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Beatles Amplifier 1964-66ish
Old 23rd March 2014
  #1
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Beatles Amplifier 1964-66ish

I'm probably alone on this, but most of my favorite recorded Beatles guitar tones come from Beatles For Sale and Help! with a bit of Rubber Soul and some Revolver. A couple of months ago I was doing some research and found out that basically every one of my favorite Beatles guitar recordings comes from the Gretsch Tenessean and the Epiphone Casino. There's some kind of hollow, airy --- indescribably unique tone to those guitars that I just love. Anyway, I bought a Lennon Inspired Casino (the Gretsch Tenessean was WAY too expensive for me). I love the guitar - it's AWESOME - I highly recommend it.
But as always, there's room for improvement; I'm playing on a Fender Blues Deluxe. I'm not crazy about the amp but with some mods and over-priced pedals I can now get close to the sound of those old Beatles recordings. My biggest problem is that the amp by nature is just always beefier than I want it to be (even with bass tone set to 0) and in contrast the amp has barely any upper mids at all. I have to use an extra pedal to bring them out. And with that comes my problem: the airy, violin-like qualities of this guitar seem to get swamped in other frequencies. The tone that I bought this guitar for exists probably somewhere in the mid to upper-mid range, the very frequency range that this amp sucks at. Basically what I'm asking is: what guitar amp would help bring out those qualities the most? Immediately, I thought of Vox amps, but then I was told that Fender amps were being brought into the Beatles sessions as early as 1964??? Secondly, I was told that modern Vox AC-15's and AC-30's are crap compared to the ones that the Beatles had. I have never played a 60's Vox and probably never will so I don't know how they stack up. My local music store's selection is not great, they don't even have Vox amps. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Here's the sound I'm talking about (what amp would YOU buy to get close?):
Drive My Car - Paul's solo (about 1:05 into the song)
Another Girl - Paul's lead guitar riffs throughout
Honey Don't - lead guitar throughout
Baby's in Black - lead guitar throughout


And for the rest of you ELITE Beatles obsessed, here's some more:
I Feel Fine - Lead intro
And Your Bird Can Sing - Harmonizing lead riff
I Don't Want to Spoil the Party - Lead Guitar Throughout
Old 23rd March 2014
  #2
Gear Head
 

Have you read revolution in the head, there's some great stuff in there. I feel like a lot of the Beatles sound is the sound of the room. As much as the amps, from what I recall reading amps were distance mic ed with a Neumann 67/87. The sans amp Liverpool pedal is worth a try. Around rubber soul and revolver George and john got their strats, and George got an SG. As well as the casino.
Old 24th March 2014
  #3
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

The Beatles generally went with clean, bright tones which is easy for most
amplifiers. They also generally used AlNiCo Speakers or tight detailed ceramic speakers.

Playing live, the goal of their amps was simply loud and clear as possible.
That's where the AC100's came in.

An AC30 will also get those cleans at lower studio volumes, with the right
guitars and top boost engaged.

Guitars with toaster pickups like the Rickenbackers and Hofner have a distinct unique tone.

Live in DC 1964 Vocals through Stadium broadcast PA.
Amps are all bleed

Ringo has to position his own drum riser, like a crash course stadium gig no sound check.
These appear to be Solid State Amps Rectangular Top, XLR Out on Paul's Bass Amp
that almost falls over at the end of the first song.
George tries to find a working mic., this is priceless footage.

My 1st serious girlfriend was somewhere in that crowd.






John's Gibson acoustic also played a large roll in their early work too, played both acoustically
and electrically.



The newest Vox hand wired amps AC15HWX and AC30HWX are built with turret board construction, the X is for the optional Blue AlNiCo, although current Vox label Blues are Asian built and not considered as good as the original UK Blues.

Many buy the Hand Wired amps with the stock ceramic speakers to get into
the amp cheaper and then retrofit with UK Blues as budget allows.

Alternates amps, BF Fender Vibrolux Reverb with CTS or Jensen AlNiCos,
Ampeg Gemini I with top boost. A Super Reverb with CTS or Jensen AlNiCos,

The Beatles guitars were probably outfitted with flat wound strings, like 11 chromes for a smooth class like response.

