Category Archives: Other

Guitar Player Etiquette 101

It is always amazing how many people have inflated egos and have to prove to the world that they think they are better than everyone else. This exists in all aspects of life. For some reason, musicians are famous for this. However, no musician is more notorious for having huge egos than lead guitar players (well, lead singers too). This is especially apparent on the Internet message boards. When people have a computer to hide their faces, the most diabolical nature comes out of them.

I wanted to dedicate a chapter in this book teaching people how to act and behave in life. This will probably anger some people, but there are valuable lessons to be learned here. I really do think this topic is something that needs to be brought up because after a current review of the guitar community, I am sickened by it. Every time I think that it is starting to get better, I am often humbled by how nasty guitarists can be to each other.

This chapter is written as more of an editorial (all opinions and personal experience, so no hard feelings) based on generalizations that I have gathered over many years of hanging out with the “guitar-head” community. I am going to use a lot of first hand experience in this chapter to help teach what I want to get across.

I would also like to say that I am not perfect and I struggle daily to abide by what I am about to say. We are all human and everyone makes mistakes. I will be the first to admit I violated what I am about to preach in the past, especially, when I was younger. But, I try my best to abide by what I say now. So, with that being said, let us learn from each other and improve all of our attitudes!

 

The Ego

Let us face it: every single person on this planet has some sort of ego. It is a person’s self-conscience. Some people are always going to have bigger egos than others. This is a given. Ego can be a good or a bad thing. But, it is a natural human internal mechanism to look out for one’s own self-interest. Example: If you starve a pet dog, eventually, it will attack its own master to get food. No one likes to feel inferior or not as good as someone else. So, let us review the good uses and bad uses of ego.

 

The Good Ego

The positive ego is the one that compels a person to succeed and achieve great things! This is the part in you that makes you want to be competitive. This is one of the reasons why you practice guitar every day, to get good and accomplish your personal goals. This is the reason why people practice guitar really hard, buy nice cars, try to push up more weight than a friend in the gym, or try and get the highest score on a test. This is your competitive natural instinct. There is nothing wrong with it. In nature, the strongest survives. Ego can be a very good source of drive and motivation. If you learn how to properly use it, it will make you tremendously successful.

The trick to keeping good ego from going bad is not to let success go to your head and become overly confident. If you are good at something, do not brag or act arrogant. Do not put down other people and make them feel bad either. Use your talents in a positive way to help and inspire other people. You will earn a lot more respect from people if you are humble and honest instead of being arrogant.

 

The Bad Ego

This is the type of ego where people lash out at others and turn their competitive drive into a bad attitude. Let us face it, no one likes a jerk! Even a small display of bad ego can rub a person the wrong way and leave them with a bad impression of you, no matter how nice you are to them afterwards. People use this kind of ego out of jealousy, anger, and self-centeredness.

Mediocrity always tends to attack excellence. People who are lesser than you will always try to bring you down to their level. Do not fall into this trap. Don’t try to bring down others. Few things are more pathetic than disrespecting someone because they are better than you, more successful than you, or have something that you want. Do not ever let your bad ego control you. The last thing we need in this world is another rude, arrogant, and manipulative person.

 

Confident vs. Cocky

There is a fine line between being confident and being cocky. You should be confident of yourself, your abilities, and who you are. Having high self-esteem is a great thing! However, sometimes people who display bad ego get jealous easily and portray confidence as cockiness. Confidence can also intimidate people who are unsure of themselves. You shouldn’t prejudge people. At the same token, a person shouldn’t be overly confident to the point where bad ego comes out of them. Make sure you pay close attention to this and you are always self-conscious of what impression you are making on others.

 

Controlling the ego

In reality, everyone has both kinds of ego. It is natural. Human beings are not perfect. Some people are naturally good at everything they do. Success can really send your ego through the roof. This is especially true if someone was always picked on, left out, or neglected as a child by their peers. You should not make it a personal vendetta against the rest of the world if this is you. It will not solve your problems but will only make them worse. We all have our own obstacles that we must overcome in life. Blaming others for your problems and dwelling on your problems will only attract more problems into your life.

With control, ego is a problem that can be minimized. The first step to control is realizing that your skill as a guitarist will always be topped by someone else somewhere. No matter how good you think you are at guitar, there are thousands of guitarists out there who you have never heard, which would make you want to quit if you heard them.

