Tone help needed. Amps? attenuators? several tone examples given


long story short. ive never been confident about my tone. Then again, ive never chased tone or spent much time on it. mainly ive just played and recorded demos etc…worrying more about playing writing, learning to sing blah blah

Im talking mainly rhythm tone here

So lets talk about my tone situation. I am one of them there apartment dwellers. A QUIET apt complex lol. My main recording amp is a 6505+ combo (60 watts). yes, so you can bet it never gets turned up above 1. So we are talking pre amp gain and/or pedals for distortion.

In other words im not getting power amp distortion and im not really moving any air so no speaker cone vibe etc. Naturally im wondering how much better my tone can be than what ive generally had so far.

Amp sims have been sort of a bust for me so im not interested in those right now.

At some point I will be wanting to do an album. I will be sending it off to be mixed/mastered by pro or semi pro people. (my mixing skills suck as u will soon hear lol)

Though its hard to exactly say what tone I want, we are talking just a decent rock/hard rock/light metal/grunge type tone. Anything in the sort of AIC, Zakk, Halen, Soundgarden, Sykes era Whitesnake type vibe.

I’ll post some examples of my tone. I cant swear but I think these will all be with the 6505+, sometimes with various pedals and of course me hacking away with the mixing. Most of these are with an Ibanez RG3EX with .11s tuned to D standard. Lately though im playing my RG340 with 10s. Most of my playing will be in D standard.

Like I said, im no Einstein when it comes to tone. Mine seems to me to sometimes lean towards fuzzy as opposed to punchy. So, if I wanted to do anything in the Zakk Wylde vein im not sure I could because my tone isnt tight like that, mine is more bluesy and fuzzy. Can I get that tight metal vibe as an option in an apt? lol

so here are the main questions/options im mulling:

  1. My tone is good enough, get a decent tone and let the mixer polish the whole recording??

  2. Use an attenuator. is this going to actually make a significant difference or will it just be more fuzziness etc?

  3. Use an isolation speaker cab to actually get some air moving?

  4. buy a smaller amp. Id want something a bit ballsier than a Layla/Skynyrd type tone. Ceriatone, Friedman? I know there r dozens of boutique amps out there now. What wattage though? Im pretty sure even a 22 watter would still blow my neighbors away if I cranked it lol

So can I get a great tone at apt volume or is it hopeless? lol

or, will none of the things ive suggested make more than a 5% difference? will it mainly come down to having a better mixer mix the stuff?

Thanks, JJ

here are some examples of my basic tone. Most from 2017. I suppose the defining factor is being tuned to D standard which gives a certain resonance. Note, im not saying I love any of these tones lol…they are just typical for me. Some of them are probably doubletracked

Gm jam 120 scr vh modified 10-2017.mp3 (7.7 MB)

I think this one had a Joyo Ultimate Drive pedal on it. sort of a ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’ bridge sound
Bonham 87 Roomy mp3 gtr.mp3 (9.1 MB)

This is one that, at the time (2017) , I thought was a nice step forward from some of the more sucky things I had done. Slight Randy Rhoads bridge vibe. But isnt this all still about the same type of tone?
Stone 89 Mark A 2017 scratch.mp3 (9.5 MB)

This is more of where I want to go as far as writing. Just slightly more towards groove metal type stuff
Sykes feel 93 bpm 10 25 17 mp3 snippet.mp3 (1.2 MB)

sort of in context with some singing and bass etc.
Shining on Me Pig Wars 92 hook practice 2017 scr mix 5.mp3 (1.8 MB)

So I think the playing and tone sort of go together. We notice my playing is more sort of groove oriented and doesnt really 'drive" that much. But can one really play tight, driving riffs with a sort of fuzzy tone?

this tone in an apt??

or this one?

or this?


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This is half the equation for me. Specifically a Vox AC4TV, which is essentially a Fender Champ. (So is that little Epiphone, and a few more.) They claim to be 4 watts, but if I understand correctly they measure closer to 1W. Mine cost $100 brand new.

The second half of the equation is to use the amp like a pedal. I replace the speaker cab with a resistive dummy load and a line-level(-ish) tap. I feed this into a clean slave power amp that can be as big or small as you like. Mine is small enough to rock out through my 12" cab without waking anyone up. Alternatively, you could feed it into 1.21 Jiggawatt power amp an play concerts like Gordie Johnson from Big Sugar. He uses a Garnet Herzog, which is nothing but a Fender Champ circuit being used like a pedal as decribed above and feeding the chopped down output into a giant clean power amp.

The above setup allows you to put effects in front of the little amp, like eq, distortions, fuzzes, etc to determine the character of the distortion independently of the volume. I set the little tube amp the edge of power amp dirt. Then use dirt and boost and eq and compressor pedals along with my volume knob to push it into power tube distortion, or pull it back into clean. This is where I dial in my ‘guitar tone’.

The connection point between the dummy load/lineout and the power amp is essentially an effects loop. I use the opportunity to put the signal through more pedals before it hits the power amp. Mainly eq, reverb, tremolo, plus a limiter to make sure my cleans and my dirties are the same volume, which is kinda difficult to do with power tube saturation in real life. This also lets me put reverb after the power amp distortion, which is sonically pretty important, and difficult to do in real life without a stadium or an empty warehouse. Finally, it lets me add eq to tune the output to the room before it hits the final power amp, along with another eq that mimics the famed speaker/output transformer interaction to compensate for the resistive load and makes it sound more ‘tubelike’. (I this circuit from Marshall’s solid state amps. It works pretty good.)

