In the video, Dave Johnson of Nashville’s Scale Model Guitars shows you the steps for replacing a standard 1/4" jack, with a boat-style plate, with a Pure Tone Multi-Contact Output Jack.
It has four points of contact, versus the OEM two, and dual tension grounds to hug the cable sleeve in place from both sides, providing more reliable performance and better tone. After explaining how a jack carries mono or stereo signal, and taking a sidetrack to detail how to solve the issue of a loose output jack with a severed ground wire, Dave relates how to remove the two jack plate screws, and then remove the output jack nut with a 1/2" nut driver. And then strip the wire—red is hot, white is ground—to prepare for soldering.
Dave takes a few minutes to teach the basics of soldering, with a Hakko soldering station—his preferred instrument. He also recommends Kester 60/40 rosin core solder, which is 60 percent tin and 40 percent lead, in .062" thickness. (Hint: Look for silver beads of solder, not gray, when soldering!) Before joining the wires to the jack connections, he slides some shrink tubing (from Harbor Freight Tools) on them.
After making the connections, he shrinks the tubing with a cigarette lighter, to preserve the integrity of those connections. A locking nut and the nut driver takes care of the next step, and after a quick test—plug in and hit the strings—it’s time to screw the boat plate back in place. Dave also shares a golden rule for working on guitars: always go slow. Think of the tortoise and the hare—although this entire process can be done in less time than it takes to watch this video.
For an in-depth written version of this jack replacement lesson, with photos, check the June 2023 issue of Premier Guitar or go to premierguitar.com.
When it comes to fine-tuning your tone, guitarists often forget the value of a good speaker. ToneSpeak’s new models offer a wide range of versatile end-of-the-signal-chain options, in classic to fresh flavors.
Electric guitarists are constantly on a tone quest, but too often we forget to look in the most obvious place: our amp speakers.
In many ways, this oversight is totally understandable. Hey, it’s easy to obsess about a gorgeous instrument sporting a flame maple top or classic vintage vibe. And there’s a vast array of pedals and effects out there screaming for our attention. (Yes, we used “screaming” intentionally. Please don’t hate us.) Of course, pickups, strings, cables, amplifiers, and preamps also have a big impact on our tone.However, it’s important to remember that every item in our signal chain eventually goes through our amp’s speaker—the crucial transducer that converts electrical impulses into sound.
The speaker always gets the final word in our musical conversation. It is literally the last piece of gear that we control before our playing reaches the listener’s ears or the sound engineer’s microphone. And if we’re wondering how to upgrade our overall sound—or breathe new life into a battle-weary amp—maybe it should be the first place we look for answers.
ToneSpeak, a newly launched speaker company based in Minnesota, aims to give you some great new options when you select that all-important piece of gear. Since the company’s birth in 2021, their goal is to provide speakers that are clearly rooted in classic sounds, but with unique tones of their own.
Modern Speakers Saluting Iconic Predecessors
ToneSpeak’s Liverpool 1275—a 12" speaker designed to appeal to Vintage 30 users—provides a case study in the approach. “In selecting what models we wanted to build,” explains Anthony Lucas, ToneSpeak’s senior transducer engineer, who designed the new speaker line, “we started with American and British roots. We didn’t want to copy anything. If you want a Vintage 30, then you should get one from Celestion. It’s a great speaker. But we were okay with using a Vintage 30 and a Greenback as an inspiration, to provide a baseline. The first prototype sounded too much like a Vintage 30”—he laughs—“and we knew we didn’t want to do that. We ended up giving the Liverpool warmer, smoother upper mids and highs, and a bit more lows.”
Lucas knows his stuff: He designed products at Eminence in the U.S. for years before departing the company in 2020 and building the new ToneSpeak line, with help from another former Eminence colleague, Josh Martin.
“At this company, most of us are musicians and involved in music,” says Lucas, “and all of us speak the language of tone, so that’s how ToneSpeak came about. We talked to musicians and manufacturers and asked what they liked and didn’t like about various speakers. We tried to respond to them by keeping what they liked and improving on the things that they didn’t.”
