Iain Cameron's Diary
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The Highveld Project

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2005-04-18 - 8:29 a.m.

I am wondering about going south east on the Grand Union. Started out but didn’t manage it and ended up looking at two flats.

I see someone is going to raid the piggy-bank of bad-doggie Rover.

Listening to the Sylvian Bees CD - well impressed. Mark mailed about 15 July at the Bush when D Graham and G Isbin are on - promises to be a night to remember. Also some points about Richards and Haldane. E-ms with Matthew about a recital on 3 Dec 2005. Currently looking around for a venue.

I knocked out a soundtrack. It being a nice day - I had been out for a walk yesterday - on the North bank of the Leam, a tributary of the Avon. I see the Leam everyday from the train and so I started on the new path which I had spotted and tried to follow the bank to the meeting point with the Avon. This hadn’t quite worked and I found myself in a sports field with a line of poplars which I filmed. The film went onto to some other abstract material. The track is a newish idea - solo guitar through a Korg box and then some post FX on the WAV. The final segment on the track is a version of One Too Many Mornings. The title of the film might be ‘Strangers Always Play Themselves’. All this stuff is really a minor footnote to Video Acts.

While I had things wired together I tried a version of So What with the new quartal ideas. I thought it was OK but I didn’t save it.

On my walk I looked in at the pawn shop and they have a set of 4 quite robust mountable speakers for ten pounds each. I have to test them I suppose. Also at the gtr shop nearby which I try to stay away from, they had a Champ Vibro - silver face - around 30 years old. It needs to be repaired and it will be over two hundred when its fixed. I think these are going to keep appreciating although I would rather have just a straight ahead Champ.

Here’s a review of a 1977 200 dollar model:

‘I bought this amp as a simple practise amp and for quiet jamming with my band. Instead of going for a cheap Solid State (and I nearly went the Vox Pathfinder 15R) I caught the vibe of a vintage amp and scored the Vibro-champ instead. I play single coil guitars mainly although I do own a MIJ '72 Reissue Tele. My U.S Standard Tele sounds superb through this amp! Up to 5 on the master the sound is sparkly clean Fender and after that it gets "gritty" up to 10 which is a beautiful ballsy overdrive. My Rickenbacker 1997 Reissue also sounds great. Tremelo is very inspiring and can be tweaked for a number of sounds. Having played this amp for 3 months it puts my other gear to shame. Dead quiet too. Gets very loud for only 6 watts...but they're tube watts!!’

That sums it up pretty well. Suits single coil - clean and gritty - the older the Fender plugged in the better it sounds. I had a talk to Flo about her Twin Reverb which is early 80s. I think it might have some mods which Fender put in after the emergence of Mesa-Boogie which makes it ‘pre-classic’ - also about the reverb. I think this is what they are taking about here:

‘This amp was made sometime between 1983-86 and was designed by Paul Rivera back when he worked at Fender. I find it to be very versatile and it works well for blues, jazz, surf and country by itself and with a good distortion pedal it is quite good for classic rock, punk or even some metal.

It has two channels. The controls for channel one are: volume (pull for bright), treble, mid, bass. The controls for channel two are: volume (pull for channel switch), gain, master, treble, mid (pull for boost), bass as well as reverb and presence controls that apply to both channels. On the back panel it has an effects loop with adjustable volumes, a line out and footswitch jacks.

It would be nice if the effects loop had a footswitch so i could use it as a boost. I use this amp for practicing at home, jamming with friend and for fairly large shows. At 105 watts rms, it has plenty of power. I have it in a head and cabinet configuration. If my 2x12 cabinet isn't enough I can just use another 2x12 or one 4x12. I have also used it as a bass amp with my 2 1x15 cabinets and found that it makes a very good bass amp

The all tube sound doesn't really break apart or distort until it's turned up so loud that it has to be in another room with the door closed. I've never turned it up past six on stage and even then my bandmates are yelling at me since the treble can be piercing. This amp is great for practice because at low volumes it doesn't compromise any tone or feel. Generally it is quiet also and if you're aware of neon lights, dimmers and power strips then little or no buzz occurs. I go into music shops and have not thought the new fenders sound nearly as good either, and usually they are for twice the price!’

So if you need the mild Fender distortion then a small amp makes a lot of sense - and you can see why the prices are climbing relative to the big heavy loud ones.

I have a pathway in mind involving amp simulation - what would a very clean amplification of a simulator sound like? You really have to try. Simulators are useful for getting colour into a recorded part - but when the volume is scaled up are the simulation inaccuracies magnified? I have a Deluxe 112 solid state which is small very loud clean and with a classic reverb and doesn’t break your back . It looks professional ie small black face Fender. That could be the loudness stage of a simulation based rig. I have also wondered about the Japanese Bassman with the D Horn. Anway Fender seem to have dumped straight simulation in their Cyber Series:

"We considered modeling the sound of tube amps with a DSP; theoretically it could be done, given sufficient processing power and vacuum tube know-how," said Dale Curtis, vice president of research and development at Fender. But ultimately Fender believed that "modeling tubes using today's DSP technology could not be done well enough to meet our standards."

"Modeling amps" attempt to skirt the tricky aspects of analog design by using DSPs to emulate an entire amplifier. But they use only a few operating points per model for their DSP algorithms or may slow the DSP's sample-processing frequency to 30 kHz or less from the industry-standard 44.1 kHz.

At Fender, both of those options were "unacceptable solutions," Curtis said. "We wanted our solution to sound as good as or better than our vintage tube amps; otherwise the project wasn't worth doing. So instead of modeling the sound of different tube circuits, we chose to reconfigure the circuitry around real tubes. Then all the DSP had to do was implement our virtual tone stacks and run the effects."

The guitar signal enters the CyberTwin from the input jack to a very high-impedance variable-gain amplifier with a "trim" control potentiometer to match the level to an analog-to-digital converter. That signal is then sent to the DSP and, depending on the type of amp selected by the guitarist, is preprocessed before it is converted back into the analog signal that drives the tube preamp. The preamp uses two classic 12AX7s tubes. ‘

I found a MD of the 1st Highveld CD which I havent listened to for ages and have forgotten a lot about. I think the two-sided version of the Wheeler-Totton plain-sailing is pretty on I have to say also Cathy and the Byronic Sailor (kind of Dyble-vibe) - maybe I shd offer Mark a copy of this to suss.

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