Boogie amps

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Allan Holdsworth (Beat Instrumental 1979)

Not being able to find true hapiness (sic) with current Fender Strats (perhaps not an uncommon syndrome!) Allan resorted to having the basic Fender design principles re-executed for him by Dick Knight.

"I got Dick to make a decent neck for the body that I had and then I cut out a cardboard scratchplate and generally started work on turning it into the guitar that I wanted. Eventually I cut out the tone controls and reduced the Fender system to just one tone and one volume because I find simple guitars that much more effective.

"What I’ve got now is effectively a Strat with two humbuckers fitted and arranged so that I can have either pickup but not both.

"Those original pickups that I fitted were genuine Gibson P.A.F.’s which I’d taken off previous S.G’s that I’d had. The sound really came up to expectations - it was a very bright guitar, just what I’d always hoped it would be."

The first appearance of the newly refurbished Strat was on that Gazeuse album where Allan found himself experimenting with the Strat at the expense of what had previously been his main guitar, a Gibson S.G.

"I’ve got three of these ‘Fenders’ now. The oldest one is the one with the genuine Fender body with a Dick Knight neck and the newer of the two Strats also has a Dick Knight neck but with a Boogie body, a Maple one, which is excellent. They’ve both got Di Marzio’s fitted, P.A.F.’s and I honestly have to say that, having tried them with both Gibson and Di Marzio pickups I really can’t tell the difference.

"There’s a third guitar as well, which I’ve only recently got. That’s a Boogie Telecaster body made out of Ash and fitted with a Jazzmaster neck. That really is a very heavy guitar, almost too heavy to be comfortable on a long gig but the sound it makes is amazing, it really holds on!

All three guitars are fitted with extra fat frets but Allan has more or less decided to stay with genuine Fender bridges, the only deviation from the norm being his use of Might Mite saddles. Another improvement over the original is the replacement of the standard Kluson machine heads with Schallers. "Recently I was doing a gig with the standard three Marshall setup that I use and the middle one, the one I use for solo lines, packed up. I put the Burman in its place and it sounded really fantastic. I’d have to say that the Burman is one of the best new amps I’ve ever played, certainly better than the Boogie for example. I’ve also used it in the studio and it’s great there too.

From someone who’s as demanding as Allan Holdsworth Greg Burman should be feeling very pleased with himself at a quote like that!

Holdsworth & Co. A New Side Of Allan’s Music. (Guitar 1980)

Have you had the same struggle to get a guitar you’re really happy with?

I’ve always gone through a lot of equipment in a continual search for things, and that process has slowed me down over the years as I’ve got nearer the mark. There was a time when I tried loads of guitars, but I don’t think I’ll be changing too many things on guitars in the future. I now have one Strat with a Boogie body and a Dick Knight neck, and that’s the newest one. The other Strat is the nicest one, the dark one, and it’s older and has been played more. That’s an original Fender that I bought when I was working with Tony Williams, and I got it for 300 dollars including case, about £150. It was fairly new one with quite a narrow nut, and being so cheap and fairly nasty I decided to take the neck off and sell it. With the money from that I had Dick Knight make one for me. I had a few teething problems with that but he’s sorted them out now. I also had two Gibson humbuckers which I took off a couple of SG Customs - over the years I’ve built up quite a collection of old PAF’s from the centre position of SG’s - and they are what I put on that Strat, and I really liked the sound. I’d always fancied the idea of putting Gibson pickups on a Fender guitar because there’s something about the guitar I liked, the long scale length. It seemed that the strings rang a lot more. I also noticed that if you put the Fender pickups a long way from the strings that horrible harmonic caused by the powerful magnets disappeared. When I put the old PAF’s on the balance seemed just right between the power of the magnets, the amount of windings on the coil and the fact of being humbucking, which I liked for obvious reasons- they also didn’t affect the string movement. I’ve found that a lot of the very powerful pickups, the Super Distortions and so on, have an incredible effect on the way the guitar sounds to me acoustically, and I didn’t like that. If you use thin strings like I do these pickups practically stop them from vibrating, and when you’ve got to a point like that it’s pretty ridiculous. I think there’ll be a swing back soon to pickups that actually sound better rather than having lots of volume. With amps the way they are these days who needs hot pickups? They’ll probably find a less Mickey Mouse way of amplifying strings than bobbins and magnets anyway eventually. It’s like loudspeakers, you’ve got all these thousand [sic] of pounds of equipment and at one end you’ve got a little magnet on the guitar and at the other end you’ve got a big magnet and a piece of paper. It’s very strange. That side of it has been the same for many years and they haven’t improved on it. Like those high-output pickups: The sound of a lot of them is pretty disgusting, and I’m looking forward to the guys who are going to make the better sounding ones.

