The Best of Tone
A few days back, a discussion was started within the shop. It came down to this:
Name your top five favorite guitar tones, Band & Song title
A curious thing arose. Out of the handful of people around the shop, only one song was a duplicate on any of our lists. A few bands were mentioned more than once, but not the same song. All of us commented on each others choices as being good choices.
The other curious thing is that only a few of us can actually count to five.
Here's our lists. Feel free to add your own:
Bauhaus - In the Flat Fields
Hot Snakes - Auto Midnight
Julie Cruise - Floating Through the Night
Clash - 1977
Shadows - Stingray
Music Machine - Trouble
Ennio Moricone - Good Bad and Ugly
the Birthday Party - jennifer's veil
Freddie King - Boogie Funk
Magic Sam - Looking Good
Mickey & Silvia - Love is Strange
Charlie Christian - Airmail Special
Humble Pie - Black Coffee
Black Flag - Damaged
ZZ Top - Tush
Mick Ronson - With the Circle
Hendrix - Stars with Laughing Sam
Link Wray - Rumble
Clapton - Telephone blues
Santo & Johnny - Sleepwalk
Metallica - Disposable Heroes
EODM - ?
Hendrix - Foxy Lady
Mountain - Never in my life
Jeff Beck Group - I ain't superstitious
SRV - Scuttle Buttin
Free - The Stealer
Magic Sam - Looking Good
Fleetwood Mac w/ Peter - Jumpin At Shadorws
ACDC - High Voltage
Bloomfield - East/West
Dire Straits - Money For Nothing
ZZ - Need you Tonight
Chilites - Have You Seen Her
The Smiths - This Charming Man
Black Flag - Thirsty and Miserable
Steve Tibbets - The X-Festival
Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot
Matthew Sweet - Divine Intervention
Jesus & Mary Chain = Never Understand
Blake Mills - Shed Your Head
Ry Cooder - Humpty Dumpty
Brokeback - This is Where We Sleep
5ive Style - Freddy Flakeout
Jon Brion - Revolving Door
Mick Ronson/David Bowie - Queen Bitch
Neil Young - Ragged Glory
HoundDog Taylor - Gimme back my wig
the Birthday Party - Deep in the Woods
Them Crooked Vultures - Dead End Friends
Doug (gave two lists)
Michael Burks - Empty Promises
Albert King - Killing Floor
SRV - Life Without You
Clapton - Reconsider Baby
Fleetwood Mac - Shrine '69
Rush - Limelight
Lou Reed - Rock and Roll Animal Album
Rival Sons - Jordan
Tony Iommi - Live
Rory Gallagher - Shin Kicker
Neil Young - Don't Cry
Laaz Rockit - Fire in the Hole
Metallica - The Small Hours
Didjits - Beast Le Brutale
Pestilence - Out Of the Body
Bill Frisell - One of These Days
New Bomb Turks - Tail Crush
I asked a good friend and customer David Bostijn to write a bit explaining his thoughts on speakers with Satellites. He has an amazing amount of experience about this. So here is what he wrote:
Hey Friends, Adam asked me to write down my experiences with speaker combinations and satellite amps.
One thing I absolutely love in Adam's amps is it's clarity and punch. I've tried several other high-end amp builders but none give me that same sensation.
I ended up selling them all which gave me some extra cash to start collecting satellites :)
My first Satellite was an atom. I used it with a standard marshall 4x12 with G12T75 speakers. Sounded pretty good, but I felt like something was missing.
Detail, overtones... I sold that cab pretty quick and ended up buying a 4x12 with G12M25 greenbacks. That was a huge improvement. Really can't go wrong with
greenbacks. they give you that old-school 70's rock vibe which satellites absolutely love. no matter which model you own. But... I started to dig into celestion's catalog and started wondering about mixing speakers.
Oh right, before that I bought a vintage 1971 checkerboard marshall cab with the 'legendary' G12H30 greenbacks. Don't be fooled with vintage people. there's a lot of talk on the net about vintage speakers being so much better than new ones. I honestly did not like the flabby sound. It lacked power. Vintage speakers are way overrated in my book. I have a 1973 orange cab with G12H30's that sounds really good. but is it worth all the cash? I'll let everyone decide for themselves. But coming from someone that played old and new. hmmm....there's nothing wrong with the new celestions. they need a little time to 'break-in'. but after that...
