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1970s: The Age of Great Rock Tone

Thursday, January 22, 2015 2:39:28 AM America/Los_Angeles

Many Baroni Lab effects pedals are designed not with certain effects in mind, but with certain famous tones in mind.  There are a lot of clone pedals out there, which focus on recreating the exact sound of a famous stomp box, but we take a different angle and try to develop effects which capture the tone and style of certain eras and genres of music over the years.

One of the most popular eras for rock guitar – and one which we have focused on quite a bit – is the 1970s.  In many ways, the 70s is a golden era of sorts for music, musicianship, creativity and good tone.  Some of the most renowned bands and artists came into the spotlight during this time, and groups which had made names for themselves during the 60s just got better and better during this period.

Particularly in the UK, bands like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were making great albums and taking the world by storm.  Artists did not just have good songwriting and performance skills, but they also cared a lot about the details of tone and realized the importance of good sound.  Players like David Gilmour and Jimmy Page were at the forefront of guitar culture, and used their equipment in new and groundbreaking ways, to bring a certain character to the music.  Gilmour in particular is famous for his tone, and used a variety of distortion pedals, compressors and modulation effects to create a huge, overwhelming ambient sound in his guitar solos.  Long, soulful bends and perfectly timed, tastefully chosen notes are abundant in every solo, and many players even to this day look for ways to get these kinds of famous guitar player tones without having to spend a fortune on old pro amplifiers and stomp boxes.

This is why Baroni Lab vintage amplifiers are made with great attention to detail and care for the overall tone of the finished gear.  We want every single tube amp and effects pedal to be the best we can make, and to faithfully recreate those classic huge tones that everybody knows and loves from the golden eras of music.

Posted By Baroni Lab

Tube Amp Tone Stacks

Monday, January 19, 2015 5:35:51 PM America/Los_Angeles

In designing the pre amp for an amplifier, one of the most important considerations is often the tone stack; the way in which the controls for bass, mid and treble work together, and how they can be used by a guitar player to sculpt the right kind of tone.

Most of them are passive, in that they work by attenuating other frequencies in order to emphasize others. In tone stacks like this, the mid pot will not so much increase the mids, but rather attenuate the bass and treble. Another popular tone stack is the active tone control, in which bass, mid and treble act as kinds of volume controls, each affecting the loudness of their specific tonal ranges.

Some famous amplifier companies have even built reputations on mistakes with tone pot wiring, which have over the years become less thought of as ‘errors’ and more often considered to be ‘quirks’ or features. Such amps have loyal followings, with famous players and enthusiastic hobbyists alike all having their favourite tone settings.

The effects of tone controls on the overall tone of a guitar sound are obviously very important, and depending on the kind of playing and genres of music you prefer, it is essential to become familiar with the tone controls of your pre amp in order to really get the most appropriate sounds.

Heavy metal tone, for example, almost relies more on the equalization of the pre amp than the kind of distortion applied to the signal. Scooped mids and accented bass and treble will provide that metallic cold tone which can be heard on everything from Black Sabbath to Slipknot. Music like classic rock and blues, however is more about the middle frequencies, which can create ‘fat’ guitar tone which cuts through the mix strongly, and is great for controlled feedback and full-bodied pentatonic soloing. Jazz players often favour higher bass frequencies and cut trebles, to give the guitar a richer sound for walking bass lines.

Whatever your style, and no matter how many effects you have in your board, equalization is usually your best friend!

Posted in Amplifiers By Baroni Lab

Pink Floyd's New Album: The Endless River

Friday, January 9, 2015 12:18:09 AM America/Los_Angeles

Pink Floyd, like many well-known and long lived bands; have gone through a lot of changes since their humble beginnings as a four piece student band in the 1960s. From gaining David Gilmour and losing Syd Barrett in the early days, to disagreements between Waters and the band in the 80s and finally the passing of Wright and Barrett in the 2000s, the story of Pink Floyd is an interesting one. Their development and experiences as a huge touring band is reflected in their music, with albums like The Wall dealing with huge issues such as emotional repression, loss of family, madness and the unstable relationship between band and audience. The Endless River – the band's fifteenth and apparently final album – is no exception.

