For those of you who are curious as to how we create our pedals, we produced this short video about our manufacturing process and the partners we work that allow us to bring JRAD pedals to you!
Over the years I’ve read several articles related to tonewood and whether or not it makes a difference as to how an electric guitar sounds. There are those who are convinced it does and those who think it has no affect whatsoever. Is there really a scientific method in which to test this theory? I ran across an article the other day where different pieces of tonewood (all the same dimensions) were tested with the same type of strings and pickup. The audio signals were analyzed and recorded. Although there was an audible difference between Alder and Swamp Ash, was this because the string was plucked a little differently or was it because the strings on each piece of wood had a different tone sonically? Was it because the density of that piece of Alder was just different than another piece of Alder as compared to the Swamp Ash or could it have been that the anchoring points of each string were slightly different? There are so many variables involved with how a particular guitar sounds that it’s really difficult to know how much the actual tonewood affects the overall sound.
So why is it that some people say vintage guitars (1950′s and 1960′s) sound better than modern day guitars? There are many luthiers today that, when trying to replicate vintage guitars, do so by kiln drying the wood they use to build the guitars. Electric guitars built in the 50′s and 60′s are very old and, thus, the wood they are made of is very old. As wood ages for that many years it dries out. Some say that wood which is drier is more resonant. I would have to agree with this but does that create a direct correlation as to the overall tone of the guitar? Based on the variable scenarios that make up the tone of a guitar, it’s really hard to say? If we were to pick up a piece of Mahogany from 1959 and hit it with a wooden spoon it would probably sound different than a piece of Mahogany from 2015. The audible differences would be much more apparent sonically due to the noise of the wood when hitting it with a wooden spoon. However, does the sound that each piece of wood makes create a tone that is better than the other? Would the older, drier piece of Mahogany sound better than the newer piece of Mahogany or will it just sound different because it is resonating differently? Additionally, will each piece of wood sound as different when incorporated with all the other components of a guitar after it’s built versus when hitting it with a wooden spoon as a slab of wood by itself? Again, this is all subjective!
Keep in mind, a test like this is very simple as we are only trying to differentiate between the sound two pieces of wood make! Things get really complicated when we add the following components into the mix:
…and so on, and so on! In my opinion, I have noticed the most difference in the tone of a guitar when changing the pickups. Two different sets of pickups can change the tone of a guitar drastically. Does that mean that I could take a cheap set of pickups and install them in the Knaggs Keya pictured above, one of the most finely crafted guitars made today, and it would sound bad? In my opinion, yes, it would not sound as good. Conversely, would that be the case if I installed that same set of cheap pickups in the 1959 Gibson Les Paul reissue also pictured above? Again, in my opinion, yes, it would not sound as good as the original set of PAF’s designed for the guitar.
My point is this. Great Luthiers who build guitars do so with the idea that each component that goes on the guitar is designed to compliment all the other components of the guitar, including the wood. A well crafted guitar would not be designed with the idea that it will sound it’s best with a set of inferior pickups or any other component for that matter. This is a debate that will probably go on for ages and I don’t suspect that it will be resolved any time soon as it’s really a matter of opinion. The bottom line is that when choosing a guitar, does it sound good to you? Is it well crafted and does it feel good in your hands? Does it play like butter or do you struggle to hold a chord? Does it make you a better player or want to give up and go back to your day job? All these are considerations when choosing a guitar that’s right for you!
Given that this is a blog and open for debate I encourage our followers to chime in. Give us your opinion as we would really like to hear what you have to say! Click on the “Leave a comment” link below and tell us what you think!
The “Neve” Sound
For years I had the pleasure of working on a few different Neve consoles at Cello Studios in Hollywood CA. You always hear about the Neve sound and how remarkable recordings can be in the hands of a capable engineer. These were all Vintage Neve consoles and within these vintage Neve consoles were some amazing preamps and EQ’s.
One of the most famous preamps in the world is the Neve 1073 which has been an industry staple since its inception. There are others as well, like the 1084, but all of these units had a magic quality and a magic coloration.