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."

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

For his guitar tones, Allan worked with several pieces of MESA/Boogie equipment, running either a Mark III, Quad Preamp, or .50 Caliber through various combinations of custom enclosed speaker boxes, prototypes of what Rocktron now markets as the Allan Holdsworth Juice Extractor load box, and other assorted gear that best suited each situation. And although his mastery of the SynthAxe controller has taken considerable strides over three years of exploratory use, Allan’s loss of contact with the company over unresolved design flaws has cast the instrument into a position of liability, especially for stage work. "It’s really hard to push forward," he points out, "because I’ve got four consoles of which only two work properly, and even those screw up. The last time I went to Japan, it was dropping memory all the time. It’s bad enough when you’re a guitar player who’s already got mission control there, but with all the synthesizers, when the stuff starts going wrong, boy, it starts going wrong. On that last Jap anese trip, I just wanted to throw it away and start playing guitar again. Your tone has a little more bite than it did the last couple of records.

A lot of that is because I started using Boogie stuff. One of the other things I’d been perfecting over time was my little load box, the Juice Extractor. When I combine that with certain miking methods, it worked great. On this track, I ran a Mark III Boogie with the Juice Extractor into the Boogie 295 [power amp], and recorded if with a Neumann TLM17D microphone with a James Demeter mike preamp. I used that mike setup for all the guitar solos. Did finding desirable sounds through the SynthAxe allow the guitar to resume a hard-edged role in your music?

Well, not really. Sometimes you can get lost in experiments. I think the last couple of years I was disappearing a bit with the guitar, not because I was happy with what I was doing; I was trying different things because I was dissatisfied with just plugging into the amp and cranking up. I wanted to work with the regular, distorted guitar sound so I could mold and control it, instead of having it play me. When I tried one of the newer Boogies about a year ago, it sort of made me flash back. Using all the little tweaks I learned, I found I could actually control the tone I liked. The distortion splashes near the beginning and end were the SynthAxe through a Rockman. For the rhythm guitar I ran the Boogie Quad Preamp straight onto the tape machine, without a microphone. I’d never done that before. At home, I have a couple of good mike preamps and line amplifiers, so I don’t have to run anything through the console. That way, I’m only monitoring on the console, and I can bypass all the electronics. I try a couple of different mike preamps or line amps to see which one best reproduces that particular sound. That gives you more coloration flexibility when you’re mixing, because I don’t think the best results come from mixing and recording on the same console. It’s quite often preferable to record on one thing and play back on another. "Joshua"

How do you get the guitar to scream like that, but within control?

This might sound like bull, but I’ve got the most control I ever had over any guitar sound since I started using the plastic Steinberger, the GM2T. I just love that guitar, man. Boogie sent me this little .50 Caliber that uses EL84 output tubes, my favorite tubes. They have an aggressive yet soft, spongy tone, and it just went. That guitar and amp worked perfectly for that track. It wouldn’t have been so good on "City Nights," where the notes sputter out more, but on this the notes were longer-toned, so it was great. The way you strike the string with the pick and then move your finger, you can get it to change vowel sounds, like an oo to an ee, and I really love that. On a bad amplifier it always goes the other way, from an ee to an oo. That’s the way I test amps: If you can have a note go to ee and stay like that, then it’s great. I ran the .50 Caliber into the Extractor, into the [???], and recorded it with the TLM17O, straight to the tape machine. I also took a really different recording approach: I ran the output of a Boogie Quad Preamp into the power amp of the .50 Caliber, and put that into the Extractor. Everybody knows now that 75% or more of the tone of a great tube amplifier comes from the power amp. If you plug a preamp straight into a recording console, it’s the worst sound ever. You have to use power tubes, and since the Quad is a preamp, I needed to feed it into a power amp before I could Extract it. I didn’t want to use a big power amp, because I would have had to make the Juice Extractor glow red.

