with discrete transistors and mostly passive EQ networks. But being all transistor, I kind of like to throw a Black Box in front of the Walker, and to me that's the best setup with that rig. It retains all the coolness of the Walker's voicing and discrete circuitry, yet pre-conditions the signal with two tube stages before it ever hits the thing. But to answer your question, the Walker power section proves to be really nice sounding. I've heard Doug Jernigan use a Walker and get one of the best transistor rig tones I've heard. Overall, to me the Walker is best used as a whole unit, and to just use it for power seems a bit wasteful since there are other really cool power amp options too.

It's weird, there are a good number of SS power amps that work great for steel as long as the preamp is good. But for 6-string guitar going for the Jerry thing, I find that power amps are far less forgiving. With steel we control many of our transients and pick attacks with our volume pedals, but guitar has some major peaks and spikes. If you look real close at the waveform of a typical pick attack, the initial spike is orders of magnitude higher in voltage than the bulk of the note. When these spikes get loud and push an amp's power near its limits, things can get real harsh real fast. With a cleanly run preamp, those spikes are intact at the power amp. That's where MOSFET's or Tubes or also peak limiters can help. Again, I really feel so strongly that Jerry was a freak of nature when it came to having masterful control over the picking and releasing of a string that he could make a rig sound great that in the hands of others could be brutal. Wasn't it Steve Kimock that said he had a chance to try Jerry's rig and said he sounded horrible thru it?

So back to the Walker power amp, I've honestly not had enough time playing with one, especially with guitar, to know how it would handle peak transients. That would be the real test. It's worth a shot.

 #55812  by NashvilleMike
 Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:08 am
You techie guys are crazy! I just read the Grateful Dead Gear book cover to cover and loved it but when you guys start with the NASA talk I just glaze over. Does it really have to be so complex or is it a fun hobby to read schematic sheets?
 #55813  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:27 am
Sad but true,

My wife often busts me for late night surfing on the net for audio circuit schematics. Audio circuits in particular are definitely not rocket science. There's a natural flow to them. To me, looking at an audio circuit is sort of a musical thing. It's the road map of the audio flow, and shows ways of changing and enhancing the sound. It's like a language. If you don't know the language, then it's just a bunch of symbols and lines. But if you do know the language, then it tells a story. Geeky yes, but ultimately it's all for making music. It's part of the instrument.

Definitely a fun hobby!

 #55816  by Pete B.
 Sat Jan 31, 2009 10:00 am
SarnoMusicSolutions wrote: Overall, to me the Walker is best used as a whole unit...
Oh Yeah Man.
I fire the Steel through your SGBB into the Walker Pre, and run the guitar through the F2B and into the Stereo AUX In's.
Double duty baby!

Is it safe to say we are hearing JBL-E120 tone on that '82 Live In The Afternoon?
Jer is playing VERY fluently over this progression. Clean, full, rich, tone.
 #55826  by tigerstrat
 Sat Jan 31, 2009 1:31 pm
Pete B. wrote:Is it safe to say we are hearing JBL-E120 tone on that '82 Live In The Afternoon?
Jer is playing VERY fluently over this progression. Clean, full, rich, tone.
Best LoveP.M. EVER!! 14 min of bliss. 6/16/82 was an afternoon outdoor show, too:
(there's the 4x12 again... and Billy the Rockin K! :x )
 #55833  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Sat Jan 31, 2009 3:34 pm
Killer photo.

Who's gear is that behind them? I assume JGB was opening for someone...

I don't know when Jerry made the move to E120's from K120's. Anyone??? I figured in the '80s at some point.

 #55834  by tigerstrat
 Sat Jan 31, 2009 4:01 pm
SarnoMusicSolutions wrote:Killer photo.

Who's gear is that behind them? I assume JGB was opening for someone...

I don't know when Jerry made the move to E120's from K120's. Anyone??? I figured in the '80s at some point.

Early 80's... Steve might remember that detail as he changed so many :smile:

That's Bobby & The Midnights gear- he and JG took turns opening the tour.
 #56447  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Wed Feb 11, 2009 11:42 am

Still on schedule for a mid-March release of the new "SMS Classic Tube Preamp". Please contact us with any questions regarding mods and specifics relating to component selection. We can offer either NOS Allen Bradley carbon-comp or high voltage Dale metal film (JG style) plate resistors. Also we are offering a choice of a ceramic disk, silver mica, or polystyrene treble cap for the tone stack.

Our website does not yet reflect the new product, so simply post here or email me personally:

I'm in the midst of my cost analysis, so I should have my introductory price very soon. Keep in mind that just because this preamp will sell for far less than $1000, this does not indicate that it is at all inferior. We deal direct only, and have a very low overhead with no employees. My wife and I hand build each unit at our home "factory". We use high grade components across the board. The metal, pcb, resistor, capacitor, power supply, and mechanical build quality is absolutely studio pro grade.