You always hear about transparency in recordings but Neves most certainly were/are not transparent. There is a pleasing coloration to anything you record through a Vintage Neve. I especially notice it on symbols and the silky nature they take on when recorded through a vintage Neve console.
There have been many attempts at clones of the Neve 1073, some have been exceptional and some not so much. I remember having the conversation with Gary Myerberg (Master Engineer/Tech at Cello) and Gary telling me that it was the Polystyrene caps in the vintage Neve consoles that gave them their magic. I would not know but Gary is one of the best in the industry so I trust him.
It is my opinion that in today’s world of recording you do not need massive consoles and expensive mics to achieve professional and, in some cases, exceptional results. You are seeing more and more 500 series racks loaded with Neve 1073’s, API 512 C’s and many, many others as front ends to DAWS. Plug-ins are getting better and better and great mics are becoming more and more affordable.
Rupert Neve has continued to design modern day gear that rivals anything he has made in the past. However, some people cannot get past the vintage mindset. The vintage mindset is fine but do not discount what is on the market today.
I remember visiting Rupert Neve Designs in Wimberly and having some great conversations. One of their head engineers at the time was a guy named “Hutch” Craig Hutchison, who I believe is back with Manley Labs. Hutch told me that Rupert still has weekly chalk talks and every week he would show these highly regarded engineers something mind blowing in his approach to circuit design. That being said, I have always remained a huge fan of Rupert Neve and his designs.
Josh Thomas (Head of RND) has been amazingly generous over the years. I now sport a sweet set of new 500 series pre’s, compressors and tape emulators, along with my prized 5060 center piece. I personally have never achieved sound quality that equals what I am achieving today out of my lowly home studio!
Some of my favorites of my personal gear:
If you can’t make a record with this stuff you might need to question your skills!…:-)
Check out Rupert Neve products at http://rupertneve.com
5088 High Voltage & Discrete Mixer
When 90 volts course through discrete op-amp cards, custom transformers & meticulously crafted, Class A circuitry designed by the most trusted name in audio, the difference is immediately apparent.
Different from the Inside-Out
The circuit topology of the 5088 is unprecedented. With custom transformers coupling every single input and output (including the inserts), the sweet musical performance and bulletproof isolation expected from a Rupert Neve design are assured: there is not a single compromised signal path in the entire console. For signal amplification and control, all new, high voltage, discrete op-amp cards have been developed specifically for the 5088 that eliminate crossover distortion while offering extended headroom, dynamic range, and frequency response.
The 5088 is a culmination of Mr. Rupert Neve’s vast analogue circuitry knowledge. As his first fully discrete mixing design in over 30 years, the 5088 incorporates and improves upon many of the same concepts, such as the single-sided, fully discrete amplification and complete transformer isolation that made his original designs so revered – except unlike many of those aging classics, maintenance is no longer a full time job.
Sound Without Compromise
To stay current in the recording business you must be able to continuously adapt your environment to the needs at hand. Because the 5088 is completely modular, channel strips and Portico processing modules like EQ, microphone preamplification and dynamics can be added or removed to meet constantly changing demands and eliminate the massive redundancies of consoles from yesteryear. If you don’t need it, your console doesn’t need it either.
The Input Channel
Beyond its exceptional sound quality, the 5088 channel strip is designed to effectively handle multiple normalled sources, creating master, group and aux mixes with great efficiency. With 8 axes, 8 “Groups”, “Solo”, “Mute”, “Send Follows Pan”, “Aux to Group”, a transformer coupled direct out and optional motorized fader automation on each channel, even the most complex mixes are within reach.
The Stereo Input Channel
In lieu of mono input channels with selectable Line 1 / Line 2 Inputs, Stereo Input Channels can be fitted to increase the channel count without having to add an expansion chassis. The Stereo Module has all of the group sends, six auxes, stereo width control, and individual trims and pans for each channel.
The Group Channel
With 4 pairs of FX returns and aux master controls, alongside high-quality 100mm faders, direct outs and transformer-coupled inserts for each of the 8 mix groups, the group master section provides the medium to control 4 stereo stem mixes while tying together an entire array of channel strips. If necessary, the insert returns and stereo FX returns can be used as an additional 16 inputs for summing.
