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Thread: Getting A Handle On The DG 30 Custom Amp

  1. #1

    Getting A Handle On The DG 30 Custom Amp

    I feel I've only scratched the surface of the DG30, but wanted to do a write-up. It isn't an amp that you simply turn on, adjust one or two controls, and there you are, done. It's an interesting amp that has a ton of tones on tap. It rewards experimentation.

    For such an ostensibly simple design, well, it isn't all that simple. There are lots of shades and possibilities. Actually, you can dial in a tremendous variety of cool sounding tones. And of course, David Grissom lives inside the amp, and it's not hard to dial in his trademark tones if that's your thing (I got his new album, and spent some time making similar sounds, a lot of fun!).

    This is an amp meant to sound its very best at gig or recording volume. The amp uses EL84M power tubes. These not only last a lot longer than standard EL84s, they also take a higher plate voltage and have much more clean headroom than standard EL84s. If you like to hear power tube distortion (like me), things are going to get pretty dang loud. But then you have that Oh. My. Goodness. moment, and you realize how great the thing can be in a band (or serious studio) context.

    We are talking gorgeous sparkle, shimmer, and clarity upon clarity. And here the volume control becomes more a tone control, adding a touch of upper-edge distortion halo around a note in a different are of the frequency band from, say, a Matchless/Vox style EL84 amp, or an EL34 or 6L6 amp. And you can warm it up, or make it clearer as well.

    When the amp is cooking, you can't believe how great your guitar can make it respond at any setting on your guitar volume. Then you can really use the guitar's volume and tone controls to add whatever you want - grit, distortion, chime, shimmer, grunt, edge, clean, you name it.

    Did I mention that it gets loud?

    Sure it sounds good at low volume, but if you don't crank it to at least check out what's happening, you're missing out on some of what this amp can do. One thing is for sure, this is not an anemic EL84 amp. Years ago, I had a Mesa Blue Angel that couldn't hang with a band with just its 4 x EL84 section cranked to the max, as nice as that amp sounded for recording. I had to add in the 6V6 tubes to even be heard. This one could hang with a band, no problem at all.

    To get the most out of the amp, well, just don't play after the kids go to bed.

    Whether cranked or at what I'd consider more reasonable volumes, however, the amp has a wonderful clarity throughout its range. Yes, you can crank the gain and lower the master and get classic rock crunch and power chord sounds, but personally, I'd use my HXDA for that. This amp is all about that halo of distortion around the top of a note that I mentioned earlier. This distortion has a different character from, say, an AC30, where the breakup seems more direct and crunchy at a lower frequency.

    I find the amp tighter in the boost mode, and that's mostly where I play it, as in normal mode it's definitely a "sweeter" amp, with a softer bottom end, and a rounder top. It really can sound like it has bits of several really great vintage amps because of these subtleties and settings. At low levels I hear a little Brownface Concert-Amp, I can get some of those old classic Gibson style tones, etc, but at the same time, the amp has more shimmer and openness to my ear than these older amps (some of which can be attributed to the fact that I'm not playing it through 50 year old Jensens!).

    The bright switch is truly useful in either mode, because as you increase the volume of the amp, it adds progressively less high end. That keeps you from having ice picks assault the ears of your audience, or blowing up your recording system! And the high cut works by using phase cancellation, and it does a nice job of helping the player shape things, along with the presence control. The bright switch is also very useful in adding definition at low volumes.

    In addition, the amp is very dynamic, and really responds to the pick or fingers. This is in part because the headroom is enormous. The differences between the humbucker and split coil positions on my Artist V, for example, are clearer and more distinct that I have gotten with any other amp. And it really loves the split coil positions in a way that my others haven't. Also, I have owned no other amp where the combination of the two humbuckers sounded so good. Honestly, on other amps, I don't even bother with both buckers on at once. With this amp, I do.

    In other words, the amp is incredibly revealing of pickups, pickup settings, and it loves them all. It doesn't care where you set your pickup selector switch, the amp is just going to sound good with it. And better still, each setting won't sound like the other pickup settings, even at volume.

