NOTE: This website is frequently updated. Last update June 2011.
WHICH PEDALS TO USE FOR THE TONE - The absolute best source on the web for all of David Gilmour's gear is Gilmourish.com. I do not want to repeat the information that can be found there, but I felt since I do my own thing here with sound clips that a general guide to those effects is necessary, but I highly recommend you check out Gilmourish for a comprehensive guide to all of David Gilmour's gear and an album by album gear guide.
Below is a guide to the basic effects gear needed to create a typical David Gilmour lead tones as heard on Pink Floyd studio and live recordings. I have used every one of these effects at one time or another. This is not a comprehensive list of every effect Gilmour ever used, but just a general guide for getting the tones. Includes: compressors, fuzz/distortions, overdrives, equalizer, flangers/chorus and other modulations, delays, and amplifiers. It goes without saying that you should use a Stratocaster type guitar with vintage style single coil pickups for the majority of Gilmour's tones, and most importantly, learn to play in a similar style.
For early Pink Floyd tones, up to the Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals period, you need: A Fuzz Face type pedal, a compressor, warm sounding analog type delay, and modulation like a Uni-vibe type pedal or a phaser like a MXR Phase 90 or EHX Small Stone. A vintage style wah pedal, like a Vox Wah, can also be used for some very early Pink Floyd, such as the bird like screams you hear in the middle section of Echoes, and the wailing sounds heard on Is There Anybody Out There.
For Pink Foyd tones from Animals / The Wall / Final Cut era you need: A Ross type compressor, vintage Big Muff or vintage USA sounding Muff clone, a warm sounding digital delay, and modulation like an Electric Mistress or Boss chorus.
For Pink Floyd tones from the Momentary Lapse of Reason, Division Bell, and Pulse era you need: A Ross type compressor, Sovtek Big Muff or Sovtek Muff clone, Tube Driver or other smooth overdrive type pedal, warm sounding digital delay, and modulation like Boss chorus and a Uvi-Vibe type pedal. Additional pedals like a Digitech Whammy (for Marooned and The Blue) and a volume pedal can be used for certain songs. An EQ pedal like a Boss GE-7 can also be usefull to boost the mids or lows. EMG-SA pickups were also key to the tones from this era.
For David Gilmour tones from the On an Island era you need: A Ross type compressor or optical compressor like the Demeter Compulator, Cornish G-2, or similar pedal like the TopTone DG-2 or Rat, vintage Big Muff or vintage USA sounding Muff clone, Tube Driver or other smooth overdrive type pedal, warm sounding digital delay. Additional pedals like a Digitech Whammy (for The Blue) and a volume pedal can be used for certain songs. An EQ pedal like a Boss GE-7 can also be usefull to boost the mids or lows. Modulation like Boss chorus and a Uvi-Vibe type pedal can also be used, but David used very little modulation in this period.
They are not pedals, and it is almost cliche to say this, but majority of what is perceived as Gilmour's tone and sound really does come from his fingers. Gear selection helps, but much of the tone comes from the way the strings are played. Touching the thumb to the string when picking is extremely important in creating subtle note coloring harmonics in solos. This allows David to use many different pedals, yet still sound like himself. Much of what people think is the gear making a solo sound good is simply the fingers making the gear sound good. For example, Big Muff's tend to be a bit harsh and fizzy, and can sound dull and fuzzy on low notes, but when you add some fluidity and subtle thumb-pick harmonics to your playing like Gilmour does, it makes the Big Muff sound very un-Muff like, and brings something out of the Muff that you can't get with any other fuzz pedal. Add a sweet chorus and some long delay over that and you are in tonal heaven. Note choice is obviously important too, and you really need to invest the time to learn the techniques and phrasing to have this solo sound. David rarely lets a note just sit still. It is always moving or changing. I won't go into the blues scales David uses or the mechanics and theory of the type of music he plays, but below are are a few pointers about the style and techniques of playing.
Although this section of the website is dedicated to a study of David Gilmour's tone and playing, I suggest you use this as a jumping point for your own tone and style. I do suggest you also study other artists you like and learn their techniques as well, then mix them together to create you own unique signature sound and playing style. Any style you study and play will filter through your brain and come out in your own playing.
GILMOUR PLAYING STYLE
I remember when I was first learning some Gilmour songs back in the About Face (1984) days. I went out and got basically the same pedals David had at the time and a Strat style guitar, but I was frustrated I could not get that sound at all. I learned the solos note for note, but I was just pressing frets, not actually playing in that style. Years later when I actually took the time to learn the subtleties of that style - finger and whammy tremolo, the subtle thumb-pick harmonics that are on just about every note, nailing those bends, and phrasing - it all came together rather easily. The correct gear was just tonal icing on top of that. That's why David says he can go into any music store and with basic gear he can still sound like him - the gear does not make the sound.
FINGER AND WHAMMY BAR TREMOLO - David does not just shake a note when he adds tremolo (the vibration of the note up and down). He sometimes lets the note sit before slowly starting the tremolo, other times starts it fast. Sometimes he uses finger tremolo, other times he uses the whammy bar, and sometimes he goes from one right into the other on the same note. The tempo of the tremolo is important. It really should be as close in time with the beat as possible, but study the time as well. Really slow tremolo is hard to master, but it is key to this style of playing. Being able to go from subtle slow one note, to short and fast tremolo the next really adds dynamics to your playing. This was probably the most important part of playing in this style that I learned. Playing standard one speed tremolo on every note like 90% of other players do does not have even half the feeling that David can get out of one note with his style. Much of the beauty and soul of David's playing comes from his use of tremolo. David's whammy bar tremolo is very smooth like his finger tremolo. He typically pushes down when vibrating the bar, though at times I believe David has had a floating tremolo as he can be seen pulling up on many occasions. My tremolo is floating, so I vibrate in between, gently pulling up and down. It helps to have your tremolo bar cut short so you can hold it in your plam when playing. Some information on how to do this can be found here.
NOTE BENDS - Practice those bends! The Another Brick in the Wall II solo is a great one to study and master. David can bend and hold notes in exact pitch fluidly, and his bends are precise and in time with the song. He often bends a whole or half step, holds, the bends up or down another note, then back to the original bend position, before bringing the bend back down - sometimes adding his subtle tremolo to a few areas of these notes in mid bend! David also mixes slow bends with fast bends, but all in very precise time with the song tempo. It is rather easy once you get it down, and adds some great phrasing to your playing, but practice, practice, practice. Being slightly off key or out of time in a bend can ruin the effect.
HARMONICS AND NASAL TONE - If you listen to David playing you will occasionally hear him add a pinch harmonic squeal to a note - such as the very first note in the Comfortably Numb outro solo, or many times in the Young Lust solo. Those pinch squeals are important to learn, and David's sound very unique and subtle compared to other players, but if you listen to David's playing closely you will find that there are subtle harmonics in most of the other notes in his solos as well, not just those squeals. Many people mistake this as something the effects he uses are adding to the sound. Effects like chorus and the Big Muff can accent these harmonics, but David's FINGERS are creating that sound. He uses his thumb a lot when picking, letting his flesh touch the string at the same time as the pick does, sort of like a gentle pinch. It adds subtle harmonic tonal variations to the notes. This harmonic phrasing and coloring is all over David's playing - to the extreme on just about every note in the Young Lust solo, and more of a subtle harmonic coloring in the Coming Back to Life or On an Island solos. Some refer to this tone coloring as a "nasal" sounding. It is very evident on David's playing for the On an Island tour, featured in Live in Gdansk.