The key to control is to be always modest and polite! Use your talents to inspire and create, not attack others. It is not hard to do! For example, if someone compliments you, do not take it to your head and be a jerk. Instead, say “thank you” and deep inside respect the fact that that person is giving you their time! There are too many guitarists who do not do this, when they should! If people acted more like Neil Zaza and John Petrucci (both amazing guitarists and class acts), guitar players would be considered the nicest people on earth!

Another important thing to realize is that having a major ego is extremely detrimental to your progress as a guitarist. If you get off stage and your fans come to meet you, you had better be nice to them. If you blow them off or display attitude towards others, they will tell many other people that you are a total jerk. Word of mouth can be very helpful as well as very dangerous. This is why it is so important to respect other people and learn what you can from everyone!

 

Walk vs. Talk

If there is one thing that drives me absolutely crazy, it is when people criticize everything and everyone, yet can do no better themselves! I have met a lot of guitarists who do nothing else but criticize everything and talk themselves up. Yet, none of them ever released any material or have anything to show for themselves!

Often guitarists say things like “oh you just wait; my CD is going to be so awesome.” Excuse me!? Your CD is “going to be” so awesome? I will believe it when I see it! These people drive me nuts talking because they can never walk to back up there talk.

I find it hilarious when I see a guitarist ripping apart a really good player’s playing like they suck. I think to myself, “Wow, if this guy is such an amazing guitarist, how come he is not respected as a great guitarist and no one has ever heard of him?” It just baffles me. Actions speak much louder than words, and like I stated earlier, mediocrity always attacks excellence.

It comes down to this: do not criticize other’s music unless it is constructive criticism! If you do not like it, then do not listen. It is that simple. There are a million other bands out there for anyone to listen to. If you do not like someone’s music, let them be. If you enjoy a particular genre like jazz, metal, emo, or whatever, then do not criticize guitarists in these genres only because they don’t specialize in the one you like. There is no such thing as better. It is all perspective, and it is completely pointless to even debate or waste time thinking about it. Spend that time doing something productive like practicing.

 

Hate eMAIL

Ever since e-mail was invented, people realized that they could directly criticize everyone and anything they do not like without having to be held accountable for their own words. I laugh at these people because they are such egotistical and such insecure people that for some reason they take their aggression out on others.

I am guessing that the reason why people take the time out of there day to tell someone that their playing “sucks” is as simple as this: an over inflated ego combined with nothing to show for themselves makes them mad at the world. It is an obvious inferiority complex.
Jealousy is a terrible emotion that destroys everything in its path! Do not let yourself get jealous by another guitarist’s playing! It is easier to respect a player and learn from them than it is to deal with hating them because you wish you were as good.

If you hear someone who is much more talented than yourself, don’t go off saying that they suck to everyone on earth. It is better to approach that person and show respect. How would you feel if a whole bunch of people constantly told you that you suck? You should learn from these people instead. I bet that you would be surprised how nice some people really are when you get to know them! You also never know what you can learn from someone, or they could be a future contact that can help your own musical career. Don’t burn bridges, build them!

 

Online Message Board Usage

I dislike going to guitar forums and websites like Youtube.com for one reason, a lot of people are just downright ignorant! There are so many public guitar forums out there that are nothing but a bunch of ego maniacs in a competition. At least, that is what it sounds like if you ever read some of these message boards or comments. I have seen every great guitar player I can think of bashed at one point. All I can say is why and what for? What does it accomplish? People get out of hand with this when in reality none of them could do any better than the person they criticize. This goes back to walking versus talking. People need not to take things so close to heart in public forums. Bashing great guitarists accomplishes nothing and just makes you look like a fool.

You should use forums to ask questions, network, and meet people, and not to cause trouble and be a jerk! Is that too much to ask from the guitar head community? Guitar is not a competition. It is a form of musical expression! Guitar is not a race. There is no prize for getting good faster than someone else. These places exist for people to share knowledge and their passion for music, not to degrade others.

 

Some Final Thoughts

If everyone would lighten up and stop criticizing each other, maybe guitar players could ditch the bad reputation. Behave people! We are all in this together! Why do we squabble over table scraps? If we work together and support each other, we could all accomplish great things. Go now, heed my words and try and be a better person (or continue to go around and be a jerk if you are one, because what goes around comes around!). Do not bring others down, help raise them up. Anyone can be a loser and be negative, but it is something much more worthwhile to set a good example for others.