Through most of 1965, tube amp distortion was still considered undesirable
by most amp builders. Their goal was clean headroom and presence in the mix.

I own a Blues Deluxe. While it is hardly a great amp, with a tight, crisp
detailed speaker, it should certainly be bright enough.

Try the lower gain input, bright switch on, presence up bass and mids rolled
off. Also try lowering the volume a bit on your guitar, like 85 %

If you're using Humbuckers, you might want to lower the neck pickup to reduce bass response.
Old 24th March 2014
  #4
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FFTT's Avatar
 

I mentioned an Ampeg Gemini I above.

I was just messing around with top boost settings in this clip,
playing my Strat Plus with Gold Lace Sensors, treble pickup one notch in.

This amp has all kinds of Beatles tones available from smooth and sweet and dark to all kinds of jangle and chime.

Audio is just a camera mic .

Old 24th March 2014
  #5
Lives for gear
The Boss Combo Drive ($99) pedal gets a lot of love out there. So maybe first see if one of those (or one the other Brit combo pedals) satisfies your needs before jumping in on the big $ stuff. There is nothing quite like an AC-30 though. I like (and own) the modern CC2 version with the blended channels - should be a few around used. On the low end, an AC4TV into a 12" external cab can do a pretty good gritty Vox IMHO, but the clean chime stuff won't be there.
Old 24th March 2014
  #6
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There are nuances you may never achieve because you aren't them.
You don't have the room or all the groundbreaking tube outboard gear, the
analog console, the Neumanns.

The right guitar, with the right strings and the right touch through a clean
detailed amp with reverb and you should be most of the way there.

In a Fender or Ampeg drop in a Fane AXA10 or AXA12 for max jangle and chime with a crushed glass top end at high volumes.

The early Beatles guitar parts were really clean, any breakup at all was just from hitting the guitar with a hard attack which also adds that toaster pickup spank. You also hear a lot of hollow body guitar nuances.

I notice a lot more warmth going into Rubber Soul and a lot more use of reverbs and room and of course tape. Revolver is really the break point
from clean tones to far more aggressive lead tones, using Fenders and SG's
as well as the Epiphones into more Bluesy amps like a bassman.

They wanted Fenders as bad as the players here thought they wanted Vox,
but by that time Vox here in the US had turned to crap and reliability was horrendous.

The newest Vietnam built Hand Wired AC15 with a UK Blue would be fine for low volume cleans & early breakup and chime.
AC30HWX for fatter tone and greater clean headroom.

From there you go to /13, Matchless, Bad Cat with a considerable improvement in the component and build quality, but the speaker still matter.

As a modern reference.

Today Rusty Anderson with Paul's band plays through one of two ES-335's
through a Divided By 13 RSA 31 and and RSA 23.

Paul plays his Custom Les Paul through one of two hand built AC100's.

Bryan Ray on an SG, Gretsch, Acoustic, Bass whatever, also /13.

Each rig running through custom Pete Cornish Rack and Pedal Switching systems. Dual Avalon preamps to FOH. Everything had a backup.

Many people might be surprised to know for those guys a great signal
was simply having one.

Epstein manufactured the Vox sponsorship.

The band wanted Fenders.
Old 24th March 2014
  #7
Lives for gear
The band was recording with Fenders in 1965, but live had to use Vox because of the sponsorship Deal. Showmans and bassman amps. Maestro Fuzz Tone as well was in use...
Old 24th March 2014
  #8
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
I always forget about distance miking, I'm sure that's where a lot of their guitars character comes from. That book looks pretty good too.
Old 24th March 2014
  #9
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Oldone's Avatar
From "Recording the Beatles":

Drive my Car (65) Vox AC30 or A.C.100 Super Deluxe
Another Girl (65) Vox AC30 or A.C.100 Super Deluxe
Honey Don't (64) Vox AC50, AC100 or AC30
Baby's in Black (64) Vox AC50, AC100 or AC30
I Feel Fine (64) Vox AC50, AC100 or AC30
And Your Bird Can Sing (66) Fender Showman, Fender Bassman or Vox 7120
I Don't Want to Spoil the Party (64) Vox AC50, AC100 or AC30

So, needless to say, get a Vox AC30 and you're in the zone.
Old 24th March 2014
  #10
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
How about an AC15, besides loudness and breakup time, it should sound the same right?
Old 24th March 2014
  #11
Gear Guru
 
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You could get AC50 AC100 results running a 50 watt or 100 watt Marshall through Fane AXA12's or Celestion Golds.

