Posted by: kubiakl | May 14, 2011

Tone Updates

So amidst all the craziness that makes up the end of a school year I’ve made some more adjustments to my setup.  The first thing I did was put new 12ax7 preamp tubes in the Blues Junior.

It made a pretty significant difference.  I hadn’t bought 12ax7s before so I went ahead and tried three different brands – Mullard, Tung-Sol, and Electro-Harmonix.  My thinking was that it would be best to try all three and roll them in the different positions to get the best sound.  Doug from Doug’s Tubes writes the tested gain level on the side of each tube with a sharpie, and there are two numbers – one for each side of the valve.  The highest gain was one of the Mullards (I ended up buying seven tubes, because three are going to a friend’s Pignose G40), but all sounded pretty good.  I’m still toying with positions to find the sound I like best but right now a Tung-Sol is in V1, an Electro-Harmonix is in V2, and a Mullard is in V3.

Fortunately tube rolling (the practice of swapping tubes into the different positions) is pretty easy on the Blues Junior.  Since it is an open-backed combo you just reach in after the tubes are cool and pull them out.

I did notice a bit more hum from the amp when the master volume was turned up but that’s to be expected with a higher gain preamp.  For now I like the sound and it plays well with the Guyatone Micro Overdrive.

The other change was to order a pedal.  Originally, when I went looking for another amp, it was to have a higher gain sound without adding another pedal to my chain.  And the Jet City does have a good creamy tone with the preamp turned up.  But after listening to some sound samples I began to want a fuzz pedal.  It was a staple of many 60’s and 70’s pedal boards and I wanted that extra fuzz.

The problem is that many fuzzes also sound fizzy – while some people may like this, I do not.  After some research it looked like a germanium (as opposed to silicon) fuzz was my best option.  They are warmer with more bottom end.  Dunlop makes a reissue of the classic Fuzz Face, originally by Dallas Arbiter.  You’ll find these pedals everywhere, and they sound pretty good.  My favorite Fuzz Face was the Joe Bonamassa signature Fuzz Face though – besides sounding a little rounder than the standard red Fuzz Face, it also had a copper housing that looked pretty awesome.

While those sounded good the one that really got my attention was the MJM London Fuzz:

It sounds nice and round, but with a nice low end.  It also cleans up well with the volume knob on the guitar.  Not the easiest pedal to find though, I had to search around to find a place that had it in stock.  It should be here next week.

My next step will be to find another overdrive pedal.  Right now I’m going back and forth between the Fulltone OCD and a Tube Screamer.  The OCD is a low gain overdrive meant to push your amp just a little more without coloring the sound, while the Tube Screamer has a pronounced midrange tone.  There is the Ibanez TS-9, which has more gain than the TS-808, and has been used by just about everyone.  Then there is the Maxon OD-9, which was the company that actually made the pedals for Ibanez until the early 2000’s.

Of course there are also many variations and modded versions of the Tube Screamer circuit available.  I don’t want to get crazy though and would prefer a stock pedal (which can always be modded later).

I’ll let you know what I think of the MJM London Fuzz when it arrives.  And if anyone has opinions on overdrives I’ll be happy to hear them.


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