Breaking Out of Ruts

Playing ruts can be very frustrating! You can go weeks and months without feeling like you have progressed. This can lead to discouragement and kill your enthusiasm for playing the guitar. The goal of this article is to help you break playing ruts fast and efficiently so that you can continue progressing on the guitar.

There are many types of playing ruts. Here are some common problems and solutions for them:

  • ​I can play a lot of songs, but not much else
  • My technical skill/speed is not increasing no matter how much I practice
  • I keep playing the same licks when I improvise
  • I can’t write any good songs/solos anymore and I feel creatively tapped out

 

I can play a lot of songs, but not much else

A very common playing rut that a lot of guitarists experience is that they can play any song they like, but they are not getting any better technically or musically on the guitar. They want to expand in their playing but don’t know how or where to start. This is a very common problem for beginners especially. Most people who play guitar just want to learn their favorite songs for their own enjoyment. Taking that next step can be intimidating!

The answer to breaking this rut is simple. It is time for you to sit down and spend the time to learn some serious guitar technique, theory, and all of that good stuff. Before you as a player can move on to the next level of playing, you must first ask yourself how serious you want to be.

If you aren’t willing to spend the tedious time it takes to learn advanced techniques, you won’t progress far past where you currently are. I ran into this problem when I was a sophomore in high school. I could play a lot of songs, but that’s all I could do.

As soon as I went out and got some guitar lessons and started to work on technique, things changed pretty quickly. Over the next few months, my playing exploded to levels I couldn’t have ever imagined. The only true way to break a rut like this is to get serious! You can learn all the four chord songs in the world, but you will eventually have to really learn how to play the instrument.

 

My technical skill/speed is not increasing no matter how much I practice

This is the most difficult and annoying type of rut to break. It happens to all of us many times in our careers. You can practice until your fingers bleed everyday and not make any progress. It sucks! Breaking out of this kind of rut is really hard and not fun. There are two ways to break a rut like this.

First off, you need to challenge yourself with something new! Stop doing the same exercises over and over again. If you keep playing the same stuff, you will get bored of it. Maybe you should take the time to learn some different styles of music. You could try to learn a few walking bass lines or some funk vamps. Be open to new ideas. Did you ever realize that you can learn something from everyone? No matter how much more skilled you are than them or vice verse. If you take the time to be creative and try out different things, you will break the rut.

Another great way to break a technical rut is to learn a new technique. Maybe you are the fastest picker and your sweeping is flawless, but did you ever think that maybe you legato and taping are not that great? Or maybe you are a beastly legato player and your sweeping is great, but you can’t alternate pick to save your life.

That’s how I used to be. As soon as I finally sat down for a month and tackled alternate picking, I finally got it. As soon as you take the time to rigorously learn a technique that gives you a lot of problems, you will break the rut. It is paramount to constantly be challenging your fingers to play difficult things. It is that struggle that will bring the results.

In the rare case that you are just some sort of technical god and can own anything conceivable on guitar and there is nothing left to conquer technically, maybe you need to work on something like song writing or phrasing? Maybe your style or vibrato is not very good? The point is that there is always something new to challenge yourself with. The more you challenge yourself, the faster you will break a technical rut!

 

I keep playing the same licks when I improvise

Stylistic ruts can also be very frustrating. Having a style can definitely be an asset. Many of the greatest virtuosos are masters of only one style. Having an identifiable style is what separates one guitarist from the next. However, if you feel like you need to expand your style, there are several things you can do.

First of you need to spend a lot of time practicing your improvisation. I recommend using jam tracks of various styles. Try to force yourself to be creative through limitation. By constraining yourself, for example, to only playing a solo with 2 notes can really help you spur your rhythmic creativity. Force yourself to only use one scale, or play at a consistent note value like straight 16th notes.

Try doing a whole solo with only slides on one string. The more ridiculous the constraint that you place on yourself, the more wild and creative ideas you will probably come up with.

Another great way to break this kind of rut is to listen to music totally different than you normally would. For example, if you are a metal guy, you could probably learn a thing or two about melody writing from listening to pop music. Maybe you want to try some cool chords in your solos, so then listen to some funk of jazz. The point is that by listening to music that you may not really like or that maybe weird in your opinion, you may find that you come up with some cool licks.

Finally, you can also learn guitar solos off of records and try to borrow a few licks from other players. Learn a few cool licks and then try to make some of your own variations. Turn on a jam track and then try them out. See what is cool. You never know until you try it!

