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Thread: Mandolin amp

  1. #1
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    I've tried several different amps over several years, trying to get some good sounds out of my long gone Gibson electric, and now my Godin A8. I have finally concluded that the speakers in just about all guitar amps are optimized for the midrange of an electric guitar. You can do OK if you have some extra EQ and maybe add some combination of compressor and delay to sharpen up and lengthen the tone, but that solution tends to make the sound a bit too clunky for what i seek.

    Right now I'm doing OK, using an LR Baggs para-DI which really lets me optimize the balance of frequencies on an individual instrument. The EQd tone then gets fed straight into a board for a very clean sound. Unfortunately, I still like to add effects, and this solution is definitely not optimal for doing that. #Too much junk onstage.

    My latest experiment is using Native Instrument's Guitar Rig software on a mac, which then #gets fed directly into the board. The possibilities for tone are almost infinite with this software, and I have 8 or 10 very cool mandolin presets, including one that actually feeds in an octave splitter on half #the delay. The downside is that you have to have macbook set up on stage which is not easy to do in a crowded room, and hard to concentrate on while you are playing, even with the stomp box to trigger presets that comes with GR.

    I recently heard Chris Thile in concert, and was wondering how he achieves his gorgeous amplified tone. Sure he has a great mandolin to start with, but I don't think that means as much as some other people think it means, given the volume his band plays at. His tone is #nothing like a Grisman or a bluegrass tone, which is clean clean clean, and amplified through a PA with great headroom, and always a bit muddy when amplified into an imperfect hall. Thile sounds as if he has something electronic going on to get #the sound he does at high volume. Otherwise, whatever great tone he has acoustically, is always going to get seriously mangled in the amp stage, UNLESS he adds something to essentially emulate the original tone. I can hear the effect of parametric EQ, but it's almost as if there's something boosting the transients as well. Maybe it's the same studio effect i use to boost the drum transients in a mix.

    So... I guess I'm writing here, to ask what other solutions mandolin players have come up with to create good mandolin tone in a world with no dedicated mandolin amps. #


    [I]



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    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

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    Most of the "acoustic guitar" amps do a very good job of amplifying a mando. I currently use a Fishman Loudbox, but I've also had good success with the Fender AcoustiSonics and the SWR California/Strawberry Blonde series, as well as the older Trace Acoustic line.
    EdSherry

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    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Thanks Ed. Yah that makes sense to me. I'm curious what the difference is in the speakers of those "acoustic" amps. Most likely not so mid-range centric as an electric guitar amp. I'll be going to a big guitar store next week to choose an amp, and I'll definitely try a few of those. I think 60 Watts is about as big as i can handle. Which of those three you recommend, do you like best? And for what reason?

    I think the perfect amp for what i seek, would be one that has all the effects of the Roland 60, but the amp stage circuitry and speaker of an acoustic amp.
    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

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    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    I just read about the Fishman Loudbox 100 watt amp. What a surprise. 25 pounds!! And it has all that PA clarity and headroom PLUS all those effects. Is that the one you have? How are those effects?

    I'll definitely put that on the top of my list try out next week.
    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

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    VT mdlorenz's Avatar
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    When talking about Thile's tone... are you talking about w/ Nickel Creek or Punch Bros?

    With NC, it's all Schertler, probably going through some pricey preamp. (pendulum?). With a great sound man to boot. Never been a huge fan of Thile's LIVE tone w/ NC. Not real natural sounding.

    With Punch, it's pretty much all those 2 condensers you see on stage. He has a mini mic on the mando, but in talking to the sound man, he said if at all possible, he doesn't use it too much. So with that lineup, it's all Thile & his dude & his Wegen TF 140.

  6. #6
    Is there a "talent" knob? taboot's Avatar
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    FWIW, I've heard great acoustic sounds out of the Roland AC-60. It's the one with two 8" cones, a pretty hefty amount of power and I remember enjoying it a bit more than the Loudbox. Give that a try, too, while you're at it...

    Christian
    Electric: 197X Dolan V | 2002 Ryder EM-44
    Acoustic: The Buckeye 66 | 2009 Arrow Mandola | Late teens Gibson K1 'cello | 2012 Deering Goodtime Tenor Banjo
    Bands: The Big North Duo, The Toy Trains, Wendy and the Lost Boys, The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    I run my mandolin thru Roland AC 60 [30+30]
    acoustic with condenser mic, schertler pickup ,magnetic pickup or piezo. all good enough.
    padded gig bag for the amp and shoulder strap on the instrument case.
    still have hands free to walk stuff into the hall.

