Musicians In The Control Room (Or Not!)
For an electric guitarist, there’s no better way to achieve a great sound than by sitting or standing next to the amp. There is an important interaction between the guitar’s body and the vibrations set up by the amplifier.
Increased and unique sustain qualities, feedback effects and tone enhancement due to acoustic reinforcement only happen if the player is located next to the amp. When I listen to some of the newer rock records, I miss that sound.
In the recording studio, it may not be practical for the guitar player to be near his/her amp since the wide volume differences of all the sound sources in the same room (drums, bass, other guitars and singers) preclude the use of higher guitar amp levels during live band tracking sessions.
So the guitar amp or speaker cabinet is placed in an isolation booth for maximum control and separation. The guitarist can sit out in the studio with the drummer and the rest of the band, or even in the control room with the producer and engineer, but must rely on a good monitor mix to play along.
In this scenario, the guitarist loses all sonic interaction between his guitar and amplifier retaining only the basic tonal qualities of his amp.
Typically when a player is remote from the amplifier, the amp top is set next to the guitarist, and heavy-gauge cables connect it to the speaker cabinet.
Figure 9, click to enlarge
In the case of one-piece combo amps, running super-long guitar cords from the guitar to the amp is unacceptable, since the distributed capacitance along the long cable acts as a high frequency roll-off filter on the guitar’s delicate output signal. I recommend using a small buffer amplifier for this job that “conditions” or buffers the guitar’s signal for long cable runs.
The Little Labs PCP Instrument Distro, shown in Figure 9, is a distribution amplifier and switching matrix for sending electric guitar signals to multiple amps and/or at the same time, to +4dBv professional outboard signal processing gear.
The Distro also provides a clean, direct signal for recording directly to your recorder.
Barry Rudolph is a veteran L.A.-based recording engineer as well as a noted writer on recording topics. Be sure to visit his website, and also check out his related article, “A Wide Variety Of Microphone Techniques For Recording Drums”.