While the whole album is instrumental, with the exception of the final song 'Louder than Words', it is clear from the production, album artwork and recently released music video that it is intended at least partially as a tribute to late keyboard player Rick Wright. The tracks were taken from a 20 hour jam session held by the band while they were recording material for the album which later became The Division Bell, and contain some great work from Wright on keys.

Perhaps the most prominent theme of the Division Bell recording is the concept of communication breakdown. Tracks like 'Keep Talking', 'Lost for Words' and 'Poles Apart' clearly deal with the notion of words, and how they can be used as a tool to develop personal and creative relationships, but can also lead to complications when they don't quite succeed in conveying the speaker's intended meaning. This theme is continued, prominently, in the latest album. Tracks like 'The Lost Art of Conversation', 'Talkin' Hawkin' and 'Louder than Words' are very clear examples of the theme. The very fact that seventeen of the eighteen tracks are instrumental, with only the final song containing any real lyrics, also ties in nicely with the concept of the ultimate futility of words.

'Louder than Words' is the culmination of the point of the album, that despite arguments, disagreements and general bickering, when all of the parts join together to work as one, they create something much more meaningful and beautiful than words could ever describe.

The Endless River is definitely not for those who enjoy upbeat standard pop music; many tracks are experimental in nature, and they retain the raw feeling of a jam session with great musicians in the zone. For fans of the Floyd, and those who enjoy spacing out to ambient, progressive music, it is definitely a must buy. Fantastic drum beats which recall early Floyd songs like 'Set the Controls' are present in tracks like 'Eyes to Pearls', which is one of many examples of just how well this band were able to create a rich and interesting soundscape for listeners to get lost in.

Posted By Baroni Lab

Rocking Out at Practice Volumes

Saturday, January 3, 2015 5:55:47 PM America/Los_Angeles

Tube amps provide a great natural distortion, but sometimes they need to be at a pretty high volume to generate overdrive as rich-sounding as it should be. This is great for performance situations, where you can really let go and crank it up, but in the context of the family home, it becomes rather impossible to practice with the tube distortion tone you’d usually perform with.

In such circumstances, there are two ways in which a guitarist can resolve the issue. Number one is to invest in a sound-proofed practice studio. With a good space and the right insulation materials, it is possible to create a room in which you can play at whatever volume you need, and never have to worry about disturbing anybody else.

This however is not necessarily the most practical solution, as not everybody has the time, space and means of building such a room. The better way around this is to buy the amplifier which is the right size for you. It is pointless to buy an expensive high wattage combo when you can never really enjoy it at its full capacity.

The BL05 is the best tube amp to use for low volume rocking. It comes with gain as well as master volume, so that it is very easy to dial in just the right amount of crunch for any song. Why should tube tone be reserved only for players on the stage, when it is possible to get that great tone, at manageable volume levels, with one small, convenient amplifier?

The BL05 – like most of our amplifiers – comes as both head only and combo options, so there are still plenty of options for customizing and crafting a really good practice/intimate venue rig.

Posted in Pedals By Baroni Lab

The Best Effects Pedal Casings

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 5:50:43 PM America/Los_Angeles

It's a well known fact that many effects pedals will take a fair bit of punishment through the course of their lives; there's a reason that some people refer to them as stomp boxes. If you are a gigging guitarist or bass player, your rig will spend a lot of time on the road, being transported from this place to that place, and bumps and scratches are almost inevitable. It is important that effects pedals be made to withstand the occasional knock, bump and drop, so that they keep working a good long time. The best made effects pedals will last well over a lifetime, and many famous pedals from the 70s – which have become collector's items – are still operational today.

Pedals built into metal casings are clearly the way to go, and almost every single effects pedal manufacturer uses a metal of some kind in the construction of their stomp boxes, but the problem with some metals is that your effects rig can end up weighing more than your trusty tube amp!

