Finally, some tonal satisfaction


Where is that speedo pic
Nov 4, 2012
washington iowa
I'm finally at a comfortable place with my tone. I've been through a few amps and while choosing to focus on my 2000 McCarty for this tone quest, been through some pickups too.

First is the amp. Snagged a used HDRX20 a couple months ago. I played a new one two years ago at a store and while I thought it sounded pretty good, I was apprehensive of an amp not built in US so I didn't buy it then.

Love this amp so far but it is only part of the equation. The other part is the 5815LT pickups. This combination is pure gold!

I have eight 4x12 cabs but there are two that sound the best with this amp. 1982b marshall with UK greenbacks and mesa white roadking.

The amp really needs to be turned up to get to the sweet stuff. Running master below 6 produces a Squarish tone??? Or maybe sharp attack is a better term. At 6 or above it really softens up. I love having bass and treble linked internally, screw that jumper cable stuff!

One thing I'm super happy with is if you want harsh you have to force it there. This has been my biggest complaint with most of the amps I've tried and I was beginning to think it was my hearing???

This amp with LTs produces incredible lead tones from both pickups. I'm having a hard time finding the right words to describe what I'm hearing. Its like when you strike a note the frequency focus is really broad and not narrowly focused. It just feels really good under my fingers and striking a note gives the impression there is a lot of push forcing the note to occur and bloom.

The LT bridge rhythm tones are kind of odd, I wouldn't say I'm 100% in love but just feels good.

The one thing i really need to mention is what this setup has done to my barber tone press compressor.

I was never really happy with it but I was always using the blend feature and now I have it set full wet then dial in how much comp I want.

It seems to allow the comp to do its job a little better to the point I may not NEED a lead boost. I do have an EP Booster set to add a touch more hair when needed. Now that the comp is working like I think it should, I can freely dial gain down a bit more and still like what I'm hearing without the struggle to get the notes out.

One more thing, 8515 set went in my 97 ce24 and I'm happy with it too. Shocking after hating them in my McCarty. Amp probably has a lot to do with it.

Lastly, I love both neck pickups in full HB mode and don't really desire them split so both guitars are set up to split bridge only. Bridge split with neck full is a tone I like plus I actually use bridge split so I call it a win.

So far I'm pretty happy and it has taken a long dang time to get there.

There have been a few guys on here that have offered suggestions and advice and I appreciate that.

I'm still using variac to keep voltage consistent and using attenuator to keep volume in check.

One last thing a want to mention here. This tone overhaul happened because I didn't like what I was hearing while recording. When I think I got my OD level where I want it, the mic tells me different. The mind and ears can play dirty tricks on a guitar player but the mics never lie.
Oh it did but it took 5815LTs to make the McCarty work. The 8515 set didn't work in that guitar but I was also using a different amp with more gain.
Ahh.. my mistake. When I see "McCarty" I automatically read 58/15.
One more thing, 8515 set went in my 97 ce24 and I'm happy with it too. Shocking after hating them in my McCarty. Amp probably has a lot to do with it.

The 85/15s seem to work especially well with a 24 fret neck. I absolutely love them in my CU24. Of course, they were made to come in a 24 fret PRS.
I'm still using variac to keep voltage consistent and using attenuator to keep volume in check.

That's a great idea.

The mind and ears can play dirty tricks on a guitar player but the mics never lie.
Actually, mics tell different truths depending on where you place them! A few things to keep in mind:

1. What they tell the truth about depends on what they hear, and they hear different things in different locations.

2. Like speakers and all other transducers, mics sound different from one another. Mic choice matters every time. There's no one-size-fits-all microphone.

3. Even close-miked, the room matters. What you hear in the room isn't the same thing the mic is hearing when it's up close to a speaker. In a room, you're hearing reflections, comb filtering, room modes adding to and cancelling bass frequencies, and so on. If you close-mic, you set the amp up just the way you like it, hit record, and are surprised you're getting something different than what you heard standing or sitting where you were?

What you heard is not at all what the mic heard unless it's positioned in the room next to where you're listening, at ear level (and in stereo!).

Here's something to chew on: In recent years (post-2000) using ribbon mics has been super-popular with guitar amps. Why? Two reasons. First, they roll off high frequency harshness. Second, they're figure-of-eight polar pattern mics; they hear the room behind them almost as much as what's in front of them, and what you get is a blend of speaker and room!

Of course it sounds more natural - duh!

Just my two cents:

If there was ever a formula for harsh tones, miking against the grill is that formula, and I don't care which famous engineers do it. They started the practice to isolate the instrument during a live recording, and then had to compensate with lots of EQ, de-harshers, reverbs, etc.

However, back in the day, lots of engineers used mics farther back. I got this idea to try moving the mics a foot or two back from the amps when I saw some photos of a mid '60s Rolling Stones session. I tried it, and it worked for me. You can always blend a close mic with a room mic if that's what's needed (I often do this, too).

However, regardless of whether it's close-miked, there's a simple way to dial in tones you like. You can do this with a looper pedal, of which there are many on the market. Here's how:

Record a passage on the looper, let it play, put on a set of headphones to hear what's coming through the amp, walk over and move the mic around until you hear what you want to hear in the cans. When you hit the spot you like, leave the mic there. You can mark the spot for the mic to point to on the grill, and where to put the mic stand with blue painter's tape (it leaves less residue, but don't leave it on very long or you'll still have a bit of a mess).

Tip: You'll want to use closed-back cans that have good isolation to make this work, or you can also use in-ear monitors with a pair of the ear muffler/noise reducing thingies that folks who work at airports wear that look like headphones.
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Out of curiosity, how is it that the number of frets affect the overall tone of a pup? Is it because of the pickup's position?

Yes. A 24-fret neck shifts the neck pickup a little closer to the bridge. Affects the tone a bit.