MORE NOTES VERSUS LESS - You will notice that David is not a very fast player, but at times he can sound more intense that someone playing a barrage of speed metal notes at light speed. That is because David adds all of these elements described above to just about every solo. Each note is always moving and doing something, adding to the complex feel some of his solos have. Just playing the individual notes of those solos you will find there is nothing very complicated. When you add the tremolo, harmonics, bends, and other elements of David's playing, and how he arranges the music under the solos, it becomes something very complex and moving.
Shown Above: Analogman BC108 Sunface with Sundial tone knob, Skreddy Pedals Lunar Module fuzz, lunar Module Deluxe, Dunlop BC108 Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face, and Electro-Harmonix Germanium 4 Big Muff
David Gilmour used the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face and a Colorsound Power Boost for most of the fuzz tones in the 1970s, up to the Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals period. The Big Muff replaced these fuzz pedals for the most part during the Animals tour and there after, so if you are not into replicating those exact 1970s era tones, a fuzz pedal is not necessary. The Fuzz Face is a great pedal though. The familiar solo tones heard in Time and Money are the Fuzz Face into a Hiwatt or Fender amp. The Colorsound Power Boost was an overdrive pedal that Gilmour used for rhythm work, some solos, and possibly in conjunction with the Fuzz Face for his unique distortion tones.
The modern Dunlop Fuzz Face pedals do not sound like a good vintage Silicon transistor Fuzz Face circuit to me, party because the transistors are not screened for the best values. The Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face with BC108 transistors from Dunlop is a rather good sounding replica however. There are also good boutique replicas of vintage Fuzz Face pedals available. I use an Analogman Sunface BC108 silicon fuzz (not the NKT275 version) and a Skreddy Pedals Lunar Module silicon fuzz. The Sunface is near an exact clone of the old Silicon Fuzz Face, with select NOS transistors, and the Lunar Module is a custom tailored pedal made by Skreddy Pedals to produce the DSOTM fuzz tones from the album. It works for most Fuzz Face tones from the 1970s, but is also a very versatile overdrive pedal. The Lunar Module can go anywhere in the signal chain, and works well on low amp volumes as well as loud, though it does not quite have the same punch and splat that a vintage Fuzz Face has. The Sunface, on the other hand, sounds dead on to a good vintage Fuzz Face, but it must be first in line in the signal chain, and sometimes does not work well with buffered pedals in the chain, can occasionally pick up radio stations and CB channels, and should run on non alkaline, carbon batteries to sound its best. Vinatge Germanium Fuzz Face circuit are very succeptible to temperature, which alters the tone, but the BC108 Silicon version I use does not have this problem. I have the Sunface version with the Sundial, a knob which can be dialed to correct the tone back to normal when too cold or too hot for the NKT275 version, but simply acts as a tone color knob for the BC108 version. I keep mine all the way counterclockwise.
Another good budget fuzz pedal is the Electro-Harmonix Germanium 4 Big Muff. This is not a Big Muff in the traditional sense, but is a Germanium based fuzz pedal, with an added overdrive side. It is more of a fuzz tone lab. It achieves good representations of David's classic Fuzz Face tones, and a wide range of other fuzz tones.
A Vintage Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, and one of David Gilmour's original Fuzz Face pedals
For a comprehensive guide to which songs from each Pink Floyd album these effects were used on, please visit Gilmourish.com.
Shown above (left to right) - MXR Dynacomp, Boss CS-2 Compression Sustainer, Demeter Compulator
David sometimes uses compessors to add some color, gain, or clarity to his solos. A comp is a must for clean or slightly overdriven tones on songs like Wish You Were Here, Another Brick in the Wall II, Coming Back to Life, as well as using them with any Big Muff solo. Compressors compress the signal (boost lows and compress highs) to add sustain and smooth out the tone. They make the notes a bit more crisp and clear by making light picking and hard picking intensity sound closer to the same volume. The settings Gilmour uses create a minimal effect, but it really helps to smooth out a Big Muffs "fizz" or buzzy sound and add warmth to the tone. Some good compressors David has used are the vintage Boss CS-2 and MXR Dynacomp, both based around the Ross style compressor circuit. Each produces a nice compression, and each slightly colors the tone, though not in a bad way. David also used a Demeter Compulator, which is an optical compressor. The Demeter produces a very pristine compression, that does very little to alter or color the original tone, but in David's case it seems to have been used more for it's gain boost function than as a compressor. It was almost light drive boost for David's clean tones, as he kept in gain trim pot almost at max in his On and Island touring board.
I always like to add some compression from an old Boss CS-2 with my Big Muffs to punch up the clarity and smooth the Muff fizz out. It adds a really nice warmth to the tone, and I always use it for clean tones.
For a comprehensive guide to which songs from each Pink Floyd album these effects were used on, please visit Gilmourish.com.
Shown above (left to right) - A vintage "Ram's Head" Big Muff, vintage V3 Big Muff from 1977, "Civil War" Sovtek Big Muff from 1994, and the later Green Russian Big Muff
David's primary fuzz/distortion pedal for solos from 1977 through the 1990s and 2000s was the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi. David is well known for using a vintage USA made "Ram's Head" Big Muff and a Russian made "Civil War" Sovtek Big Muff. He also used several custom Big Muff variants made by Pete Cornish. I have an article about all of David's Big Muffs HERE. David used these pedals throughout his career, and I consider the Big Muff the most important pedal for Gilmour distortion tones. The Muff is not really a fuzz pedal, though it does have some fuzz-like qualities. It is more of a distortion-fuzz mix, with an absolutely huge, deeply mids-scooped tone. It is not an easy pedal to master, but in the right hands and with the right amp it is a very harmonically rich distortion with tons of sustain and character. The unique clipped distortion of the Big Muff circuit makes it very responsive to subtle harmonic intonations when using both the thumb and pick together, something David Gilmour is an expert at doing in his solos. A good vintage Ram's Head/Traingle Big Muff, early V3 Big Muff, or Sovtek "Civil War" Big Muff are the ultimate pedals for David's Big Muff tones, however finding a good vintage unit can be difficult. Vintage units are typically very expensive, can be rather fragile, and many only run on batteries. There is also the other problem that many do not sound the same due to wildly varying component values and tolerances. This means some may sound great for Gilmour tones, and others not so great. For reference, I have a page of sound clips of dozens of original vintage and new Big Muffs HERE, using examples dating as far back as 1970. This pedal has a long history, covering many, many versions. See my Big Muff Page website HERE for information and a comprehensive history of this famous pedal.
