Allan's speakers

From Allan Holdsworth Information Center
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”The coffin”

“The coffin” was a name sometimes used for a speaker enclosure of Allan’s own design, for the purpose of recording at home at lower sound levels.

Castles Made Of Sand (Guitarist 1987)

You’ve built an interesting speaker box as well, haven’t you?

Yeah. I’ve had quite a lot of experience with miking and I know exactly what kind of speakers I like and how far away the mike’s going to be. But it’s very subtle and sometimes you can go to a certain room and not be able to get a sound at all. So I started experimenting with it on ‘Atavachron’, but I finally approved the design on the new album.

Any guitar player knows about trying to get a consistent sound in the studio but it can be so time consuming - you can go in and move the speaker cabinet and the microphone around for a while and still not be happy with it. So I thought ‘This is grim!’ So what I did was I made a totally enclosed box that has the microphone and the speaker in it and you can totally change any of the speakers. The baffle slides in and out and I’ve got loads of different speakers I can put in it - 10’s, 15’s, 8’s, Celestions, Jensons, JBLs or whatever I want to use for a specific sound. I’ve got a microphone inside the box on a rail, so it can move around, and once you find something you like you just lock it there. So when you go to the studio, you just pick the box up and stick it in the car, plug the amplifier in at one end and plug the other end into the recording console -and you’re there!

So the sound will remain identical - from your living room to the studio...

Yeah. You just cart it down to the studio and, providing the microphone stays in exactly the same position, the sound will stay consistent. I’ve got three different versions of it; a portable one, a slightly bigger one and a very big one. The very big one sounds the best because it’s reduced the resonant frequency of the box to below the guitar’s audible register, so it’s easy to eq out. I’ve had great results recording guitar at home with that box, in conjunction with the line level box. That way I can get the sound that eventually goes into the speaker box at a minimal level, but still the same ‘happening’ sound as it would be if I’d plugged it into the speaker fully cranked, except it’s making half the noise and you can eq it after the amp and before the speaker.

Guitar Synths in Jazz (Music Technology 1987)

“We used to go in the studio and spend hours miking up. I learned quite a bit about miking techniques, so I decided it would be a good idea to make a totally enclosed box. So I did, and it works great. It’s probably about 5’ long, 3’ high and 3’ wide, and that contains a speaker cabinet design with totally exchangeable baffles. I can take baffles out and change speakers really quick. It’s got a Neumann U87, and a specially constructed stand which I can move, but once I find a sound I like, it’s permanently located.’

“I started out with the road version, which was much more primitive. I was fed up with getting a different sound every night, and I wanted to make it consistent. Almost everywhere I go, the guitar sound is consistent. The only thing that changes is the PA maybe, or the room sound, but the sound that comes out of the cabinets is always the same. For convenience sake, I’ve just been using a couple of single-12 cabinets with those new JBL guitar series speakers, though I really should monitor it on more fullrange speakers.’

Axes Of God (Guitar World 1989)

Although certain of his older instruments have been sold due to space limitations, the disregarded relics of Allan’s guitar-development heyday pepper areas of the Holdsworth homestead in and around the Brewery. A mutated prototype of Allan’s signature Ibanez model leans, forgotten, behind the patio door, while other parts and portions of guitars, amplifiers and innovations-in-progress can be found just about anywhere else one glances. Beside a dormant Battle Zone arcade machine sits one of Allan’s latest and proudest, a soundproof enclosure containing sliding speaker rigs and microphone fixtures, designed to provide a clinical, sonically consistent recording environment for live guitar tracks.

Allan Holdsworth’s Untold Secrets + Worthy Quotes (Guitar Player 1990)

He went almost a halfyear over schedule, and half his fans went crazy-eights.

Why?