 

I can’t write any good songs/solos anymore and I feel creatively tapped out

Creative ruts are also very difficult. These are of particular annoyance when you make part of your living by writing music and you have deadlines to fulfill. In my personal experience, nothing beats this faster than getting yourself excited. You have to find something that motivates you, whether it is something like fear, time pressure, a big payday, or getting a chance to live a dream.

There are many things that can motivate. You need to get inside your own head and find something that excites you! This can be hard to do, but if you can get yourself psyched up, you will probably find, like I have, that creativity can really flow from within pretty quickly!

Another idea you can try if you are creatively tapped out is to listen to lots of different music. Like I stated in the previous example, by listening to something out of your box, you can often find unique influences that will inspire creativity in you. On the opposite side of this is to go completely without listening to music or playing guitar for a while. Give yourself time to refresh and renew!

 

Conclusion

Playing ruts maybe difficult, but the good thing is that they are all temporary. Even more exciting is that the ability to break them is entirely within your head. Hopefully this column has given you some ideas or inspiration. I wish you the best of luck breaking them in the future!

 

Guitar Amps

Well, at some point you’ll want to learn about your amp and you’ll have plenty of questions. So lets take a look at amps from a technical point of view.

Usually you’ll have two major divisions – Tube/Valve or Solid State.

The first type uses vacuum tubes/valves to house the old style transistors. The real up side of Class A/B operation is its inherent efficiency. The simple fact that each tube has a res Tube amps were later replaced by Solid-state transistors, and the need for tubes were gone. tube amps still exist, and are made day in and day out. The difference in how the amps work is pretty much a function of application. Both will provide ample distortion, and can sound remarkably similar.

Tube amps generally have a warmer sound and a more punchy attack than solid-state amps and pickup the players personal style a little better than solid-state ones because the vacuum pressure directly effects how well a tube will perform, thus the harder you push your amp with your playing style, the more dynamic it’ll sound, where as a solid state amp won’t pick up as much of that same articulation.

Most amps, be they combo or head style will have two or 3 channels, an fx loop, a gain control, a 3 band parametric EQ and reverb. Most of them will come with a foot switch but not always.

As for the specifics on how amps work and such – the information below was found on the official VHT amplification site.

 

What’s the difference between tube and solid state rectifiers?

The rectifier circuit in an amplifier converts the Alternating Current (AC) from the wall outlet to Direct Current (DC) required for operating the various circuits inside the amp. Originally, this conversion or “rectification” was accomplished using a vacuum tube rectifier, also known as a dual diode. Later with the advent of solid state technology, the rectification process was accomplished much more efficiently and less costly with silicon diodes.

Besides the cost, one of the primary advantages of the silicon diode is its low voltage drop. Because of this characteristic, the solid state rectifier supply responds much more quickly to the increased current demand created when the amplifier is driven to full output. This gives the amplifier a tight , crisp and dynamic response. The tube rectifier exhibits a much higher internal voltage drop, which in turn causes the power supply voltage to sag when the amplifier is driven hard. We experience this sag as a natural sounding compression, which seems to give the amp a breathing, bouncy quality. In addition the tone will appear to sound softer or more rounded with increased sustain.

Today we find that both the tube and solid state rectifiers have a valid application in helping to enhance the personality of a given amplifier design.

 

What’s the difference between Class A and Class A/B operation?

There are from a technical standpoint, many things that distinguish Class A operation from Class A/B. For our purposes we’ll be discussing only those characteristics which pertain to guitar amps in general and VHT amps in particular.

Generally speaking, the power tubes in a Class A amp are operating at pretty close to full power whether or not a signal is being amplified. As long as the tubes are being operated at reasonable voltage and bias range we’re OK. The beauty of this type of operation is that there is no significant difference between the tubes work interval and its rest interval. The distortion products created by this method of operation are very musical sounding and the overall tone has a pure quality.

When combined with the right output transformer, the harmonic blend created by the tube distortion characteristic and transformer saturation ( that is to say, just past the point of maximum linear operation), is rich, full and fat sounding. It sounds pretty much like an amp turned up loud even when it isn’t because it’s operating nearly full out in a sense.

In class A/B operation the tubes are getting a big break. When no signal is present the tube is essentially at rest. When you begin to play, there occurs a transition from “off” state to “on” state between the push-pull pairs of tubes. This transition, known as the crossover region, produces a noticeably different type of behavior typically referred to as crossover distortion. Crossover distortion contributes a harshness to the sound which can give the amp an aggressive personality. This can be interpreted as a good thing depending on what you are trying to accomplish musically.

