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  1. #1
    5150 TheCaboKid's Avatar
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    06.24.15 @ 01:26 AM
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    Default Who here has used a Variac

    I was thinking of purchasing one. a friend of mine told me that one could get electricuted(sp) if you don't know what your doing. But it seems so vital for the Van Halen sound. I'm going to use it with my solid state Marshall AVT. I also own a 5150 combo. I heard if you turn the Variac down and stop the voltage from coming from the wall you could literally get no sound out your amp. Any one here ever use one?
    "Well, he's an intelligent, well-read guy. But it's like he can't connect the dots somehow." (EVH Guitar World, March 1998).

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    EVH: "Yeah, except for the part near the end that sounds like Montoya or something."

  2. #2
    Baluchitherium sisca's Avatar
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    06.12.16 @ 07:51 PM
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    wouldnt that be an attenuator?
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  3. #3
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.12.17 @ 03:16 PM
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    Default

    The variac is not the magic key to the VH tone. The variac simply changes the voltage from 110vac at the wall, to a different voltage. In Ed's case, he turned his from 110vac down to 90vac. This caused the tubes to actually run hotter, and gave him more gain. This was used on his Plexi head, which is not a high gain head.

    If you try to use a variac on your amps, you will screw them up badly. There are many more sensitive components in modern amps that rely on the correct voltage and current to operate. Anyway, the 5150 has more gain than you can use, so it shouldn't be an issue.

    Just forget about the variac, because even if you bought Eddies exact rig that he used, and played through it, you would still be missing the most important element of Eddies tone, and that's Eddie.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  4. #4
    Sinner's Swing! Rick S's Avatar
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    06.23.17 @ 09:49 PM
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    Default

    the variac cannot be used on a solid state amp.

    i also believe that the variac created a dual master volume effect by allowing eddie to turn the master volume up saturating the tubes then he would lower the voltage and bring the volume down some and brown out the sound.

    most modern amps have two volumes now , a pre and post control.
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  5. #5
    Sinner's Swing!
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    12.13.17 @ 04:16 PM
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    I actually think that an attenuator is imperitive with a vintage low gain tube amp. If you're using a Plexi, or anything like it, then you'll need one.

    You need to get those EL34s cooking.

    I've read some *outstanding* reviews of the Dr. Z Airbrake. It apparently doesn't suck your tone, or color it, and it doesn't even need to be plugged into the wall!

    BTW, HELL NO don't use an attenuator with your solid state amp!

  6. #6
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.12.17 @ 03:16 PM
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    Default

    Yeah, an attenuator is the only way to get a plexi up to the volume you need to to get the power amp tubes sounding good, but he's talking about a variac. I believe Rick is right, I don't think a solid state amp would even turn on without the proper voltage applied, and even if it did, you would fry it for sure.

    Even newer tube amps are loaded down with solid state components, like transistors and diodes that are more sensitive to incorrect currents and voltages. Take a look at the innards of an old Plexi, and compare it to the innards of a 5150. Lots more plumbing to clog up.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  7. #7
    Top Of The World patvh1's Avatar
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    05.23.12 @ 02:26 PM
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    Default

    I would have to agree with everyone here. I'm an electrician and I have a variac sitting here on the work bench. There very dangerous too, because you can literally do serious damage to your amp. I have the Curt Mitchell "Play like Van Halen" videos and he described extactly what Ed was trying to do. Basically, from what I understood, he would use the variac to turn the power from 120 volts out of the wall into 145 Volts. But, he had the variac wired to where the fuse was"after" the variac. So he could get the tubes to literally melt without blowint the fuse. I have heard that his Marshall plexi has never really sounded as good as it used to simply because he has blown a lot of transformers inside his amp from doing this. Because your AVT (I know, I had one)is not a tube amp, you will never really get the hi-gain out of it that you probably want. Most solid-state amps just don't do that. Plus, the AVT is a lower grade (affordable) Marshall, as your peavey 5150 is one of ther best amps on the market. And that thing has got more gain than any other amp ot there, besides a Mesa Boogie. That's why the rectifier amps get that high gain with the 'chug- chug" sound. You know, if I were you, if gain is your issue, try swapping the EL 34's that are in there with a set of 616GS's. The 6l6''s break up a little faster, so they sound a little thicker at lower volumes. Also, another thing you may want to do, is try pulling out one or even two of the power tubes in your 5150. It will turn your 100 watt amp in to a 75 or 50 watt amp, depending on how many you pull out. I have talked with Roger Crimm over at peavey about this, and he assured me that you cannot damage your amp by doing this. By pulling some tubes out, it will enable you to turn your amp up alittle louder, so you can get those tubes a little hotter and your amp will sound the way it was suppose to sound. Tube amps sound the best when the master volume is cranked at 5 or higher. Keep this in mind to, when Ed plays, he plays LOUD! I have a peavey JSX 120 watt head and it sounds great when it's at blasting at 4 or 5 on the master. Hope that helps!
    "I endorsed the guitar I used to play, I designed this one.....Big Difference!" EVH

