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Reamping For Live? A Method Of Improving Electric Guitar Performance

Focusing on making the guitar wireless system sound smoother and more natural

By Peter Janis February 29, 2016

The majority of electric guitar players will tell you that they much prefer the sound of “hard-wired” guitars versus going wireless.

When you “radio” a signal, there is not only a sense of disconnect, but the tone never seems quite right.

I noticed this years ago when testing a guitar splitter. One of our engineers sent me a prototype, and after a few minutes of testing, I called him up and said that it worked well but was not quite right.

He said, “what do you mean? It is class-A, 100 percent discrete, and has Jensen transformers. It’s perfect!” I replied that while it might be technically perfect, there was still something wrong.

Eventually, we figured out that it had to do with how the pickup was loaded, as well as how tube amps differ from solid state inputs. (This problem is not only common with wireless systems but all types of guitar signal buffers.)

Applying The Load
To solve the problem, we added a control that would enable the guitar tech to adjust the load so that the guitar would sound right. For this to work, the load needs to be applied directly onto the pickup.

In other words, if you connect the guitar to a buffer and then try to adjust the load, it will not work. This also means that it has no effect on active pickups.

When using a wireless system, the guitar is connected directly to the wireless transmitter, which then buffers the signal and sends it to the receiver.

Then, that output is either routed to the guitar amp, or a fridge full of pedals, or to the front of the stage so that it can go to the pedalboard and then back to the amp (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – A simple and then more elaborate approach to wireless guitar.(click to enlarge)

Because the wireless system is a buffer, the load must be placed in between the guitar output and the transmitter.

My company makes a device to do this called the Dragster. It’s designed to be attached to the guitar strap and then simply wired in series.

Even though this approach works very well, the last thing a guitarist wants is another widget on his strap.

A number of artists have also been implementing an old recording trick known as Reamping on the live stage.

Taking the output from the wireless receiver output and sending it through a Reamper. (click to enlarge)

When doing this in the studio, you basically take a dry track from the recording system, send it out line level to a Reamp device (“Reamper”), which then convert the balanced signal to an unbalanced one that is better suited for a guitar amp.

This enables the studio engineer to capture the performance and worry about getting the “ultimate” guitar tone later.

It works much the same for live. You take the output from the wireless receiver and send it through the Reamper to get the same effect (Figure 2).

By converting the signal, the wireless system sounds smoother and more natural. And when artists are happy, they perform better.


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About Peter

Peter Janis
Peter Janis

Retired President, Radial Engineering
 
Peter Janis is the former CEO of Radial Engineering, Primacoustic, Hafler and Tonebone. He now runs exit-plan.ca where he assists business owners with their strategic planning, growth and eventual retirement.
http://www.exit-plan.ca

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