The real up side of Class A/B operation is its inherent efficiency. The simple fact that each tube has a rest interval in its duty cycle allows the tube to operate at higher output during its work interval or “on” state. Thus, a power amp operating in Class A/B will typically produce about 30% more power than a comparable Class A amp. Since the typical output transformer in a Class A/B amp will not be required to operate at high continuous current, it will spend less time in saturation mode. This contributes to the clarity and detail of the power amp sound. An additional advantage of Class A/B is that because they tend to run cooler, tube life can be extended somewhat. For strictly comparative purposes however, the essence of the debate is sound quality.

We are attracted to the Class A sound because of its warmth, sonic complexity and rich harmonic content. The Class A/B sound is more articulate, dynamic and gives us the sensation of immediacy.

 

What’s the difference between Series and Parallel effects processing?

The effects loop design in all current VHT Heads and Combos, allow either Series or Parallel operation. In the Series mode 100% of the signal from the preamp section of the amp is routed through the send jack to be modified through the effects device. The modified signal is then returned to the effects return jack and sent to the power amp section for final amplification. Effects such as equalizers, compressors and multi-effects processors with fixed or programmable mix controls are typically operated in Series mode.

In Parallel mode only a portion of the preamp signal is routed to the effects send jack for processing. In this case the original signal path inside the amp is protected from the sometimes undesirable side effects of external devices such as signal loss, impedance mis-matching, coloration of the sound and distortion. Effects such as reverbs, delays, and pitch shifting devices which can be set for 100% “wet” output are typically operated in Parallel mode. The processed signal is returned to the amp to be blended with the internal dry signal and then sent to the power amp section for final amplification.

 

What is Gain Stacking?

Gain Stacking is a new feature on our high gain preamp channels that allows you to pre-select the number of gain stages utilized in a selected channel to achieve the desired amount and type of gain you are looking for. You may set up a crunch sound with 3 stages of gain and a solo sound with 4 stages. Or vice versa. Or you may want 2 high gain lead sounds or 2 medium gain rhythm modes with slightly different tonal balance or volume. This can all be accomplished easily and quickly with Gain Stacking.

The Gain Stacking circuit utilizes a “flying” 4th stage that can be assigned wherever it is needed without the waste of unused or over-compensated tube stages in the preamp section of the amp. This is one of the reasons the Pit Bull preamp design produces as much or more gain than other designs with a lot less noise, hum and microphonics.

 

What are the advantages of printed circuit technology over point to point wiring?

For the record, all VHT amplifiers are primarily hand built PCB assemblies. No automated board stuffing or flow solder processes are used. Honestly, if we felt that the sound quality or execution of our products would be improved by the exclusive use of point to point assembly, we’d be doing it. On the other hand, hard wired assemblies are utilized wherever it is determined that sound quality, reliability and consumer safety is best achieved.

AC mains, main power supply, board to board interface, long, high impedance audio signals and rectifier tube sockets are areas where hand wiring is clearly the superior method. All other components such as resistors, capacitors, pots, switches, tube sockets (that’s right…Tube sockets…pre and power) and various other items are properly and confidently PCB mounted.

We use top quality double-sided glass epoxy boards with heavy copper plating and plated through holes for maximum reliability and signal integrity. Boards are mounted on heavy-duty tubular aluminum supports attached to the chassis with machine screws. You won’t find any floating preamp boards or pop rivets here. Small tube sockets have large diameter solder pads and a center support pin, also soldered to a large plated through pad.

Large tube sockets are attached to the board with heavy tubular aluminum supports and chassis mounted with machine screws to form a solid and bulletproof board to chassis assembly. We know of no other amplifier manufacturer that uses this rugged and costly method of construction. In fact, most other PCB mounted preamp tube sockets we’ve seen don’t even have a center support pin!

There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation surrounding the debate over printed circuit board versus point to point assembly. The problem we see is that many times information gets taken out of context, leading to the creation of fresh manure.

We will discuss the issues as they relate specifically to the manufacture of our products. Sure, we’re probably going to hit a nerve or two somewhere along the way, “but” as Stuart Smalley reminds us, “that’s…sigh, OK”.