So if you don't go the vintage route, which modern Big Muff or clone should you use? The sheer number of Big Muffs abd clones avaialble make the choices confusing, so I will try an narrow it down a bit. Below are Muffs and clones broken down by "clone" type. Some of these have additional controls that make them more versatile and able to cover more than one Big Muff circuit sound, and allow them to work on a variety of amps. Any Muff clone with a mids knob is a great choice because the mid range is usually where the Muff gets muffled and lost on certain amps. In that regard, the BYOC Large Beaver (ram's head or tri spec), Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver, and the Blackout Effectors Musket and the absolute best choices.
WHICH BIG MUFF OR CLONE SHOULD I USE? - I get asked all of the time, which Big Muff is best for Gilmour tones? The answer is, there are many, and the best one for you depends a lot on your gear and which Gilmour/Floyd era you are going for. There are many clones that replicate various vintage Big Muffs or that have Muff based circuits that work just as well for Gilmour tones as the original Big Muffs, some perhaps better. These are far less expensive and more reliable than the original pedals, and many include added features or controls. I have a page HERE of some of my favorite Big Muff clones and modified boutique pedals with Big Muff based circuits, with sound clips. One question I hear a lot is "should I use aTriangle or a Ram's Head type Big Muff?". Just to clarify, there is no single specific sound or schematic that defines a Triangle from a Ram's Head when looking at the real vintage pedals. There were many circuit variants for each, and both covered the same variations in components values from circuit to circuit, and thus the same wide variety of sounds. It is hard to find two that sound exactly alike. You could take a few dozen Triangles and find 4-5 really different sounds, and find the same 4-5 different sounds with a few dozen Ram's Heads. The modern definitions of what each is "supposed" to sound like I believe came from the first popular tracing schematics (pisotones.com) and popular clones from the late 1990s-early 2000s (BYOC Large Beavers). Those were based on a just few specific examples. However, Sovtek Big Muffs and most Sovtek clones in general DO have a specific, common tone. I use these common definitions of the sound to group the various Big Muff types.
TRIANGLE TONES = heavy bottom end bass, moderate gain, smooth and articulate tone, scooped (removed) mid range.
RAM'S HEAD TONES = light bottom end bass, more gain that a Tri, thick and gritty tone, deeply scooped (removed) mid range.
SOVTEK STONES = heavy bottom end bass, lowest gain of the three, very smooth and articulate tone with a slight amount of grit, almost flat (less removed) mid range.
Just about any Big Muff will sound good on a large, loud, clean tube amp with lots of head room, such as a Fender Twin Reverb or Hiwatt Custom 100. It gets a bit trickier when you are using smaller amps or single speaker combo amps, especially when you play at low volume. Fat, bassy, high gain Muffs may sound muddy and messy, so thinner, or lower gain sounding Muffs are usually a better way to go. Muffs with selectable mids switches or mids knobs also help tune the Muff to sound better on smaller amps. Tube amps are best to use, although I have heard a few solid state amps that work with Muffs, but not many.
TRIANGLE TONES (left to right) - BYOC Large Beaver (Triangle spec), Stomp Under Foot Tri-Muff, Barber Trifecta, Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver
RAM'S HEAD TONES (left to right) - Pete Cornish P-1, TopTone DriveGate DG-1, Stomp Under Foot VRH, BYOC Large Beaver (Rams Head spec), , Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver, MJM Foxey Fuzz, Barber Trifecta, Stomp Under Foot 73 Ram's Head, Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff, Skreddy Pig Mine.
SOVTEK STONES (left to right) - Blackout Effectors Musket V2, Stomp Under Foot CWM (Civil War Muff), Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff, Skullytone FX Russian Spi, Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver, Pete Cornish P-2, TopTone DriveGate DG-1.
MUFF SUBSTITUTES - The Behringer Vintage Distortion and Maxon D&S reissue are both modified Big Muff clones that sound good on small combo amps where thicker, bassier, more agressive Big Muffs may not work as well. The D&S is very low on bass and features a less mids scooped tone control, allowing it to cut through a variety of amp circuits while still retaining a Big Muffish tone character. The tone control must be set completely counter clockwise for best tone. The Behringer Vintage Distortion is also less mids scooped, but has slightly more bass, a better tone control than the Maxon, though it has slightly less gain.
RECOMMENDATIONS BY DAVID GILMOUR ALBUM ERA
1977 Animals / In the Flesh tour era - David had a very dry, bright and gritty sounding Big Muff tone, especially for the In the Flesh / Animals tour, heard best on the 1977 Oakland, California bootleg. David used a Ram's Head Big Muff and the Pete Cornish P-1, which was a high quality Ram's Head Big Big Muff clone, likely similar to the Violet schematic Ram's Head Big Muff. The Animals Big Muff tone is tricky though, even with a decent Ram's Head era Big Muff. David got a very hairy, Fuzz Face-ish scream to it by combining it with a Colorsound Power Boost. Another key to that hairy, splatty Animals Muff tone is VOLUME and natural speaker breakup. It must be played right on the edge of feedback. Another crucial element to the tone is that this is a combo setup of A Hiwatt DR103 and a Yamaha RA200 rotating speaker cabinet. The Yamaha is on most of the time and this has a huge affect on the color of the tone.
I recommend the Pete Cornish P-1, BYOC Large Beaver (Triangle spec is smoother for the studio tones, Ram's Head spec is grittier for the live tones), Stomp Under Foot VRH (based on the Violet Ram's Head, but thicker and fuzzier), or the MJM Foxey Fuzz. The Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver is sort of a Big Muff tone lab, and can be set for similar tones to this, and other Big Muff Triangle/Ram's Head tones. The Skreddy Pig Mine is another Muff based pedal that works here, though it has brighter mid tones and less bass than many of the others mentioned, but that allows it to work on a wider variety of amps.
1978-1983 Gilmour solo / The Wall / Final Cut era - Some of David's most well known Big Muff tones are from this period, including the Comfortably Numb solos, and almost all of the solos on David's first solo album and Roger Waters The Final Cut album. Thick, articulate, and a bit gritty, similar to the Animals period.
I recommend the Pete Cornish P-1, Stomp Under Foot VRH (Violet Ram's Head) or 73 Ram's Head, MJM Foxey Fuzz, Barber Trifecta, BYOC Large Beaver Ram's Head spec (grittier) or Triangle spec (smoother). The Skreddy Pink Flesh and Pig Mine are also good Muffs to use for this era, though they have less bass and more mid tones than a mids scooped Big Muff like a Ram's Head. The Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver is sort of a Big Muff tone lab, and can bet set for similar tones to this, and other Big Muff Triangle/Ram's Head tones. The Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff is a good budget pedal for these tones.
1984-1987 About Face / guest performances era - David mostly used the Boss HM-2 distortion in this period (both tone knobs set around 3 o'clock), with the occasional use of a Ram's Head Big Muff. I also hear the occasional use of the ProCo Rat. The HM-2 can be found used on ebay, and the Rat is still being made. I have also found a Triangle/Ram's Head style Big Muff also works fine for anything from this era.
1987-1990 Momentary Lapse of Reason / Delicate Sound of Thunder era - David's Big Muff tones were similar to The Wall era tones, but he also used the Boss HM-2 again (both tone knobs set around 3 o'clock), and a ProCo Rat. On the Turning Away and Yet Another Movie are the two stand out Big Muff tracks from this time for the live period. The live versions of Sorrow are also the Big Muff.