    Pedals are not a problem, in fact, the amp loves them. It has no need of a loop. It sounds really good with pedals in front of the amp. Granted, I'm not a guy who cares much about effects loops, but if you love lovely delay and chorus sounds in front of your amp, pick this one. Not to mention how good it sounds with my two boost pedals, my overdrive, and my SP compressor. The amp just says, "Bring 'em on!"

    There is a very elastic quality to the notes. They have a certain bouncy, three dimensional quality that will stand out in a mix.

    I started to record a few things today, but didn't finish because I was called away to visit an elderly family member in the hospital (she will be fine). I will follow through on my promise to record the amp once things settle down a little bit.

    People have asked me if it'd be a good bedroom amp. And I'd say, sure, it sounds good turned down low with some pedals. But it's a truly professional piece of gear, and I'd really recommend opening it up and having some good clean fun with it!

    Anyway, I hope this information helps if you're thinking about one of these.

    EDIT:

    I forgot to mention that this one has the NOS Brimar tubes, made a long time ago in England; it's interesting that Brimar was actually a subsidiary of an American company (ITT), and probably the tubes were a licensed RCA design. My guess is that the Brimar tubes play a role in the clarity and headroom of the amp in some way. They break up a bit differently from most modern tubes, from what I can tell.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 02-23-2014 at 07:51 AM.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    So did yours not come with a handle or what? Seems pretty cheap if you ask me.

  3. #3
    I ordered the optional air conditioner instead.
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  4. #4
    Happy Egads's Avatar
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    Great write-up. Sounds like an amazing amp.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Egads View Post
    Great write-up. Sounds like an amazing amp.
    Thanks! It's hard to describe the tones in words, so my plan is to set the amp up to one basic sound, hit "record" and then control it with the guitar, switch a few pedals in and out, etc., so you can hear my take on what can be pulled out of it without touching the controls on the amp. I sound very different from David Grissom, so I thought it might be an interesting exercise and fun for people to hear.

    Also, it sounds so different from my HXDA that they are great compliments to one another.
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  6. #6
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    Great Write up Les. You were able to put in words what I have not been able to do about this amp. It is very hard to describe all of the nuances of this amp IMO. I will be just as anxious to hear your demo clips as everyone else!!

  7. #7
    The upper edge distortion halo is very descrptive

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by TAJ View Post
    Great Write up Les. You were able to put in words what I have not been able to do about this amp. It is very hard to describe all of the nuances of this amp IMO. I will be just as anxious to hear your demo clips as everyone else!!
    Thanks, TAJ. It really is hard to describe, isn't it? Am I right about the clarity and bounce this thing has?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Eaton View Post
    The upper edge distortion halo is very descrptive
    Thanks, David...I mean, it's there, right? It's such a cool and unusual thing.
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  9. #9
    It is there....well, do you notice it more when the volume control is above 12 o'clock? It kind of rings in following the note? It seems that with volume low and master high it's not there (which makes sense)...but as you wind the volume know there's a harmonic thing happening just after the note sounds...it seems to not be as prominent in boost mode.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by David Eaton View Post
    It is there....well, do you notice it more when the volume control is above 12 o'clock? It kind of rings in following the note? It seems that with volume low and master high it's not there (which makes sense)...but as you wind the volume know there's a harmonic thing happening just after the note sounds...it seems to not be as prominent in boost mode.
    Hmmm...an even-order harmonic distortion almost sitting above the note is what I'm hearing, but I'm not sure it's delayed after the note. But it's definitely a harmonic thing.

    We're probably trying to describe the same thing in different terms, because I do hear it more in normal mode.

    It's a nice thing!

    I spent some time setting up the Royer mic tonight, so I plan to record in the next day or so depending on the schedule.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 02-23-2014 at 10:36 PM.
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  11. #11
    Found a set of NOS 6P14P-EV (EL84M) tubes to have as backups; now I just have to find a set of NOS Brimars for spares and I'm set for quite a while!