Since we’re all pretty much in agreement about the origin of point to point wiring and PCB’s, we’ll skip the history lesson and get right to the pros and cons.

 

Sound Quality

Contrary to what you may have heard, great tone is not the exclusive domain of point to point wired amps. Even the use of top quality components and meticulous assembly methods do not guarantee good tone.

There are plenty of examples of great and lousy sounding products in both point to point and PCB categories.

There are well built, mediocre sounding amps and sloppily thrown together, great sounding amps. In fact, undesirable sonic characteristics frequently attributed to circuit boards are much more likely to occur in point to point wired amps. Stray capacitance, phase cancellation, signal degradation, and cross talk between stages are common problems in point to point designs. Most of these conditions are easily minimized or eliminated in a well executed PCB design.

One interesting and often overlooked side benefit of PCB design is the ability to precisely control the way the board will “sound” by experimenting with placement of sensitive components. We frequently use this technique of “tuning the board” to tweak various parameters of a circuit which might normally be accomplished with the relatively “brute force” use of added capacitance or tone robbing bundled wire harnesses.

 

Consistency

One of the most attractive benefits of PCB construction is the inherent consistency of the process. Once the design is complete, it can be easily reproduced with a very high degree of accuracy. In our particular case, the object is to produce an amplifier that meets a set of predefined sonic and functional criteria. These criteria are built into the board design and are not subject to the wide variations in tolerances normally found in the point to point assembly process.

In the late fifties, state of the art point to point construction ( i.e. military and recording/broadcast electronics) incorporated “turret boards” that supported most of the small components on Nickel/Silver plated posts staked into thick Fiber or Glass/Epoxy strips. The bulky components (pots, jacks, switches, filter caps, meters and transformers) were chassis mounted and meticulously hand wired to these boards. Some of today’s more popular (and more expensive) point to point amps utilize low cost phenolic “terminal strips” with thin Tin plated lugs instead of the much more rugged turret boards (and while we’re at it…get real with those filter caps bundled together with electrical tape!!!).

The terminal strip method usually requires much more extensive use of wire, solder and wiring harnesses, resulting in a circuit layout that is subject to wide variations in circuit behavior. Two identical amplifiers built this way are very likely to, and often do sound completely different!

 

Reliability and Serviceability

Needless to say, there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. We could be a little bit more generous and say that there are an infinite number of interpretations of the term “cost effective”. I have to admit that there are legitimate reasons for peoples seemingly genetic aversion to printed circuit boards. Every time I look into the guts of a PCB amp that falls into the “cheaper to replace than repair” category, I think “here’s another one I’m going to have to defend myself against”.

It’s a fact however, that circuit boards dominate the electronics industry. Therefore it is important to remember that for every department store consumer electronics product that’s on sale this week, there’s an Internet connection bouncing off of a satellite orbiting our fair planet that will probably operate flawlessly far into the next century…utilizing printed circuit boards.

How do we account for this large technology gap? Simply stated, printed circuit boards pretty much do exactly what the designer intended for them to do. Nothing more, nothing less. If top notch performance and long term reliability are the design objectives, then the end product will perform and last provided that it is correctly engineered.

In this context then, it is logical to conclude that a well designed, high quality PCB based amplifier is more than likely to perform as well or better and last easily as long or longer than a point to point wired amp.

 

Cost

All things considered, we feel that the point to point method of amplifier construction is unnecessarily time consuming and excessively costly. When you pay a premium price for a quality point to point amplifier, it is pretty much understood and taken for granted that you’re not necessarily paying for performance and flexibility.

A fat price tag on a boutique amplifier frequently indicates nothing more than what the builder thinks the market will bear. On the other hand, if you understand that you are literally paying homage to the idea of Old World Craftsmanship and appreciate the time and effort that goes into a nicely made piece of modern nostalgia, then you are probably making a justifiable purchase.

A well designed, PCB based amplifier sacrifices nothing to sound quality, construction quality or long term reliability and value merely as an automatic consequence of the use of printed circuit boards. The labor saving aspect of PCB amplifier construction makes it possible to offer a wide variety of features and functions which translate to a higher “Bang for the Buck” ratio. It is important to understand this important distinction before plunking down your hard earned plastic.

 

What is slaving?

This is a method for using amp heads or combos as a signal source in amp/power amp systems or multiple amp systems. The term simply refers to the practice of using one amp (typically a head or combo) as the “Master” amp or primary tone source, and another (typically a power amp) as the “Slave” amp which does the work of driving the speakers. Slaving allows you to generate just the right blend of preamp and power amp distortion in your Master amp.

