Monday, June 13, 2005

Guitar amplification ... My History. Part 1

I've been spending some time recently looking at the options for updating my guitar amplification system.

I've played electric guitar now for around 15 years, having picked it up in my 20's as a hobby/antidote to the professional classical music career that I was pursuing then. At the time I was playing Violin with a Semi-professional Symphony Orchestra, while doing post-graduate Music at University.

Since then, the guitar has had a varied place in my life, initially being something I could do that was more improvised, through to something I was using as part of the Electro-Acoustic composition work I was creating. Having left University with a Masters degree, I ended up teaching music in various schools; initially teaching Violin. However there ended up more people wanting to learn Guitar! So for around 5 years the Guitar ended up providing a reasonable chunk of my income, such that it was.

Having picked up more of an Internet/Network Engineering career in the last 10+ years, initially I found less time for the Guitar. It's more recently in the last 3-4 years that I have picked it up again, started jamming with a couple of friends and done the odd small gig.

Which leads me to where I am at, which is attempting to update equipment in a usable manner for someone who has been a professional muso, but isn't currently in earning money from this side of my interests.

Initially when I started in 1985, I bought the best moderately playable instrument that I could find that offered as much flexibility that I could get. For amplification, I initially practised at home through an old Stereo (I wouldn't really want to use the term Hi-Fi as that implies something a bit better), that I had previously assembled as a kitset a few years earlier. To get something approaching any sort of "guitar sound" I bought an Ibanez ST9 Super Tubescreamer, which along with a Stereo Chorus pedal managed to tame the bland sound of an electric through a very ordinary amp. So, Stage 1 - very bad semi HiFi amp!

When I got to be able to afford an amp, I ended up buying a Peavey Triumph 60 combo, for the time a really cheap 3 channel tube amp. Well there's a reason that it was cheap, it really isn't that flexible. The Clean channel is rather nice, however it seems a little light on the bass end of things by today's standards. The Crunch and Ultra channels are voiced identically, with Ultra having more gain. They are a sort of 80's super-saturated distortion channels with very little bottom end at all. Additionally the tone controls on the amp are shared between all channels, with only the Treble and Presence controls having an effect on the Crunch and Ultra channels. Basically you get two sounds; clean and distorted with a different gain and level setting for the Crunch channel from the Ultra channel. Not the most flexible.