Blending Amps & Microphones

Week 2 is upon us, and we’re continuing the momentum of last week's post with jumping straight back into the thick of it with blending amps and microphones. These are two of the most crucial elements to learn more about what blends you like the sound of, and it’s only through experimentation that you’ll discover that - however, I’m here to try and get you started in the right direction, so you don’t get too lost while starting out on this path. 

So with all that said, let’s dive in! 

Slaving Amplifiers and Blending

When it comes to guitar tone, we’ve already discussed the 4 most crucial elements of crafting your overall sound with the biggest differences. But, in general, most would argue that the amplifier makes a hell of a difference in the sound as well, and they’re not wrong. But there’s more to changing the amp or the style of the amp that can play an even greater role in crafting the sound in your head. 

There’s many amp manufacturers and types of amp, wattages, models, and so on, already in the world, so it’s easy to suggest that as there’s already so many, why try and blend amps to get another new sound; but there’s a few star amplifiers that really represent the sound of that brand which, if you have them, then making new sounds from those amps can be a extremely rewarding process. Take for example the geographical location that amps are typically grouped into such as Marshall being a ‘British’ sound, or Peavy and Mesa being an ‘American’ sound, all the way through to Engl being the ‘German’ sound; imagine being able to blend the timbre of each of these amps together with one another, to get a totally new sound? 

This is one of the reasons why slaving one amp from another was discovered. And the process is rather simple, but in short it requires taking the preamp output (usually the line out on the rear of the amp, or FX send) and routing it into another amps FX return, effectively bypassing Amp 2’s entire preamp but relying on its power amp to do the heavy lifting on powering the cabinet. It’s worth noting that you’ll need to have the correct and proper load on the first amps power output however, even if there’s no actual cabinet or poweramp sound being used by it; but thats all explained very well in this video by Kyle Bull which I highly recommend watching if you want to also hear how much of a change there is when converging to amplifiers sounds together: 


Blending Microphones 

As mentioned already, one of the key 4 ingredients to any good guitar tone is your microphone choice. But, you can accentuate that choice by adding more than just the one microphone to get the best out of many types of microphones, each capturing a different sound of the amp even if they are as close to occupying the same space as each other as possible. 

Every microphone has its own unique footprint which it imparts on the sound of the source you’re recording, and so knowing what your microphone's sonic signature is can help you make much more informed choices on your blending options. One of my favorite pairs I usually partner up with each other is my HH1 and the V11, with the HH1 capturing the upper midrange and bulk of the sound, as well as a good amount of the over picture of the tone; coupled with the V11 encapsulating the sparkle, lower midrange and depth in the tone. 

Another great pairing is a dynamic microphone such as the HH1, but with a Ribbon microphone which typically gives you a much smoother and duller sound, that's usually used to reinforce the body of the sound rather than add anything like detail to capture the attack, or similar. Most dynamic microphones will gather all the sound for the tone by itself, but there’s a very endearing quality to condenser microphones that’s not possible to achieve with a dynamic microphone. 

Another great trick is to add a condenser microphone to the rear of the cabinet (particularly open-back speaker cabinets), in order to get more of a focused and warm midrange with much less of the detail or upper frequencies, so as to blend in subtly with any other microphones already placed on the front of the cabinet. The main issue you will run into is phase when blending your mics however. The simple fact is that when you have more than one microphone on a single source, the situation becomes more complicated to deal with resulting in some problems if you’re not careful. A great way to make sure your mic’s are phase aligned properly, is while you’re placing them:

  • Run pink noise through the amp and out of the cabinet; then place your first microphone when you think sounds best
  • Then add your second microphone, but before you go to place it invert the phase of that 2nd mic and listen for when it sounds like it almost cancels out the sound of the first microphone. 
  • Make sure you’re monitoring both mics at the same time in your headphones, and listen for a sound that almost resembles wind, where the majority of the overall sound is canceled out.  
  • Then, flip the phase again so it’s back to normal, and repeat with each microphone and once you’re happy with the sound, but remember to only have one microphone out of phase at a time. 

This will result in you having all your mics in phase as much as possible with each other, and any frequencies that are out of phase will either result in a desirable outcome for the sound, or will be so small that it won’t be audible. With multiple microphones, you also give yourself the option to automate the volume of each microphone giving you even more ways to add life and movement to the song as well as opening the door to a world of tone like no other!