    All those back panel connections make it versatile ,
    I use it with the KCW powered sub woofer [EFX send]
    and input from a sub mixer from the GR modules
    for the synth bass sounds on the SA mando, too.



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    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    has anyone hear of the Ultrasound acoustic amp being used for mandolin?
    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

  9. #9
    Is there a "talent" knob? taboot's Avatar
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    I've played one of the Ultrasound amps with my Breedlove acoustic (can't remember which model) and I was really underwhelmed. I found it thin, a bit brittle, and really disliked the reverb. Your mileage may vary.

    Christian
    Electric: 197X Dolan V | 2002 Ryder EM-44
    Acoustic: The Buckeye 66 | 2009 Arrow Mandola | Late teens Gibson K1 'cello | 2012 Deering Goodtime Tenor Banjo
    Bands: The Big North Duo, The Toy Trains, Wendy and the Lost Boys, The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

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    Beluga -- In my experience, the big difference between "acoustic guitar" amps and regular (electric) guitar amps is that the acoustic amps typically have some sort of high-end speaker (horn or piezo tweeter) in addition to the "regular" 8", 10" or (most commonly) 12" "full range" speakers that electric guitar amps have. That adds to the high-end clarity.

    The acoustic amps are aiming at a "mini-PA" sound, which is not at all what the electric guitar players are looking for.

    I have an older Loudbox model (no longer made) that I bought second-hand. The new ones are pretty nice. If I were buying a new amp, I'd look seriously at the Roland AC-60.

    As for wattage, what you're looking for is clean headroom above the loudest volume level you think you'll be playing at. If there's any prospect that you'll find yourself playing outdoors, you'll need more power than you need if you only play indoors in smaller rooms.
    EdSherry

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    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Several other people have also recommended the Roland AC-60. It's definitely on the list.

    I notice that almost all the acoustic amps let you plug in a phone jacked instrument, plus something else like a drum machine. That would let me try out the mandolin through the macbook running Guitar Rig, and then into the amp, without the amp itself destroying the tone. I also like the phantom power, because I favor a baby blue bottle condenser mic for vocals.

    I notice that some of these amps, including the Loudbox, use a tweeter to capture the high end. Why do I feel that the tweeter is an essential amp component for properly amplifying a mandolin?

    The Roland has no tweeter, just two 6.5 inch speakers, and some undocumented circuitry they refer to as "signal processing" for capturing the full spectrum.
    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

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    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Looking further into the specs of several acoustic amps, I think the two units that hold the best promise for shaping my own electric or acoustic-electric mandolin tone are the Crate Telluride and the Loudmouth. They both feature dual circuits, they both use tweeters, and they both have the DSP effects of the Roland.



    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

  13. #13
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    To answer your question MDLorenz, i was only referring to the Punch Brothers i heard a few months back at Wintergrass. I don't recall Thile ever standing in front of a microphone as if he needed to be there to be heard. It emphatically WAS NOT just a guy with a mandolin and a pick playing away in front of microphone.

    He had a mic attached to his mandolin. i can't recall if it was a radio connection. With all the sometimes excessive talk on this Cafe about mandolin tone versus mandolin price, am I the only one who believes that when you play in a mid-size hall or larger, if your instrument is basically sound and in tune, your #transducer, preamp and EQ shaping have more to do with your projected tone than the instrument itself.

    I was merely #speculating that Thile probably had done some very careful envelope shaping because his mandolin didn't sound anything like the rest of the mandolin pickers I heard on that same stage over that weekend.

    The irony is that what Thile has attained with his tone is really no big deal if he was a rocker or a studio musician. It's a big deal only because i heard his band after listening to 6 or 8 bluegrass bands with the mandolinist playing so fast he both looked and sounded as if he was on the verge of getting a cramp. i don't enjoy listening to music played as if it was a NASCAR event. Then enters Thile with gorgeous and EFFORTLESS tone. I just love gorgeous mandolin tone.

    I started this thread because i want to get some of that tone for myself. i can construct it easily in my studio. i haven't yet attained it onstage.

    So yes, we agree his instrument is a killer diller with great tone. But the clarity of his high end bouncing around the room in parallel to that banjo high end, made it sometimes impossible to tell which was which. Since hopefully, we can agree that banjo attack and mandolin attack are way different, I was simply wondering how Thile got that attack added on to his raw mandolin tone. How do you know his setup did nothing to boost the transients? A good compressor "kind of" does that.