Axe Maniax (TGM 1993)

He also uses a lot of processing to get his sound. "I use Boogies for the lead sound, with no real processing, but for the clean sound I use a lot of processors which help me to get a sound which is far away from a guitar as possible.

Blinded By Science (Guitar Player 1993)

Holdsworth experiments tirelessly with equipment. His studio is littered with the latest amps and gadgets from several manufacturers, all awaiting Allan’s approval. He’s most satisfied with Mesa Boogie gear: "For a long time now I’ve mainly been using Boogie stuff. I just discovered the Dual Rectifier. It’s a cross between some of the things I liked about their old amplifiers, and it has a lot of what’s happened afterwards. It has a vocal quality that I really like. I also have a .50 Caliber which I’ve used for a long time. It’s slightly modified so it doesn’t have as much gain."

One Of A Kind (Guitar Shop 1995)

Being a British expatriate in California, Holdsworth also avails himself of a classic West Coast tube amp – the Mesa/Boogie. With only a little prodding, he gives away his amp settings and why he doesn’t have to crank it to achieve the thick, luscious soloing tone that has made him one of the most-respected “guitarist’s guitarists” alive. “I’ve been using Boogie amps for three or four years, and I’ve been very happy with them“, says the fusion virtuoso. “I mean, most manufacturers make amps that sound just one way, but Boogie makes a lot of different-sounding amps to choose from. For example, the difference between a Mark IV and a Rectifier is huge. Right now onstage, I just use a 1x12 Mark I combo for the clean sounds and a Dual Rectifier for solos, with 2x12 Rectifier cabinets. I set the Gain on that amp at around 2’o’clock, Treble and Middle at about 2’o’clock, the Bass all the way off. Presence at 10 o’clock, and the Master wherever it sounds good, because I don’t run the amplifier into a speaker cabinet – I run it into one of my own little load boxes. Then I take the line output from that and feed it into a power amp that drives the speakers. That way, I can play really soft and still get a sound that I like. I don’t want to have to play loud to get a sound I like. Actually, at the volume I use, I could easily play electric guitar with an acoustic band.”

Legato Land (Guitar Techniques 1996)

Allan has got through a number of guitars and amps during his long career. What equipment was used on ‘None Too Soon’ and what gear does he currently use?

"I was mainly playing my Steinbergers through a couple of Mesa Boogies, one of which is a Dual Rectifier, although I’ve actually switched to Carvin guitars just recently. Bunny Brunel (bass player, ex-Chick Corea) came over with this amazing Carvin bass guitar. I know they always had this reputation of doing high quality guitars at a lower price and all that stuff, but this guitar was really pretty amazing. Bunny suggested that I talk to them and see if they would make me an instrument. It turned out that they were interested in doing a special one-off custom guitar, but the bottom line was that if they weren’t able to make a guitar that I was going to play, then it was no deal. So they came up with several prototypes and they kept changing them and modifying them. I got two of the 1 advanced prototypes just a few days ago and they’re absolutely amazing. I’m really happy with them, so that’s what I’m going to be playing from now on. I used one for a recording yesterday and it sounded great!"

Med Siktet Innställt På Total Kontroll (MusikerMagasinet 1996, Swedish language)

Today he uses Roland Jazz Cubes for his clean sound.

- They are good and have a soft sound, they remind me a little of Lab L5 amps. Before that, I used the Mesa Boogie Mark III. For the lead sound, I use the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier through a Carvin solid state stereo power amp. The speakers are either a pair of 1x12" or 2x12" Rectifier cabinets. The rig has become smaller over the years, and the only effects I’m using now are two Rockton Intellifexes for the cleans, and a Lexicon Reverb for the solos. Signal processing was more fun before, when it was not created from presets, and it was assumed that the user himself had an idea of what he wanted to accomplish with the sound.

Strong stuff from the brewery (EQ magazine 1997)

A good, old-fashioned "one guitar man," Holdsworth records with essentially the same equipment he uses for live gigs. The only difference is that he adds effects processing live, but prints his signals dry in the studio, preferring to add effects in the mix. The current axe in Allan’s life is a custom Carvin that he designed himself: a set-neck instrument with an ebony fingerboard, 20-inch radius neck, a semi-hollow alder body, and a single custom-wound Carvin humbucker. His guitar signal is split out to two stereo amp rigs: a pair of Mesa Boogie Mark III’s for clean sounds and a pair of Boogie Dual Rectifier amps with single 12-inch cabinets for distorted leads. He uses Rocktron Intellifexes and a Roland WG-8 guitar system to process his guitar signals.