 #56567  by Pete B.
 Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:41 am
SarnoMusicSolutions wrote: Also, in the Twin, there is a section in the circuit that adds a bit of sparkle where the reverb mixes together with the dry signal right before the 3rd tube stage.
Hi Brad,
Concerning the third tube stage ala the Reverb Channel on a Twin Reverb (which does not exist on an Alembic F2B), would your SGBB ran before or after an F2B preamp approximate the same thing?... or is there some other aspects of the circuit that are unique that reverb-return "sparkle" stage?
pete b.
 #56570  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:58 am

with the Black Box you'll gain that extra liveliness factor since you're adding two more tube stages, but that won't really emulate this particular sparkle.

In the reverb amp circuits there is a little cap/resistor/pad network that passes some extra highs thru adding a sparkle. I think that in the original amp designs, that cap was there to help compensate for any loss of highs thru that stage, the the real world result is that there's this real top end sparkle or presence that gets added and it kind of juices up the tone a bit. It's not drastic, but it definitely adds that special character in that tone we all know.

 #56966  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:09 am
UPDATE 2/21/09:

The circuit boards are in. I've got one up and running and tested, and all looks go for a March release. The chassis should be here next week. As long as the metal work comes in right, we'll have these very soon. Thanks for all the interest.

 #57012  by gratefulnuge
 Sun Feb 22, 2009 6:24 pm
Hey Brad ... welcome! I'm totalllllly sold on the classic...sign me up! As far as caps and stuff, I'd like to talk a little more in depth with you about all of that - as I'm not super familiar with all of it ... maybe you can just let me know your preference! Hope to hear from you soon man ... - Zach
 #57029  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:00 am

I'm kind of a capacitor nut, have been for years from upgrading audiophile and studio and guitar gear. I go thru phases where I prefer a certain sound, and then gravitate to another. Super clean tube preamps have been my specialty as I've been making them for pedal steelers, and in that super-clean, high-voltage environment, cap's really reveal their character quite a bit. Some basics are that true film & foil cap's have a distinctly 3D character to them. Foil just seems to do that more than metallized film for some reason. Tin foil sounds warmer and meatier than aluminum foil, yet still with all the top end detail and refinement. Polypropylene film is more "hi-fi" than mylar (polyester). Mylar has a "juicy" or sweet color to it generally.

All cap's break in, especially the ones with high voltage on them. Also the cap's with higher voltage on them reveal their character more.

Real small value cap's are gonna be either ceramic, silver-mica, or polystyrene. Ceramic has a hard "glare" and graininess to it which is sometimes good, often bad. Silver mica is just super clean and fast. Some say it sounds too hi-fi. In a clean preamp I tend to much prefer it over ceramic. It's less fatiguing. Polystyrene is perhaps the silkiest and highest performance cap in this bunch. I really dig them as Fender "treble" cap's for that 250pf position.

All this said, I tend to gravitate toward a combination of cap's in the overall signal path with out letting one particular flavor dominate too much. Early in the signal paths I lean toward film & foil cap's. Further down the pike I like what metallized mylar does. In the tone stack I've been into using the 225p series Orange Drops. These are the same cap as the vintage Fender "blue molded" types, still made by Sprague in the US. These are a mylar film and foil cap, and they are sweeter and less harsh than the more common 716p or 715p series orange drop. I like the Mallory 150 mylars for outputs. I'm sure some of these opinions will change over time, just as us guitar players go from pedal to pedal now and then.

For the new SMS Classic pre, I'll be open to custom cap selections. I know some guys will want an all paper-in-oil cap signal path. It is expensive, but man that also is a glorious sound once they cap's have broken in for 100+ hours. Some guys may want all Zoso's, or all Jupiters, etc. I can go with the cap's from the famous Babb's amp photos which many believe was set up for Jerry's use. That's a combo of blue moldeds, some orange drops, a ceramic treble cap, a mica HF boost cap, etc. Overall these cap choices are not huge factors, but for any of us with ears, the more we hone in on something, the more these little factors actually become quite noticeable. To me I tend to notice the depth or complexity of a 2-note harmony or a 3-note chord. Different cap's will enhance certain aspects of the harmonic spectrum there. Then, of course, the very high end treble, how spikey, how silky, how round, how glassy, how gritty, how juicy, etc. The top end is really a critical zone when playing clean. It can hurt or it can heal. And for each player, the top end reaction in the preamp has a lot to do with pick and picking style, as well as the amp and speakers that follow.

To me, none of the commercially available tube preamps have these finer details nailed, nor really give a crap about them. Most preamp designers are going for dirt, and the clean channels are just run of the mill in their approach. And I don't think any of them are as obsessed with Jerry as we are over here. So hopefully this new preamp is gonna be a real useful tone tool for a bunch of us, me included.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 10