    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    FWIW, there is an AC90 now too which has 2 2way speaker sets
    [2 8"+ 2 tweeters] equipped channels .
    the 6" speaker as designed, seems to move quickly enough to get the high frequency ,a bigger speaker has more mass to move around ,and then they added tweeters.

    RCA/or 1/4" aux input is useful for the CD player at partys , and Break music. to play along the drum machine needs its own volume control as that aux is post the volume controls of the channels but pre the master for the power amp stage.



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    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Mandroid, #

    I'm trying to imagine what adding a subwoofer to your AC-60 amp setup might sound like with a mandolin. It sounds like something i might try, and have all the purists shaking their heads. Another thing you mentioned was using a schertler, a condenser mike, and a magnetic pickup. Is that on 3 different instruments? Certainly not one instrument?

    I believe the phoenix jazz mando incorporates both a piezo and magnetic pickup. Is that what you have? It is a bit out of my price range, but I would love to try out that setup for an hour or so, just to play with possibilities. What kind of music are you dojng with this setup?



    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Yes, different instruments,

    One with a divided pickup in the bridge, and a magnetic pickup.
    the RMC poly drive 2 system as installed, [a retrofit]
    adds the magnetic signal into one 8 conductor cable
    and then splits it back out , a black box with the same controls
    as the SA guitars Godin makes.

    but that all goes to an external submixer.
    line out from 2 GR pedal modules , a 30&a 33.

    ...but thats the solid body.

    . . . . . AC60

    Channel A) dual XLR: Schertler or a microphone and 1/4" line in channel , phantom on/off & mic/line switch.

    Channel B) 1/4" in, piezo/magnetic switch and a "shape" EQ in/out
    button.

    . . . . . . .

    Magnetic humbucker on the retrofit A50 em 150ish 4 string works well in 2.
    Schertler or regular Mic in 1,
    instrumental duet can share same amp, or one person voice and instrumental.
    . . . . ..

    Those Phoenix Jazz, as far as the electrics are concerned,
    as both are unbalanced, 2 conductor signals, can share the ground [S]
    and work with a 3 conductor TRS jack.
    then a splitter [made for insert function on mixers],
    sends each on their own path.

    someone cut a place in their Gold Tone-rigel at the end of the fingerboard
    to mount the Kent Armstrong pickup , to the same sort of end..

    just a more humble instrument to go after with the router..



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  17. #17
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (mandroid @ April 12 2008, 20:07)
    someone cut a place in their Rigel/goldtone at the end of the fingerboard to mount the kent armstrong pickup , to the same
    sort of #end.. just a more humble instrument to go after with the router..

    so you routed out #a hole in your Rigel to accommodate a magnetic pickup. And how does it sound? I almost #bought a Rigel a few months ago, but decided i better get some gigs first using my Godin. If i liked playing electric THEN, think about upgrading to a Rigel.

    Do you own #a Phoenix Jazz?

    also, tell me more about this subwoofer mandolin sound. That really caught my attention.



    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

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    Luthierus Amateurius crazymandolinist's Avatar
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    I know this'll make me look like a freak, but I use a Marshall MG amp. It produces very clear sounds and it makes my FM52E sound great. They run pretty cheap too, and mine goes LOUD. I own the 15 watt MG.
    "The Beauty of Grace is that it makes life Unfair" - Relient K

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Jim,
    Gold tone/Rigel copy, repeat.. Copy, made under license agreement,
    and the elevated fingerboard had enough height . the pickup still has a little shelf underneath it. just shorter a few frets.

    It's not mine.. but back post search, in this section, will find it .
    same fellow did similar to fender fm62, both come as piezo electric acoustics
    [fender puts on some 'pots']

    NB: someone just listed their Gold Tone/Rigel copy, in the classifieds.


    Sub woofer KCW1 is more for the GR Synth generated sound,
    than an acoustic. but with both compatible, Roland AC&KCW work well together ..

    but level control, the how much sub volume mix, works best
    as an effects send off the mixer

    No, I don't Own a Phoenix Jazz. I do grasp the nature of the wiring of the 2 pickups 2 wires each, into one 3 contact end pin jack though.

    Gibby A50 with low profile fingerboard did get a close fitting hole
    cut in it's top, for fitting a stacked 4 pole humbucker.
    a clean job , but not my doing, bought used and as such. it lives now as a 4 string, M'Dola tuned.



