Modifying Your Music Gear

img_3703I’d like to take a break from writing about home recording for a moment and talk about some mods I’ve made to my musical gear. Modifying your gear can not only be fun, but it can seriously change your sound to help you stand out in the crowd. This goes for both musicians and engineers. For myself, I’m certainly a tinkerer, especially when it comes to my guitars and amps. I guess an electronics degree and an interest in luthiery will do that. Lately, my tinkering has become somewhat excessive, but I’m very pleased with the results.

As a lot of my musician buddies know I play through an old Fender Stage 112 SE. The first mod I did was to replace the stock speaker with a 1970’s era JBL E120. I found the speaker on eBay but the cone was trashed. I ordered a re-cone kit online and did the job myself. It was a fun project for my son and I. That mod alone made a world of difference. All of a sudden the amp had clarity and weight. And not just from the 28 lb. speaker magnet.

About a week ago I started working on one of my electric guitars. I replaced the stock pickups on my Epiphone SG Special. I installed a DiMarzio Super Distortion in the bridge position and a DiMarzio Super 2 at the neck. I also replaced the volume knob with a push-pull nob/switch and wired the pickups for coil splitting. Now I can switch back and forth from these great sounding humbuckers to nice chimey single coils. And the guitar sounds like it’s playing in HD. I had shimmed the nut a while back to even out the action up and down the fretboard. But now I’ve added some relief to the neck via a truss rod adjustment, lowered the action to the Gibson specs, and reset the intonation for the 10-52 gauge strings I’m now using. This thing now sounds and plays incredibly. It’s like a new guitar. And I’ve been able to customize its6189w tone and playability to my own tastes.

Today I replaced the stock Sovtech 12AX7WA tube from an old ART Tube MP preamp with a NOS JAN Phillips 6189W. I’m now using it as an electric guitar preamp placed between my Zoom G5 effects pedal and my amp. The difference is night and day. Now my amp sounds bouncy, warm and well-defined. The natural compression of the military-grade vacuum tube adds a timbre and swell that rivals most any tube amp I’ve ever played. And I still get to keep the 160 watts of solid state headroom that the Stage 112 SE packs. Add to this the recent guitar mods and my stage rig is really coming together. I feel like I’m finally developing my own signature guitar tone. And I can’t wait to try this preamp on my acoustic guitar during my next recording session.

My next project will be researching a good replacement tube for the boost channel of my G5. I’d like to start using it but right now it sounds harsh and very unmusical. But I can fix that too I’m sure. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how that project plays out.

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