An AC15HWX will be thinner overall than an AC30, but also way more manageable at lower volumes.

Plenty of folks used them in small clubs and even larger venues with IEMs.
Old 24th March 2014
  #12
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'64 Gretsch. Gibby e-160, Rick Capri/325 and most important Ric 360 12 with flatwounds through trebly Vox sub 50 watt clean sounding amps (you can get a lot of amps to sound like this with effort)

'65 Add in the Casinos and Vox Solid state amps

'66 Starting to get the Fender thing going, add the Bassman, Showman and Strats, I am not sure when the SG came into play, probably '65-'66

You are never going to get the same sound , but if you are good, you can capture the same attitude and vibe....... remember, its all about the song and vocals first....that's why they are near impossible to cover
Old 24th March 2014
  #13
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Try the lower gain input, bright switch on, presence up bass and mids rolled
off. Also try lowering the volume a bit on your guitar, like 85 %
That's exactly what I've been doing, it does work wonders. And it's really amazing how much more Beatle-esque it sounds with the guitar's volume down low. I bring it down to around 3 and it sounds so much better! I use flatwounds, they have helped a little bit in reducing the harshness that I get from all of my treble/brightness boosting. I can definitely sculpt the sound into a much more period-correct tonal ballpark when I try hard enough, but no matter what I do there's always something missing in the midrange and the character of the attack.

Today I found this video on youtube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDiavfjo7-Y
That is the exact guitar that I have and that's exactly how I want it to sound. Especially when the guy is doing that picking riff with a clean signal, I have never heard a better modern day example of what I'm after. The end of the video says that he is using a handwired Vox. If that's really what they sound like then I'm sold. Of course, I also notice that he is using thousands of dollars worth of high-end recording equipment, I'm sure that helps too! Nevertheless, I might need to save up for a handwired ac15 now.
Old 24th March 2014
  #14
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

Just remember the speakers are critical to bringing out the Vox in a Vox.

If you buy the base model AC15HW with the stock ceramic speaker, that gets
you into the amp for less, then just drop in a U.K. Celestion Blue as budget permits.
Old 24th March 2014
  #15
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
so when you order an amp already stocked with Blues - you don't get the real UK ones?
Old 25th March 2014
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ephi82 View Post
'65 Add in the Casinos and Vox Solid state amps
I'm pretty sure The Beatles never touched a solid state Vox in the studio.
Old 25th March 2014
  #17
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FuriousHeard View Post
so when you order an amp already stocked with Blues - you don't get the real UK ones?
Nope, the Vox Label Blues are built in Asia, same as new production Asian V-30's

The general consensus is that the U.K. Blues are the way to go if you can.
Old 25th March 2014
  #18
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
I'm pretty sure The Beatles never touched a solid state Vox in the studio.
Vox Special page

The Vox Conqueror was the end result of the transition from valve amps to transistorized amps. It was introduced late in 1966 or early 1967. The Beatles used this amp for the Savoy filming of Hello, Goodbye, and it can be heard on Magical Mystery Tour, Hey Bulldog and almost certainly also on both Sgt. Pepper and The White Album.
There is a long standing discussion about whether these amps were Conquerors or Defiants, but they were Conquerors. This page provides some photographic support for this.
This amplifier sounds much better than the vast majority of older transistor based amps. One reason might be, that at the time the circuit designers were still thinking in terms of valve amp design, and built the power section as a class A design. This was after all a key ingredient in the sound of the classic AC30. They also used germanium transistors for clipping in the fuzz circuit. In any case, the overall result is great.
The amp offers a number of unique features, only found on this amp and its brothers and sisters, the Supreme, Defiant, Virtuoso, Dynamic, Foundation and Super Foundation amps; namely Mid-Range Boost (MRB) and built in fuzz. It also had reverb and tremolo.
There are three versions of the pre-amp, as the Normal channel was revised in 1968, and the Brilliant channel was revised in 1969. The 1969 revision changed the way the MRB works.
Mine is equipped with Vox silver alnicos giving it an exceptionally good sound.
More details on The Vox Showroom.
Old 25th March 2014
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
I'm pretty sure The Beatles never touched a solid state Vox in the studio.
I don't have it with me, but I have Andy Babiuk's new Stones gear book http://www.amazon.com/Rolling-Stones.../dp/1617130923

