The quest for good mics to record guitars seems a lot more straightforward for Holdsworth than the mic pre quest. He states simply: "Everybody's got their own opinion, but for me, there's a Neumann U87 and then there's everything else." Holdsworth uses other mics, such as the Neumann TLM170, though he still prefers the U87 for most guitar things. "I have a couple of the Shure SM-7's and a Shure single-point stereo mic that I like a lot, which I'll use for drums. I, of course, like dynamic mics on drums, so I'll use an SM-57 for a lot of things. This U87 actually belongs to Scott Henderson, but he likes dynamic mics on guitars. So when he needs it for vocals or something, he just comes and borrows it back."
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."