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  1. #1
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    12.31.69 @ 04:00 PM
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    I gotta JCM900 and the crunch channel is overdrive, NOT distortion. It's virtually impossible to get a nice heavy sound out of the amp without using outside effects such as a distortion unit or an EQ. I'm not too familiar with the JCM800 and have never played through one. I always just assumed that it was basically the same thing as the JCM900 with a few differences. A lot of you guys here seem to use JCM800's so I wanna know what the crunch channel is. Is it overdrive or is it distortion? If it's distortion then a lot of what I read about the 800 will finally make sense. If the crunch channel is just overdrive I don't know how the hell anyone could get a heavy tone out of the amp without using effects.

  2. #2
    XTC man! homeunit's Avatar
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    09.05.15 @ 12:20 PM
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    I had an 800, and my buddy still uses one. I've also used the 900 for a night not to long ago.

    When it comes to amp specs, Tribbs the man for that, but I'll venture to say that the gain you get out of most, if not all tube amps is overdrive, not distortion.

    Circuitry plays a huge factor in determining your tone, and I know that the 900's circuitry is quite a bit different from the 800's.

    From what I've heard, (both with my ears, and in theory) is that the 900's were trying to produce an amp that sounded like early Plexi's and JMP's but hot rodded. The success or failure of that is up to your ears.

    With the 800's, they were used to create a lot of the tones we grew up listening to. They have a wider frequency response then the 900's, but not as much gain. You should find one and do a side-by-side test, you can tell the difference right away.

    It all depends what you mean when you say "heavy" tone. Tribb can tell you some of my stuff is pretty damned heavy, and when we play, Chris does not use anything in front of his 800, just his Les Paul straight in, and it's plenty heavy. Mind you, we've been tuning down a whole step, but we're in Eb now and it's still just fine.

    Over and beyond the heads, your guitar and speaker cab play a huge role in determining your end tone. I bought an old rodded Marshall off of Tribb and before it arrived, he told me it's going to sound like shit with my guitar, which is made of real heavy swamp ash. I had real high output p/u's in it, which is the wrong choice for my wood. Sure enough the amp arrives, and surprise, surprise, it sounded like shit. It was thin, buzzy, and didn't have enough gain! After many, many, lengthy discussions about it, Tribb advised me to go for a LOWER output p/u. I did and it's a night and day difference, my rig rocks now, I wouldn't trade my amp for 2 triple rectifiers now, it rules. That's not to say high output p/u's are bad, they're not, it's just a matter of matching up your guitar's wood to the right p/u's, and from there matching your guitar to your amp. I may still try even lower output p/u's. Beyond the output of the p/u's the type of wire used, as well as the magnet used in them plays a big role. It's all about experimenting, as I'm starting to realize.

    Same thing with cabs. You need the right cab for the right head. With my rig, lower output speaker are better. I'm running an 800 series cab with 70 watt celestions, but when I can afford it, I'll load it with 30 watt greenbacks.

    Your ears are the ultimate determiner of what's right for you, but there's a science to building your tone. I'm just learning that now after 20 years of playing.

    Not to be too long winded, but to answer you question I'd say the 800's, as well as the 900's are 100% overdrive. The only time you get amp-generated distortion is with solid-state stuff. Not to say that tube amp don't distort, but the distortion is a result of the overdrive. It's like a 5150, if you run too much gain; the overdrive turns to distortion because your basically overloading the output tubes. But again, it could be your guitar signal that causes the amp to distort, just like mine did. In fact my p/u's fed such a hot signal to my head that it was almost beyond distorted, and just fuzz.

    I'm sure Tribb can be a little more clear then I with the actual technical side cause I'm still learning this shit. I always just plugged into an amp and turned knobs till it sounded good, a procces I'm learning that is like pissing into the wind.
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  3. #3
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    03.30.13 @ 09:28 AM
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    Homeunit's nailed it, except what the fuck do you mean my head didn't sound good when you got it!!! [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
    Like HU says, there are other factors to consider, like the guitar you use, but in general, the 900 series emulates overdrive more, by distorting the signal. The 800 series heads operate more like the older marshall heads by actually overdriving the preamp without adding a lot of gain, getting a more natural distortion, although they all sound slightly different, depending on the efficiency of the output transformer.
    The circuitry and parts used in 800 and 900 series amps are different.
    That's not to say that there aren't players that like the the 900 series. There are plenty, but the amps are quite different.
    Play a distortion pedal side by side with an overdrive pedal and you'll have a better idea.

