Jimmy Page’s Heartbreaker Tone Details

July 21, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More

Solid-State Amp; Heartbreaker Guitar Audio Below!


Jimmy with his Transonic amps, 1969, Fillmore West

Jimmy Page: Les Paul and Marshall plexi.

Live, yes – mostly. Studio, no. And for Heartbreaker? Heck no, apparently.

As a former studio musician, Jimmy knew that different gear would give him different sounds, knew what combinations would give him some sounds, and probably loved to experiment to find those sounds (we’re talking different guitars and amps here more  than effects).

His use of a Fender Tele and small Supro amp in the studio is well-known. But he also used other amps and other guitars, some of which people probably have no idea about. Luckily, thanks to this thing called the Internet, we do know what Jimmy used on the song Heartbreaker, which has a unique-to-Jimmy guitar tone. Of course, I read it on the Internet and now you are, so bear that in mind!

The always-reliable (sarcasm) Wikipedia says that “Page…disclosed to Guitar World [likewise “always reliable”] that this song in general, and the a cappella solo in particular, was the first recorded instance of his famous Gibson Les Paul/Marshall stack combination.”


It’s possible that the unaccompanied guitar solo used that combo, but the song did not, according to Dan Torres “who was there [apparently hanging around?] during the recording sessions,” according to user Suproman77 at the vintageamps.com board (aka, Plexi Palace).

The thread was about Jimmy’s Heartbreaker tone, and there was some speculation that a solid-state amp may have been used.

Here’s what was posted and attributed to Torres:rickenbacker_transonic

“It would be really hard to get the exact sound again. The [solid-state Rickenbacker] Transonic amp  [Jimmy used] was not in good repair. I was not a tech then, I was a studio musician, but my guess is it was overbiased a ton, running red hot, and most likely with parts out of spec. The speaker is a little bit ‘ratty’ sounding, perfect for the tone needed.

“A couple of guitars were there, the [’59] Les Paul and the Telecaster – a lot is the Telecaster for that Tele bass string sound [not sure if this means Heartbreaker was recorded with the Tele?]. Both had new strings and awful light gauge.

“The amp was close-miced [with] a second mic about 12-18 feet back up and to the side. [That setup got] kind of an intentional ‘echo’ effect with the mics far enough apart to have some small delay between them [giving it a] huge sound yet an intimate ‘grinding’ sound from the close microphone.

“The amp’s tone was re-adjusted for the different sound on different parts of the song, mostly with just the volume control.

“The real trick to the sound is the ‘space’ recorded there. The actual air in the room is captured by the spaced mics and somewhat by accident.”

He added that “the volume of the Transonic amp is not enough for a performance anywhere” – odd, considering I believe it was available in two versions, 100 watts and 200 watts.

There’s ample photographic evidence to support the fact that Jimmy and Zep used the Rickenbacker Transonic amps, including on their first American tour in 1969. But apparently they didn’t like them a whole lot on that tour because they apparently left the amps in the States when they went back to England.


> For a good rundown of all the amps Jimmy used, with photos, check out this link.

> Below is the semi-isolated guitar from Heartbreaker, found on this website.

[mp3]http://www.woodytone.com/wp-content/audio/Led Zep Heartbreaker isolated guitar.mp3[/mp3]

Category: Billy Gibbons, Fender, Jimmy Page/Zep, Les Paul, Marshall, Rickenbacker, Telecaster

Comments (5)

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  1. Ronbo says:

    Beautiful….thank you for this info.

    • C.J. Rebel says:

      Great post! Brian May used a little solid state thing made by John Deacon for a lot of studio work also (called the "Deacy"). A little known fact as SS amps are much maligned! ESPECIALLY from the 1960s and 1970s.

  2. Elijah Lamp says:

    I’ve been trying to track down reliable info on Page’s setup for years. One thing I never hear talked about much is that he owned all of the yardbirds gear after they all abandoned ship which was a lot of Vox stuff. Seeing how he was taking a big risk starting Zep and he Zep I was done on the cheap, I wonder if a lot of this stuff got used in the studio? He also had his session gear which included the three pickup Les Paul custom and a Super Reverb. And he used a leslie setup from the first album on, that I’ve never seen described. I can’t speak directly to Heartbreaker but I have a tele, a Build your own clone MKII and a Super Reverb and you can get very close to the LZ I sound with that setup, but you have to roll the volume way down or it turns to T Rex farts in a hurry. MKII’s are NOT subtle. I wonder if he had Roger Mayer modify his MKII for LESS gain? IDK it seems to be along with an old wah one of the ubiquitous pieces he is always seen with but if the BYOC MKII is anywhere close to a vintage Tonebender he had to play with the volume rolled way down most of the time. I know he also plugged into the console on numerous occasions (Black Dog comes to mind as a possibility?) But I think you might be right about the Transonic’s on Heartbreaker. Sounds plausible to me.

  3. Mark says:

    By the way, Tom Petersson from Cheap Trick now owns Jimmy’s old Transonics (that’s the legend, anyway!) I think I believe it, because there’s plenty of photographic and tech info on the old web to support his use of the amps live, though they have been updated to more modern specs and have new speakers installed. They are cool lookin’ pieces and make a great looking back line. He supposedly used 3 of them in the early 2000’s on tour, one for each pickup of his 12 string basses. Gotta love that man!

  4. James says:

    When I lived in Hollywood in the 80’s and 90’s, I owned one of the Transonics. My band at the time used it for a bass amp, since it was ultra-clean and would not distort. Or, it didn’t distort for us, anyway. Rickenbacker loaned those amps to Zep for the tour. Page never owned them. Everyone in L.A. knows about this. You could talk to Hall at Rick. One thing people seem to forget about the first two Zeppelin albums is that Page was using an awful lot of fuzz-tone at the time. The little Supro and the Vox amps weren’t turned up for distortion at all. Listen to Whole Lotta Love. That is NOT a Marshall amp turned up to 10. It’s a small amp with a fuzz-tone. Page has stated many times that he didn’t even own a Marshall amp until 1970.

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