Hi, I’m Daniel O and I’m going to be helping out thetoneking.com team with some of their upcoming articles. I played guitar and keyboards in bands full-time from about 1984 through 1996, after that I ventured forth doing gigs solo armed with my own MIDI sequences. I’ve been doing that ever since when I go off to do a gig. Like most of you who subscribe to TTK, I am a tone junkie ever in search of THE tone. But given the nature of my gigs, I came to value good tube tone in low wattage small combo amps. Though it is a hybrid solid state/tube concoction, I ended up resorting to a Crate VC508 for my amp needs on gigs back around 1999. Yes, a 5W amp with an 8” speaker. A Shure SM57 in front of the grill and a liberal helping of bass on my trusty Mackie 808S and I am in business. Is the Crate ideal? No, but it has a decent and workable tone with a line out that I use for an old Zoom 9150 to add flexibility. I can hear the gasps, but trust me, if you didn’t already know what I use you’d still consider it a respectable sounding rig for what I do. It’s a good thing I love Mark Knopfler’s later sound a lot too because the Zoom does my “Calling Elvis” tone to a tee. On a gig, this kind of setup is practical and portable and delivers reliably. In a perfect world I might be using a Smicz or something boutique-ish. But in the real world, this has been a solution I could live with. This gives you an idea of the challenges this particular gigging musician faces with tone: low wattage, versatility, and portability. Now you all know my dirtiest little secret. I do fully intend to upgrade this rig one day though.
When I am able to play with others, I have an Orange AD1512 that I’ve been using since 2005 and I still marvel at its tone. And after years of using Boss CS 3’s, I now use a Keeley Compressor—what a difference. The Orange and the Keeley alone are heaven. I also have a Fender Bassmanthat doesn’t get as much use as the Orange, though it too is a gem in my opinion: no frills and just slap the right kinds of pedals in front of it and away you go—a Keeley, a Fultone Fat Boost, a Maxon overdrive, and a Hardwire RV-7 for reverb and not much else unless we’re getting fancy. And I use an ’89 Fender Strat Plus blueburst with Lace Sensors as my main workhorse. I am definitely a musical mutt. Being a purist kind of goes out the window when you play anything from Metallica to Frank Sinatra to Snoop Dogg.
So there’s some of my story, and while it ain’t always pretty, we do what we have to do to get the job done right with what we’ve got. It isn’t necessarily perfect but it usually ends up close, because in the end it’s what we DO with our tools and not merely the tools themselves, though there is nothing like sweet tone to inspire us to play our best and that is what TTK is all about. So I am looking forward to assisting with the ongoing quest as thetoneking.com seeks to find the latest and the greatest to serve all of us better in making informed decisions about our gear.
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