Regular viewers of TPS are no doubt familiar (and probably a bit envious!) of the wall of amps looming behind where Dan & Mick sit each week. Of course, they look nice but sound even better, especially when a few amps are run together in stereo or in wet/dry rigs. In this week’s episode, Dan & Mick provide some pro tips, gear recommendations, and technical considerations for creating a pedalboard and amp configuration that breaks out of the mono amp set up.
While TPS is not quite PBS, week-to-week Dan & Mick do deliver a good dose of educational content about the topic at hand. One of the helpful outcomes of this week’s episode is simply defining some terms and concepts—with a few entertaining hand gestures to illustrate the points! One of the most common problems encountered in setting up a stereo rig is phase (i.e., when the wave form signals of the two amps are out of sync). As Dan described it, “if you have exactly the same signal coming out of both [amps] and they’re in phase it will be a full frequency sound. And if they are exactly out of phase you will get complete phase cancellation, so, no sound.” But how can you know if you’re stereo amp setup is in or out of phase? Dan prescribes strumming a few full-fat E chords and keeping an ear out for the sound of that lowest string. “The easiest way to find out if you’re out of phase is to listen to the bottom end because it’s the most susceptible to phase cancellations.”
Another consideration that needs to be made in configuring a pair of amps is signal isolation. At first glance, sending the stereo outs into two separate amps seems simple enough, yet this can create what Dan described as an “earth loop.” This happens when throughout the rig “you’ve got multiple connections to earth [i.e., ground], and that can introduce noise.” The solution to this is looking at the entire rig and identifying that all that is needed is a single path to ground. As Dan noted, “We can have twenty amplifiers, as long as you’ve got a single path to earth and everything else is isolated you’ll be fine.” Most ABY amp switches will cure the common ground hum and keep your signal safe.
With those terms and technical considerations out of the way, the question becomes why venture into a stereo or wet/dry rig at all? Is there really a sonic or tonal payoff? More and more delay and modulated effects are equipped with stereo ins and outs. If you’re yet to make use of that bonus ¼ inch jack on the back of your stompbox, you’re missing out! For example, as Dan demonstrated, when chorus effects like the Boss CE-2W are in mono output mode, “you get the dry signal and the delayed, modulated wet signal mixed together…In a stereo mix, what happens is, generally, the dry signal and the modulated signal are separated.” Another sort of dimension and space is possible with stereo delay pedals outfitted with ping-pong-style echoes, like those of the Strymon Timeline, which will bat the signals back and forth between the amps. Similarly, stereo reverbs like the Neunaber Immerse will build varying structures of micro-delays to different outputs providing an enhanced sense of depth to the sound. As Mick reflected, “It sounds completely obvious to say this, but of course, reverb is the sound of space,” so if you’re “hearing it just mono out of a speaker and it’s not moving,” it’s not the same. In short, stereo gives the effect of space a true dimension in the room.
So let’s say you’re ready to graduate to a stereo or wet/dry set up, your pedalboard is configured for it, you even have an extra patch cable to run to a second amp...but your second amp is a practice amp from when you were twelve-years-old. What other options are there? While Dan & Mick optimized a tandem Victory V40 and Fender Hot Rod Deluxe for much of the episode, they also demoed the recently launched Orange Rocker 32. This amp is a pedal lover’s dream! Equipped with a pair of 10” Orange Voice of the World Gold Label speakers driven by EL84s in the power amp section, the amp has the unique ability to run the speakers as twin mono or in true stereo thanks to a stereo return in the effects loop. In short, the Rocker 32 accomplishes the job of two amps. It’s studio grade, worthy of stage, yet equally comfortable at home thanks to its switchability from the full 30-watt to 15-watt output.
For any and all gear to set up a stereo or wet/dry rig, be sure to check our Riff City’s selections of amps, pedals, and accessories. Whether it’s a new Rocker 32 or ABY switch for two amps you already own, we’ve got your gear needs covered.
TPS Episode Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Dan: 1963 Closet Classic Fender Telecaster (ca. 2000). Mick: 1962 American Vintage Fender Stratocaster (ca. 2000); Duesenberg Fullerton Elite; Fender American Professional Jazzmaster.Boss Waza Craft Chorus CE-2W; Strymon Timeline; Pigtronix Deluxe Echolution 2; Neunaber Immerse Reverb.