So...sold my vintage marshall cab and bought a Cuda! never looked back :)
Right now I play Adam's amps through his 1x12's and a 2x12. I absolutely love mixing different speakers to hear subtle differences. Right now I have these speakers to mess around with: a G12H30 70th anniversary, a V30, a G12M25 greenback, an Alnico Blue, an Alnico Gold and a G12H75 Creamback.
Coming from my experience you can't really go wrong with any of these. But keep in mind that speakers preferably have to share the same 'DB'. all above speakers are rated at 100DB which basically makes them equal as far as loudness and power is concerned. Except for the greenback which is rated at 98DB. If you're mixing a greenback with f.i. a V30 the V30 will overpower the greenback. (100DB > 98DB). you CAN mix up speakers that don't have matching DB's, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but keep in mind that one will overpower the other.
Also it's important that you check the power rating. don't play a single Alnico Blue with a Barracuda! 15Watts vs 45Watts, not a good idea.
But enough of the stuff that you probably already know. What works best?
I've tried all combinations and there's several killer combo's.
This one doesn't sound as 'dirty' as let's say a neutron or an atom. Class A/B vs Class A. It pretty much gets you into old-school marshall territory pretty fast.
I have been playing this one a lot lately.
1. It sounds killer combined with an alnico gold and a G12H30. that's pretty much my favourite combination. The gold adds chime and overtones and all kinds of harmonies while the G12H30 keeps everything tight and adds ceramic power. WINNER!
2. On it's own I don't really care for a V30, to direct, to strict, doesn't really add harmonic overtones...but somehow when added with a G12H30 or a G12H75 creamback it makes a powerhouse. Really, really good combination as well!!
3. If you're a greenback fan you have to check out the creambacks!! they share the same identity but they're so much more versatile. higher power handling, more highs, more mids, more of everything. Very very good speaker and mixes well with everything. Barracuda combined with creambacks=killer!
Neutron and Atom...
these amps have so much beautiful grind and Class A dirt that you need something to keep them in check sometimes :)
My go to speaker combination for these two right now is an alnico Blue and a G12H75 creamback. combine these two and it's golden! Gives you power, harmony, clarity and definition. My atom sounds so good, everytime I turn that orange light on and strum a chord it puts a smile on my face :).
but there's a lot of possibilities in great sounds with these amps. 18W Neutron and 36W Atom gives you a lot of options to try several mixes. give it a go!
Being rated at 12W it gives you the option to try everything you want. in our band our singer/guitarist plays this one all the time. We make different mixes every rehearsal haha. to my ears, it loves alnico chime. Alnico all the way!! I think of the elmer as a perfect mix of an 18W Marshall and a Vox AC15.
2W, and satellite's very own bedroom amp. don't let it fool you in it's size. it's perfect for late night playing or recording sessions. You can pretty much combine it with every 10" or 12" speaker you want. I haven't found a go to speaker yet. it sounds good with everything.
Please feel free to chip in if you have other satellite models. I am wondering about the white amp combined with a celestion for instance.
I know Adam loves Celestion speakers as well. I can not comment on other brands as I don't have the experience, but feel free to add to this piece!!
so, to sum it up:
1. Vintage speakers are overrated
2. Mixing alnico and ceramic speakers is a really good idea!!!
3. GO BUY A SATELLITE!
4. I STILL NEED A WHITE AMP!
Output transformers are rarely understood as to how they can affect the tone in an amplifier. The output transformer is the last part of tone shaping before the sound hits the speakers. Most of what it takes to create a great transformer is a lot of experience, engineering, and quality ingredients.
An output transformer functions the same as all other transformers do. As a very simplified explanation, a high voltage from the plates of the power tubes goes in to the primary side of the transformer. This is a coil of wire wrapped around a core, with a second coil next to it. This inductively changes the voltage and current to a lower voltage, and higher current that will make speakers produce sound.
These coils are usually measured in resistance. Tubes want a properly matched resistance in the output transformer. When matched properly, this allows the tubes to push at their optimum, creating more efficient power. Too high or too low will cause less power to be created, and less frequency response to be produced.
Wire has a resistance to it. Thicker and thinner wires, have different resistance values per foot. Thicker wire has a lower resistance. Thinner is higher. For instance, 28 gauge wire is 3.075 ohms (or Ω) per foot, while 32 gauge wire is 5,788 ohms per foot. So, it would take roughly 1.5 times the distance of 28 gauge wire to equal the same amount of resistance of 32 gauge. This also affects the amount of current that can be handled. Thicker wire carries more current (AKA amps). There is a balance between the sizes (and types) of wires used on the primary and secondary.
The wire is wrapped around a bobbin. Bobbins come in a variety of materials, all will slightly affect the coils that are wrapped around them (as will the distance between coils in certain applications).
