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To what extent to invest in one's rig

To what extent to invest in one's rig
January 24, 2011, 12:47:37 AM
I'm sure this question has arisen in the minds of those set on creating their own sonically destructive, electric transcendental ditties.

The technological world is overwhelming. Ultimately, what one needs for recording a piece of music isn't much at all. You could employ the worst of equipment as a means to an aesthetic end and in this sense, it's easy to discard the idea of rig having any significant importance to the overall product (especially from an underground perspective, which often tends to favor content over presentation). However, metal has posed various problems for musicians, producers and venues who need to get the best clarity and representation of the artist as they intend. While one could certainly get away with poor equipment given proper production techniques and mic'ing methods, getting away with such a poor setup in a live setting proves elusive. Thus, acquiring half-decent gear is simply inevitable if one wants any sort of clarity and adequate tone to match their aesthetic needs. This seems to reinforce the idea that while presentation, specifically from a production standpoint, is secondary, that it's still important to thoroughly consider from a holistic perspective. Essentially, overlooking this critical component would be like settling with little to no clarity (ie garage quality) or with overproduced and inorganic renditions (ie. clicky bass drums a la Decapitated/Dimmu Borgir) which are aesthetically incompatible with the thematic aura of the song at hand.

I've come across many bands which serve as headbanging fodder in a live setting, if only because venues and sound crew are unable to (or don't care enough) allow the guitar to come to the forefront so that a band can showcase their riffs. This is besides the fact that most metal, especially in a local setting, doesn't operate with "riffs" in mind, but rather derivative power chord forms shifting aimlessly in the low end registers. However, it is once again inevitable to notice that the difference between good and bad gear is like night and day. In this light, I think it makes sense to unload a relatively impressive sum of money as an investment in one's sonic and thematic end.

I am a guitarist mainly and so am thinking in terms of guitars, pickups, amps (head/cab) and possibly pedals.

Amps I have found to be adequate for achieving a chunky sound:

Marshall JCM Heads. JCM800/900 are considered some of the best and most sought after tube amps. However, the DSL 50/100 is a great tube amp which has your essential 2 channels and a great classic distortion that is sure to please anyone vying for solid, clear and consistent black metal tone. Alternatively, the tone is great for any other tones for other genres. The downside is that this can run a 1000+ dollar gorge into your pockets. This is what I currently own at the moment and I'm happy with its sound.
Mesa Dual Rectifier Heads (or Mesa Heads in general really). Very beefy and handles low end incredibly well. Ideal for high gain, high output material. Ie. ideal for metal. Downside is that they can run 2k++

Mesa Cabs likewise are able to handle the chunky low end that arises from a need of "fullness" from one's tone. Downside is once again another k dropped into your rig.

Now, I think that guitars simply come as preference and a matter of comfort, but Ibanez RG's have long been the choice of badarsery. I have myself a fairly low end Iby 7-string RG that works wonders. The stock pickups work well. I also have a 6-string RG Prestige into which I dumped considerable money into. Here's a tip: if you're consistently changing tunings and don't like to play the whammy like you're Kerry King, Floyd Rose is a useless system. However, the RG Prestige line is really well-made and utilized a very thin neck that's conducive to the healthy development of chop-intensive metal playing. Speed and conciseness in one package.

Jazz III picks. All day.

DiMarzio house a wide array of great tonally varied sounds. I tried their X2N, the most high output pickup and it's ridiculously trebly and intense, perhaps great for black metal. Otherwise their tone zone and paf pro give excellent clarity.

At the end of the day though, the head/cab seem most important. Invest in a decent tube head and a cab and you're set. Thoughts? Other's preferences? Cheap alternatives?


Re: To what extent to invest in one's rig
February 04, 2011, 10:35:16 AM
I've spent a ridiculous amount of money on my guitar gear.

Bc Rich Bich NJ classic ($500)
Schecter s1 elite ($400)
Gibson Blues Hawk ($500)

Ampeg Super Rocket 100 watt all tube ($400)
Orange Crush 30W Solid State ($180)

zoom g1x effects ($100)
boss metal zone 2 ($20)

are the bread and butter of what I play with.

But what I've noticed is that I can get a much more suitable 'metal' tone with a good solid state amp (orange crush) + effects pedal (zoom g1x) then I can with an amp that costs 5x more + metal zone2 distortion pedal.

The zoom g1x -- which sounds awesome with my solid state amp -- sounds like complete SHIT in a high quality tube amp.

I'm guessing that for optimal metal ownage, one would need:

A newer model Schecter (C1 preferable... about $600) or BC Rich with EMGS & neck through design... ($600) + ampeg all tube amp ($500 -- worth every penny) + ibanez tube screamer ($200).

With that set-up I'd say you could play the sickest thrash ever recorded -- and thrash is what I play on guitar so... to each his own.

But you're still talking about $1200 worth of gear to get that 'sound'.  Which as every guitarist knows, you can spend thousands upon thousands of dollars trying to get ONE FUCKING TONE.

Schecter + orange crush solid state + high quality efx pedal can give you a great bed-room set-up for roughly $800 or so.

Re: To what extent to invest in one's rig
February 04, 2011, 10:38:08 AM
I am a simple man so my advice to you is to purchase a guitar that feels good and sounds deadly (assuming you play metal).

Amplifiers come and go. Go to a pawn shop and get an old Marshall for a SLAYER-esque/ABSU-esque sound.


Re: To what extent to invest in one's rig
February 04, 2011, 10:41:37 AM
And I must add that for the amount of shit BC Rich have received over the past few years, their newer guitars are absolutely amazing for the price.  Two thumbs up.

If you can find an Ampeg Super Rocket Reverb dual channel 100 watt tube amp for a reasonable price, buy that fucker immediately... it can compete and exceed in terms of quality any fender tube amp out there.

With just a high quality guitar (like a Gibson) + the overdrive cranked up to 9... you can get the most bad-ass tone out of that AMP; anywhere from mid-era D.R.I. to sludgier stuff a la Neurosis.

I'd really like to try a boutique metal amp such as Diesel... but they're expensive as fuuuck.

Ibanez Tube Screamer will be my next investment, followed by upgrading the pick-ups in my BC RICH.


Re: To what extent to invest in one's rig
February 04, 2011, 10:44:38 AM
I am a simple man so my advice to you is to purchase a guitar that feels good and sounds deadly (assuming you play metal).

Amplifiers come and go. Go to a pawn shop and get an old Marshall for a SLAYER-esque/ABSU-esque sound.

You're right but considering how expensive a quality guitar can be, it's best to use due diligence when making any purchase so as not to have to replace a cheap guitar every 6 months for something better.

You can find awesome deals on craigslist... I bought a mint condition Gibson for $400.

Pawn shops are pretty good places to look as well because addicts pawn high quality gear for cheap & as a consumer you can find great value. 

harmony-central.com has reviews on every possible guitar / amp / bass / effects you could ever be interested in... great site.