Introducing our resident Gear Guru, Aaron Deal. Aaron is a close personal friend of The Dude, and long time rocker, with over 15 years band experience on bass, guitar, and drums. As assistant manager and sales associate at three different (MD and VA) Guitar Center locations over the last 7 years, he is no stranger to music gear and it’s applications. Aaron is also highly skilled in the arts of home recording, guitar/amp maintenance, repair and modification. He currently plays drums in Salome and holds down the bass in Nitro Tokyo. Aaron is not only a killer fellow dude, he also knows his shit and is someone that even The Dude seeks advice from.
The Gear Guru took some time to elaborate on some of your recent questions:
Dear Double Shot of Rock,
Can two heads be run into one cabinet at once? Yes it can be done! Assuming you have a somewhat recent mesa cabinet (it has a little plate with four jacks on the back) you would want to plug one head into the top left jack and the other head in the bottom left jack. Then make sure both of your heads are running at 4 ohms. You will basically have each head coming through two speakers. Mesa cabinets have celestion vintage 30’s in them so two speakers is good to handle about 120 watts. Even though your heads are probably “100 watt” heads, if you turn them up really high they are most likely kicking out more than 100 watts. So what I’m saying is, you’ll probably be fine, you just don’t want to be running both amps wide open.
The next thing I would ask is specifically what you’re trying to accomplish by using more than one amp. More volume?A fuller sound? Two or more different tones that you can’t get from one amp? A stereo effects setup? Or some combination of the above?
If it’s more volume you want then you should get more speakers. Speakers are what move the air in the end; so if you love your sound and just want more of it, get another cab. Also depending on the size venues you are playing the house PA should take care of the volume, your amp just provides the tone.
If you are switching between two tones (clean and dirty), there are a few different options. An a/b box will switch between two amps, for example I think Petrucci uses mesa lone stars for his clean and either rectifiers or mark IVs for dirty. If you already have two heads and one cab and want to use one at a time through the same cab for different tones, check out the Cabbone pedal from radial engineering.
If you want stereo effects, you need two complete amps to provide the stereo image, one for left and one for right. In this situation ideally the two amps would be the same so the overall tone is the same, you can have cool effects like flanger, chorus, panning, ping pong delay, etc. going back and forth between the two. You could use the two heads/one cabinet setup for this, but the effects will sound way cooler the farther the speakers are from each other. Basically you need two cabs if you really want it to sound cool. In order to hook this up you just need an effects pedal with stereo outs, hook one up to each head or like mike said, he uses the digitech processor for stereo delays. This can be a stompbox, multi effect pedal, or a rack processor, whatever you have that operates in stereo.
Finally, this is what I think you guys are really after, two amps working together to make one awesome tone. Let me just add that I totally agree with mike that this is the key to a really killer tone. Also let me add that if you don’t know how to make one amp sound good, getting more probably isn’t going to help. Having two amps allows you to use them to compliment each other. For example: if one amp has really killer low end but sounds kind of muddy in the highs, you can add another, brighter amp to compliment the first one. That is just one example; you could also have one amp with higher gain and add another that is somewhat cleaner to add more clarity while still having a distorted overall feel. You get the idea. In order to accomplish this, I would start with one amp at a time and switch back and forth between the two, when you get close to what you want from each one individually, turn them both on and make some tweaks to get it just right.
When tweaking knobs, don’t use your eyes use your ears. Throw away all the stuff you heard about where the knobs are “supposed to be” and turn them until it sounds good to you. When you’ve done that, then look at the knobs and take a note so you can find this sound easier next time, that’s all the numbers are for as far as I’m concerned. The best way to figure this out is to plug the amps in and start playing, and don’t be scared to experiment and use what might be “weird” settings. The whole idea here is to have one awesome sound, so whatever each amp has to do to achieve that, so be it!
The whirlwind A/B box is a great starting point at about $100. Morley makes one that is a little cheaper, and lehle, radial, and a bunch of others make fancier, more expensive ones. Radial makes lots of really cool products (their Switchbone a/b box totally rules) and if you are interested in this topic I’m sure you will appreciate their stuff, go check it out.
I would also totally recommend just getting another cabinet. Using one cabinet for two different sounds just won’t get you as much separation as two cabs would. Just think about it, the two sounds are still coming out of the same box. Not to mention that speakers and cabinets affect the tone in a huge way in and of themselves, but that is probably a different topic altogether. The main point is don’t be scared to experiment. You’ll find that killer tone, you’re on the way, you have already stumbled onto the secret of dual guitar heads and that means that tone you have always wanted is just right around the corner. Good Luck!