He's the guy who also did the Beatles gear book. I was really surprised at how many of my favorite mid 60s guitar tones were done on Vox solid state amps. For a lot of that period, they were recording in LA with Dave Hassinger- talking Aftermath, Out Of Our heads, December's Children, between The Buttons period. Vox would just fill the studio with all their new amps when they were coming in- same thing in the UK.

The Beatles definitely used a Royal Guardsman towards the end of Revolver going into Sgt. Pepper.
Old 25th March 2014
  #20
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

Vox was seriously plagued with reliability issues.

Sitting in a studio they weren't getting bumped around on the road knocking things loose.

The AC30 head cabinet design did not allow for enough cooling, also some did overheat and catch fire.

The US import Super Beatles just got worse.

Vox tried to improve reliability going to Hybrid Valve-State builds, but they were no more reliable.

Vox basically got caught in its own growing pains, not being able to keep up with demand & quality control and cutting too many corners, in a mass production setting.

The Beatles used Selmers, Fender, probably anything that looked interesting.
Vox was also sending them Prototype builds that were never built in large
production.

It's a shame more Hand Wired AC100's weren't built.
Old 26th March 2014
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
Vox Special page

The Vox Conqueror was the end result of the transition from valve amps to transistorized amps. It was introduced late in 1966 or early 1967. The Beatles used this amp for the Savoy filming of Hello, Goodbye, and it can be heard on Magical Mystery Tour, Hey Bulldog and almost certainly also on both Sgt. Pepper and The White Album.
There is a long standing discussion about whether these amps were Conquerors or Defiants, but they were Conquerors. This page provides some photographic support for this.
This amplifier sounds much better than the vast majority of older transistor based amps. One reason might be, that at the time the circuit designers were still thinking in terms of valve amp design, and built the power section as a class A design. This was after all a key ingredient in the sound of the classic AC30. They also used germanium transistors for clipping in the fuzz circuit. In any case, the overall result is great.
The amp offers a number of unique features, only found on this amp and its brothers and sisters, the Supreme, Defiant, Virtuoso, Dynamic, Foundation and Super Foundation amps; namely Mid-Range Boost (MRB) and built in fuzz. It also had reverb and tremolo.
There are three versions of the pre-amp, as the Normal channel was revised in 1968, and the Brilliant channel was revised in 1969. The 1969 revision changed the way the MRB works.
Mine is equipped with Vox silver alnicos giving it an exceptionally good sound.
More details on The Vox Showroom.
Interesting..... Learn something every day.
Old 26th March 2014
  #22
Lives for gear
 
lame pseudonym's Avatar
 

I had an itsy bitsy Vox solid state amp head back around 1979 (I don't know when it was new) with germanium transistors. Our guitar player loved it because it sounded like a tube amp. Of course he blew it up regularly and I had to fix it regularly but those germanium amps were contenders.

As a matter of fact, long ago I was in a stereo shop buying a receiver for a friend, and the little old germanium piece sounded clearly better than the upgrade silicon piece.
Old 26th March 2014
  #23
Lives for gear
 

Interesting discussion.
I was using round wound guitar strings - Black Diamond - in the very early sixties, so the jury would have to be out on the Beatles using tape or flat wound in 1954.
My 1962 Precision Bass came with flat wound from the factory, though.
I bought it six months old from the original buyer.
Old 26th March 2014
  #24
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

There's a smoothness to the guitar lick in Drive My Car that makes me think those are flats.



The lead break is more aggressive, but on the high strings, so you can't really
tell how that guitar is strung.

I forgot how great Paul's Bass sounded on this album, smooooth!

Nowhere Man is the first time you hear what a sounds a whole lot like a Strat, at least single coils with round wounds.
George plays an Epiphone live in 1966 and the pickups do appear to be dog ear P-90s.

So the single coil sounds were coming from semi-hollow, dog ear P-90's and round wounds.

Here you also see those Hybrid amps in use live with what appears to be big 2X15 cabs.