At home in the Brewery (Home Recording 1997)

Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifiers are Holdsworth’s current favorite amp heads, though he does give them the "speaker out-tap” treatment. "I absolutely love the Rectifier, but for my music, it’s just a little too bold, so I tame it by putting it through my blackbox. Sometimes I’ll add some EQ coming in or going out of the black box. If I plugged the Rectifier right into the Speaker cabinet, then I’d have to run it too loud to get the right Sound. As I said, this is just for my sound. It’s not a criticism or anything. Mainly, it’s just a volume thing-the level at which I personally like to listen." 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.”

Allan Holdsworth in exclusive LMS interview (tlms.co.uk 2000)

MRJ: You were getting a fantastic clean sound from those Lab Series amps back in the early eighties. Did you use them for quite a while?

AH: I used to play through a Marshall 50W with two 4x12 cabs, but when I would play a chord it was always a ‘crunch’ sound, so I didn’t play a lot of chords back then. When I decided to start my own thing I had an endorsement deal with Lab Series. I really love the clean sound-soft and wide. It was my first stereo set up and the beginning of what I use nowadays. I used to use three amps-a Hartley-Thompson and two Lab Series. It was a very fat sound. (Then) I used a Dual Rectifier. That was probably one of my favourite all time guitar (amp) heads. I used Mesa Boogie amps for years. when I went to Japan a few years ago (someone from Yamaha) brought me the first DG series amp. It blew me away. I now use two of the new DG *0s. I used on the whole of the (new) record.

The Sixteen Men Of Tain (musired.com 2000, Spanish language)

Talk to me about the equipment you use, is it the same in studio and in concert?

More or less. It is changing because my sound is changing. The latest years I used Boogie amps, but these two last years I have been using Yamaha digital amps. I really like them. It looks like the person who designed these amps got a sound very close to what I want to get. Before I used my own device. It consisted in passing the signal from the speaker output to the line input of another amplifier, so I could put the volume very high, getting the texture I wanted but controlling the output volume level. I could get a very big but low volume sound. That’s why I like digital amplifiers, because in its design this concept is used, and now the whole assembly is simpler.

Whisky Galore (Guitarist 2000)

And what about your amps?

"For years I’ve been using Boogies but about two years ago I was in Japan and was introduced the this Japanese guy who designed the digital amp for Yamaha, which became the DC series. And I absolutely loved it. They sent me one to play with for a while and the thing was just amazing. So I have a DG-1000 which is just a preamp; then they came out with the DG-100 which is a 2x12 combo, then the DG-80 which is just a single 12 combo. I’ve been using the DC-80 combo with a really cool DC-80 extension cabinet. It’s still very compact and it’s a really cool sound. I basically used those amps on the whole of this record and I was thrilled with it.  

Allan Holdsworth interview (Abstract Logix 2004)

Fan: If there was an amp you?d used in the past that you would use again, what would it be?

AH: The original Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier. It’s probably one of the best sounding amps I’ve ever used.

The Allan Holdsworth Interview! (Jazz Houston 2006)

MM: It seems you’ve dialed back on the overdrive sounds. Am I correct in this observation? Is this something that you’ve done on purpose as a musical choice or are you able to get the sounds in your head with newer modeling amps/pedals without the saturation that you’ve used in the past?

AH: Well, it’s really related to the kind of music. When I did the album None Too Soon and then 16 Men of Tain it was a challenge to put a distorted guitar sound in that musical setting which was basically acoustic bass and drums. If I was to take the sounds I was using on albums like Hard Hat Area which was mostly the Boogie’s and stuff, when you stick that in with acoustic bass and drums it just doesn’t seem to work. It just doesn’t seem necessary to use the same amount of distortion. When Gary’s playing it works because it’s aggressive and has got that edge in that setting. But something softer and more delicate like on None Too Soon, it just didn’t sound right. It was a real challenge to make that work and sound right and I was pleased that I was able to do that in that setting. Now I don’t use that much distortion but I still use it to get sustain and but I get more of a controlled thing. The new album will be a return of stuff I used to do, more aggressive sounding.