Mic’ing Your Amp

This must seriously be the most devious necessary evil in the history of universe. 

You have to push your amp to get it to sound good. This is a gross generalization, but most of us like it just on the verge of breakup…right on that cliff…dig in and get some smooth breakup, back off and it cleans up. But that means your amp has to be loud. You can drop from 30 or 50 watts to a little 5 watt, 3 tube amp…but then it gets hard to push the speaker efficiently, that harmonics suffer (in my opinion) a bit, and just generally not as much air moves; hence not as much feel and dynamics. 

Therefore, we use our big amps, but turn them backwards, behind curtains, shield them, or, in my case (as our church has horrendous acoustics…no, seriously…one time I dropped my pick and it echoed for the next two services) running your amp head on stage with a 50 foot speaker cable to your cabinet in a closet. Now, your unbred stallions of tone can be tamed into the microphone receiver, sent to the back, and mixed politely into the house speakers. 

Which I’m cool with……..in theory. The fact of the matter is, though, that no matter how good of a sound system I;ve played through, it never sounds as good as my amp. And even when I’ve heard other guitarists say that they have found the magical way of mic’ing so that their tone sounds exactly the same in the house as from their amp, when I actually traverse on stage to hear their amp, it sounds better from their amp. 

So…short of mic’ing two center cones with ’57′s, two outer cones with condensors, having a condensor mic three feet away for ambient sound, and therefore taking up soundboard channels and ticking off your sound tech so badly that he eq’s all the bass out of your channel just to get back at you, what are some of your guys’ magical secrets?

Right now, with my cab in the closet, I’m mic’ing a Celestion Blue with a vocal ’58 mic to pick up more voice range dynamics (or something like that) towards the outer part of the cone but still fairly central and just a few millimeters from the grill cloth. EQ is almost straight on the board, with some lows rolled off, and some highs added. I’m experimenting with whether it sounds better to have a hot gain signal on the board with the fader lower, or vice versa. And I’m also thinking if there is a way to get away with my amp on stage because in my limited experience, having some stage volume usually helps the sound through the house. Perhaps I need to bite the bullet and get a 5 watter. 

Anyone else resisting the urge to take up 5 channels on the soundboard and spend thousands of dollars on mics to get the tone right? :-)

whoamics.jpg

(Please note…this is unfortunately not a picture of my actual mic’ing technique… this is some jerk… er… awesome person from a studio)

15 thoughts on “Mic’ing Your Amp

  1. Hey Dan,

    I’d so love to run my amp on stage…but how much do you have to turn down? By the way, your pedalboard is killer. Love it.

    Cheers,
    Karl

  2. Interesting post!…and it seems I’m 3 years late reading it….

    I’ve always kinda thought that miking your amp was the best way to get your sound out to the whole room…and for the most part had really liked the re-amped sound through most of the systems I’ve played through…just one trusty “57″ set an inch or so from the outside of the cone…turn up and Rock!

    I think my feelings on this are mostly because I’ve always tended to favor smaller wattage combos…I played a (most likely modded) Peavey Classic 30 for years that had a killer sound…

    But the room can seem to wreck you tone…lately I’ve been playing in our Sanctuary each month….I have a 5 watt that I use, and a 40 and even 90 watt…the 40 sounds good, a bit to bright, and I LOVE the 90 watts tone…but in this room even the 5 watter is too loud!

    Brick side walls, Glass back walls, wood pews, and a ceiling that slopes the wrong way (toward the stage)…not to mention the stage being in the apex of a brick triangle…

    This got long…I have more to discuss…maybe will post again! Love the blog as always Karl!

    • Ya, you’re right on the room messing with your tone. A finely tuned room is just as important as finely tuned instruments. I do wish more churches would think about this when building buildings. I love going into some of the old churches and hearing their sound. :)

  3. i use radial sgi’s in my main auditorium. the two guitar amps (one for me and one for the rhythm player) are run up into a spare closet. we bought some simple clear sonic sound panels and have very little bleed through. I go with a ’57 an inch off of the middle of the speaker (because my bad cat has a beam blocker built into it) and have it about half an inch off the grill. i’ve been super happy with the sound i’m getting lately. both guitarists only use 15 watt amps, so its not like we are using the john mayer world tour rig or anything :) radial sgi’s are a great solution to allow you to run amps really far away (like 350 feet) from your board and have very very very little if any tone loss. i would highly recommend them…and a bad cat ;)


  4. Karl:

    Ya, you’re right on the room messing with your tone. A finely tuned room is just as important as finely tuned instruments. I do wish more churches would think about this when building buildings. I love going into some of the old churches and hearing their sound.

    My church was a portable church till about 3 months ago. Luckily our woship was on top of things and we handmade our own sound panels in the auditorium. It is the deadest room I have ever played in. I will post pictures of the auditorium when I can, just to show people that may be doing some remodeling or moving in to a new space, that if they put some work into it they can make the acoustics in their room a thousand times better. We had a carpenter at our church make the frame using one by’s and we just put these big sheets of “rock wool” I think it is called. Then covered it with this black polyester type material (I don’t know what its called either. I can get more details if anyone is interested. It took some work but was very inexpensive compared to buying pre-made sound panels. I couldn’t imagine what our sound would be like without them. So I will post a pic when I can.

  5. About the gain on the board, I’ve found I get the truest sound from my amp when the gain is set on the board to where it just barely flashes as peaking very very seldomly when I’m on my lead channel and only when I hit something real hard. I’ve found this is a lot better than peaking a lot and also better than never peaking at all whatsoever.

    • This is exactly how our sound guy has almost everything setup. He was taught (this was his major in college) to have everything at its loudest just touching that red zone. I just recently found a good volume for my amp (non master volume) that really sounds good. We also found out an interesting limitation/quirk of the SM57 in the process. When you hit it with more volume the high end becomes more and more prominent and the low end seems to fall off. We had to boost the low end on the board to compensate even though in the room it sounded perfect.


  6. Josh:

    This is exactly how our sound guy has almost everything setup. He was taught (this was his major in college) to have everything at its loudest just touching that red zone. I just recently found a good volume for my amp (non master volume) that really sounds good. We also found out an interesting limitation/quirk of the SM57 in the process. When you hit it with more volume the high end becomes more and more prominent and the low end seems to fall off. We had to boost the low end on the board to compensate even though in the room it sounded perfect.

    That’s interesting about that quirk with the 57. That is the mic I use. I run an AC15 at about half volume in an Isolation box under the stage and I haven’t noticed any loss of low end. So i guess that means I can turn my amp up louder. :)

    • Mine is really loud. It’s 40 watts and up a little over 2/3 of the way. It’s really uncomfortable to stand at the door of the amp room when I’m playing. It sounds great at the foh though.

  7. I bet it does. nothing like a cranked amp to get those speakers opened up. You’re making me want to go the church right now and just turn my amp up all the way and see if I like it better than what I have set right now. I run the channel volume at about 60 or 70%. All joking aside, maybe I do need to turn up the master some.

  8. Yeah Karl, if you would quit making posts about silly, pointless things like “kindness” and started making more posts about life-changing things like mic’ing amps, we would be more involved on the site. :)

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