The Monitor Master
The monitor master section has 6 source selections, 3 transformer-coupled speaker outputs, talkback, oscillator controls, 2 VU meters, stereo inserts, stereo level and control room master level. As with the the channel and group modules, anodized aluminum knobs provide the solid feel and response needed for precise adjustments.
Built around state-of-the-art motorized faders and DAW control over ethernet, SwiftMix combines the accuracy and convenience of digital automation with the unrivaled analogue sound of the Rupert Neve Designs 5088 Console.
In my opinion, as well as the opinions of many others, speakers are THE most important part of the signal chain when it comes to your tone. You could have the greatest guitar, pickups, amp, and pedals in the world but if your speakers aren’t any good your tone will never be what you want it to be.
Enjoy the following article from Brian’s Harding’s website, Bygone Tones, on Pre-Rola Greenbacks Explained. This is part 1 of the article so if you want to read part 2 just go to his website. If you have any questions about vintage speakers or want to get some, feel free to email Brian as he’s always been very gracious to answer questions I have.
You can visit Bygone Tones at www.bygonetones.com
So What is a pre-Rola?
Pre-Rola Celestions are generally considered to be the best sounding guitar speakers ever made. Furthermore, they are very collectable due to their history and association with old 60′s amplifiers (Marshall in particular) and hundreds of guitar icons known to have recorded and gigged with them back in the day: Jimy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimi Page, Jeff Beck, Paul Kossoff, Ritchie Blackmore, to name a few- these are some of the most influential guitarists of all time! However, a lot of people are confused about what the term ‘pre-Rola’ actually means and what a ‘pre-Rola’ speaker is.
A Quick bit of History
Originally, two companies existed:
In 1947, long before any guitar speakers or “Greenbacks” were ever made, British Rola bought Celestion and the resulting company was known as ‘Rola Celestion Ltd.’ Very Late in 1968 the company expanded and opened a second factory in Ipswich Suffolk named the Ditton Works. In 1975 production gradually came to a close at Thames Ditton, with all production from then onwards done at Ipswich.
So what is pre rola?
The term ‘pre-Rola’ was invented by guitar players (be afraid!). Basically, it refers to a period of time when Celestion were using a certain type of label on their greenback speakers (Jan 1966 to April 1971). This label did not have the word Rola written on it, so guitar players called them ‘pre-Rola’ labels to differentiate between the later Rola Ipswich labels. The key thing to remember about the 70′s Rola labels is the Ipswich address. Any Rola labels with the Thames Ditton address on them are likely to be earlier still (1964 to 1965) and actually pre-date the pre-rola labels.To explain things in a bit more detail I will need to differentiate between a ‘pre-rola label’ and a ‘pre-rola speaker’ (a speaker can have a pre-rola label on it – yet not be classed as a pre-rola speaker!)
Pre Rola Labels
Pre-Rola labels have the ‘Thames Ditton Surrey’ address at the bottom, and omit the word Rola. Guitarists called them pre-rola labels because they came before the labels with the ‘Rola Celestion Ltd’ text and the Ipswich Suffolk address.
Pre Rola Speakers
The pre-Rola labels were standard across most speaker models from January 1966 to March 1971. This is known as the pre-Rola period. So, any Celestion Greenbacks made during this time are said to be pre-Rola speakers. The company was called ‘Rola Celestion Ltd.’ during this time but they were simply not printing the word Rola on the labels.
April of 1971 is the transitional month for the labels (on the T1221 model). So, there are some April of 1971 speakers with the pre-Rola label and classed as pre-Rola speakers, but some have the Rola label and therefore cannot be classed as pre-Rola speakers. All getting a bit silly now? Both speakers are exactly the same apart from the label.
Non Pre-Rola Speakers- With Pre-Rola Labels
The pre-Rola labels continue to be used sporadically on certain speakers after April of 1971 and well into 1975. However, any speakers made after April of 1971 are not classed as true pre-Rola speakers by most collectors, even though they might still have the pre-Rola label on them.
pre-rola speakers- with rola labels
So vice-versa, there exist some speakers made during the pre-Rola period that came with Rola written on the labels. Remember, the company was called ‘Rola Celestion Ltd.’ from 1947 onwards so some labels do have it written on them. Crazy, huh?