I recommend the same pedals from the 1978-83 era listed above. The Pete Cornish P-2 is another pedal that can be used for these tones, and David used one in 1988. It is similar to the smooth Civil War Big Muff sound, but the mid tones are voiced brighter on the P-2, and the pedal has a large, deep, bottom end. The "Civil War" Russian Big Muff also works good for these tones, as does the Skreddy Pink Flesh and Pig Mine. The Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff, is excellent for these tones when used with a compressor or Tube Driver.
1993-1994 Division Bell / Pulse era - David's main distortion seems to have been the Ram's Head Big Muff in the studio, but live he used the Sovtek "Civil War" Russian Big Muff as his primary distortion. This version of the Big Muff was very smooth, bassy, featured brighter mid tones, and was not as high gain as the USA made Big Muffs. David also used the ProCo Rat again. This era is known for the famous "Pulse" tone, from the live album and concert film, and that distortion tone comes from the Civil War Big Muff. Keep Talking and High Hopes are two stand out Big Muff tracks from this era. What Do You Want from Me may also be the Big Muff. Practically all of the disortions heard on the tour and the Pulse album and concert film are the Civil War Big Muff.
I highly recommend the Blackout Effectors Musket, an exellent pedal that can reproduce the full range of Civil War/Sovtek Big muff tones, and it includes extra features like a mids control and a pre-gain control which almost acts as a compressor. The Stomp Under Foot CWM is a very accurate, and highly recommended, reproduction of the Civil War Big Muff. The Wren and Cuff Tall Font Russian is based on the Civil War Big Muff circuit. The Pete Cornish P-2 is another pedal that can be used in place of the Civil War Big Muff. It is similar to the smooth Civil War sound, but the mid tones are voiced brighter on the P-2, and the pedal has a large, deep, bottom end. I think the P-2 was there as a backup for the Civil War Muff in '94, but was rarely used. The TopTone DG-1 is a very good clone of the P-2. The Skullytone FX Russian Spi is another very versatile Russian Big Muff style pedal. The BYOC Large Beaver Triangle spec version with the EQ switch in mids boost 1 position also sounds very similar to the Civil War Big muff and Cornish P-2, as does the Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver in mids boost position 1. The Skreddy Pink Flesh and Pig Mine also work nicely for these tones, with smooth bright mids, but have a bit less bottom end than the Civil War Big Muff. Electro-Harmonix has discontinued the Russian made Sovtek Big Muffs, but they replaced it with the Bass Big Muff, which has a similar sound, and is excellent for these tones when used with a compressor or Tube Driver.
2001-2002 Meltdown concert era - David had the Ram's Head Big Muff and the Pete Cornish G-2 for these concerts. I don't hear the Big Muff much, but I hear the BKB Tube Driver and the Cornish G-2 a lot. The G-2 is based on a Big Muff, but the unique circuit tweaks make this Muff sound like a Muffish overdrive, kind of like a Rat/Muff/overdrive combo. The only pedal I know of that sounds like the real G-2 is the TopTone DG-2. The Costalab Moon Drive is another G-2 clone. A ProCo Rat would be an OK substitute, though not quite the same sound.
2006 On an Island / Remember That Night / Gdansk / Roger Waters 2011 Wall era - David again used the Pete Cornish G-2 and the Ram's Head Big Muff for the studio recordings. For the OAI tour David had the G-2 and the Pete Cornish P-1. For the Roger Water 2011 Wall performance of Comfortably Numb, I believe David used the Cornish P-1. See the 2000-2001 entry above for Cornish G-2 recommendations.
For the P-1 Ram's Head Big Muff tones, I recommend the TopTone DG-1 as the closest match, then the Stomp Under Foot VRH as econd closest. The BYOC Large Beaver Ram's Head spec or Triangle spec, the Stomp Under Foot '76 Ram's Head, MJM Foxey Fuzz, Barber Trifecta, or the Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver are also close. The Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff is a good budget pedal for these tones, though not quite the same sound.
MAGIC TONE AND MUDDY MUFFS - There is a "magic" area for the tone knob setting on a Big Muff that puts it in the Gilmour territory, and that is around 35-40% /10:30-11:00 from true zero. Too low and it will sound muddy and lack clarity, and too high it will sound bright and harsh. It will vary depending on how bright your amp and other gear is set. Another thing to note is that Big Muffs have a very "scooped" tone, meaning they lack mid range in the EQ spectrum because they have been scooped out by the circuit. This makes the tone sound huge for solos, but it also means the Big Muff occupies much of the same EQ space as the bass guitar and bass drum in a band. This can sometimes cause the Muff to get lost in a band mix and sound muddy. Adding mids with the EQ knobs on a boost/blend pedal like a Tube Driver, adding mids with an EQ pedal, adding mids with a mids knob on some Big Muffs, or simply compressing the Muff tone with a compressor pedal to add clarity, can correct that problem. Some Big Muff based pedals such as the P-2 have mids added to the circuit already or have mid boost switches, like the Skreddy pedals. Others have adjustable mids knobs built in, like the Blackout Effectors Musket, BYOC Large Beaver, and Big Tone Music Brewery Royal Beaver.
MUFFS TO STAY AWAY FROM - These are not bad sounding Big Muffs and clones by any means, just not the best for Gilmour tones: Way Huge Swollen Pickle (Dunlop) , Electro-Harmonix USA reissue Big Muff Pi (2007 large box BMP).
Shown above (left to right) - Pete Cornish G-2, TopTone DriveGate DG-2, CostaLab Moon Drive, and Proco Rat
For the Meltdown and On an Island era David used the Pete Cornish G-2 heavily for his guitar solos. It is a very unique sounding variation of a Big Muff circuit. It has an almost overdrive like sound, reminiscent of a Marshall amp tone. It is not a very high gain pedal, but has a thicker sound than most overdrives, and a very unique character. Similar pedals are the TopTone DG-2 and Costalab Moon Drive. The ProCo Rat can also be used as a substitute, though it is not quite the same sound.
Left to Right - The old Chandler Tube Driver made without designer B.K. Butler's authorization, the better B.K. Butler/Chandler Tube Driver (the "Pulse" era TD) and the reissue Tube Drivers hand made by B.K. Butler
The Tube Driver is a booster/overdrive pedal. It replaced the Colorsound Power Boost David used in the 1970s and Pete Cornish ST-2 Booster (Power Boost clone) from the late 1970s. He used this pedal for his light and heavy overdrive tones heard in songs like Coming Back to Life, Marooned, A Great Day for Freedom, and the live versions of Shine on You Crazy Diamond. It was also used to boost/lend with his Big Muffs. David used two BK Butler/Chandler Tube Drivers in his 1990s live rig. One was set for overdrive, and one was set for light drive clean tones, and to use with the Big Muffs. Gilmour's 2006 board used two new B.K. Butler hand made Tube Drivers in the same manner. There are many other versions of the Tube Driver. I have played most of them and I suggest staying away from any but the three shown above. The BKB Chandler version is my favorite, though the later BKB made version sounds practically identical, though settings need to be different to capture the exact same tones.
