Tone Talk #2 – Rich Crunch

Let’s talk about crunch! Recently, I’ve used these amp combinations on records with Lightcliffe, Don Blake, Sibling, Flood Manual and The Vanishing Points.

Crunch tones allow a lot of flexibility with pickup position choices, the bridge pickup will be fairly smooth and mid focused whereas the middle and neck positions will be more full bodied with a grittier top end. I’m super into the middle position with crunchy guitars, and in general I gravitate towards using guitars with single coil pickups. My Stratocaster is fairly light sounding and tends to sound quite ‘stringy’ for lack of a better term, and my Telecaster, which I got from eBay already heavily modded, has way more low end than any other telecaster I’ve used, it sounds wild and it crunches up really well.

More often than not, for this tone I’ll use just the amp’s distortion rather than pedals, but I do have a couple of options for when I do want to use pedals. The Boss Blues Driver for a slightly thinned out tone with a glassy top end, and the chunky Zvex Box Of Rock which is based on a Marshall JTM, with these pedals I’ll tend to go into a higher headroom amp, the Carlsbro reacts nicely to them.

When I am just using the amp’s distortion, I have a few favourite options. The Orange AD30 has a really mix-friendly tonal shape when I set it to my usual starting point. With the Orange, I never have the master volume on full as the total power amp saturation messes with the midrange and note definition of the chords – typically around 3–4 o’clock has a solid balance of chunk to detail. The amp has two channels with different sonic signatures, one has a more pushed midrange while the other has flatter mids with a little more low end, I’ve had good luck using both channels for this kind of tone.

My 1970's Selmer PA100 is basically a Treble N Bass but with 4 channels instead of two, back then a guitar amp and a PA head were pretty similar (go buy valve PA heads on eBay and run pedals through them). This amp is THICK and it has this slight midrange push at, maybe around 600–800hz. Again, I’m dialling back the master volume so I can achieve the right level of detail. I’ve found that this amp sits really well in combination with the Orange AD30.

Sonically, the 1970's Carlsbro 50 Top is fairly similar to a Marshall Plexi. The amp has that familiar lower midrange shape and vintage crunch, there’s less of the thicker, rich quality that the other amps have, but in the right context this can really help sit it into a mix. It’s much more pedal friendly than the other two amps, too!

If I had a Vox AC30, that would be straight on this crunch list too! I need to get one soon.