Two different versions of the same home-built effects rack that served Allan faithfully for fifteen years have been used recently in conjunction with two set-ups: one for SynthAxe transmissions and rhythm guitar, and one for his lead tone. "It’s pretty modular," he points out. "What I’m trying to set up at the moment is something where I don’t have a rack anyone. I’d just take pieces I want to use, and that way I’m not locked in. But for my live sound, I use that T.C. Electronic Spatial Expander, the ADA Stereo Tapped Delay and a Rocktron Pro Chorus - those are my three main chorusing units. I return the effected signal to a small Ramsa twelve-channel mixer and then, right before it goes to the power amp, it goes through the Hush IIC. And I use the RX, which is like a new Hush Exciter, on DX7 synthesizers, because it makes them sound a lot better."
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.
TCG: Well I think for a while, you were distributing the Juice Extractor under your own name, weren’t you? AH: Well, originally I think Rocktron licensed it for a while, the Juice Extractor, but then they discontinued it because one of the problems you had was that you actually changed the way that the load section was really responsible for the sound, so in my opinion, even though it was a great device, they never sounded as good as the ones I made myself. They discontinued it mostly because of people who don’t know how to use things like that, and through misuse, it would blow up amplifiers, because if you don’t think about what you’re doing, you just plug an amplifier into it and turn it up to ten and then all of a sudden they wonder why their amp blows up, you know.
"Right out of the box these amps were very, very close to what I wanted so it was very easy for me to manipulate it a little further and squeeze a little more out of them. It was just a coincidence that the designer sort of liked the same sound that I do." He adds that he has scaled down his refrigerator size rack of effects to just two Rocktron Intellifex processors.
The studio is based around a 44-input Trident console and Yamaha NS40 monitors driven by a UREA power amp. The outboard gear on hand includes a Demeter mic preamp, two Neve mic and line amps, a GAL 5-band stereo parametric EQ, and a pair of Trident TSM EQ modules. "In the studio, I mostly use old single-delay lines, in pairs," says Holdsworth. "I have bunch of old Yamaha 1500’s I use for that. The digital effects all date from the days before multiprocessors. The only multiprocessors I have are Rocktron Intellifexes, which I like a lot. But I use those mainly for live work. I don’t actually own a really good reverb. I usually rent one when I need one. I used to have an AMS 1580S and RMX-16, but I sold those to Steve Vai a long time ago and could never afford to buy them back."
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.