The iron used in the core of the transformer matters. The core is the structure that holds everything together. Since we are dealing with electricity in a coil, we have to take some electromagnetics into account. The better the material of the core, the better the magnetic field, stability and structure.
So, how do we pick the transformer we want? With a bit of experience, a bit of education, and usually a bit of help from someone that knows a heck of a lot more than we do. The people at Mercury Magnetics have been very instrumental at turning my tonal aspirations into a physical transformer, all while helping me to understand how to ask for what I want to hear when designing a transformer. One of the most important things for us, is to properly match the load as close as possible to maximize our output and fidelity. Having a slightly close match won't ever sound as good as the proper one. If you are shopping around looking for an upgrade on an amp, ask if they are designed for your application, or if it is more of a "universal" that will work in multiple applications.
I am going to attempt to explain some of the basics of tube amplifiers in different sections, primarily to help dis-spell some misinformation that is out there, and explain our choices in parts and operations. I am going to stay away from the heavy math parts, and the overly technical.
Power transformers are integral to the overall operation of an amplifier. At the most basic, a transformer transforms one voltage to another (or sometimes multiple voltages). For most tube amplifiers, wall voltage comes into the first side of the transformer, also known as the "primary" side. On the output side, or secondary, we have a few voltages. In most tube amplifiers, there will be a 5 volt, a 6.3 volt, and some sort of higher voltage, normally referred to as B+ voltage.
The 5 volt is usually used as a filament, or heater, voltage for a rectifier tube. Most rectifier tubes used in tube amplifiers run off 5 volts. This filament voltage is what warms up the internals of a tube to make them function properly. Usually this voltage has enough current, measured in amperes or amps, to handle the tube being used. The current can be thought of as a supply, or reserve that the tube can pull from. With rectifiers, having more current to supply the 5 volt supply is perfectly fine. The thing to avoid is not having enough of a supply, as this will overheat the power transformer and could cause it to fail.
The 6.3 volt is the filament that normally supplies the preamp, driver, and power tubes. Pretty much all of the other tubes in the amplifier. This has a similar function as the filament in the rectifier section. The difference here is that too much extra current will cause the voltage to be too high. The really basic explanation of how a tube works is that when electricity hits the filaments, they warm up, kind of like a toaster. When they warm up, they heat the inside of the tube to make electrons transfer from one part to another. If you put too much or too little voltage in the filaments, it makes the tubes not function at their optimum. Too high and the sound is harsh, and grating. Too low and it is mushy. Right at the correct filament voltage the tube will have the greatest fidelity and frequency response.
The B+, or high voltage is dependent on what voltages are desired down the schematic. Each amplifier model may want a different B+ voltage. In designing an amplifier and choosing a transformer, there are voltages that are desirable ranges for different tubes to sound good in different functions. Consistency from one to another is very important.
We pick our transformers to make sure that we have exactly the voltages and current supplies we need. We use Mercury Magnetics in all of our builds, as we believe in the quality of their product, and they work closely with us to make sure we are getting exactly what we want. There are a number of other transformer manufacturers out there. Some good. Some bad. Just like anything, really. A number of companies will use generic transformers that will work in a schematic, but the current supplies or B+ may be off. The companies know that it will technically function, and they can offer them out cheaply. Most budget transformers fall into this category. A lot of lower end amplifiers benefit highly from having transformers changed to have proper voltage and current supplies inside. We prefer to start out with the best.
Favorite Album of all time
Here at Satellite, we have a revolving question that we like to ask people who happen to come by in person. The question is this:
What is your favorite album that you listen to regularly, and all the way through? The conditions that always have to be repeated are:
• You have to actually listen to it front to back. No skipping. Not just a few select tracks. The entire thing.
• You have to listen to it regularly. That means at least once a month.
• You don't have to justify it. If your favorite album is Spice World Soundtrack, thats perfectly ok.
My favorite album is the Clash, London Calling. To me, it shows what people who are truly passionate about what they love, can accomplish. Its powerful. It is when everything in the world seemed to be perfectly in sync with those guys in the studio. I listen to it so often, that there are times when I will listen to it 2 or 3 times in a row without ever getting tired of it.
After numerous requests for a book, we have decided to better serve our fans by having a blog. We will try to answer questions about our products, give our thoughts on our products as well as vintage or interesting modern gear. Maybe interesting repairs that come our way, or just music in general.
Let us know what you think, or if there is anything you'd like to see get covered.
Usually Adam. (AG)