Plenty of 12" Options—and Other Sizes, Too
The Liverpool 1275 is one of five 12" speakers in the growing ToneSpeak line. Other models include the British-inspired Birmingham 1275—a natural fit for fans of the G12H Greenback, with balanced, throaty midrange and lots of articulation—and the formidable Manchester 1290. A high-powered brute, the Manchester will appeal to any player who loves the Celestion Classic Lead but seeks a bit more flexibility. “The common complaint about high-powered speakers is that they sound sterile unless you push them pretty hard,” notes Lucas. “So, we designed the speaker to sound very musical even at lower volume, while still being able to handle 90 watts and sound great. It’s probably our most balanced, most transparent speaker in the whole line.”
If you’ve got a 4x12 closed-back cab that could use an upgrade, ToneSpeak’s Birmingham or Liverpool models are your go-to options for classic tone bliss. And if you want to raise the aggression factor a notch or two—while still sounding great at lower volumes—the Manchester might be your cup of tea.
ToneSpeak: The Chris Condon Demos
Seeking a specially individualized tone that perfectly fits your unique style? Blending two different speakers with varying tonal characteristics in a 2x12 or 4x12 cabinet can produce amazing results. Just ask Robben Ford: He’s using the Austin 1250 and the Manchester 1290 in his Little Walter 2x12 cabinet.
On the other hand, if you’re outfitting an open-backed combo, ToneSpeak’s 12" offerings include a pair of American-based speakers: the Austin 1250 (the same one Robben Ford uses—see above) and New Orleans 1250.
The Austin harkens back to the classic Eminence GA-SC64 speaker. Looking to upgrade your Deluxe Reverb? This is the ticket. “The Austin 1250 is more or less transparent, so you really hear the amp,” explains Lucas. “We brought the mids up—because guitar is a mid-dominant instrument—so they’re more forward and clear without being harsh. The highs are really open and it’s very solid in the lows.”
ToneSpeak: The John Szetela Demos
The New Orleans is designed for players who like the smoky, subtle tone of a hemp cone. “We felt that other hemp-cone speakers are a bit too dark,” says Lucas, “so we designed our hemp cone to have a more open sound. It’s still warm and smooth, but it fills the room and takes to distortion really well. The high end doesn’t sound like it has a blanket put on it.”
ToneSpeak also offers a range of speakers in other sizes. The company’s four 10" models include American-inspired options (the Boston 1020 and Minneapolis 1050) and British voicings (Leeds 1020 and Glasgow 1050). And a pair of 8" models include a British-inspired Belfast 820 and American-voiced Detroit 820, with a hemp-composite cone that makes it perfect for Tweed Champ enthusiasts.
In designing the broad range of ToneSpeak’s product line, Lucas considered all of the components that go into a guitar speaker and affect its tone: cones, coils, and spider suspension. He also delved into a factor that might not be familiar to most players: edge doping—treating the edges of the speaker cone with a substance that works as a shock absorber, to keep the cone under control at high volumes. “We compared a few different edge dopings, which have a big impact on defining upper mids and highs. They can sometimes roll off the highs too much if you’re not careful. We developed our own proprietary edge doping, which I’m really proud of. It makes a big difference in the sound of the speakers and we’re using it on the entire line, except for the New Orleans hemp-cone speaker, which sounded better without any doping at all.”
If you’re wondering how a brand-new speaker company can offer so many models so quickly, the answer is simple: They are allied with the long-established builder MISCO, aka the Minneapolis Speaker Company.
An Ongoing Legacy of U.S.-Made Speakers
Launched in 1949 by Cliff Digre, a World War II veteran with a deep interest in electronics, MISCO has been led by Cliff’s son, Dan Digre, since 1990. The company builds a dizzying array of products and speakers for a variety of industries—including aerospace—many of them far-removed from the musical instruments realm.
MISCO founder Cliff Digre tests an early speaker in his workshop.
However, MISCO has been making OEM guitar speakers for more than 60 years, and in the 1960s even had its own brand of speakers called Redline, that featured red cones. So, when MISCO partnered with Anthony Lucas to launch the ToneSpeak brand, the company possessed decades of know-how in the guitar-speaker arena. It was a perfect opportunity to fill a need in the marketplace. “Anthony had a lot of experience designing speakers when he worked at Eminence,” notes Digre. “For decades, our core has been OEM, which by its nature means people are asking you to do things for them. ToneSpeak exists because the market was asking for some alternatives to what was out there, with an American brand behind it.”
