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Best Amp for Heavy Guitar Tone
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johnjm22
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24th October 2004
Old 24th October 2004
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Best Amp for Heavy Guitar Tone

I'm currently in the process of recording a heavy metal album. I'll start tracking guitars next week, but I don't like the way the guitar player's amp sounds. He has a Line 6 147 head and he's running it through a carvin legacy 4X12. It sounds pretty crappy IMO.

In light of this I've decided to go ahead and just buy a new amp. I figure it would be worth the money since most bands I record usually don't have the best amps.

I've heard good things about both the Peavy 5150, and the JCM 800.

The problem is that I only have about $1000 to spend, so I was thinking about getting the combo versions as opposed to the half stack. But do the combo versions sound as good as the half stacks?

Do you guys have any suggestions? Remember I want this amp for mainly heavy guitar tone, kinda like Killswitch Engage, Unearth, Deftones (Around the Fur), In Flames, ect.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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24th October 2004
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"I've heard good things about both the Peavy 5150, and the JCM 800....I only have about $1000 to spend..."

The JCM 800 is a solid amp, but somewhat limited tonally and you may need to modify it to get the heavy, thick sound you want. The 5150 I do not recommend as it has a nasal quality to the distortion thats cuts through live but doesn't work well for recording - you can mod it to some positive effect. If you want that compressed, hyper high gain sound, buy a Dual Rectifier - slightly less nasal and tighter bass.

Honestly, you probably want a used Bogner or VHT Pitbull... look on ebay. Less gain can be a good thing, it allows the dynamic and percussive aspects of the playing to come through...
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C-dog is right on about less gain. What you think sounds heavy when you're standing in front of the amp isn't what's going to sound heavy through a mic and in a mix. (C-dog posted a super cool guitar tone here somewhere, BTW).

The Bogner is a staple for that stuff, and I've also dialed in a pretty heavy tone with an Engl. I also got some nice heavy tones with a Hughes and Kettner Duotone.

I got a JCM 800 in the eighties because it was new and cheap. As I learned more about tone, I realized that nobody who was "good" wanted the JCM's then. Mine was actually o/ding an LED to get distortion. It didn't sound too good to me. Now I hear lots of heavy players really like them. I think they're harsh and off-sounding. I use a '76 JMP 100w head that I got a couple of years ago from a dealer in Vintage Guitar mag for $499 (almost perfect shape.) For most of my needs, it's a staple. For a grand, you could put together a nice sounding Marshall .5. I don't know if that's heavy enough by todays standards.

On "Louder than Love", Kim Thayil used a Music Man head and an eighties Peavey 4x12 to get a lot of the riff tones. I got a MM head based on that, and with the right setup, they're super heavy because they've got pretty dang nice low end. I used an MXR distortion+ with mine. Solid State pre with valve amp section. Can be had reasonably these days.
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24th October 2004
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I've done the same thing you're doing. My focus is recording heavy bands and I've found most don't have much money, nor descent amps (tone). The band that's in the studio right now came in with an openback Marshall 50W of some sort... just didn't cut it.

I have a JCM800, 5150-II and a Dual Recto along with several other Blackface Fenders. My cabs include an Ampeg V4 and a Mesa RECTO 2x12 (both loaded with V30's). I also have a set of greenbacks that I load in the V4 cab occasionally.

So, for a grand...

JCM800 - forget it... while a great amp, it's not going to give you the saturated tones you're after.

Dual Recto - used will probably run you over a grand. So no funds left for a cab. The most versatile head though, but the hardest tone to dial in. You can also remove two power tubes and run it at 50W and/or load the power section with EL34s. The Dual Recto is a lot more versatile and tone savvy than my 5150-II. If I can only have one amp... this is it.

5150-II - used will run somewhere around $700. Now you can afford a 2x12 cab with V30's. A 5150 is even less.

Peavey Triple XXX - used will run about $700. I don't have experience with this head, but maybe check out this thread Triple XXX vs Dual RECTO. Again a 2x12 cab is affordable.

I'd recommend a closed back cab.