Here is a pre-Rola speaker made in mid- 1966. Notice the Rola Celestion text. Underneath this amp makers’ label is a pre-Rola Celestion label. So long as the speaker was made between January of 1966 and March of 1971, it’s safe to call it a pre-Rola.
The first greenbacks
You might read, in certain books, that the first Greenback speakers were pre-Rola’s. This is incorrect. The earliest pre-Rola label I have ever seen was on a speaker dated January of 1966. Before this, all ceramic speakers (aka Greenbacks) came with just a gold and red label. The text at the bottom reads ‘Rola Celestion Ltd.- Thames Ditton Surrey’ (not Ipswich). These are the first Greenback speakers and were made around 1964 to 1965. These speakers are incredibly rare and very collectable!
Today’s blog post is courtesy of Nathan Sanford from Sanford Magnetics. Nathan is a top notch designer of Humbucking and P-90 style pickups and he is located all the way up in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. His company is Sanford Magnetics and you can see his website at www.sanfordmagnetics.com. He will also be introducing a new amplifier to his brand in the near future. I’ve heard the prototype of the amp and it is nothing short of stellar! Nathan brings a lot to the table when it comes to pickup design and manufacturing. He is our first guest blogger for J.Rockett Audio Designs. Nathan’s topic is on how to do your own tube biasing at home. Enjoy the article!
Tube Amp Biasing At Home
This is pretty basic and by no means a comprehensive lesson for doing amp work, but it’s served me well over the years. Some may find it basic, to those who always wondered, it may be insightful. I’m not an expert or a tech, just someone who needed to do it myself.
Learning to bias an amp will save you a lot of trouble over the course of your playing life. Much like learning to do your own guitar setups, you’ll be able to adjust your amp for your needs and tube roll at home without having to see a tech. If you do your own guitar work, you know how valuable a skill that is. With a little know-how and working safely, you can have a lot of fun finding what works best for your rig.
The key to making this easy is a device known as a bias probe. A tool you can plug in between the tubes and the sockets of your amp to get the readings you’ll need. It’ll pay for itself in no time. The Weber Bias-rite is the one I’ve been using for years, but there’s a few different ones on the market now.
Tube amps are a little bit dangerous to go prodding around in, so be aware that 5 milliamps across the heart can kill you. Never make an adjustment with a guitar around your neck. Never do this bare foot or in the bathtub, use common sense and nothing will bite you.
Make sure your amp is well supported, I use a couple stacks of 2X4′s drilled together for a cheap DIY cradle. When you do anything inside your amp, stick your left hand in your pocket so you don’t accidentally touch something you shouldn’t. If you are a careless person, don’t try this.
Biasing an amp is really just simple math. Watts/voltage=current. You’ll need to know the maximum wattage rating for the tube you’re using. The KT66 I’m using in my RT66 is a 25 watt tube. Typically, 70% of maximum tube dissipation at idle is what I work around..some say 70% is the maximum, but that’s somewhat subjective.
1.) With the Bias-rite in place, I get a voltage reading, then hit the switch to get the current draw of the tube.
2.) With my Rt66, 70% of 25 watts gets me 17.5 watts a tube. 17.5 watts/459v = .038 amps.
3.) With the amp on in play mode, You’ll want to make small adjustments to the bias pot and observe the bias probe as you make the changes.
I set the amp to 35.6ma per tube…for 16.34 watts. Under the 70%, but after playing the amp, I’m happy with the results.
Now, that’s the basics. Where this gets fun is experimenting with different amps and tubes and what you want to get out of them.
Looking for more headroom, playing cleaner stuff, set the bias on the cold side, say 65%. If you have an old Marshall, set it higher, then play test the amp. You’ll let your ears be the judge of what bias setting works for you and your amp. There’s no real rule, just what your ears tell you is right. Too cold and your amp will sound like garbage, too hot and you’ll wear your tubes out prematurely…but that could be worth it to some guys, so be mindful of shortened tube life. I once had a tech tell me he biased everything cold. He was worried about a tube failing and the amp combing back for warranty repair…didn’t matter if the player preferred the amp set on the hot side. Really, it’s more about experimentation than anything and finding what works for you. These simple tools and some math can open up another level of tweaking for us eternal tinkerers.