"Because I’m a constant experimenter," explains Allan. "Over the last two albums, when I started using the SynthAxe, I began working with different ways of recording guitar, probably more than I should have. At points during Atavachron, I’d do things like run the amp into one speaker cabinet, mike it, feed that into another amp, and then mike up that cabinet. On The 4:15 Bradford Executive, from Sand, I used two of the little enclosed speaker cabinets I built and drove each with a different amplifier [Ed. note: These small, soundproof cabinets contain movable microphone riggings for placement in relation to the speakers]. Finding things like that can take forever. On this album, I just thought about all the things I learned from the past and tried to consolidate them. I’d say okay look, - this mike sounds good and I’m going to stop putzing with it." I did putz a lot with it in the beginning: I’d record a solo and then two days later erase it all. Jimmy Johnson would keep calling and say, "look, man, don’t be erasing." I’d listen to copies of what I erased and think "Oh ,that wasn’t so bad." When I start chasing the tone thing, sometimes I really go around in circles."

Joe Satriani Meets Allan Holdsworth (Musician special edition 1993)

INTERVIEWER: Allan, are you still using your speaker box?

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH: "Well, I’ve used it on everything so far, except when I start this new album, I’m not gonna for the first time because I actually have a room that I can use now."

No Rearview Mirrors (20th Century Guitar 2007)

TCG: And you used that coffin speaker configuration too.

AH: Oh, that was for, yeah, that was to save everybody in the neighborhood from being fried. (laughter) So basically, it was just an enclosed speaker cabinet, with you know. Just like a coffin with a speaker in the middle and a microphone in there, and you just close the lid and off you go - you don’t annoy the neighbors. You know, it would be a great tool for a guy who lived in an apartment. You know, you could just stick it in a closet somewhere and you can record the guitar with a microphone without having to worry about, you know, demolishing the neighbors.  

Celestions

Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1982)

How do they compare to other speakers?

I prefer them to Celestions -- I use Celestions in my Marshall 4x12 cabinet. But they have a sound that is somewhere in between a Celestion and maybe one of the old Jensens -- like the ones you find in some old Fender cabinets. They have a warm sound, but with a lot of highs. Not quite as chewed up at the top end. They also have a small voice coil.

Does anything else distinguish the Goodmans?

I had a silver dust cap removed and had paper caps put in their place. I just can’t stand speakers with silver dust caps because they distort all the frequencies; to my ears they’re really offensive. I have yet to hear a silver dust-cap speaker that doesn’t make my teeth grind. You can get a lot of bottom and a lot of top with a big hole in the middle. It just kind of radiates all this top. The Goodmans don’t go quite as hard on the top as the Celestions. They sound sweeter.

Allan Holdsworth (Music UK 1983)

‘The Hartley Thompson is a solid state amp and in my opinion it’s the best guitar amplifier in the world, they’re insane! To me it sounds better than any tube amp I’ve ever heard. It’s infinitely better than a Boogie, it does things a Boogie can’t even come close to, they’re so . . .000 QUIET! I put them through four Yamaha 4x12 cabinets, two of them have the original speakers, and two of them contain Celestion Gl2s. With a Boogie set up I had to run the amp so hard that the output tubes couldn’t cope with the clean signal, and there was no way I could get the clean chords that loud. ‘The Hartley Thompson has two entirely separate channels that give a sustain on the red channel that leaves every other amp I’ve tried, in the dust. On the green channel you can play chords twice as loud and twice as clean as the red channel with individual EQ and separate reverbs. They’re light years ahead of anybody else, I don’t think anybody else even comes close.

Axes Of God (Guitar World 1989)

To create the tones customized for the specific tracks on Secrets, Allan cross-matched ideas, ingenuity and his inventions until he struck on a tasteful variety. Using his Steinberger GM2T, loaded with two custom Seymour Duncan Allan Holdsworth humbuckers and refretted by luthier Bill DeLap with Dunlop 6000 wire, Allan created "City Nights" by running a Boogie Mark III head through the Extractor prototype, into an equalizer, and back into a Boogie Simulclass 295 power amp, using only one side of the unit to drive his speaker box. There, the signal from a Celestion KS speaker was brought to tape via a Neumann TLM 170 microphone. The inline processing for his lead tone included an ADA Stereo Tapped Delay, two ADA mono delay lines and a Lexicon PCM60. Formulas differ on each track; there are few constants. "I used that power amp and the speaker box on all the tracks, with different variables," Allan reports. "On ‘Peril Premonition,’ for instance, I substituted a Boogie Quad preamp, and used a combination of a Shure SM58 and an AKG 460 on the same Celestion I’m very flexible, because it’s all a big experiment to me. If I thought that I’d gotten a really good guitar tone and just left the mike and everything in the same position and used it, I know I’d die after-wards. I wanted to get back to using tube amps. Since I started using the Juice Extractor with the Boogies, I’ve fo und that I can get more flexible variations of tone than ever before. I find myself customizing the amp from the outside."