I have no experience with Bogners and Soldanos... yet

Finally, I have not experienced the nasally tone mentioned earlier with my 5150-II. It'll crank just fine and I can get that Godsmack-Mushroomhead heavy as shit tone with either the 5150-II or Dual Recto. Regardless of amp, there's a balance to be achieved between power, saturation and fizz.
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24th October 2004
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Triple XXX = garbage


Your after something that requires the $. Save up and spend the extra dough.

I can't suggest anything else except for the real thing.

I just bought a Mesa/Boogie F-100 amp combo 2x12 with 4 6L6's and 4 12AX7's, pretty and versatile tones! Very nice clean and it's contour mode was designed to standards of the Dual Rectifier.

They're 2300$ Can, but US used could be cheaper. Great Amp, very loud and can attach cabinets. Switchable from 60/100 watts.

It you can't afford it, I'd say the 5150 would be your best bet.

Good Luck

Jason
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24th October 2004
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I do heavy guitar bands mostly. The new ENGL SE is amazing, also a friend of my buddy (both great guitar players) brought this Naylor amp (160 something I think), which sound incredible and is really a different flavor to the ENGL amps.
Last album I did all guitars went through a Soldano top and Marshall 4x12. Not bad at all

Greetings,
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I also recommend the Mesa F series. I just bought the F-50. It's plenty loud and is extremely versatile. It has a clean channel that's very Fender like. Then Channel 2 will give you a nice crunchy blues sound. The sound you're after is achieved by an additional switch called "Contour". That takes things into the Recto category. Great distortion. I bought mine for $1049, so it's near your price requirement as well.

Good luck.
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24th October 2004
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cat out of the bag

Quote:
Do you guys have any suggestions? Remember I want this amp for mainly heavy guitar tone, kinda like Killswitch Engage, Unearth, Deftones (Around the Fur), In Flames, ect.
i AM kind of shooting myself in the foot re: running the market up, but this is a secret weapon tip....

I have owned a Mesa dc-5, tremoverb, Bogner Ecstasy, VHT 50CL, Fender Prosonic, Tonemaster, Zinky Superfly, line 6 Vetta II, Triple Giant Preamp as well as the soldano sp77 preamp...

That said, the heavy tone that has made me happiest has come from an early 80's Peavy VTM60!!!

You can get them for like 200 bucks on ebay and they destroy the majority of the amps I listed above...I tune to DropB and the bottom end is tighter and bouncier than anything short of a Herbert or Uberschall or Ultralead...

If you wanna go crazy get a VTM120 Head....

Mind you--these are the ONLY Peavy Heads I have ever heard that sound good...really weird

Buddhaman
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24th October 2004
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Wow, thanks for all the quick replies everone. One thing I've been wondering is do you guys recomend using any outbourd distortions? Like foot pedals. Or is it better to use the stock distortion of an amp?

Generally I find that stock distortions sound like shit. That would probably be a different story with a really high quality amp though.
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24th October 2004
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Generally, you're not going to want to use a pedal for the really "heavy" sounding stuff. Pedals, while great for leads, or for different shades of clipping, tend to obscure the pure chunk and grind of a really good "heavy" rig, at least in my experience.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Rivera Knucklehead or Laney GH50. Both of those all-tube heads can be had for extremely reasonable prices- and they will go head-to-head with virtually any high-gainer under a mic. The GH50 is really saturated and punishing, while the Knucklehead covers a wide range from great cleans to gnarly crunch to all out savagery.

If I were you, I'd get a Rivera Knucklehead 100 and also look into the Duotone (by Hughes and Kettner) as it is another truly phenomenal amp.

A Bogner 4x12 is usually ideal for these rigs, but Diezel also makes a great cab. Rivera's are also perfectly respectable and I prefer them greatly to virtually any other "non-boutique" cab.