Hey everyone, I just wanted to give a low down on my experience at Summer NAMM in my home town of Nashville TN.
To my surpise the show was jamming right from the start. The convention center is excellent and parking was a breeze. It was fun because this year I was able to drop off a bunch of the Rockett products at a local dealer’s booth and just let them be there for everyone to sample.
I of course have more important things to do like check out recording gear….;-) That being said, I have to recommend a microphone. The new Telefunken Copperhead mic….wow!! it has a U67 capsule, sounds like pure silk and can take 138db spl….that is crazy high and will work amazingly well on electric guitars. I was told it was used all over the new Greenday record if you want reference. Did I come home with one…..hmmmmmm?
So onward, I cruised over to my buddy Josh Thomas’s little known Rupert Neve Designs booth and pimped him for free preamps (It did not work) but they have a new DI that rewrites the book…looking forward to that. I, however, shall keep pushing them to send me one of these 5060 and some 500 series pres…….such great gear!!
Right next to them was the Antelope Audio booth and for those of you looking for home studio stuff that pretty well gets you into the Pro realm check out their new Zen Studio WOW! does this thing sound amazing and for relatively cheap for one of their products….in my future indeed…..now if I could afford those ATC monitors I would be set!!
There is a lot of cool new gear in the pedal world as well but who needs those…;-)
After party at the Warwick facility on 12th was a blast. I got to meet lots of superstar bass players like Chuck Rainey, Vail Johnson (Ok, Vail is my motorcycle riding buddy but nobody else can claim MC Hammer), Victor Wooten and many more. Of course Phil X was rockin as well. A special thanks to Hans Peter Wilfer (Owner of Warwick) for a great spread of food and drink…HP knows how to party. Big thanks to Wolf Hoffman for letting my wife get her metal god photo!!
I am hoping that Summer NAMM continues to get better because it is so much more relaxed and easy when compared to Winter NAMM. I think after this experience we will pony up for a booth next year and see how it goes. Make sure you check out some of the gear I mentioned above….that is, if you are into recording.
Hope to see you there next year!
The article from the site I’ve posted below was something I ran across when researching pickups and what’s right for specific guitars. I’m a firm believer that the pickups in a guitar should be matched to the resonance of the wood. In other words, if you have a guitar that rings for days unplugged and almost has an acoustic quality to it, you’ve got one with darn good wood! Why do the guitars from the 50′s and 60′s sound so good? Because the wood is old and dry. The dryer the wood, the more resonant it is. Not to mention, the old nitrocellulose lacquer finishes help to contribute to the tone because that finish doesn’t “choke” the wood like the thick, poly finishes do.
I had a luthier custom make me an exact replica of a 1963 Stratocaster years ago and he used a one piece maple body that he stuck in a kiln and dried it to 3% moisture, which replicates old wood. Needless to say, it’s probably the best sounding guitar I own! It’s so resonant that you can feel it vibrate your rib cage when you play it. On that note, relative to the pickups, I wanted a set that were low output to compliment the resonance of the guitar. A set of higher output pickups that are overly compressed would simply mask the true resonance of the guitar. I wanted to hear the guitar sing, not the pickups! The pickups were custom wound at a very low output and “wow”, do they ever make that guitar sing! When I want my tone overdriven I use my amp for ‘cryin out loud’ as that’s what a set of great tubes is for!
So now, I’ve ventured into modifying my Les Paul Traditional because I absolutely hate the 57 Classics it came with. I probably played 100 Les Paul’s before I bought the one I own and I “auditioned” all of them unplugged! The darn thing rings like a church bell in a concert hall! Yes, even mahogany can ring out even though it tends to be a darker sounding tone wood. This guitar probably has a really good piece of maple on top as well. I was stoked to know I could still find a good sounding Les Paul by searching hard enough without having to spend 5K for an R9! To me, the 57 Classics on this particular guitar sounded like using a pillow as a speaker grill in front of a $5,000 dollar Bang and Olufsen! So, I had a set of humbuckers custom wound to my specifications, both in the 6k range for the neck and bridge. Since OMG is the abbreviation used so commonly today when trying to describe something that blows the socks right off your feet, I’ll use it here as that’s the difference these low output pickups made on my ridiculously resonant Les Paul!