Using dirt pedals to make distortion is ok in a pinch, but it usually sounds kinda boxy to me. Using dirt pedals to push a class A tube power amp into saturation is a whole different story, and raises the hair on the back of my neck even if you cut the volume down to teensy levels. The tone at lower volumes won’t sound the same as at higher volumes, but I find it much better to listen to and way more responsive to play than dirt from a pedal alone.

This whole rig cost me maybe $100 not including the guitars and the Vox. It was cheap because I built it all myself, and I source my parts at a surplus shop. I know someone makes commercial re-amping boxes that are more expensive, but I don’t know anything about them.

H&K also made a series of low power tube amps packaged into rack units. The Crunch Machine/Cream Machine something like that? Hard to find, last I heard, but supposed to sound great.

Finally there’s power scaling, either retrofitting or buying a new amp with it built in. I chased this idea for a while, and I still like the way it sounds. I just like the re-amping approach better.

That was probably more information than you wanted.

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Just to focus on one part because there’s a lot in there:

5150/6505 amps don’t rely on power amp distortion, it’s all preamp gain anyway.

You’ll never get “flat out Marshall stack” at bedroom levels in the room from any wattage amp, a 1 watt amp fully cranked sounds like shit (in my opinion), and is still too loud anyway. You can get a recorded sound that’s absolutely crushing on tape in a bedroom at all sorts of levels in all sorts of ways, whether that’s a loadbox, a modeller, or simply close-micing a very quiet amp.

One last thing, a load box into an interface and then a good IR in a DAW is probably better than a single speaker in an isocab, as there isn’t any air to move in an isocab what with it being a tiny sealed box.


There is another possible route, but not really a cheap option, but for recording an album, one I would consider myself: Record the guitar tracks directly (DI?) to re-amp later in a studio, where you can crank the living hell out of your amp! This way, you get studio quality recording, but you spend very little time (and money) in the studio, because you have slaved away getting perfect takes at home.

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It’s a great to to be alive and a guitar player these days, so many way to get killer tone.

I still prefer to use and analog preamp tube or not.

You could use your amp’s send into a Two-Notes Toropedo Cab M or Audient Sono. Both new products using the same software, and the reports are stellar.

I’m going to get a Cab M for my pedalboard, the cool thing is you can even run it between your amp and cab or just after your pedals and do what ever.

Both don’t need computers once setup to your tastes, and the sono has a tube to warm things up to simulate a better power section, though I think the Cab M is plenty, unless you need an audio interface too.

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Like others already did, I would suggest you getting a Torpedo unit (depending on the budget) and use that to record your amp in whatever volume is good for your tone. I had a 50w Victory Kraken (an amp with 5150 and JCM800 inspired channels) and I used to record it with a Torpedo Captor. Here are a few examples. Excuse my crappy playing :smile:


yeah im deffo gonna check them out


Bill that sounds great, do you remember whih cab/mic power amp you used on the bark at the moon rif?


Thank you! The Kraken was a fantastic amp for me, vet medical bills suck though. :pensive:

I must have used the cab simulation from the Torpedo VST “Wall of Sound”. Two 4x12 “Marshall” type cabs, one loaded with Greenbacks miced with an SM57, one loaded with V30s miced with a Ribbon R121.

This is by far my best sound, amp VSTs are fun to practice with, but they don’t sound or feel like that.


Good stuff Bill.

I’ve had good luck with G12T-75 images to get the YJM vibes on.

It’s been a long time since I used my Dr.Z Carmen Ghia & Cab; but two days ago had a friend over so I hooked it up to my board, man I’ve been missing out, it’s a very simple single ended amp with two knobs!

Had an issue where I’d get a nasty fizz with high gain, this time I remembered an old trick I used to use before all the high gain stuff. Turn the amp up almost all the way and control the volume from the source, miraculously all that fizz went away and is now sounding stellar. What’s more, my playing is 100 times better due to the all analogue circuitry.

Another thing I noticed is with the neck pup and high gain the low E string had a tendency to get muddy above the 10th fret, this goes away with the amp, the kemper had a special control to clean this one aspect up, but I’ll be dammed if I’m spending that much money again on what is basically a cheap computer in a fancy box that has a life expectancy of say 5 to 7 years if your lucky!

There’s no two ways about it; a real amp is a real amp, maybe Jon you can try using a volume pedal in your return or get one of these EWS Subtle Volume Control thingies to get your amp to behave. The key to all this I guess is experimentation and getting to know your gear and all its parts.

This week I asked a friend to send me my old SM57 so see if I can get better results just old school micing my amp.

The digital stuff is good but nothing like the real deal — no doubts about getting that big iron from Ceriatone soon.


From digital gear I love the Fractal Audio and the Atomic Amps stuff. They sound and feel great, through studio monitors they were pretty close to my Victory Kraken + Torpedo Captor setup. With an actual cab and a power amp things weren’t so far either.

But… the real thing has that X factor, a little extra thing that covers the space sonically. In an ideal world I would have an Axe Fx II and a Marshall JVM with a simple 2x12 cab. I don’t need anything else for what I do and I like experimenting with lots of different genres.


I’m saving up for the Kraken, can’t wait! Just a coupke more months!!!