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Careful With That Ax, Eugene: An Approach To Optimizing Guitars In The Mix

Presenting those electric guitar tones accurately, with some degree of isolation from the other onstage noise makers.

The guitar players in Umphrey’s McGee (the band that I work with) are masters of their craft. Not only are they great players, they can create complex and gorgeous guitar tones that require only reproduction to fit into my mix, sans correction or modification.

I want to present those tones accurately, with some degree of isolation from the other onstage noise makers. Further, I want to place them carefully in the mix so their natural dynamic stays mainly in the pocket, requiring only soft fader moves.

Where It Starts

First, here’s how I capture their signals. Jake (Cinninger) plays through two amps. The “clean” amp is a Schroeder DB9 tube head and matching cabinet with a 12-inch Weber driver and a 12-inch Celestion driver, while the “dirty” amp is an Oldfield JC-110 tube head with matching cabinet containing two 12-inch Electro-Voice drivers.

H&K Redbox Pro and Palmer PDI09 direct boxes.

Each cabinet is miked with an Earthworks SR25 cardioid condenser microphone, and each amplifier’s parallel speaker out is routed to a Hughes & Kettner RedBox Pro, a great transformer-based direct box used as a post amplifier DI with passive filters that emulate the response of a closed back speaker cabinet.

Meanwhile, Brendan (Bayliss) plays his clean tone through a Mesa Boogie Lonestar tube head with a Hard Trucker JG1 cabinet loaded with two 12-inch B&C 12HPL64 drivers. His dirty tone is through an Oldfield Marquis 80 amp loaded with two 12-inch Celestion drivers.

These cabinets are also miked with Earthworks SR25s, but with two Palmer PDI09 DIs on the parallel speaker outputs because they complement his tone better than the RedBox Pros.
Those eight signals continue into the Midas ProX digital console, where I set the preamp level so each signal reaches about +3 dBu to +6 dBu when loudest. I like using as many bits of the A/D converter as I can without clipping.

Once captured, I want to combine the mic and DI. I delay the DI signals to compensate for the time necessary for the sound wave from the speaker to reach the mic, which measures out to about 0.33 ms (milliseconds). This allows the signals to be combined without the comb filtering inherent with different arrival times.

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The Sound Of Sound: Analyzing Acoustic Versus Amplification

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