As others have said, ease up on the gain a bit. That doesn't mean your tone needs to sound like a bag of wuss, but you should leave room for all of the other instruments, and consider the different high-end and low-end information that the guitars will be contending with. A lot of the gut wrenching tone of the guitars on modern records has to do with how well the bass guitar is recorded and how the cymbals and drums are treated.
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24th October 2004
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The old Laney's are extreme in their low-end punch...As well as the small 50 watt Sound City head...this is midrange punch supere....as for a pedal....my guitarist recently went crazed and had all his pedals redone by Keeley......The best I've evr heard...

The Keeley redone Boss Metal Pedal....makes the stock one sound like a toy...
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24th October 2004
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VHT amps rule

Forget distortion pedals, preamp pedals... if you want a decent heavy pre, get a Soldano SP77 cheap off ebay and use a decent tube power amp - Mesa and VHT make good ones.

The VTM120 is Peavey's version of a JCM800 - 1 channel, high gain only, limited tonally. I played one at a rehearsal studio once... its OK for thrash metal, not tight enough for shredding, I'd try it before you buy.

If you're buying an amp just for high gain, don't expect a great clean channel, unless you shell out for a VHT, Bogner, Diesel etc. Eventually you may want to buy another amp, preferably a blackface combo that says Fender on it, for shimmering clean tones.

About low end - for live playing, you usually want a rather chunky bottom for "chugga-chugga" type riffing - the Mesa Dual Rec w/ 4x12 does this very well, but the low end may become excessive when you mic it up in the studio - especially if you close mic it.

I have to say I'm partial to VHT amps for heavy shit (I've owned a Diesel Herbert, Dual Rec, Soldano). They have some of the tightest, most harmonically complex distortion tones I've heard. They also have a range of amps that go from AC/DC mid gain type sounds (50 ST), to classic metal (50 CL), to modern shred (Ultralead). And, my experience with the company's customer service has been truly enlightening (Your amps broken? Its 8 years old and you're the 4th owner? OK, we'll fix it for free type service).

They also have a nice tonal range thats uncompressed and very natural sounding - unlike a Dual Rec - you can get a great range of sounds by dialing in the gain and EQ... some also feature a switchable graphic EQ, which has incredible tone sculpting possibilities. If you dial in a scoop on the EQ the clean goes from a Marshall to a Fender type sound and the red channel takes on a whole new "evil" character...

Throw KT88s in there and watch out...

There are a couple 50CLs on www.ebay.com right now...
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24th October 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by djui5
Didn't we just go through this recently?




Or am I on crack?
maybe both!
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24th October 2004
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..............Just kidding, Randy
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24th October 2004
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Quote:
The VTM120 is Peavey's version of a JCM800 - 1 channel, high gain only, limited tonally. I played one at a rehearsal studio once... its OK for thrash metal, not tight enough for shredding, I'd try it before you buy.
One thing to mention about the VTM's is that it takes some tweaking to get the sound right..

there are all these DIP switches on the front that alter the characteristics of the amp (gain 1, gain 2, treble, bass, mids, etc)---plus the presence needs to be on 0---then it starts sounding good (better than any jcm800 I've heard)

I've owned the 50 cl...the VTM120 can do that sound just as well or better, especially for downtuned shit. It is exactly the sound of "outshined" by soundgarden...in fact its all over the badmotorfinger album

cdog...for what its worth you may be right re: shredding...this is more of a downtuned slower riff chunk amp---think Alabama Thunderpussy--

Plus its F***ing $200 bucks.

I hate to break it to all of you, but you don't need to spend $2k for great tone---if you don't like the vtm put it on ebay and it'll sell for what you got it for.---hell sell it to me...I need another backup--

Other options under or around $1000? (which is what the dude asked about)

the aforementioned 50cl...

what else guys?? help this dude out

Buddhaman
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25th October 2004
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The Dual Rec is ubiquitous, which is both good and bad... if you use it, your heavy sounds will sound like everything else on the radio. It kind of buries each guitar's personality and makes them all sound similar, not necessarily a bad thing again....This might work to your advantage or maybe not... A DR will be a familiar sight and sound for most players coming to your studio, that why I have one. A good player can make one really sing (Buckethead's main amp is a DR now).

