March 03, 2023
Whether you come from the era of classic tube amps and the gritty sound we’ve come to love or you’re a modern player with throwback intent, there’s no shortage of modern ways to achieve the classic tones. You can certainly pay a premium to get the actual old gear, but as time goes by that gear will be harder and harder to come by. Modern tube tech is readily available and has the advantage of current technology and methods to keep it fresh and integrate with new gear and techniques.
Here we’ll talk about a couple of ways to throwback to classic sounds by using new equipment.
One of the advantages of using modern equipment is the ability to add connectivity and functionality that either wasn’t possible or wasn’t thought of back in the day. Carvin’s X1 All Tube Preamp Pedal is a perfect example. The design idea for the X1 was to deliver the sounds of the classic Carvin X-100B amplifier in a compact package with added connectivity. The X1 uses all tube technology with real 12AX7 tubes in a pedal format you can fit in a backpack.
This means you can bring that same legendary tube sound the original X-100B would deliver to any gig any time, without lugging a big head or cabinet. Just plug the unit straight into the mix console and go. Or couple it with your favorite cabinet, bring it to the studio, or practice with headphones.
Add to that a 5-band graphic EQ, original X-100B tone circuit, effects loop, and stomp box functionality, and you’ve got the classic tube sound with amazing functionality.
There are plenty of pedals on the market that emulate classic tones, but there’s no substitute for using actual tubes. That’s also the idea behind Carvin’s VLD1 Legacy Drive Preamp, featuring real 12AX7 tubes. This stomp box unit delivers the sound of Steve Vai’s Legacy amplifier in a preamp pedal.
You can use this preamp to feed any existing power amp, send it directly to front of house with the headphone output, or insert it into a pedal board rig. Again, with real 12AX7 tubes, there’s no substituting the Legacy tone here, but the functionality of a small stomp box you can fit in a backpack goes beyond equipment of the past.
Modern tube pieces like the X1 and the VLD1 are designed specifically to interface with the modern world, which means they pair nicely with equipment like power amps and cabinets and newer tech like modern audio interfaces and extension cabinets such as the V112E.
One compact and powerful such pairing is coupling either the X1 or the VLD1 with Carvin’s Mach100 100 Watt Stereo Pedal Amplifier. This little box is no larger than any other guitar pedal, yet delivers 50 watts per channel of power amplification, letting you drive your choice of speaker cabinets. A modern design means you can use the stereo output to drive two cabinets, monitor the output with headphones, and insert any pedals you want into the chain. And once again, the compact size means your rig can be a lot more manageable than an equally powerful rig from the past.
Sometimes the classic sound is just what’s called for on stage or in a studio. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of modern advancements, and using modern tube gear is the ultimate best-of-both worlds scenario.
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