    [ October 06, 2001 at 12:56 PM: Message edited by: tribb ]

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    12.31.69 @ 04:00 PM
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    Alright thanks guys. The reason why I was asking was because I always use a distortion pedal (not always the same one) but I never use a dirty tone straight from the amp. To me, it's nowhere's near dirty enough no matter what guitar I use. Which isn't exactly a bad thing because I get a pretty good sound using what I use but at the same time, it would be a nice change if I could plug into my head without the aircraft carrier full of effects in between and have it sound good. I might screw around with it for a little while tonight and see what I can do. BTW, what I meant by heavy tone was something along the lines of GNR or Judas Priest crunch. Not too heavy and not too clean.

  5. #5
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    09.05.15 @ 12:20 PM
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    you should be able to dial that tone up straight in the front of it.

    What kind of cab, and guitar are you using?
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  6. #6
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    12.31.69 @ 04:00 PM
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    My cab is the Marshall Lead 1960 model with Celestions and as for guitars I got a Charvel with a PAF and an Ibanez with a basswood body and stock humbucker. I just got done testing things and I guess the sound I get straight from the head isn't too bad but it just seems to miss something for some reason. The A.H.'s don't squeal enough even when using an EQ with a treble and mid boost. Do you think I might need to change tubes? Maybe get some groove tubes or something that distorts more easily? I got regular Sovtek 6L6's right now.

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    12.31.69 @ 04:00 PM
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    I once read this little tidbit, and it really makes a lot of sense:

    For a high-gain setup, keep your transducers clean, but get your gain in the middle.

    For myself, I basically use single coils, so I don't run too much risk in slamming my amp input. (given, I have a 5150, not a Marshall, but the concept remains the same here) If you start off with to much guitar signal, you're stuck with a mushed-out, raspy sound from the get-go. Using lower-gain pickups is very important in keeping a clear tone. And a clear tone translates into a tighter, 'heavier' sound once it finds its way into a mix. By itself, however, it will often SEEM to lack power.

    My OLD cabinet was a Laney with 70-watt Celestions. While it was a functional setup, those speakers were old and beat to hell, and would break up at minimum volume. For some, that is fine, but it drove me nuts. Now that I have the matching cab (and one that's about 12 years YOUNGER than the Laney), my sound is sharp, clear, and full. For the way I play, those 30-watters wouldn't agree with my ears very much. That's where my tastes differ from most other players'.

    If you're using an 800, which is NOT a 'high gain' beast like what I'm used to, I can see where the 30's would help the sound out a LOT. As for the 900's, well, that was the Marshall amp that turned me away from Marshalls to begin with; I just never really liked them. Not even the 800's. Of course, I haven't had access to any modded ones like these other guys have, either, so who knows?

    I've also never been one for overdrive/distortion pedals. While they SOUND fine, they just don't feel right to me. So if I had an amp whose basic sound I liked, but couldn't get the gain I wanted, I would try a separate preamp directly into the power amp. But as I've noticed over the years, distortion does NOT equal 'heavy', which is why Ed's sound is so huge at times.


    As for not getting enough squeal from the AH's, I can't imagine changing power tubes play a real big part in that. Maybe you aren't getting enough mid-range response from your guitars?

    [ October 06, 2001 at 06:29 PM: Message edited by: AbeVanHalen ]
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  8. #8
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    09.05.15 @ 12:20 PM
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    I don't know Axe, I ran into the same problem when I used a 900. I found it fairly thin. The tone was good but it didn't have any Wallop, and my guitar can make most amps thump. They did something with the circuitry in the 900's that really changed them. I really noticed the difference because I had my buddies stock 800 beside it.

    Tubes do make a big difference. GT are the way to go IMO.

    What's the wattage on your cab? What wood's your charvel made of?
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    12.31.69 @ 04:00 PM
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    The cab is 300watts and the Charvel is made out of alder. I think what I am gonna have to do is to continue using the setup I have now and be happy with it until I get some money to get another amp head if I ever decide to do that somewhere down the line. Like I said before, it sounds good for the most part but I was trying to do some experimenting for something different and it didn't pan out. I think homeunit is right in saying that it's the amp itself that can't get the sound I want w/o using effects. Guys thanks for your help - appreciate it. [img]smilies/cool.gif[/img]

  10. #10
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    12.12.17 @ 08:13 AM
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    Another thing to keep in mind is that when you are playing live, less distortion is going to get you a "bigger" sound out front. I've seen too many inexperienced guitarists try to play a gig with the same "bedroom" tone they practice at home with. When you play live, volume and less distortion will help you get a wide, open crunch that will mix well with your band. If you use too much distortion and effects live, you'll disappear and sound thin. Many times, what people perceive as distortion is in reality sheer volume and output tube overdrive. The tone is in your hands.
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