There are lots of Dual, Triple Recs, and Tremoverbs (Dual Rec with verb and tremolo) on www.ebay.com for around a G.

A combo would save you from buying a cab:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...757312950&rd=1
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25th October 2004
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Re: VHT amps rule

Quote:
Originally posted by cdog
I have to say I'm partial to VHT amps for heavy shit Throw KT88s in there and watch out...
can one just throw KT88's in there? i know VHT used to come stock with KT88's and i LOVED that head but i have been recording a pitbull lately with EL34's and its just nowhere near the same oomph as i remember with the KT88's. if so, i GOT to get some tubes for this head before next session [and damn they are pricey]

personally, i dig orange/matamp all the way. most versatile amp out there when paired up with the right stuff.... although doesnt do the super clean shit all that well. they are so damn punchy they can nauseate you chunkin if you are too close and its too loud.
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25th October 2004
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Re: Re: VHT amps rule

Quote:
Originally posted by alphajerk
can one just throw KT88's in there?

personally, i dig orange/matamp all the way.
Set the Bias switch to EL34 and you're OK... I think, I'm no amp tech but this worked for me...

About the Matamps.... sshhhhhh tutt
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25th October 2004
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As far as the 2x12 thing goes, I can't get the "heavy" tones out of 'em that I can out of a 4x12. Not as much "thump".

BTW, whatever happened with those Mode IV's?

Marshall's tried the SS thing before, but I thought this time they might have hit it. Lots of press for a while and then nothing. I see 'em on Ebay with no bids. Anyone tried one?
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25th October 2004
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oh yeah, those new marshall dsl2000's are pretty fukking heavy on the new fu manchu stuff.
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25th October 2004
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Re: cat out of the bag

Quote:
Originally posted by Buddhaman

If you wanna go crazy get a VTM120 Head....
Yeah,I remember those...been a while since I heard one but I remember liking them.Hell...I even liked the" Butcher" with the right dist. pedal and guitar pick-up .For $1000 (new) you might check this out http://www.carvin.com/products/singl...=MTS412&CID=GA Kind of a bang for the buck rig.I have one here at the house and like it real well.It has a decent clean channel too.I Use mine with a BBE482i sonic maximizer and the eq set in a TC ele. G-Major.It works for me...YMMV.

Oh yeah...here's some user reviews if your curious http://www.harmony-central.com/Guita...TS3200-01.html

Later
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25th October 2004
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I'm not sure, for me anyway, if there is one single amp that does it all for heavy sounds. It's all about the blend and stacking multiple tracks. On this last band I've been working on, we are stacking (4 seperate takes for the main rhythm guitarist), 2 Marshall JCM800's and two THD univalves. The bassist brought his 800 in for shits and giggles and it sounded a lot fizzier than mine, which is deeper and clearer in the mids, very strange. For this particular group that combo worked best, they are not heavy enough for the whole rectifier thing...I've had some stellar results in the past with a sort of 'Helmet meets Pennywise' band called Nevertheless combining a Rectifier with a Sovtek MIG 100 put to 50 watts.
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25th October 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by alphajerk
oh yeah, those new marshall dsl2000's are pretty fukking heavy on the new fu manchu stuff.
I had a Dual Rec, H&K Attax 100, 5150 (I), Dual Rec Road King and the JCM 2000 DSL in the studio and I ended up getting the DSL. The DSL through a Vintage 30's cab = Heaven for me. But that is just my opinion.
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If you can find a Rivera TBR series head used... grab it.

VERY versatile.. great clean tones - and everything from a nice classic distortion to Recto-heavy..

I love mine... as long as I don't have to move it much (it weighs a ton)
"-)
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Ok.... you will have to piece this together.... but... for INCREDIBLE heavy tone on a budget (and a great clean sound too).... do this:


1. Fender Bassman Head like this one. Around $275 if you shop. Add another $200 and get a blackface (65'-67') and get a better clean sound.