The Sarno Music Solutions Earth Drive, Boss BD-2 Blues Driver with Keeley "fat" mod, and Skreddy Pedals Lunar Module Deluxe
Tube Drivers are expensive and many people cannot get along with them. They sound best with Hiwatt type amps and some vintage style Fender amps to me, but are not very versatile with other amps. They are also large, taking up considerable space on a pedal board, and use a vacuum tube that eventually will need to be replaced. There are however many overdrive pedals that offer similar light boost and overdrive tones that work great for Gilmour tones. The Skreddy Pedals Lunar Module Deluxe, SMS Earth Drive and the Boss Blues Driver are three of my favorites. The Earth Drive is superb for Gilmour. It is similar to the Blues Driver, but the BD can sometimes come across as harsh. Nothing about the ED is harsh. It is one of the smoothest, most useful overdrive pedals I have ever used. It is also one of the best Big Muff blend pedals available. The Blues Driver is not quite as smooth, but it does a good job, and has more gain on tap than the ED. The Skreddy Lunar Module or the deluxe version, are excellent for very smooth and creamy overdrive tones (with fuzz dialed off), and this pedal is probably my favorite. The Lunar was tailored specifically for Gilmour fuzz and overdrive tones. Some other good overdrives are the Vintage Effects ColorDrive, and the Throbak Overdrive Boost. The Blackout Effectors Musket also does very nice overdrive tones an addition to great Muffish fuzz tones. Some other good ones, but on the expensive side are the Skreddy Screw Driver, Pete Cornish SS-2, and Pete Cornish G-2 fuzz.
The Colorsound Power Boost and the Colorsound Overdriver
One of David's primary overdrive pedals from the 1970s was the very rare and expensive Colorsound Power Boost. It is a great pedal for some of David's vintage 1970s overdrive tones, especially his live tones from this period, but not as usable for other tones as the pedals listed above. It is still still distributed by Macari's of London, hand made for them by Jake Rothman/Theremin.co.uk. Macaris also sells the revised version called the Overdriver, which includes a master volume. The Overdriver circuit is almost exactly the same as the Power Boost, but with more gain on tap. Though it is an overdrive and not technically a fuzz, it does some great fuzz tones when the drive is almost at 10. You can also find less expensive clones like the Throbak Overdrive Boost, or even the Skreddy Lunar Module and Boss BD-2 Blues Driver can produce some similar tones. I use the Overdriver for much of the light overdrive tones and some fuzz tones for DSOTM and WYWH, and as a light boost after the Sunface/Fuzz Face. I leave the pedal on all the time with a light setting - a trick I learned from Gilmourish.com. It really makes my tube amp sound better. The Overdriver is a bit difficult to use on a pedal board with other pedals set for unity gain/volume, as the Overdriver is very loud.
David Gilmour's 1994 custom Bob Bradshaw modded effects rig, with Phil Taylor's pedals-to-rack rack setup. Cornish modded effect pedals are mounted on top of the rig, including two BK Butler/Chandler Tube Drivers. Note the blue tick marks by the knobs in these enhanced photos, indicating that the settings in these press photos are likely Gilmour's actual settings. The tick marks are to ensure the pedal settings are the same from show to show. Gilmour has similar marks on his 2006 all-tube Pete Cornish board.
David sometimes uses an equalizer to alter his guitar tones, adding some subtle tone shaping. Big Muffs have a very "scooped" tone, meaning they lack "mids" in the EQ range. This makes the tone sound huge for solos, but it also means the Big Muff occupies much of the same EQ space as the bass guitar does in a band. This can sometimes cause the Muff to get lost in a band mix and sound muddy. Adding some mids with an EQ can correct this problem.
David's primary EQ was the Boss GE-7. He had three of these in his Division Bell rig and in his custom Pete Cornish pedal boards. I use it to add a bit more bass and highs to my Big Muff tone. Best when used at light settings to avoid adding hiss and noise to your signal. Some people prefer to boost mids and cut bass to make their Big Muff's stand out more in a band mix, or slightly boost the volume for solos.
Left to right - The excellent Boss CE-2, The CE-2B with mix knob (same CE-2 circuit with one cap changed), the not so excellent Boss CE-3, and the better CE-5 chorus ensemble with mix knob, the Deluxe Electric Mistress flanger, Hartman Flanger, MXR Phase 90 phaser, the Sweetsound Mojo Vibe, and the Boss Boss RT-20 Rotary Simulator
David's solo tones are almost always modulated and "liquid" sounding. David first created this sound with rotating speaker "Leslie" type cabinets in the 1970s, then he started using a Uni-Vibe, a phaser, then a flanger, then a chorus - but all were used to accomplish the same thing - adding a light, modulated swirly sound to create space and depth in the tone. One of his most used modulation effects, besides rotary speaker cabinets, was the Boss CE-2 chorus. It is a very rich and warm sounding modulation. David had one amp dedicated to the CE-2 in his Division Bell / Pulse rig, so it was not 100% in the mix. The CE-2 was used for almost every song on Pulse, especially on his Big Muff solos. For a few songs David has also used an MXR Phase 90 and a Univox Uni-Vibe. The Uni-Vibe simulated the swirly sound of a Leslie type rotating speaker cabinet and the Phase 90 create a phased sweep that oscillated through the tone. A huge part of David's modulated sound both in the studio and live are his Leslie type rotating speaker cabinets like the Yamaha RA-200 and Doppolas. In 2006 Gilmour changed to a simpler tone with very little modulation.
BOSS CE-2 CHORUS - The Boss CE-2 is one of my favorite effects and I use it more than anything. I find it works best for the rotary speaker type effects I hear on The Wall studio recording (mixed rotary cabs and non rotary cabs), and in combination with the Electric Mistress for The Wall 1980-81 live tones. It is a very dominant effect, almost too much for my liking, though not as strong as the Mistress. To cut the effect back a bit I have used a two amp setup, with one amp dedicated the chorus (as Gilmour did on the Division Bell tour, heard on Pulse). I have also used a loop pedal with a mix knob to mix the chorus into my signal as desired. I later found the CE-2B was almost exactly the same circuit as the CE-2, included a mix knob, and could be found for much less money than the CE-2. I changed the .012uF capacitor in the CE-2B to a .33uF cap. That's the only change, and you now have a CE-2 with a mix knob. There are many people who offer to do this mod on the web, though if you have a soldering iron you can do it yourself. Try it without the mod first. You may find you like it better. There is also an internal trim pot inside the CE-2, but I suggest you do not change the settings. The factory sets this to have the maximum chorus depth before the signal distorts. If you do desire to change it, mark the original position so it can be returned to factory spec if desired. There are many who claim the made in Japan CE-2 is far superior to the made in Taiwan version, and charge more for it. I have owned both, and they sound identical. If someone hears a difference, it is because an owner has messed with the internal trim pot on one or the other, changing the chorus depth or setting it too high so it distorts.