This is the case especially with larger vintage pedals, which were placed into iron housings. These pedals can be really heavy, particularly if they are large enough to have tubes onboard, and on top of that, they are prone to rusting and various other kinds of degradation over the years with frequent usage.

These are issues which we had to think carefully upon, as some Baroni Lab effects pedals (Currently the TubeHeart, TubeHeart XXX and MesMark 1 Pre Amp pedal) had to be large enough to accommodate not just one, but two vacuum tubes. Thinking along the lines of the ‘New Era of Vintage', we decided to stylize our pedal casings on vintage designs, but substitute iron for high grade aluminium. This allows us to stay faithful to the original designs of the classic era of guitar effects pedals, without any of the extra weight or rust issues. Aluminium is light-weight, extremely durable, rust-free, recyclable and a general all-round great material to work with.

In this way, Baroni Lab pedals bring true vintage feel and fashion, while avoiding any back aches from carrying around a pedal board that is heavy enough to sink a ship.

Posted in Effects By Baroni Lab

Outdoor Gigs with the Power Amp 100

Sunday, November 30, 2014 10:15:27 PM America/Los_Angeles

Different venues always require different equipment. It is understandable that while a 20 watt amplifier will be perfect for use in a small to medium sized venue, it will be far from enough for any large performance, for example a concert hall, large theatre or outdoor gig. For larger venues and open air performance, it is necessary to have more power from your amp, as well as a good mic connection to a PA in order to get the best, balanced sound quality at appropriate volume levels.

Recently, we had the opportunity to play an outdoor set for a festival. It was the perfect opportunity to break out the Power Amp 100 stereo heads and a couple of Hi Tube Pre Amp pedals. With a little tweaking and a healthy selection of speaker cabs, the overall sound can be very well matched to the situation. It is important that guitars are clearly audible both onstage and off, and with a good overall mix every other instrument and voice should also be heard clearly. One of the big differences with outdoor performances is the way in which the sound behaves. As there is less for the waves to bounce off, the reverb and acoustic aspects of the show are completely different in many ways. This is why it is important to be able to hear yourself clearly on the stage and respond appropriately when needed.

100 watts is just the right size to give balance and fullness to the sound on a larger stage, and coupled with the Hi Tube Pre Amp pedal, the tone can be clean enough at high volumes to really allow for the use of other effects pedals. With a good high clean volume, you can really take advantage of the resulting headroom and craft a great sound for larger performances.

Posted in Amplifiers By Baroni Lab

Tube Amplifiers: Choosing Between Head and Combo

Friday, November 14, 2014 2:05:54 AM America/Los_Angeles

Tube amps come in two different configurations. One is the amplifier by itself – the head – which contains the pre amp and end stage and is what creates the tone, colours the sound and amplifies the guitar signal, and the other is the combo, which as its name suggests is a combination of amplifier head and speaker in the one box. All of our amplifiers, from the 5w to the 100w are available as either head or combo, but which one is best for you really depends a lot on your personal requirements.

Amplifier Head

Tube heads provide the tone and amplification required to make your guitar sound warm and full, as well as all of the control for you to tweak your tone and get a great sound. Tube heads have the advantage of being smaller and lighter; however the lack of a dedicated speaker means that this kind of amplifier is useless without an external speaker cabinet.

This means that amplifier heads are a little more suited to professional players, who can have the freedom to use any speaker cabinet they want with the amplifier. They are also very useful to places like recording studios, as different amplifier sounds may be required on different tracks, and it is easy to just switch heads on a single speaker cabinet. For the general user, however, the lack of a built-in speaker cab can be an inconvenience, as it means that you have to spend more money on the cab, and carry two things around with you when you play a gig.

Combo Amp

The combo amp is better suited to people who need ease of use and convenience in an amplifier. As the speaker is already connected, a combo allows for easier transportation and setup of your gear, which is great if you like to go gigging and don’t have a car to carry a lot of things in!