    That, my friends, means I have made a lasting commitment.
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  12. #12
    Here's my setup for recording the DG30 today; what I'm going to do is set the amp up once, and then not touch the amp's controls again. Everything will be controlled from the guitar, but at some point I will switch in a delay and/or chorus, too, so you can hear how it sounds with these pedals.

    Details: The cab floats on an Isoacoustics riser. Pedals I'll switch in are the clean boost from the Fulltone Catalyst, the clean boost from the Fulltone Fulldrive 3, and the Eventide ModFactor and TimeFactor.

    As you can see, I'm using a Royer R-121 and playing the amp through a Mesa 2x12 Recto cab with V-30s. This is probably not a great cab for this amp, but it will give you an idea, anyway.

    Mic Preamp will be a Focusrite ISA One, that can be switched to the correct impedance for the Royer, important with a ribbon mic.

    Pic of the rig:



    Once I get some clips done, I'll post links here to Soundcloud.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 02-24-2014 at 01:51 PM.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member andy474x's Avatar
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    Looking forward to it!
    -I'm no expert, but it seems to work and I haven't electrocuted myself yet. Which is pretty much the standard I live by.

    SE Custom 24 25th Anniversary - SE Akesson+57/08's - SE 30 Head/Cab

  14. #14
    Guys, of all the embarrassing things...I got all set up and couldn't think of anything to play. So what I have is some aimless noodling instead of a tune. However, you can get the basic idea of the amp's clean-to-slightly-crunchy tones.

    The amp is in boost mode, volume/gain about noon-ish, bright switch on, master volume at around 1 o'clock (I didn't want to blow up my ribbon mic).

    I started clean on the bridge pickup, guitar volume at about 3. Then I rolled up the guitar volume to about 7, and you'll hear some crunchy stuff, but nothing very gain-y. I then did more clean stuff with the volume pretty low on the guitar with the different pickups (you can hear me switching pickups). About 3/5 in, I threw on some chorus and delay, and then switched the chorus off toward the end on the neck pickup.

    I didn't get around to using the boost pedals, or any overdrives. Sorry! Next time!

    Here's the link:

    https://soundcloud.com/lschefman/dg-demo-track

    Again, I apologize for not playing anything halfway interesting, but I was in "amp tone" mode, and I guess not in "shut up and play my guitar" mode.

    I'll do some gainier stuff next time out, and try out some boost and OD pedals as well.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member andy474x's Avatar
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    That first section sounded very "Americana" to me, if that makes any sense... a lot like tones I've heard on some John Mellencamp songs. Bet it would sound great with a tele!
    -I'm no expert, but it seems to work and I haven't electrocuted myself yet. Which is pretty much the standard I live by.

    SE Custom 24 25th Anniversary - SE Akesson+57/08's - SE 30 Head/Cab

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by andy474x View Post
    That first section sounded very "Americana" to me, if that makes any sense... a lot like tones I've heard on some John Mellencamp songs. Bet it would sound great with a tele!
    Yup, I was thinking kind of "Americana" with that setting, and the guitar's bridge pickup. The amp can do a lot more, of course, but my premise was to leave the amp untouched after the initial setting, and just use different pickups, the guitar volume, etc., and then bring in the delays to show off how shimmery it can sound.

    These are my favorite kinds of settings for the amp. It'd fit in with a Tom Petty track set up this way and layered, too.

    BTW, it sounds soft in the recording, but I had that sucker pretty loud in the room!
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  18. #18
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    Sounds great do you have the matching cab I would love to hear the difference between the two cabs.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluesboy998 View Post
    Sounds great do you have the matching cab I would love to hear the difference between the two cabs.
    I would, too! I don't have the matching cab, yet. It'll be a few weeks. A few very long weeks.
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  20. #20
    Opaque John Beef's Avatar
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    How did you get that stereo image of a single guitar like that? Bright in the left speaker, beefy in the right. Almost a slight delay in the left speaker.
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