2. Mesa 2 x 12 Cabinet like this one. Around $350 if you shop.


3. And either a Mesa V-Twin Preamp Pedal, or my personal pick... a Robert Keeley Modded SD-1 Overdrive Pedal. $115.00


Put Ruby Tubes in your head (and Mesa Pedal if you get that one), and make sure your head has been biased.

Then... prepare to hold on to your shorts! This will knock you over! Plus... if you go the SD-1 route... (which I think sounds best) you are still under $800...... before you buy the tubes!


Frankly, I prefer a 4 x 12 cabinet (I have a Bogner 4 x 12 with 2 x V30's and G12H 30's in an X pattern)... but I was trying to stay under your budget, and the 2 x 12 does still sound really good. I also had my Silverface Bassman modded to blackface specs... but it still sounded incredible in this fashion before the mod. Now it's just mo'better.

I have some really nice amps. But this comibination consistently FLOORS guys that I work with that do heavy music. The low end is absolutely monstorous.... and translates well in the studio... I like the Royer 121 combined with a 421 or 57. The natural overdrive of the bassman cranked up very loud is quite good... but when you turn on the SD-1 for just a small bit of boost..... oh man.... it just get's nuts! I always set this rig up out of sight... so the heavy dudes can't see it.... and I just let them hear it first. This rig beats out my Bogner 101b, Marshall JCM 800, and Dual Rectifer 85% of the time in a blind test! Guys that DON'T like pedals.... LOVE this tone..... and SWEAR it's not a pedal until they see it! (The secret is Robert Keeley completely re-does the pedal and puts a Burr Brown Op Amp in it- it's INCREDIBLY quiet too).

Plus.... turn the thing up to about 5 with nothing in front of it... and you have a clean sound that will make you wanna cry! Get's even CRAZIER if you have an open back cabinet you can hook up to it. I am getting a Bogner 4x10 open back just for that... very soon.
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25th October 2004
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I've been getting some killer heavy tones lately with Rat pedal into an old ass West Grande head (with 6550's) into a Marshall 4x12 with Vintage 30's.
I've never seen another West head in my life except the one I have from my old band's guitar player. Fortunately he's left it with me on indefinite loan.
I think Grand Funk used the West's WAY back in the real early days.
They're loud as **** but don't break up real easy.

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jcm800

I must admit that I find that I can get most if not all my heavy-ish distorted tones from my 2204 JCM800. This not least when combined with a suitable booster such as the TC Booster Line Driver/Distortion.

The TC BLD tightens the amp up VERY nicely and brings it nicely sonically a bit more up to date and gives it more versatility. It obviously still sounds very much like a Marshall no matter what you do, which is fine by me.

One of the things to be aware of with the Marshall JCM800's is that there are BIG differences between the different models. This is not just between the single channel JCM800's (the 2203 and 2204) and the twin channel version (which are the ones that use diodes for the overdrive channel), but ALSO within the range of the single channel 800's throughout the 80's.

I believe this has been covered quite a bit in other threads so I will refrain from my usual going on and on and on...
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28th October 2004
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Do not buy a mesa boogie F100 combo. Versitile? Hmmmm. The clean tone sounds like breaking glass and the distorted tone doesn't work unless you turn the mic damn near 90 degrees away from the amp. It might be okay with some different speakers. Those newer vintage 30's are bright as shit. As far as the Peavey Triple XXX, yeah they are pretty okay if you like triple recs. They are a decent knockoff. Hell nickelback used on their album. That means they're good, right?
#29
28th October 2004
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I envy you guys with your rigs. Personally I use a small 120watt Fender Ultimate Chorus amp.

That aside, do you guys consider using distortion pedals for the heavy guitar tone? Or is this all raw through the overdrive on the amps?

I'm very curious about the answer.

Thanks,

-John
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28th October 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by JohnMcD
I envy you guys with your rigs. Personally I use a small 120watt Fender Ultimate Chorus amp.

That aside, do you guys consider using distortion pedals for the heavy guitar tone? Or is this all raw through the overdrive on the amps?

I'm very curious about the answer.

Thanks,

-John
i use moogerfoogers for extra drive.
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