Some combo amps give you the option of either using the built-in speaker, or connecting to a different speaker cab – Baroni Lab combos are like this – so that in a way you can have the best of both worlds. One drawback can be that once you get past around 40w, combo amps can become a little heavy and therefore slightly more awkward to transport.

Generally speaking, if quick setup and no nonsense is what you need, then a combo amp can be the best choice. For more freedom with speaker configurations and a more professional rig, the head is usually a bit more useful.

Posted in Amplifiers By Baroni Lab

Effects Pedals for Rock and Blues

Sunday, November 9, 2014 5:39:29 PM America/Los_Angeles

Most effects pedals around today are aimed at specific demographics and kinds of players. As rock and metal are two prevailing popular genres for guitarists in modern times, many companies produce distortions and overdrives which are designed for such genres. Some pedals may be signature series pedals, making a name for themselves through endorsements by famous artists of the genre, others may be based on previous famous pedals which are commonly associated with that style of music, and yet others are original efforts attempting to reach a really great tone.

There is unfortunately no one pedal which will give you the right tone for any specific genre of music or style of playing, so you will want to set up a rig of around five or so pedals so that you are well equipped for whatever you might have to play in a certain style, and these pedals will differ between genres.

Effects Pedals for Rock

Rock is a very wide group, and includes a lot of different sub-genres such as punk, classic rock and hard rock. However, with a few well chosen stomp boxes in your rig, you can be well equipped to dial in pretty much any rock tone you need.

For rock guitar, it is a good idea to have a compressor as the first effect in the chain. Not only does it go a long way to keeping notes and chords even and sustained, but it can also be used to boost distortion pedals which follow it, this means that it can also save you a little pedal board real estate, which can go a long way to making travelling to and from gigs a whole lot easier.

Following the compressor, a rock rig would not be complete without an overdrive pedal. The overdrive will allow you to get a good rock rhythm overdrive with your amplifier, at more manageable volume levels. This can be extremely useful in many situations, particularly when backing a vocalist or solo instrument.

Following the overdrive, no rock rig is complete without at least one distortion pedal. This is what will get you your saturated, thick sound that you need for your soloing and stronger rhythms, and a good distortion will have a wide range of both tone and drive, so that you can get everything from light fuzz to high gain distortion, while making it as bright or dark as you need it to be.

The final necessary pedal for a general all-purpose rock rig has to be the delay pedal. It is surprising just how much of a difference the delay can really make in bringing out your sound and making your tone less dry and flat. Good delay pedals, set to the right levels of mix, repetition and time, can be a godsend in many a different situation.

Effects Pedals for Blues

While there is a lot of cross-over between the genres of rock and blues – blues did after all influence the early development of rock music – they are never-the-less quite different with regard to effects pedal requirements. Blues tends to require a much cleaner sound than a lot of rock music, and even crossover genres like blues rock are not as distorted as some might believe. It is usually more to do with driving a tube amp in just the right way and maintaining good control over your guitar’s onboard volume and tone controls.

A good blues rig should in my opinion also start with a compressor, as they can be very useful for providing a great powerful tone for clean shuffle rhythms and lead. After this, the overdrive necessarily follows. The overdrive, along with a neck position single coil pickup, will give you all that you need to really get that crunchy SRV kind of sound.

Blues tone tends to be a little simpler with regard to the setup of a guitar rig, and so with these two pedals and a good tube amplifier (I’d recommend around 40 watts to have the clean headroom necessary for the genre) you should be covered for almost any popular blues tune.

Posted in Effects By Baroni Lab

Developing an Effects Pedal

Monday, November 3, 2014 2:40:11 AM America/Los_Angeles

A great effects pedal always starts with a good concept; an idea of a sound or a specific tone which you have in your head. Only after that can you really start the intensive development process by which you transfer what is inside of your head to a physical stomp box. It is important to always maintain quality assessment and control throughout the entire process, as small things like the changing of a single component, or the layout of your board can make a world of difference to the ultimate sound of the effects pedal in the end.