The resulting output is then attenuated down to a practical signal or line level which can then be routed to a switching system, mixer, effects processor, stereo power amp, recording console or any combination of the above. These kinds of applications are especially useful in live situations where it is desirable to reproduce a variety of different amplifier and distortion characteristics that may have been originally produced in a studio environment with multiple amps and speakers.

It usually involves running the Master amplifier “full out” into an enclosed speaker or “Dummy Load” such as a high power resistor or power attenuator. A low level signal is then taken from the Master amp output using the “line output”, an external signal attenuator (pad), or some type of speaker emulation device, which is then sent to an effects system, power amp and then to a pair of speaker cabinets.

This is not generally considered to be the most practical of systems, but when done right, it’s pretty hard to beat. Anyway, who cares about practical when your main objective is ultimate sonic satisfaction?

 

When should I have my amp biased?

Generally we recommend having the amp biased whenever the power tubes are being replaced. Even if you stay with a particular brand or type, the transconductance of tubes vary even within similarly matched sets. Biasing at replacement time is the best insurance for consistency and reliability.

 

What’s the difference between KT88, 6550, EL34, 6L6, EL84 tube types?

In order to keep the subject matter concise and relevant to VHT amplifier models, we’ll break these tube types down into 3 basic categories:

High power output: KT88, KT90, 6550

Although not widely used in the guitar amp industry, we find them to be ideally suited to players who want power punch and articulation. They are used in a variety of configurations, mostly in pairs and quartets and in some cases, sextets.

They are capable of delivering 100 watts per pair and this is the typical application in which they are applied at VHT in the Two/Ninety/Two and Twenty One Fifty power amps. Quartets of 6550’s are used in the Pittbull Ultra-Lead and are more conservatively operated at about 60 watts per pair. Because of the high output capability and efficiency of these tubes, amplifiers that use them exhibit a wide dynamic range, lots of low end power, crisp attack and to quote Guitar Player Magazine “miles of headroom”.

 

Medium power output: EL34, 6L6

These are the standard bearers of the majority of the tube guitar amp industry for the last 30 years or so. Typical output for a pair is 50 watts. We use EL34’s in the Twenty One Hundred power amp, Two/Fifty/Two power amp, Hundred CLX head, Hundred/CL head, Fifty/CL head, Fifty/ST head and Fifty/Twelve combo. EL34’s are harmonically rich sounding tubes with a strong upper midrange which complements guitar voicing very nicely. When driven hard they exhibit a smooth transition into distortion while maintaining clarity and good tone quality.

All VHT amps that use EL34’s can be switched over to 6L6 operation. 6L6’s generally sound a little cleaner than EL34’s and tend to have a bit more beef in the low end as well as more bite on the top. Some players prefer the extra clarity and punch of these tubes. Others just like them because they are used to the 6L6 sound. We will ship any of the above models with 6L6’s installed by special request.

However, we prefer the sound of EL34’s in our amps and these are what the above models are shipped with as standard equipment.

 

Low power output: EL84

This great sounding and economical tube, has had quite resurgence in popularity in recent years due to its increased availability. Typically used in quartets and run in Class A mode, they are good for about 30 watts or 40 to 45 watts in Class A/B. They basically sound like a small screaming EL34 with a rich fat midrange voice and great distortion tone. We use this tube in the Pit Bull Forty-Five series heads and combos.

 

Do you plan to make a simple plug & play type amp?

For months I have been pondering the debate over whether or not to develop a simple straight ahead amp model that is stripped of the bells and whistles normally found on VHT amplifiers. After recently exploring the concept, I believe we have been on the right track all along. I have owned feature laden guitars and I discovered that all of the knobs and switches that you can throw on it won’t enhance the essence of the instrument one iota.

There are those who feel the same way about amplifiers. I’m not one of them. I believe that an amplifier is an integral part of the instrument. An amplifier extends and fleshes out the boundaries of the instruments capability. A well conceived amplifier accomplishes this task in a variety of ways that are constantly subject to experimentation and new settings possibilities.

Is it possible to go overboard with this idea? Like anything, there is always a point of diminishing returns. The trick is to keep a firm grip on the object. The object being “Make the dog gone thing scream!”

Given that amount of information you should have a good background from which to make decisions on your future amp needs and purchases.