Digre readily acknowledges that building guitar speakers presents a unique set of challenges—starting with the end user’s tastes and preferences. “Guitarists have an amazing sensitivity to tone color. These players have fabulous ears—they’re very discerning, and I have a great respect for them. The philosophy of designing a guitar speaker is different from almost any other type of speaker because it’s part of the sound of the instrument. Most other speakers are designed for the signal to pass through it as uncolored as possible. But the guitar speaker requires the color of the driver to become part of the instrument. And it’s not a commodity: You need to be able to consistently, repeatedly replicate the tone color. Controlling the variables that affect tone color is very important. MISCO has the means of measuring and controlling those factors.”
The Science Behind the Speakers
MISCO’s engineering and manufacturing expertise is the secret sauce behind ToneSpeak’s rapid rise. “There’s some serious engineering in this company used by a lot of different industries,” Digre admits. “MISCO builds the speakers for NASA. They’re used in the space station and the Orion spacecraft that’s going to land on Mars one day. While those aren’t musical products, they do require a very specific set of attributes. These are very demanding applications, and your quality really has to be top notch.”
Those high standards inform the entire approach behind ToneSpeak. “Whether we’re building a speaker for a spaceship or a guitar amp, we’re devoting the same attention to detail and consistency,” Digre says. “One of our brands uses the phrase ‘Our Science, Your Music.’ That philosophy applies equally to ToneSpeak. We’ve got the science of design, the science of manufacturing, the science of testing—but they’re all in the service of music. By design, I want musicians to be in this company, because a musician is going to understand a lot of things that a pure engineer is not. We need to have the musical perspective embedded into the DNA of the company.”
Digre’s outlook is perfectly aligned with Lucas’ stance on speaker design, and the satisfaction he gets when they’ve nailed the formula just right. “I get a smile when a real player gets a hold onto a tool that I’ve made and they connect with it,” Lucas says. “You can always tell by watching and hearing them. They can’t stop playing. They’re hooked. It’s like they get lost in the music. That what really brings me joy as a designer. I’ve done my job.”
Ultimately, electric guitarists are the beneficiaries of this approach. Whether you’re upgrading your main gigging amp—or resuscitating a garage-sale find—you’ll find a new range of options in the ToneSpeak line. So, roll up your sleeves, have some fun, and crank it up. Great tones are waiting for you!
To find a speaker that completes your sound, head over to ToneSpeak.com
Parallel versus series routing, and how your choice impacts your effects palette.
Get in line. Series routing is the most common scheme. Generally speaking, it's simply plugging in all your effects one after another. The output of each effect feeds the input of the next effect and the result is kind of a cumulative sound. For example, imagine feeding your guitar signal into a chorus pedal and then into a delay. The signal gets modulated by the chorus and the delay then “sees" 100 percent of that modulated signal. Thus, each delay repeat will be chorused as well. Series routing is by far the easiest method when hooking up effects, and it does work great for many applications.
Parallel routing, on the other hand, is similar to adding effects when using a mixer. Imagine a mixer channel that sends its dry signal to the master bus. Most mixers have at least a couple of auxiliary sends (and corresponding returns) to patch in effects, so let's assume we patch our chorus and delay into those sends and returns. You'll want to set the effects for “kill dry" (or 100 percent wet). Turn up the aux-send knobs and you now have chorus and delay that are independent and not impacting one another, and mixed into the master bus along with the dry guitar signal.
This differs from series routing in a couple different ways. First off, your delay no longer affects your chorus, and vice versa. You'll hear the chorus when you play, but when you stop, the delay repeats will tail out with no modulation on them. Now, imagine doing this with delay and reverb. You'll hear the delay tail out more distinctly than if it was feeding into the reverb effect. Why?
Because the delay repeats will have no reverb on them! It is a distinctly different sound than series routing, but it isn't necessarily better or worse. It's just different, and it really depends on what you are trying to achieve. There is a clarity and purity to the tone of effects in parallel that can be a real bonus at times, especially when blending in lots of reverb and/or delay.
From A to D. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, only a tap off the dry signal is sent to the effects. The signal is never completely digitized like it would be if run in series through a digital effects unit. (Some effects units have an analog dry path, but many do not.) Analog to digital converters have no doubt come a long way, but it's still impossible to avoid some slight latency when using them. This is especially true if you're hooking up multiple effects in series, where the result can be a slight disconnect or lack of immediacy in playing feel.