Planning the Pedal

Once you have the sound in your head, you then need to figure out the best way to achieve this sound in a physical way. Will it require tubes or transistors? How many control knobs will it require? Should it have a switchable boost or a potentiometer? What would be the most useful controls to include for the end user? It is important to consider all of these points before coming up with an actual schematic or diagram for the effects pedal; if it is too limited or awkward to dial in a good tone, then it is of very little use to your average guitar player!

Once all of these questions are answered and you have a solid plan for the building of your stomp box, the real fun begins. The development and building process includes alternating stages of focused building and intensive testing. Problems can and do arise, such as oscillations resulting in unwanted noise, as well as the physical issues surrounding the placement of components inside of the effects pedal casing itself.

Potential Problems with Effects Pedal Development

The development process can sometimes be incredibly smooth, and an effects pedal simply seems to just fall into place. Other times, it can be so awkward that you are driven crazy looking for the source of a particular bad sound. This is where having a definite tonal goal in mind before you start is incredibly useful. Having the goal of a specific tone in mind gives you something to work towards, as well as the motivation to achieve the sound in the end.

Most problems which arise can however be easily dealt with, and include things like excessively long cables resulting in background noise and oscillation, components which just don’t have the right kind of quality for the tone that you want to achieve, and components being too close to, or in the way of each other when it comes to putting it all together.

Continual testing during the process of the build will ensure that any such problems which arise in the making of an effects pedal can be dealt with swiftly and painlessly, and prevent your having to retrace your steps later down the line!

Putting it all Together

Once the prototype pedal is complete, it’s ready for a name and some cool artwork. Baroni Lab effects pedals are often based around sounds from particular eras or specific genres of music, so it’s usually pretty easy for us to come up with a relevant yet interesting cover and name. The identity of a pedal is very important, as it can make all of the difference between something great and something which nobody wants to even try out at a show or a gear shop.

Testing should continue for a while to identify any unforeseen long-term issues which may arise, and with Baroni Lab stomp boxes, we will go back to any stage of development necessary if the pedal is in any way not living up to original expectations.

All in all, the process of developing a new effects pedal can be long and sometimes tedious, but it is always worth it. We spend a lot of time watching each and every stomp box grow up to become what we originally intended, and there is no greater reward than hearing one in a rig during a live show, or getting some positive feedback from a musician.

Posted in Effects By Baroni Lab

Amplifiers with Buffered Send and Return

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 4:04:00 AM America/Los_Angeles

Send and return – or FX loops – are relatively common in amplifiers. They provide a way of placing effects in a loop after the guitar signal has already gone through the pre amp stage. This means that the gain and EQ applied in the pre amp does not necessarily have to be one of the last stages of tonal shaping, and instead further distortions, modulations or delays can be added before the power amp stage. They are also very useful as an extra line out from the pre amp, say for connecting to an external recording device or mixer without using a microphone, or as an input directly to the end stage of the amplifier.

There is nevertheless one issue which sometimes comes up with using this loop, and it has to do with impedance. Some players can experience a significant drop in volume of connected speakers when a line out is taken from the send jack. In the case of some amplifiers, this drop can be so substantial that the line out function is almost not unusable, except for recording purposes.

There is a way around this, however, which allows for no difference in volume level or tonal presence from any speaker when the line out is connected, and that is to include a slight modification to the standard FX loop. Certain Baroni Lab tube amplifiers have a specially designed buffered send and return loop which has been specifically designed for this purpose. The buffered loop provides a musician with two major benefits. The first is that it gets rid of the impedance issue, meaning that the signal stays constant and is not affected in any way from the use of the output, and the second is that the level of the line out itself can also be changed. The send output has been specially designed with its own dedicated volume knob, which can be found on the back of the amplifier next to the line out jack. This means that the volume level sent from the output to effects pedals, PA systems or external audio recording devices can be tweaked to whichever level you require, with the simple turning of a knob.

Perhaps the best thing is that this is independent to the normal flow of the signal through the amp, and so using the FX loop does not colour your guitar tone in any way, and ensures consistency in volume levels no matter how you want to use the line out.

Posted in Amplifiers By Baroni Lab

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