One issue with the CE-2 and 2B is that, unless you use batteries, they require an old ACA 12v power supply, rather than the standard 9v PSA Boss power supply. Old Boss pedals were designed to work with unregulated power supplies, so the circuit steps 12v down to 9v internally with a diode and resistor, but needs at least 12v to run properly. Another option that works is to run the CE-2 in a daisy chain with other 9v PSA pedals, which defeats the power step down in the CE-2 ACA power stage. Running a 9v battery bypasses the step down. A very simple simply fix to this problem is to solder a wire across pins 3 and 4 to bypass the two step down components the same way. This will not harm the pedal in any way, and allows it to run 9v PSA, but do NOT use a 12v adapter after this mod, as it may damage the pedal.
Another CE-2 substitute is the Boss CE-5, which is almost as good as the CE-2 sound. The CE-5 also features a mix knob built in. The Boss CE-3 is a third choice, but that one is more tinny and digital sounding than the warm and lush CE-2, orthe CE-5.
ELECTRIC MISTRESS - For heavy, more dominant modulation like you hear on a few of the live 1977 Animals bootlegs, David Gilmour's first solo album, some song from The Wall live performances, and some songs on The Wall and Final Cut studio recordings, use a vintage green Electro-Harmonix 18v Electric Mistress flanger, or Deluxe Elecric Mistress flanger. The Mistress is a very unque and lush sounding flange/chorus effect. The 18v version sounds different than the Deluxe version that came later. Both are large pedals, taking up lots of pedal board space, and both suffer from volume drop issues when engaged, and require non standard positive tip AC/DC adaptors (18v for the EM and 24v for the DEM). An excellent subsitute for the vintage green 18v Electric Mistress is the Hartman Flanger, which is a close replica of that circuit. I don't recommend the Stereo Electric Mistress, or other Flangers like the Boss. Nothing sounds quite like the Electric Mistress. A good website covering the different versions of the Electric Mistress can be found here.
For David's phaser effects, I have used what he used, and MXR Phase 90. For his Uni-Vibe effects I have tried the Dunlop UniVibe, and many other similar vibes, but my favorite is the Sweetsound MojoVibe. The Boss RT-20 Rotary Simulator is another excellent vibe type pedal, though is does not sound as good with distortion as the MojoVibe.
Some of the various modulated effects David has used live are:
•Yamaha RA-200 rotating speaker cabinet powered by an Alembic F2-B Fender style Preamp - The Wall studio recordings and live concerts 1980/1981, and The Final Cut- a very dominant effect unless mixed with an unmodulated signal as David often did.
Yamaha RA-200 "Leslie" style rotating speaker cabinet, Vintage Univox Uni-Vibe and Electro-Harmonix 18v green Electic Mistress flanger used by David Gilmour in the 1970s through early 1980s
For a comprehensive guide to which songs from each Pink Floyd album these effects were used on, please visit Gilmourish.com.
Left to right - Boss DD-2 Digital Delay, Boss DD-20 Giga Delay, T.C. Electronic Nova Delay, MXR Carbon Copy delay
An essential part of the Gilmour "wet" sound is delay, or echo. David always uses long delays to help create a his big, liquidy solo tones. Some people may think this is reverb, but David rarely, if ever, used reverb. Delay times can vary from 300 ms - 550 ms depending on the song, with 3-4 repeats. David used the Binson Echorec analog delay in the 1970s. He used an MXR Digital Delay System to simulate the sound of his old Echorec around the time of The Wall, and the Boss DD-2 digital delay. Around 1988 he replaced the MXR delay with the System II version. For the 1987-1990 Momentary Lapse of Reason and 1994 Division Bell tours David used a TC Electronic 2290 digital delay for his primary delay sound. In addition to creating his wet tone, David also used digital delays to play in time with on songs like Another Brick in The Wall Parts I and III, Run Like Hell, The Hero's Return, One Slip, and Take It Back.
There are two types of delays, analog and digital, and many modern delays create good representations of either type in the same unit. Analog sounding delay, whether real analog circuitry or a digital representation, are generally warmer sounding. Old analog tape delays had a limited limited bandwidth, causing the high frequencies gradually roll off with each echo repeat. They do not exactly recreat the sound of the original signal with each repeat, but that is part of the appeal of analog. Analog delays also tend to have slight imperfections, like modulation or warble, to the repeats. Modern analog delays attempt to recreate those effects. These delays are good for most of David's delay sounds, especially his 1970s work. Digital delays are more accurate recreations of the original signal, and sound very crisp and clear, with no degradation with each echo repeat. Digital delay is great for those songs that David plays in time with short delay repeats, like the triplet time delays in Run Like Hell, Another Brick in the Wall parts I and III from The Wall, Short and Sweet from his first solo album, Give Blood from Pete Townshend's White City, Blue Light from David's second solo album, About Face, The Hero's Return from Pink Floyd's The Final Cut, One Slip from A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and Take It Back from The Division Bell, among others. Analog delays work for these songs also, but digital really punches up the clarity of the triplet time rhythms. I have used several delays for Gilmour tones, my favorite being the TC Electonic Nova delay, which does very good digital and analog delay and slight modulations/tape effects, and featured nine programmable presets. Other good digital delays I have used over the years include the Boss DD-2, DD-3 (same chip as the DD-2), DD-20, and the Ibanez DE-7. All are good, accurate and clear digital delays. The DD-2 and DD-3 are great for songs like Another Brick I, II and Run Like Hell. The Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, MXR Carbon Copy, and T Rex Replica delays are three other good analog delays that have a warm tape delay sound. These may be too warm sounding for the DSOT and Pulse tones, but work well for the 1970s Pink Floyd material. Having a programmable delay is a must in my book. Delay times vary on songs, so being able to select from preprogrammed delay times makes it much easier to change from song to song. I use 310, 380, 440, 540, and 620 millisecond delay times. Those cover just about any Gilmour or Pink Floyd song.
BOSS DD-2/DD-3 DELAY - The DD-2 was my first delay, and I still use it on my pedal board in combo with another programmable delay. A very simple mod to make this great sounding delay even better is a switchable hi cut mod to make the echo repeats warmer and more analog sounding. Below is a photo of my modded DD-3 (same circuit as the DD-2) with a toggle switch added to go between two different capacitors, for a slight hi cut and a more extreme hi cut. The middle position is the standard DD-2. Use a DPDT three way toggle switch (on/off/on) and two metal film capacitors (a .39uF/394k or .47uF/474k and a .1uF/104k) soldered across the volume pot. The smaller cap cuts the highs slightly, and the larger one cuts them more. More highs are removed each repeat, just like a typical analog tape delay hi cut. The mod takes about 15 minutes, if you are handy with a soldering iron. Here are instructions.
Some people are tempted to add amp reverb instead of using delay, but reverb will suck and color all the "Gilmour" out of your tone. If you must use it, I suggest keeping it dialed in low. I always have the reverb on when I use my Fender Twin Reverb, but never set above 3.
The Gilmour Delays - Vintage Binson Echorec II, MXR Digital Delay rack unit, MXR Digital Delay System II, and TC Electronic 2290 Digital Delay rack units
PARALLEL MIXING - David has been running his delay signal parallel with the main signal for many years. The main signal is split so one side goes straight through the pedal chain and one side goes through his delay, then both are mixed back together before they go into the amp. The reason for this is to keep the integrity of the original dry signal as pure as possible so there is no tone lost in the circuit of the delay. It also seems to makes the delay repeats sound smoother. This parallel system has been used from the Division Bell tour rig to David's On an Island rig, and possibly going back to the time of The Wall.
