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Author Topic: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?  (Read 10077 times)

Michael Lascuola

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Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« on: April 24, 2015, 05:51:11 pm »

I run sound most weekends for a good-sounding band, but one of their guitar players uses a very small Fender amp, and even with an EV RE-20, it often sounds very thin.  I have asked him to use less overdrive (his 'clean' sound is fine), but with limited success.

He uses just a few stomp boxes, so I am thinking if I have the option to use a Hi-Z direct box right at the amp input, I should have more to work with.

Thanks for your input!

Here's an example - the solo starts about 2:30
http://www.woodlawnsound.com/FTP/20150417_UseMeUp.mp3
« Last Edit: April 24, 2015, 05:53:13 pm by Michael Lascuola »
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Stephen Kirby

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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2015, 06:29:26 pm »

At the very least you would need to use a speaker emulator.  Something like a RedBox.  Guitar amps roll off around 5k so anything direct will sound nasty and fizzy.  Especially if your issue is too much gain on the distorted sound.  Trying to take a clean signal and "re-amping" with some other gadgets will mess up the player when he hears that sound from the mains.

You may be able to convince him to run a separate amp that is set less gainy that you can mic up.  But many players rely on the gain to smooth out their playing.  The sound of that cleaner rig may not serve the music very well.

You can get a perfectly fine sound out of a Blues Jr. (Jeff Beck uses them on stage all the time with the Marshalls just for show) or whatever he's using.  One fatten up trick I've done is to angle a 57 across the dust cap at the opposite side of the cone.  Basically parallel to the nearside of the cone.  This gives a very full warm sound and I prefer it to pulling the mic all the way over to the surround on a very bright or fizzy amp.  If you've got the channels and space on stage, you can put another mic (Steve Kimock uses an LDC in a set up like this) a couple feet in front.  Mix to taste.  The comb filtering from the two mics works beautifully to fatten up a guitar tone.
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Milt Hathaway

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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2015, 06:34:13 pm »

Some passive direct boxes (such as the ProCo DB1) can handle a speaker level input straight from the amp. If there's an addition speaker output on the amp you can come out of that with almost no chance of harming the tone the guitarist hears, while at the same time getting a clean full-rounded signal regardless of the size and/or condition of the amp's speaker cabinet.
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Stephen Kirby

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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2015, 06:50:12 pm »

Boxes like the Palmer can take a speaker level input, pad down the speaker to lower the stage volume, and return an XLR output equalized to mimic a guitar speaker cabinet.  http://www.palmer-germany.com/mi/en/PDI-03-Speaker-Simulator-with-Loadbox-8-ohms-PDI03.htm

That's a fairly expensive varsity solution however.  Billy Gibbons is a famous Palmer user.  The RedBox is a more economical solution.  http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/RedBox5  There may be others, but this one has some history behind it.

A standard DI won't eq the sound and you'll need some pretty heavy eq to get the >5k down to a decent sounding level.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2015, 07:44:58 pm »

I run sound most weekends for a good-sounding band, but one of their guitar players uses a very small Fender amp, and even with an EV RE-20, it often sounds very thin.  I have asked him to use less overdrive (his 'clean' sound is fine), but with limited success.

He uses just a few stomp boxes, so I am thinking if I have the option to use a Hi-Z direct box right at the amp input, I should have more to work with.

Thanks for your input!

Here's an example - the solo starts about 2:30
http://www.woodlawnsound.com/FTP/20150417_UseMeUp.mp3

Have you ever listened to the flat output off a lead guitar pickup?

If you take that direct into the console you will have yeoman's work just making it sound like a guitar let alone better...

Mic the amp...

JR
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Brian Bolly

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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2015, 09:43:05 pm »

Yes, but generally in conjunction with a mic to create a stereo mix of the guitar.  And usually the ones that I use are some type of cabinet emulator.

The Palmer PDI-09 is my favorite, although I have used the HK Red Box (several generations), and some Radial solutions.  I purchased the Palmer after a fellow engineer handed me a set of cans and said "Listen to this guitar tone".  It didn't take much after that.

The Palmer is even good in a pinch by itself (i.e. - when the guitarist tips over the beverage sitting on top of his amp directly into the back of it), but its nice to have a real cabinet to mic.

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Tim Halligan

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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2015, 10:11:57 pm »

I run sound most weekends for a good-sounding band, but one of their guitar players uses a very small Fender amp, and even with an EV RE-20, it often sounds very thin.  I have asked him to use less overdrive (his 'clean' sound is fine), but with limited success.

Whose guitar sound are you after...his or yours?

Does HE have a problem with his sound?

Does the rest of his band have an issue with his sound?

If this is an artistic decision, who are we to say that is wrong?

I totally get that you want to do the best job for your client, but the job is sound reinforcement.

It's their job to deliver the sounds that they want.

Your job is to amplify what they give you and get that into the room in the most efficient way possible.

On a technical note, if you do want to use a mic to enhance the bottom end of the guy's amp, then an RE-20 is probably the wrong choice as it is designed to not have a proximity effect boost. Try a mic with a noticeable proximity effect and see how you go from there.

Cheers,
Tim

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John L Nobile

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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2015, 11:01:59 pm »

Is the mic aimed at the center of the speaker? Try aiming it at the middle of the cone or past. Have you tried a 57? Cut some highs,  boost some lo mids  Have you tried having him aim the speaker up towards his ears rather than at his knees? Knees like a loud harsh tone.
Just some suggestions. What your thinking of trying will probably start an argument. Guitar players are very proud of their tone. Even when they don't really hear it realistically. 
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Bob Leonard

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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2015, 12:08:11 am »

Have you ever listened to the flat output off a lead guitar pickup?

If you take that direct into the console you will have yeoman's work just making it sound like a guitar let alone better...

Mic the amp...

JR

This is the answer, but not the root cause. The root cause of the thin sound in the lead passage I heard is the wah pedal. Very few wah pedals I have used, heard, or own won't sound thin if they're not adjusted properly. That means adjusting the travel of the actuating pot and rack for less high end travel. If you want to compare a good sounding wah to the wah your guy is using then listen to the theme from Shaft. The pedal is a Maestro Boomerang. Another pedal that can come close is an older Vox. Cry babies all sound thin up top, but in the end if your guy wants that sound so be it.

A DI won't help, and as already mentioned will probably make matters worse. Speaker type will help, but he'll do more by using the knobs on the front of the amp marked treble, middle, and bass. I'll also bet he's using a PRS or fender Telecaster.
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William Schnake

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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2015, 08:06:45 am »

He uses just a few stomp boxes, so I am thinking if I have the option to use a Hi-Z direct box right at the amp input, I should have more to work with.


Here's an example - the solo starts about 2:30
http://www.woodlawnsound.com/FTP/20150417_UseMeUp.mp3

At the risk of going against everyone else's opinion, my son-in-law does go direct out of his pedal board and straight to the mixer.  I couldn't tell you without getting a pic of his board what all he is using, but I do know that he has spent a great deal of time with a mixer/pedal board and guitar working on his tones for his group.  His band plays mainly late '80s pop/rock - late '90s pop/rock.  On the few times that I have been able to hear them it sounds fantastic.  I am sure that a great deal of it has to do with the amount of research and trying different settings that he has done over the years.  2 cents worth.

Bill
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Re: Is anyone using a direct box on electric guitar at gigs?
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2015, 08:06:45 am »


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