Hidey ho.

I’ve been a little light on the emails/articles this week. If you must know, I’ve been taking a little break, getting ready for tonight’s recording guitar webinar, and doing some reading. šŸ™‚

BUT…I do have a quick video for you today.

It has to do with recording a loud guitar amp in the recording studio. Are low wattage amps capable of good-sounding recordings? Even at 1/4 Watt?

Let’s find out. I do a quick little shoot-out for you. Listen and decide for yourself here:

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  • Chuck Costello

    This seems to be a bit of an older thread but I thought I’d chime in with my thoughts. I have the luxury of owning several different amps, all of varying sizes and wattages, and my personal favorite to use for recording is an Egnater Tweaker 15 watt tube head. For speaker sounds, I use a Palmer PDI-03 rackmount speaker sim/attenuator. This means I can run any amp head into the Palmer and the only sound that comes out comes through my studio monitors, no speaker cab needed. If you’re not familiar with the Palmer unit, I invite you to do some research. Eddie Van Halen and Joe Bonamassa are 2 names that come to mind of pros who use/used this same Palmer unit. I can have my Marshall 50 watt Plexi head cranked into it or my 15 watt Tweaker head cranked into it and record anytime I want because I can control the volume (I can even track through just headphones without bothering the wife/neighbors at 3am if I want). I’ve tried the digital route for guitar tones (the POD, Axe Fx, Guitar Rig, etc.) and they’re okay but nothing sounds as good as a real amp, even if it is going through a speaker simulator, which by the way, has 6 different filters allowing you to tailor the sound to your desire. Just my 2 cents. I hope this helps.

  • J A

    I must say, I enjoyed that video, very informative, as are your articles. I began reading your articles almost a month ago to brush up on sound engineering as I am a one man band.

    In respect to low-watt amps, I use and cherish my Vox DA5 for all of the reasons you mentioned. I can choose between .5, 1, and 5 watts, depending on my needs. Not for nothing, but for a small place in live use, 5 watts is more than enough for me. For recording and practicing, which is what I mainly use it for, the .5 watt setting is perfect, and nobody can tell when they listen to the material that it was a 5 watt amp miced up on the .5 watt setting!

    In case you were wondering how on earth I record using just the presets on the DA5; I don’t. I have in the past, but the tones are just not good enough. Since I do a home recording setup, buying a huge tube amp is not feasible. So I bought the tube powered Vox Tonelab St and I’m good to go!

  • ChrisPorro

    and big loud amps can vibrate the floors and the rumble gets into the mic making your bass pure mud. started with a 100 watt marshall stack…then a 80w fender twin…looked at some <30 watt amps…but went straight to a fractal axe fx.

    i think the 4 watt might sound fuller because it has more gain. my old marshall had 100w, 50w and 25w settings. this made sense with the power tubes. 4, 2, or 1. but how you get 4, 1, and 1/4 watt i don't know.

  • Bertrand Grichting

    Actually you can have it all: Cranked up big amp and still being friends with your neighbours. I am using a silent guitar cabinet by Grossmann Audio. It has a 12″ speaker and two mic-holders inside and when you close the lid there is just a small amount of noise you can hear in the room. Probably even less than a 1/4 Watt amp. Randall and Jet City those make silent cabinets as well.

    • That is certainly a great option. Thanks Bertrand!

  • Brian

    I’m one of the folks out there using a Line6 Pod XT Live. I’m currently without an amp, for mostly financial reasons, and am pretty happy with what I’m able to do with the XT. That being said, it’s good to know maybe I can snag a lower wattage amp and use it for recording. I’d actually figured even a 15W was too low for a decent recording. Thanks for the shootout. the 1/4W did seem a little thinner (but not 90% thinner like the difference in wattage, hehe). That being said, it would be very easy to fatten that sound up.

    BTW, the playing was great!

  • Drake Lolley

    I actually use a different approach to play/record with low volume and the best tone at home. I have a 40 watt Fender Blues Deluxe, which can be LOUD! I have used a Digitech RP300 for my effects for quite a while, and I usually ran my guitar through the pedal into the amp, with the volume on the pedal set at around 50%.

    I then found out that if I plug the pedal into the effects in/out on the amp (labeled as preamp out and power amp in) I can turn the pedal down to 4 or 5%, turn the amp WAY up, and get a much better tone. Surprisingly, the audible effects level is the same as before, and I get a better “tube tone” due to driving the tubes more.

    This setup can be very quiet, but still has great tone at low volumes. I personally play Chet Atkins style music and do not drive the amp to the point of distortion, but this is very easy to achieve by turning the pedal down more and increasing the volume on the amp and guitar.

  • I’m glad you addressed that Joe. It is something I have known for a long time. Although, my tone, requirements and issues to solve are quite different from yours.

    I tend to do a lot ov recording with what you would call “mini-amps” y’know if you want a quite commerical example think ov the Marshall micro-stack. I don’t have one ov those but I do have a chinese knock off ov it, proly has the same chip inside it (LM386 I’m picking) and I have many others to choose from too. Including a Power Tour quad…hehe quad 75mm speakers with LEDs around the rims ov them…!

    I don’t need to worry about the kids because a) I have my studio outside ov the house & b) The kids right from when they were young have grown up with us practicing in the lounge. But what I am concerned with is when we go away for our seasonal recordings that they are fun! And part ov that means avoiding massive gears to hump around.

    So the mini-amps work great for that and as I am after a Black Metal tone, they certainly work to enhance that rather than diminish it. I usually use a SM-57 to mic ’em but if I want a particularly nasty bitey BM sound I’ll use a condenser.

    I suspect most ov your here have no interest in Black Metal, and indeed many may not have a clue what exactly it is. But these mini-amps can work great for other things too. In fact there is a whole community on the internet that bulid these things thenselves and run them through all sorts ov crazy things like Marshall 4×12’s even. And they play rock & blues through ’em.

    Despite the fact an LM386 chip is a little 8 pin device & obviously solid state, they are capable ov 2 watts and sound really good when pushed into a guitar cabinet.

  • Joshua Jacoby

    I used a Blackheart Little Giant through an Avatar 2×12 for all the clean sounds on my band’s upcoming full length in our home studio–it sounded absolutely fantastic. It’s great to see more options for low-wattage amps become available in the past few years.

  • For those of us who can afford to go a little louder (read: no kids, 7 watts), but still don’t want crazy loud, You can also check out the Orange Tiny Terror series for a little more mid-to-high gain option. There are some demo videos on Youtube and they sound absolutely killer. Another low-volume amp you can still crank for maximum tone. šŸ˜€

    • I’ve only played one once or twice, but it was niiiiiiice.