You might be asking yourself about something like a choppy, hard tremolo effect, and if having some dry signal always mixed in would make it impossible. The answer is yes! Parallel routing only works really well for some things: notably and mainly the aforementioned delay, reverb, and chorus (or flanging). It's not really that effective with effects like tremolo, vibe, and overdrive/distortion/fuzz, but as with all things sonic, your mileage may vary.
So, just how do you achieve parallel routing anyway? Well, some amps feature parallel effects loops, which make easy work of adding at least one parallel effect to your arsenal. An effects switcher/router unit like the RJM Music Technology PBC/10 actually has four stereo-effects loops that can be switched between series and parallel, which really gives a player the best of both worlds. Other units such as the Suhr MiniMix II and The GigRig's Wetter Box (Photo 1) essentially add parallel capability to any pedalboard or amp effects loop.
I hope I was able to clarify some misconceptions about series versus parallel routing. As always, I recommend trying these configurations yourself, so you can discover what will work best for your rig. Until next month, I wish you great tone!
They’re typically simple affairs, but oh what a difference treble boosters can make.
Greetings, tone junkies! This month, I'd like to shine a spotlight on an effect that I feel is almost criminally overlooked and underrated, an effect that has been an integral part of many a legendary guitarist's tone formula. Yes, the classic treble booster! Some of the most iconic early rock, hard rock, and metal tones were created using one of these babies.
If you're not super familiar with treble boosters, they don't add distortion or clipping of their own, but instead drive guitar amps into overdrive naturally. Treble boosters originated due to necessity, because many early British guitar amps were voiced relatively dark. (Think Vox AC30 pre “top boost" models.) Anything but the brightest-sounding guitars—even Fender Stratocasters—could easily get lost in the mix.
So, a few creative designers set about making boxes that would boost the guitar signal in the mid and treble frequencies. These devices would certainly alter the tone by clarifying the guitar signal, but because they boosted the signal, too, they also caused the amplifiers to overdrive. And the results were legendary. The following are just a few of the impactful players who used the treble booster/dark amp combo to great “effect."
• Ritchie Blackmore. He's known for often using high-power Marshall amps, but so many of Blackmore's iconic recorded tones (Machine Head, anyone?) are allegedly a Hornby Skewes treble booster feeding into a Vox AC30. Blackmore has gone on record stating that he loved the tones he achieved with his Vox setup, and that he was always trying to get his Marshalls to sound similar.
• Brian May. Since the beginning, May's rig has featured a treble booster feeding into a Vox AC30's normal channel. Cranking the normal channel on an AC30, like May, typically creates an unusable, muddy tone. But when hit with the treble booster, it's time to “Tie Your Mother Down!" By using the volume control on his Red Special guitar, May could go from shimmering, edgy not-quite cleans all the way to full-on raunch and blistering overdrive. May started out using a Dallas Rangemaster and went on to use Rangemaster-style boosts built by Pete Cornish, Greg Fryer, and others.
• Tony Iommi. Black Sabbath's guitarist is another legendary player who put the Rangemaster treble booster to good use. Iommi boosted his early Laney amps into a searing, thick distortion, and the results laid the foundations for what would become known as heavy metal.
• K.K. Downing & Glenn Tipton. Both Judas Priest 6-stringers utilized a Rangemaster into the normal channel of four-input Marshall 1959 heads, and created some of the most iconic metal riffs of all time. Once again, a perfect balance was achieved by running a treble-boosted hot guitar tone into the often rather muddy, veiled tone of the normal channel on these amps.
What's in a Name? If you think about it, “treble booster" is almost a misnomer. While these devices do focus the tone in the treble frequencies, they also boost the upper midrange and make a guitar cut through the mix in just the right range. Treble boosters are also sensitive to a guitar's control settings: Rolling back the guitar volume will clean things up quickly and reveal glassy highs that really sparkle.
What I love most about these “primitive" boosts is that seemingly every well-known guitarist who used one forged a unique sonic and musical path. When Brian May played, you knew it was him. The same goes for Iommi and Blackmore. Even though the effect was similar at the core, these guitarists certainly didn't sound the same.
Playing a loud amp with a treble booster is not the same as playing a modern amp with a ton of preamp gain, or even a clean amp with an overdrive or distortion box. There's just something so unique and expressive about sending your tone over the top with a treble boost. It could just be the missing link in your tone quest! If you're a fan of overdriven tube-amp tone and if I've inspired you to explore what a treble booster can do for your rig, the following represent just a few of what's available on the market:
• Cornish TB-83, TB-83 Extra, and TB-83 Extra Duplex. Originally designed and made for Brian May in the early 1970s, these units are considered by many to be the crème de la crème of boosters. Like most Cornish pedals, they are priced at a premium. The Duplex model actually features two TB-83 units in one housing, which allows you to set different boost levels and stack them if you wish.