To use a delay for parallel mixing, it needs to be able so send a signal out 100% wet, with just the echo repeats and no dry signal. Many delays do this, including the Boss DD-2 (you need to plug a dummy plug into one of the out jacks to get the other to send the wet signal only), Boss DD-3, Ibanez DE7, TC Electronics Nova Delay, Boss DD20 Delay, EHX Deluxe Memory Man, the old MXR Delay system II, and many others. You need a bypass loop mixer pedal that allows the dry signal to be split in two, then remixed back together. One side goes into a loop where you place your delay, then sent back to be mixed with the dry signal going straight through your pedal board. These bypass loop pedals usually include a buffer circuit to keep the signal balanced. The delay should be set to 100% wet so only the delay repeats are sent out, and none of the dry signal. There are several mixer pedals that can be used for this. I have tried the Boss LS-2 Line Selector, the Radial Big Shot mixer, and the Barge VB Jr. With these pedals you can set the wet signal to mix 100% with the dry signal or mix for less wet. Be aware that mixing less may reduce your overall output volume because one side of the signal level is being reduced on several of these pedals. I have found it is better to keep the mix balanced and use a delay that has a volume control to change the delay level rather than reduce the wet level in the mixer.
TYPE OF AMPS - For amplification, David typically uses clean, transparent, real tube amplifiers with lots of head room. "Clean" meaning the amp does not break up or distort when you turn it up. David uses pedals for his overdrive and distortions tones, and to color his clean tones, so the basic foundational amp tone should be a clean as possible. Sending a Big Muff signal into a slightly dirty amp generally sounds bad for Gilmour tones from my experience. Solid state amps will work, as long as they are clean, but real tube amps sound better. Pedals like the Big Muff, Fuzz Face, and Tube Driver seem to react with and sound much better with tube amps. For a comprehensive guide to the amps used for each Pink Floyd album, and a great buyers guide to Gilmourish sounding amps, please visit Gilmourish.com.
I cannot stress enough how important the amp is for these tones, and that the amp be clean and not distort. As stated, all distortion should come from the pedals. I have found Fenders and Hiwatts are generally the best amps to use. I use a combination of a Fender Twin Reverb and a Reeves Custom 50 PS (Hiwatt Custom 50 replica). These are very loud amps, so for regular home or small club playing, smaller single speaker amps like the 22w Fender Deluxe Reverb or 40w Fender Blues Deluxe are better. The 50w Fender Bassman is another option, and David has actually used that amp, but it does have a lot of breakup unless using it at low volume. Smaller amps like the 15w Fender Blues Jr, 30w Peavey Classic 30, and 30w/5w Mesa 5:25 Express can also produce acceptable clean tones at very low volume.
The Fender Twin Reverb gives a very warm, clear, and bassy, classic tube amp tone. I typically use the low gain input (input 2) of the Twin's reverb channel. The circuitry on the reverb side sounds slightly better to me (there is an additional preamp tube on the reverb side), as well as the slight tone difference when using input 2. I never use the bright switch as it alters tone and adds too much crunch to my distortion and overdrive pedal tones. That switch is really for running at very low volume, but I find it to be too piercing. I also use very little reverb, as it also alters the tone in a negative way. The Twin sounds best loud, and I run mine at 5, but even with the volume as low as 3 it gives a good, rich tube sound. Below 3 and it loses a lot of the power tube saturation. The Reeves Custom 50 on the other hand, sounds great at any volume. It is very bright and chimey, with a unique signature Hiwatt voice, very much asscociated with early Gilmour tones. The majority of Gilmours most well known tones sound like a blend of these two amp sounds - Fender mids scooped wamth and bottom end, and Hiwatt bright chime.
I link the normal high and lower bright inputs on my Reeves to blend the two channels. I do not link the inputs on the Twin reverb, as the channels are out of phase, and do not stack like the Reeves/Hiwatt channels.
My Reeves Custom 50PS with 2x12 cab loaded with Vintage Purple speakers (Fane replicas) and my '65 Twin Reverb reissue
HIGH VOLUME - Having the amp very loud is important for these tones. The hotter the tubes get in the amp, the more richly saturated and smooth the tone gets. The louder the speaker is, the more natural tube and speaker breakup will be added to the tone, and having the volume right on the edge of feedback is best. Large amps/cabinets sound better in large rooms and halls, and small amps/cabinets sound better in small rooms. David has even said that he prefers recording with smaller amps in smaller rooms, and much of what is recorded on his floating studio, the Astoria, was done with smaller amps. A Hiwatt DR-103 would be the ultimate amp for David's live tones, and that is David's primary live amp. A Reeves Custom 50 or Reeves Custom 100 Hiwatt clone is another option. Modern Hiwatt amps are very expensive, and the consensus is that they do not sound as good as the older Hiwatts, though many who have owned both say they work fine. There are also smaller 20 to 30 watt options for each of those brands that would be better suited for small rooms. David has also used wide a varierty of other tube amps, including many Fender amps, such as the Tweed Twin, Twin Reverb, and Showman. David has often used an Alembic F2-B preamp to run the power section of his Hiwatt amps. The Alembic was basically a Fender Twin/Fender Showman preamp, so David must really like that Fender clean tone best.
LOW VOLUME VS HIGH - With a few exception, playing at low, home/ apartment/ bedroom volumes with a large 50-100w combo or amp/cab will not give you a very good tone. Don't get caught up in the bigger is better mode. Get something that works best for your playing area and allowable volume. Smaller class A tube amps, 15w or less with one 10" or 12" speaker sound much better in small rooms at low or high volume. You can still get the tubes hot and saturated to make the tone sound it's best. If volume is an issue, I definitely recommend going with a smaller, single speaker amps for the best tone. My experince with the Reeves Custom 50 is that it sounds good at both low and high volume, even though it is a high powered tube amplifier, but for most amps this is not the case.
Here are some audio clips comparing a large tube amp (my Reeves Custom 50PS) at both low and high volumes, to illustrate the difference between the low volume tone vs the hotter, tube saturation and speaker breakup of the higher volume tone. Keep in mind that most large tube amps do not sound this good at low volume.
FENDER VERSUS HIWATT TONES - Below is a clip illustrating the difference between the Fender Twin style amp tone and the Hiwatt style amp tone. The clip alternates between a Reeves Custom 50 (Hiwatt clone) with Vintage Purple (Fane style) speakers and a Fender Twin Reverb. Boss CS-2 compressor, 1973 Ram's Head Big Muff, Boss CE-2 Chorus, slight delay (480ms) from a TC Nova. Fender Strat with Seymour Duncan SSL-5 bridge pickup.
CLEAN FENDER AND REEVES TONES - Here are just the clean amp tones. Strat with CS69 neck and middle pickups, and Seymour Duncan SSL-5 bridge pickup. Clips start with the neck pickup, then the bridge/middle position comes in at around 40 seconds. Blues melody at the end is the neck pickup.
