Recording guitar with two amps

Gear, Recording

After reading Paul Allen’s post on tone stacking with two amps and Rich Tozzoli’s tips on multiple amp mics, I wanted to try these techniques with both my amps. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to use two amps simultaneously while recording with Rhino and The Ranters at Base Studios, Stourbridge.

Live, I alternate between a Fender DeVille 212 and a Vox Night Train NT15C1 combo, depending on the venue and stage size. The DeVille is my mainstay amp. With a fantastic clean channel and spring reverb, it delivers the quintessential Fender chime and satisfying depth. A low-end wallop punches beneath the clean, articulate highs. Also, the DeVille works well as a platform for pedals. But blimey-o-crivens, the thing is loud! With so much clean headroom, you can’t push the valves into breakup territory, so I rely on a pedal for gritty drive tones.

For small venues and rehearsals, the Vox Night Train is ideal. This compact, lightweight 15w valve combo can conjure a clean chime and my staple ‘clean with a hint of hair’ sound. Push the clean channel, and it breaks up wonderfully to produce a transparent drive that’s responsive and a joy to play. It responds instantly to picking attack, and the guitar’s volume and tone knobs.

The Night Train is fun to play and enhances the character of your guitar and pickups. Filter’Tron humbuckers, P90s, single coils – semi-hollow, archtop, solid and chambered bodies – the personality of what makes a particular guitar individual translates through the Night Train without colouration.

Before the recording session, I sketched the guitar’s signal path. My thinking was to first capture a dry signal as a safety net so I could re-amp a track in the future if needed. The signal then goes through the pedalboard and splits again:

  • One signal goes to the DeVille’s clean channel
  • The second signal routes to the Night Train’s clean channel, which has the gain up high
My signal path for the recording session

My signal path for the recording session

I plugged my guitar into a splitter box on the live room floor, took an instrument-level signal from the splitter to the pedalboard, then sent a dry signal direct to the desk in the control room.

Signal splitter

Signal splitter (the silver box in the foreground) in the live room

The Night Train was next to me in the live room with two mics:

  • An SM57 dead centre on axis with the single 12″ speaker
  • A Rode mic about 50cm away from the speaker

(The Marshall cab and Fender combo in the photo above were later covered in a duvet and used purely to stop bleed between the drum mics and amps.)

The Fender DeVille, like a boisterously loud hound, sat in a hallway far from both live and control rooms where it could roar away (clean channel volume on 3, ha!).

Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212

Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212

After fiddling with the pedalboard and wanting to leave scope for adding effects later, I decided to route all effects to one amp (the DeVille) and capture the Night Train’s sound unadulterated – just overdriven valves. In hindsight, I’m not sure this was such a good idea. Without effects through the amp in the live room (yet present in headphones), the performance may have been different.

It’s all part of learning though. I’m happy with the guitar sound on the early mixes. With the setup described above, there is the opportunity to re-amp into a new amp and blend two existing yet different valve amp recordings. I can’t wait to get back on it!


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