• BBE Bohemian. Like most treble boosts, this is a re-creation of the classic Rangemaster circuit in a simple pedal format. It's true bypass, and it won't break the bank.
• Electro-Harmonix Screaming Bird. It doesn't get much simpler than this one. You get an on/off switch and a single knob to control the amount of boost. The Screaming Bird is also a good choice for those looking for a treble boost on a budget.
Until next month, I wish you great tone!
Just say no to expressive tap dancing—at least on or around your pedalboard.
I had my first “pro" guitar rig built back in 1996. It was a relatively small rack-based affair with a Rocktron Replifex multi-effects unit that I'd run in my amp's effect loop, and some pedals mounted on a shelf. The pedals were each connected to individual effects loops on a Voodoo Lab GCX eight-loop audio switcher, where I'd plug in my guitar. I could store and recall presets using a MIDI controller with the various effects loops active or bypassed per patch. (The Replifex was switched via MIDI as well.) Once I got used to this rig, I was hooked on switching systems. The ability to hit one button and have all my effects change at once was addictive. No more tap dancing!
Switching systems are commonplace these days, but with one difference. Racks are rather uncommon now, as switching systems are usually pedalboard-based affairs. So, this month, I'd like to touch on the many advantages of using pedalboard-based switching system as the organizational and tonal “heart" of a guitar rig.
Who makes these things? Pedalboard-based audio switchers for guitarists used to be relatively rare. A few companies, such as MusicomLab, The GigRig, and RJM, have been making units like this for some time, however. (I've personally used MusicomLab switchers since 2011.) Boss recently entered the market with their ES-8 eight-loop unit, and followed up with the ES5 (five loops), and the MS3, which has three loops and is also a multi-effects processor. Because Boss is such a global powerhouse of a company, quality switchers are now readily available to guitarists just about everywhere.
They do more than just switch pedals. Many pedalboard-based switchers feature multiple outputs, which allows you—per patch—to A/B/Y different amps, or switch between an amplifier and a DI, which is handy if you want to switch from electric to acoustic guitar. Most units that can do this feature isolation transformers and phase-reversal switches for the outputs—a must for solving ground loops and phase issues. Many are true bypass with selectable buffers, which allows players to balance tonal purity with the need to drive long cable runs to their amp(s).
The GigRig's G2 unit even features programmable pre-gain on every preset, which allows you to buffer, boost, or attenuate your signal. That's a very useful feature when switching guitars. And as I mentioned earlier, the Boss MS3 unit features onboard effects of its own. You can use the internal effects for most tasks and add a few favorite pedals in the three loops. A good number of switchers also feature 1/4"jacks for external control, which allows you to control amp-channel switching and other tasks per patch. Endless possibilities!
What this all means. For me, a well-thought-out pedalboard with a good audio switcher at the heart makes gigging infinitely more enjoyable. Your guitar signal is never running through a pedal unless you actually wantit to, so the tonal purity is a huge plus. It's easy to change from, say, a clean preset with some compression and spring reverb to a full-on high-gain solo tone with delay and plate reverb—all with the click of a single button.
With a rig like this, I can keep my mind on the performance and my eyes on the neck, rather than having to tap dance on multiple pedals. My MusicomLab MK-V MIDI switcher is sometimes controlled by my tech when I'm not close to my pedalboard. He has a MIDI controller offstage at his tech station, which is hooked up to my pedalboard. So, I can be downstage rocking out and he can do my patch changes for me! If you are doing a gig that runs pre-recorded tracks from a DAW along with the live players, you can even have the computer do your pedalboard preset switching via MIDI. This leaves you completelyfree to roam the stage.
What about instant access to my pedals? Most pedalboard-based switchers will allow you to access the individual loops in an on or off state, within a preset. Usually, you can also program the switches to perform functions like amp-channel switching. In other words, if you want to be able to switch amp channels and turn on your tremolo pedal without changing patches, most switchers will allow you to do that. You can always make a preset that has allthe loops on, and then you can just manually switch your pedals on and off at will.
Until next month, I wish you all the best tones!