Here are my Fender Twin Reverb 100w amp settings. I use in input #2 (low gain) on the reverb side, but barely any reverb. Bright switch off.
Here are my Reeves Custom 50PS settings. I don't use the power scaling very much, and I have two of the inputs linked to combine the normal and bright channels. This is a replica of the Hiwatt Custom 50.
WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT TWIN REVERBS? - There are numerous version of the Twin Reverb that Fender has produced throughout the years. The Fender 65 Twin Reverb reissue (from 1992 onward) and the late 1960's blackface Twin Reverbs are the best versions, many of the others will also work just as well. The 65 reissue is basically the blackface/early silverface Twin Reverb circuit achitecture. They sound very similar to those amps, but speaker types make a big difference with the sound. If you want the extra difference between the old blackface and the reissue there are simple mods that can be done to the reissue, but after breaking in, the stock amp sounds excellent. You can switch the two stock 12" Jensen C12 speakers for Weber 12F150's or Weber Californias if you want something closer to the old JBL speakers used in the high end blackface Twins. However, the stock C12's in the TRRI sound really good once they are completely broken in (75-100 hours of use). They sound harsh for the first few weeks when new, as is the case with any new speaker. You can aslo upgrade the four stock 6L6 Groove Tubes (that's what was in mine, new) for a good set of NOS tubes or JJ Electronics tubes, and swap preamp tubes for NOS or JJ's (2-5 tubes depending on which input you use most and if you use the reverb or vib/trem). Different tubes offer different sound characteristics, which can affect the cleanness and EQ of the tone. Note that an amp tech will need to rebias the amp for you when you change tubes, for the best optimal sound.
The difference between the old blackface and the silverface Twins: First, blackface and silverface simply refers to the color of the faceplate behind the knobs. 1963-67 blackface Twins and early silverface ('67-69) Twins are the same circuit as far as the sound produced, and most ideal for Gilmour tones. After '69 the silverface amps became slightly more bassy, with slightly less head room (less clean) when you turn it up, but still good amps for Gilmour. Around 1972 a master volume was added, but still basically the same design. In 1977 the circuit changed significantly to a very different sound, then came the Twin Reverb II's and Red Knob Twins, neither of which are very Gilmourish sounding in my opinion. Keep in mind that buying an old Twin Reverb may cost less than a brand new one, or cost about the same as a used '65 reissue, but the capacitors in these amps can be 30-40+ years old. They should be replaced after about 20-25 years, which adds to the cost. Tubes and speakers can also be worn out, adding to the cost.
Fender silverface Twin Reverb amp, and Dual Showman Reverb amp, which was basically the head version of the Fender Twin, for use with and external speaker cabinet
The Fender head design David used a lot in the 70's was a silverface Dual Showman Reverb, and the Alembic F2-B. The Showman was basically the silverface Fender Twin Reverb amp in head form (no built in speakers). The Alembic was basically the pre-amp design from the Dual Showman head, which David used to drive his Yamaha RA-200 rotary speaker cabinets, and then later the Alembic became the preamp for his whole live rig, with his Hiwatt preamps disconnected. In other words, the Showman and Alembic are simply variations of the silverface Twin Reverb tone. Using either a blackface, early-mid 1970's silverface, or the modern Twin Reverb, you will be in the same ballpark tone range for Gilmour. Just remember these are heavy, loud 85-100 watt amps. 100 watts is fine for live use in medium to large venues, but overkill for small venues, and for most people who will never be turning the volume up past 2 or 3 for home use.
WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT HIWATTS? - Just like the Fenders, is can be confusing to decide which Hiwatt to buy. David used original Hylight era Hiwatt Custom 100/DR103 (the DR stands for Dave Reeves, the inventor) amp heads. Vintage units can be found on the secondary market, although many need a cap replacement job or other servicing. There are many current production Hiwatts or Hiwatt clones that sound just as good. Here is a brief rundown on the various Hiwatts and what is currently available.
Hiwatt DR-103 head, Gilmour's signature live amp
Original Dave Reeves/Harry Joyce era Hiwatts - Sound City, Hylight Hiwatts or Biacrown Hiwatts. No longer produced, and Dave and Harry are sadly no longer with us. These can be found on the secondary market, most easily through ebay. Dave Reeves designed and built his first original amp designs in 1964, and started working with (or was an employee of) Ivor Arbiter's Sound City store (other sources state he worked for Mullard, andoly built for Arbiter after hours). In 1966 he founded Hylight Electronics and started selling his amps under the Hiwatt brand, while also building them for Ivor Arbiter's Sound City store, branded as Sound City amps, and for Macaris Musical Exchange, branded as Sola Sound. In 1967 he parted ways with SC due to disagreements over quality and began making Hiwatts full time in '68. By 1970 Dave needed help keeping up with orders so he contracted Harry Joyce Electronics to make the electronics to high quality mil-spec standards. Dave Reeves died in 1981, then Harry Joyce continued to make the amps for the new Hiwatt owner, Biacrown Electronics. Biacrown sales floundered, Hiwatt was closed in 1984, and the name sold. Harry continued to make the amps branded under his own name until his death in 2002.
Music Ground/Hiwatt UK - The UK/European Hiwatt name owner (the Harrison father and son team). These were originally built by EleKtriK Amplifiers. Hiwatt UK claims these are still made in England using the original Hiwatt specs, and point to point wiring. Critcisms from Hiwatt experts are that they actually do not follow the original Hiwatt designs at all and are cheaply made. They are also very expensive. However, I have read great reviews from people who have actually owned them, including owners of both new and old Hiwatts, who claim they sound just as good. One major negative is that the Harrisons who own the brand have a long reputation of criminal activity, lying, buying and selling stolen merchandise, and of selling faked vintage music gear, and counterfeit gear. At the time I write this they have been charged for selling stolen merchandise. I would not give them one cent of my money, but that is just me.
Fernandes - The North American, Canada, Japan Hiwatt name owner. These are imported from the UK, made in the same factory making Hiwatt UK/Music ground Hiwatts. See info above about Hiwatt UK. Fernandes and Hiwatt UK had a long battle over name ownership, and in the end a deal was settled and Fernandes started selling the same UK made Hiwatt amps from Hiwatt UK.
Reeves Amplification - Bill Jansen started out selling rebadged Hiwatt UK amps in the early 2000s, but decided to start producing his own Hiwatts when Hiwatt UK supposedly started cutting corners to reduce costs. Bill now produces his own vintage Hiwatt clones and cabs to Dave Reeves (original Hiwatt designer/owner) original specs, or close to them. They are made in the USA and are built to order. The transformers Reeves uses are supposedly better than the originals. Reeves prices are much better than a USA sold Hiwatts, if you live in the USA. I can vouch that these are very good amps and cabs. The amps look identical to Hiwatts but are branded with a REEVES badge rather than HIWATT badge. Dave Reeves actually branded some Hiwatt production with REEVES badges in the 1970s.
VHR (Vintage Hiwatt Restoration) and Hitone cabs - If you are handy with electronics and a soldering iron, these are supposed to be the most accurate amp kits and cabs, based on the original Hylight era Hiwatts.
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