  8. #8
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.12.17 @ 03:16 PM
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    Default

    Yeah, I saw that Curt Mitchell video too. He should stick to guitar, and stop trying to explain electronics. Eddie didn't turn the voltage up to 145, he turned it down to 90.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  9. #9
    Top Of The World patvh1's Avatar
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    05.23.12 @ 02:26 PM
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    Default

    ok, thats what I thought. Voltage goes up, amperage goes down!
    "I endorsed the guitar I used to play, I designed this one.....Big Difference!" EVH

  10. #10
    Good Enough SLEEPER5150's Avatar
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    12.03.10 @ 03:16 PM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCaboKid View Post
    I was thinking of purchasing one. a friend of mine told me that one could get electricuted(sp) if you don't know what your doing. But it seems so vital for the Van Halen sound. I'm going to use it with my solid state Marshall AVT. I also own a 5150 combo. I heard if you turn the Variac down and stop the voltage from coming from the wall you could literally get no sound out your amp. Any one here ever use one?
    ! For the love of God man!!! This is bad bad bad! First of all, this only works on vintage tube amps. Solid state will not function properly if at all. A fart would sound more appealing. Second of all, even if you DO have a tube amp, the cons outweigh the pros. Even if you don't blow the rectifier or transformers, do you have a bank acount full enough of disposable income to afford replacement tubes and to have your amp biased every time they are replaced? This was done back in the days where there were no attenuators like we have today to get the gain that we love. There would be absolutely no benefit to variacing a 5150. They have more gain than you could possibly require. Especially if you have a full new set of tubes. (preamp and power). Just stick to new products for reducing volume if thats what you want. There is plenty of it. Just a word of advice from a guy who's seen it all!

  11. #11
    Atomic Punk MF5150's Avatar
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    12.13.17 @ 06:40 PM
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCaboKid View Post
    I was thinking of purchasing one. a friend of mine told me that one could get electricuted(sp) if you don't know what your doing. But it seems so vital for the Van Halen sound. I'm going to use it with my solid state Marshall AVT. I also own a 5150 combo. I heard if you turn the Variac down and stop the voltage from coming from the wall you could literally get no sound out your amp. Any one here ever use one?
    They key to the VH sound is in one man and one man only......Ed. It's in HIS HANDS.

    No variac or voltage whatever ya call it will get you the Brown sound. However, if you learn to somewhat play like Eddie....the sound will come
    My man, when you are fantasizing, don't go for attainable, you can get attainable at the local Applebee's. - Dave's Dreidel

  12. #12
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    12.26.12 @ 06:21 PM
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    as someone who has fried a few amps doing this, i would suggest against it

  13. #13
    Emperor of VHLinks.com Brett's Avatar
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    12.14.17 @ 10:36 AM
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    Like others have said, they key to Ed's tone is Ed.
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  14. #14
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    12.26.12 @ 06:21 PM
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    absolutely....

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    12.14.09 @ 03:10 PM
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    There have been many stories of Ed playing through whatever and sounding like him. It's his note choice, phrasing, and how hard he hits the strings. It is simply him being Ed. Listen to Spanish Fly, even if you have never heard it before you know it's Ed, and thats before the tapping section.

 

 

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