Cool little article about SRV's tone

OBX351

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Guitars and Amps: The Quest for Tone: The Quest For Tone: Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Amps.

The Quest For Tone: Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Amps.

I get alot of people that want to sound as big as Stevie Ray did. There are alot of things that go into the search of a tone this big. First SRV used heavy gauge strings (13s) tuned down to Eb, grab an Ibanez tubescreamer and old Blackface Fender Amp turned up between 7 and 10 and you're halfway there. That will get you as close as you need to be on a budget if you are looking to build a tone similar to his, but you'll need to remember the pickups in Stevie's Stratocaster were low output. Fender Texas Specials are not the key. Those are higher output pickups and will send you the wrong direction. A rosewood neck will also add alot of midrange to help get that bluesy tone. A maple neck is just a little bright to get you there in my opinion.

Stevie Ray Vaughan had an ever-changing setup over the years. He owned a large number of high wattage amplifiers that he cranked and ran together through a 6 way switcher. That allowed him to keep all of them running with a direct feed from his guitar. Stevie used mid 60s Blackface Fender amps religiously. He was known for his Fender Super Reverbs and Fender Vibroverbs. Fender only made the Blackfaced Vibroverb for the year of 1964. Stevie bought his at 2 separate times and ended up with subsequent serial numbers 5 and 6. These amps were modified by his amp tech Caesar Diaz. The Vibroverb is now an amp subsequently associated with SRV. These amps had 15 inch speakers in them that allowed more bass and midrange to be delivered. Stevie used 2 different types of speakers for these. Earlier in his career he was known to use JBL D130 speakers in the Vibroverbs. Later on he switched to the EV SRO 15. In his Vibroverb and Super Reverb he used a 5751 preamp tube in the V2 spot to increase the amount of clean headroom on the Vibrato Channel.

Caesar Diaz is quoted as saying this when asked about modifying SRVs amps.

"Yes, quite a lot. I’d change the 68K input resistor to 100K so that we wouldn’t have so much input signal going into the tubes. The coupling capacitors would be changed to adjust the tone. I’d use a .047 or a .1 in place of a .042 cap. where the tone is—in the preamp. At that time tubes were plentiful, and I used to love the Sylvania STR387 6L6’s and later on, Sylvania 415’s—they were a little bit taller than the 387’s. I preferred good old GE 12 AX7’s, and sometimes we’d use various JAN tubes, but I preferred the Sylvania 6L6’s and GE preamp tubes over anything else. We never used tube rectifiers. We always replaced them, and I don’t recall a single amp that he used that we left with a tube rectifier. What happens with tube rectifier is, not only does it get hot, but it’s right there in front of the power transformer, and it’s really susceptible to power supply spikes. When that happens, the tube will see it immediately. It’s a common complaint—“I turn on my amp and it sounds fine but by the end of the set it’s sounding really distorted.” That’s the rectifier, because they are just really inconsistent. We also changed the output transformers on the Super Reverbs to those from a Twin Reverb, and on Vibroverbs we used output transformers from a Bassman. I’m not such a stickler on matching impedance because Fenders are very tolerant amps. You can just about feed them anything."


SRV also used many other amps to create this wall of sound. He used Dumble Steel String Singers, Marshall Majors and Fender Twins and a variety of cabinets. He was known for using Dumble's 4x12 cabs with the Dumble Amps and Marshall 8x10s with the Marshall Majors.

One of the secret weapons in Stevie's arsenal is the Fender Vibratone. The Vibratone is a leslie style speaker designed for guitar. A Leslie speaker is a rotating speaker used in organs. Stevie used one of his Vibroverbs to drive the Vibratone while on the road. This speaker can be heard on alot on the Couldn't Stand the Weather Album.

Stevie first became fascinated with Dumble amps during the recording of his first album, Texas Flood. While recording out in LA in Jackson Browne's studio, he spotted a Dumble amp and out of curiosity plugged in and started using it. This was a Dumble Dumbleland amp, which is a 300 watt bass amp. Stevie fell in love with the large amount of clean tone that he was able to get from the amp and later order his own. His Dumble was a Steel String Singer, which he called the King Tone Consoul. He had 2 of these amps. One which was blackfaced and one which was silver. These amps were clean amps that were rated at 150 watts and were originally designed for pedal steel players.

Near the end of Stevie's career he began using 4 Fender Tweed Bassman Reissues with replaced speakers. Stevie was changing around his rig all the time and every year he could have a slightly different rig out with him. When he passed away it was found that he was testing out a Soldano SLO-100 amp. Mike Soldano designed the high gain amp. Here's and excerpt from Eric Kirkland's 2007 Guitar World article, p. 67:
" The SLO Soldano built for Stevie in June 1990 was virtually identical to the 100-watt 5881-powered SLOs that Soldano offers today. The main difference was the switchable resistor/capacitor (R/C) circuit that Soldano designed specifically for Stevie’s amp. “I knew that Stevie was using Fenders and Marshall Majors at the time, so I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what he wanted in terms of tone and performance,” explains Soldano. To accommodate the guitarist’s established tone, Soldano put a switch labeled “Regular” and “Altered” on the amp’s back; the “Altered” position removed mids above 700Hz. “I did this so that Stevie could benefit from the SLO’s incredible gain but still have that scooped-out, woody Fender response. The SLO’s original design already utilized the finest military-grade components available, so there wasn’t anything further that we needed to change for it to deliver the best possible tone, to my ears. Aesthetically, Stevie’s amp was one of only a few vintage-styled SLOs ever made, with tweed cloth covering and black chicken-head knobs. ”

Stevie was a great musician with a tone everyone just loves one way or another. There were many modifications that went into the amps he played. Trying to search for that SRV sound is a daunting task because you are just looking for a big, massive wall of cleans with many overtones. Remember Stevie also used 2 Tubescreamers that shaped his tone, one as a clean boost, and one to drive the amps into an overdrive setting. Listen to this video of Stevie playing Live at the El Mocambo and you'll be able hear when the effect is engaged and disengaged.
 

MiniB

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Used to be my shtick too before switching to Teles and Gibsons. A lot of players can get SRV's 'tone' part down pretty well with Strat and a Super Reverb or Bassman.

The musicality and soul behind it is the hard part. He's an all-time giant.

I actually had this ToneQuest issue when it first came out....back when I subscribed to it.
 

OBX351

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Used to be my shtick too before switching to Teles and Gibsons. A lot of players can get SRV's 'tone' part down pretty well with Strat and a Super Reverb or Bassman.

The musicality and soul behind it is the hard part. He's an all-time giant.

I actually had this ToneQuest issue when it first came out....back when I subscribed to it.

I'd love to read that issue!
 

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