A guy name Nathan Sanford custom wound them for me and he’s got a little shop way up in New Brunswick Canada of all places! Super guy and super passionate about building pickups! He only does humbuckers and he does them really well! Check out his site at www.sanfordmagnetics.com. He even built his own website and knew nothing about it when he started! You gotta a love a guy who does what he does out of pure passion and it shows in his work!
Anyhow, enough rambling so enjoy the article I’ve attached as it has some great information about how to match pickups to the type of guitar you have!
The importance of choosing the right pickups for your guitar, is an often overlooked part of the whole tone search. We spend most of our budget on expensive pedals but a tone starts with the guitar and its pickups. In this feature we’ll look at different single coil models with David Gilmour’s tone in mind as well as a few tips and tricks.
Simply put, a single coil pickup consists of a given length of coil, six magnet poles and mounting plates. The tone characteristics of a pickup is a combination of different types of ALNICO magnets and coil, number of wounds and the technique used during the winding process. Less turns of the coil creates a cleaner, more transparent tone with less output. The more turns, the more output with more mid range and less highs.
When you pick a string, the vibration resonates between the wood (body and neck) and the strings. The vibration is picked up by the pickup magnets that pushes the magnetic field through a stationary coil. The signal is induced and in turn amplified. The type of wood, lacquer, string gauge, pick etc will colour the resonance.
Like pedals, the pickups in your guitar are a part of your tone but perhaps more importantly, they pick up and transfer all the nuances in your playing. You could very well just use whatever pickups you want or even make a pickup yourself but choosing a model that fits and enhances the timbre of your guitar, the tone of your amp and your technique, is important to get the tones you want.
In the listings below, I’ve focused on the familiar and easily available models from Fender but I recommend that you check out similar models from different brands. Everyone has their special way of winding a pickup and it’s the small nuances that makes a difference.
Obviously, which pickups you should choose depends on your taste and purpose of use. Depending on what tones you want, a dark sounding guitar, will perhaps need brighter, low output pickups (Fender CS 54, 69), while a bright, thin sounding guitar, can be improved with a set of higher output pickups with more bass and mids (Fender Tex/Mex, Duncan SSL5, EMG DG20).
The same principles applies to combining pickups and amps. The hotter the pickup, the more you push the amp towards breakup. This can cause some difficulty in choosing the right pickup if you’re mostly playing at home. A hotter pickup will compensate for some of the tone loss caused by low volume but it can also make a smaller amp distort sooner. My best tip is to check to try out a couple of models or at least have some idea of how the models will work with your rig.
Controversy indeed with the new Archer. Many people have asked WHY we decided to release this pedal but a whole lot more ENCOURAGED us to release this pedal.
Rockett’s manufacturer was responsible for building the first 1500 KTR units, we had nothing to do with the design but we certainly learned a lot about the coveted circuit just in conversations with the creator. I will say this, we tried to influence the KTR design in suggesting that it pay homage to the original at the very least. That said, we failed!
We watched multiple companies build clones and just sat back while those clones flew off the shelves and created an alternative market for people who were interested in this circuit. We certainly followed the commentary on the success of the clone designs and tried to learn. After fielding hundreds of phone calls asking when the KTR would be available again with no ability to answer that question it opened our eyes a bit. This is a coveted circuit for a reason, people want it but people cannot get it. Just a simple supply and demand scenario but for those who want the true sound their options are clones or the real deal and it seems most of those options were expensive ventures……really expensive for the real deal.
To embark on this venture to create such a controversial product was driven by demand simply put. However, it had to be right or it was not going to be done at all. We have created, what we feel is an excellent option for those looking for this sound at a very affordable price without compromise or without gouging anyone.
More to come………..
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