George is back on the Epiphone with Dog Ear P-90's for Day Tripper

Honey Don't Lead definitely Flat Wounds on the Tennessean.

Really hard picks too on most of George's parts.

From everything I've heard recorded and in bands, The Guitar, Strings, Pick Dynamics & Speakers have a greater
impact on their tones than the amps.

When you hear grind in the guitar tones, that's Harrison digging in hard with a hard pick and working that neck.

When you hear a smoother darker low end and glassy sparkling cleans, that's flat wounds, be it on the Tennessean, or the Rickenbackers.

Its cool to try and break this all down, item by item, but overall their sound was primarily cleans with an aggressive attack as needed.

Given a choice, I would go for a Bad Cat Hot Cat 50R with Fanes,
Black Cat 30R or Matchless DC 30 with UK Blues in a separate open back cab.
A pair of UK Celestion Blue AlNiCos is gonna set you back about $500.00
Then they need a good thorough break-in at band volumes.

If your primary interest is lower volume recording, The AC15HW1X or Bad Cat Black Cat 15R or Divided By 13 9/15
would all be great choices, also needing only one UK Blue.

If I bought the Vox, I would take it to my tech for a complete review.
Well worth $75.00 to catch minor issues that could take you down at just the wrong time.
Vox notoriously uses cheap jacks & switches, so they would get primary attention.
You don't have many tube in the 15 watters, so you might as well use the best glass you can find.

Posted Retail $1499.00 For the AC15HW1X includes the Vox Blue AlNiCo

For $100.00 more you can get the AC30HW2 with Greenbacks for $1599.00
With Vox Blues Retail shows $1999.00 Street will be better on all of them.
Old 26th March 2014
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
I'm pretty sure The Beatles never touched a solid state Vox in the studio.
I based my opinion on knowing that the Vox 7120 (SS pre amp, tube power) and Vox Conqueror (all SS) were in the studio and available. I think I have read of use of these amps in recording, but not 100% certain.

If I had AC 30/50's, Fender Bassman and other Fender amps available, I wouldnt be using a SS amp either!
Old 26th March 2014
  #26
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

Vox in many ways built a prototype and said to Epstein Here Try This!

It may have actually been Epstein's input as far as what kind of amps they needed for certain sessions.

It's pretty clear they began blending very clean tones with more aggressive tones from Rubber Soul moving forward.

Just listening to A Hard Day's Night the use of Rickenbackers is still obvious.
Old 26th March 2014
  #27
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If you want rich jangle and chime, clean and OD channel plus reverb
Foot switchable, the Bad Cat Hot Cat 50R through one or two Fane AXA12 AlNiCos would cover a very broad range of these tones.

I have the Bad Cat 100R Custom Shop and it out Voxes any Vox I've ever heard.

And its built like a tank.

The new ones carry a Lifetime Transferrable Warranty.

Considerably more dear than a Vox AC30, but covering those tones and having
more headroom with EL34 Cleans and overdrive tones.

So you get a dream Vox AC 50/Marshall Plexi rig in one amp.
Old 26th March 2014
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
Vox in many ways built a prototype and said to Epstein Here Try This!

It may have actually been Epstein's input as far as what kind of amps they needed for certain sessions.

It's pretty clear they began blending very clean tones with more aggressive tones from Rubber Soul moving forward.

Just listening to A Hard Day's Night the use of Rickenbackers is still obvious.

Are you referring to Brian Epstein? Because he was barely allowed in the studio once things got rolling and certainly had no influence on Vox's amp designs. He did arrange for their early endorsement after engineers at both Decca and EMI complained about their stage amps being in terrible condition. Maybe he reported back to Vox what the Beatles thought of various designs.
Old 27th March 2014
  #29
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by brill bedroom View Post
Are you referring to Brian Epstein? Because he was barely allowed in the studio once things got rolling and certainly had no influence on Vox's amp designs. He did arrange for their early endorsement after engineers at both Decca and EMI complained about their stage amps being in terrible condition. Maybe he reported back to Vox what the Beatles thought of various designs.
I was just guessing how it came about that the Beatles ended up being essentially crash test dummies with Hybrid Valve-state and Solid State amps when they wanted Fenders and could certainly afford any amps they wanted by that time.
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