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    Beluga,

    You're saying it must be an EQ that is getting the tone? #

    I spoke with Dave Sinko and he told me that he NEVER boosts the high end with the Punch Brothers. #He said that is the most tempting thing to do as a sound engineer, and that he avoids it at all costs. #

    I also doubt there is much compression with Punch Brothers for two reasons: 1) The band hates compression, notice their lack of it on their two albums and 2) less, their light playing combined with compression would make for a feedback nightmare. #But I know they hate compression because it takes away from what they are doing together as a unit. #

    I really feel like Punch Bros are accomplishing something that very few bands have been able to do since the days of single micing, and at that, they accomplish it despite their light touches, which allows for such wonderful clean tone. #I love the sonic honesty of this band.




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    Certifiable Patrick Sylvest's Avatar
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    I love my Roland AC 60. Last night we played a gig with one condenser mic (just a duo act). We received many compliments on the sound. I've also plugged in my acoustic guitar and my dobro from time to time and it just works beautifully. In a band set up, use it for your monitor and run a line out to the board.

    I love the speaker stand hole in the bottom of the amp. We're able to get it up to ear level for the audience and really optimize for the venue.

    I found mine through a WTB ad on Reso-Nation for a sweet $350.00 shipped to my door.

  22. #22
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Emonortem,

    If you have first hand info from the Punch sound engineer, then i can certainly accept that.

    So...to conclude, you are saying that their sound is as close to acoustic as physically possible. In other words, it would sound pretty much the same (only louder), #whether you were 80 rows back in a theater, or sitting in the middle of a circle of those players in #your living room?



    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

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    hey beluga,

    yeah, I guess you could say that. I know that's what they are going for, because they value this "honesty" about the music that they are actually making with their hands. They don't enjoy turning it up really loud, which is just like they would play in your living room.

    I'm sure there's a slight bit of during-show mixing by Sinko, a la bringing out a solo from one of the quieter instruments (aka Thile's mando), but he says he does very little and explicitly does not boost the high end...

    I really think that Thile's tone is really what you would hear acoustic, and I've heard him play acoustic quite a bit, just several feet away. Give him a few dB's during the solo and you have that soaring and squeaky tone that fills a room...

    Have you heard their albums? They are pretty much cut with no mixing/editing... What you hear is them jamming in a living room, which was actually a stated purpose in their recording.

  24. #24
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    I am very interested in Thile's mandolin tone, primarily because it is so damned distinct. How many mandolins have you ever heard that you can tell which one it was just by listening to it once. I realize that it's also the way Thile plays it, which is effortless and with many short integrative bursts a la Miles Davis rather than the usual long doodley doodly doodly bluegrass type solos.

    I sometimes hear other people on the Cafe say they can tell who is playing what, but Thile makes it really easy for those of us who don't follow lots of recorded mandolinists.

    That whole band sounds like they have been deeply influenced by Bela Fleck who has opened so many genre doors with his choice of music. What i like about Punch, is that the whole band is exploring together. When I heard them play, I could understand why Thile is given main billing, but his banjo player was the guy who zonked me most. And i'm an addictive mandolin player, myself.

    It's also interesting that you tell me they really want to sound "honest". I know what you are saying, but i can easily imagine them adding some subtle digital samples to their sound. I'd love to try adding some of my layered bird samples to those long instrumentals on their current CD as a kind of country remix. added in short integrative bursts just like the rest of it.

    are you involved in their show?
    Explore some of my published music here

    —Jim

    BRW 3-point #65
    Old Wave 4-string Mandola
    Kentucky 850 (circa 1984)
    Portuguese fado cittern (1965)

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    Man, you aren't kidding about that band. #They are doing so many great things and taking a respectable approach to it. #Not trying to play music for fame or money, or fight crowds with their volume... Quite amazing that such young people are doing it (and i'm 23!). #haha

    You also do not jest about that tone. #I'll tell you, and Chris will tell you, that mandolin is one of the best in the world. #He can lower that action down quite a ways and still get amazing tone and volume. #Many mandos sound quite thin with low action; not this one! #I really think the Englemann has a lot to do with it personally. #And the low action allows for such clarity and cleanness.

    I think Noam is my favorite banjoist... simply stunning in his creativity. #

    About their "honesty" or whatever... I think that they wouldn't be against experimentation, I just feel like they have already done that in the past. #Thile's got his solo recordings and Nickel Creek, so he is kind of moving on, in a way. #I wonder if he'll move on from this phase... there is something organic, and perhaps timeless, about the way they're making music now. We'll see.

    Nope, not involved with their show at all! #That would be fun, though...




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