At home in the Brewery (Home Recording 1997)

Holdsworth has two basic speaker cabinet setups, and he favors Mesa/Boogies for this application as well. "The 2x12’s are all Dual Rectifier cabinets and the lx12’s are all Single Rectifier cabinets. They have a mix of Celestions in them, including ones that are specially made for Boogie. I like the closed-back cabinets for lead and the open-backs for the chord sound. With the closed back you can feel the notes more. It’s punchier. But for the chordal sound, I play a lot with my fingers, and the open backs sound more open. It gets clumpy in there if I try to play chords with the closed back.”

Patron Saint (Guitar Player 2004)

"Gear is important, but its purpose is to fine-tune your sound, not to make your sound," says Holdsworth. "That comes from the hands."

These days, Holdsworth is using a pair of Yamaha DG80 112 digital modeling amps loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s. "I use one amp for my clean sound, and one for my lead tone," he explains. "For the clean sound, I actually use a Crunch preset, but I have the Gain set very low, and the Master volume set really high. If I hit the guitar hard there’s a little growl in there. Then, I have two or three different EQ variations of that sound for different rooms. For the lead sound, I just use the Lead One preset, and I have five different patches with varying degrees of gain that I’ll cycle through on any given night."

Interview_with_Allan_Holdsworth_(Jazz_Italia_2005)

ALEX: Do you prefer the Celestion Vintage 30?

ALLAN: I love Celestion speakers... Nothing comes close to them. I always use the same speakers but I do not like the Vintage. I like real ones. I have some cabinets that have G12 H but they don’t make them anymore. Then they reproduced the G12 M and all the Marshall cabinets I used in England had them, those were the speakers I used and those were the cabinets but they can not be found anymore. You should buy a very old cabinet and pray that it contains them in good condition. The speakers I currently use are the G12 90 or 80 85-90 watt, but not the Vintage. They are the same speakers that BOOGIE has called Black Shadow Celestion. I've never liked any other speakers. I tried them all ... EV, Jensen, Eminence ... Goodmans were pretty good but I know they do not make guitar speakers any more.. Bass cabinets sometimes have 12-inch Goodmans ... which are great speakers ... but Celestion is the top. [Machine back translated.]  

Goodman speakers

Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1982)

Did you use your usual stage setup to record I.O.U.?

Actually, since then I’ve gotten different equipment, because I had to sell the guitar and amps I used on the album in order to pay for it. I used two Hartley Thompson amplifiers and two Lab series L-5 amps. With the Hartley Thompsons I used two cabinets, each with two Goodman GP-12 speakers. They’re the best speakers, but they’re hard to get in America.

How do they compare to other speakers?

I prefer them to Celestions -- I use Celestions in my Marshall 4x12 cabinet. But they have a sound that is somewhere in between a Celestion and maybe one of the old Jensens -- like the ones you find in some old Fender cabinets. They have a warm sound, but with a lot of highs. Not quite as chewed up at the top end. They also have a small voice coil.

Does anything else distinguish the Goodmans?

I had a silver dust cap removed and had paper caps put in their place. I just can’t stand speakers with silver dust caps because they distort all the frequencies; to my ears they’re really offensive. I have yet to hear a silver dust-cap speaker that doesn’t make my teeth grind. You can get a lot of bottom and a lot of top with a big hole in the middle. It just kind of radiates all this top. The Goodmans don’t go quite as hard on the top as the Celestions. They sound sweeter.