The Final Word About EVH’s Super Lead? (Pt. 2)

July 21, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
Those are the 6CA7 power tubes Ed liked (click to see way bigger).

Those are the 6CA7 power tubes Ed liked (click to see way bigger).

Today we continue with John Suhr “talking” – actually posting, in a looooong thread – about his experience with EVH’s magical Marshall Super Lead amp. We pick it up with John’s comments to some doubters:

“I used to be a solder inspector for the military. It is very [easy] to see what parts of the amp were not original and were or were not original solder joints. The amp had not been mucked with except for few parts.

“I know when an amp has been modified. I know what original solder joints from Marshall look like. The amp was not modified beyond its basic gain structure. Ed himself told me 2 feet from my face that the amp never had any kind of typical Jose mod in it. The two non-typical parts in this amp contribute to the gain in a very minor way. They were not major parts….

“Regardless of me [not] being at the [VH1] recording session or not, I know my sh*t and I know what Ed told me. He was not clueless, and knew the tweaks in the amp which again are very minor.”

The Pickup…And More Amp Info!

Well said John! Here are additional comments he made in the thread:

“I also got a chance to check out his old pickup, which had a shorted coil and was basically working like a single coil. Many years ago he caught his string under the lip [of the pickup] and damaged it. When, I don’t know, but he loved the sound of it even if it was noisy – and said it has been like that for as long as he could remember.

“So…if I was going for that exact tone I would put a single coil in the position of the forward coil of the humbucker going straight across. Use a plexi-based circuit [on your amp], dime the controls, bright channel [top left input of a 4-hole Marshall], variac to 85V, feed the 8ohm tap into a 16ohm load, run a line out into a good power amp and some Scumbacks [speakers that emulate or improve the sound of the old Celestions], pedals of your choice and call it a day. You will get close at low volumes. Better have a good wallet for the tubes though since they don’t last long running this way.”

What Can We Take From That

Here we go:

1. The head has not been modded. John Suhr, Steve Fryette, Peter Van Wheelden, Dave Friedman and everyone else who knows amps and who has seen Ed’s magic Super Lead have said it’s stock – meaning no mods. But during that time of Marshall manufacturing virtually every amplifier was different because Marshall just used whatever they had (as did Gibson and others at the time).

2. That Echoplex preamp – now available in a couple of pedals (review of one soon!) – seems to be important: John mentioned it twice, and several guitar heroes (e.g., Page, Iommi, Blackmore) goosed their amps in the same way or similarly.

3. The Variac is important but not necessarily for Ed! If you mess with a Variac, looks like the magic number is 87 volts. John said: “Until you have that exact [plexi] circuit, which is a little gainier, and run it at 87 VAC with Ed’s touch, guitar and pickup, you would not really hear what I heard.”

4. Am I reading that mismatched output correctly: 8 ohm tap into 16 ohms – which could be a 16-ohm cab? If so, be careful running your amp this way because some amps can’t take it.

5. Ed did slave his #1 amp into other amps – at some point.

6. Ed’s first signature amp effort was with Jose, not Peavey.

7. So the active coil in EVH’s pickup is the one furthest from the bridge – which, if I read that right, has a lot to do with warming up Ed’s sound. Is anyone making humbuckers with a shorted-out back coil?!

8. You too can sound like Ed with a similar amp – but only if you can sound like Ed with your fingers.

9. Dave Friedman is working on Ed’s #1 amp right now! I think I know why!

Words of Warning…

…or at least perspective, from John (in that same thread):

“To find out exactly what his signal chain was on the first album, you might as well try and find out how the universe got here since until Ed remembers exactly what he did, no one will know. [At the time, VH was] just partying and playing – [Ed] documenting what he used was the furthest thing from his mind (his words).

“I’ve said all I can on this topic. You guys can chase the ghost, but you will never catch it. Why put so much effort into copying Ed’s tone if you are not Ed? It has been done, and there is only one Ed.”

Notable: More on F.U.C.K.

From John about Ed’s tones on that album:

> “I made him two modded Marshall he used for a crunchy clean tone. He used my prototype preamp and then brought me the Marshall….

> “The Peavey amp was not done yet and Ed didn’t use it at all on F.U.C.K. He used my preamp into [Steve] Lukather’s Marshall effects return I did for Luke while I was in NY [John’s shop was in NYC before LA] and a SLO100” [which Ed apparently received from Mike Soldano in 1989].

Notable: Ed’s VH1 Un-Engineered Tone?

There was a LOT of engineering done to Ed’s tone on the first album, which Ed has freely admitted (though in different words). John Surh said essentially the same thing, and this was posted in the same thread by user RR Classic. Beleving it or not is of course up to you:

“I was told by Michael Anthony personally that Ed’s tone in the studio for VH1 was not all of the glory we hear on the record. He said it was very shrill and trebly, and that is why Ted [Templeman, producer] and Don [Landee, engineer] had to pan him hard right on rhythm and hard left on leads, soak it in verb – and there is a ton of verb on there – along with some pretty damn creative EQing.”

Interesting and believable if you’ve ever heard a dimed (or even close to it) plexi, especially with a hard ash strat and maple/maple neck/fingerboard – even more so if Ed really did at the time use high-efficiency speakers along with Greenbacks (which mellow the vol and tone).

– End of part 2 of 2 –

Category: Edward Van Halen, Marshall, Suhr

Comments (2)

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  1. Guitar5986 says:

    I had an '89 Ibanez JEM 77FP that I had someone install a Bareknuckle VHII pickup in the bridge. They screwed up a bunch of the wiring and the rear coil on the pu wasn't actually working. I actually kept it this way for quite a while because I really liked the sound! In the end I wired up the pickups correctly. That is quite funny that Ed liked that sound as well.

  2. Petey says:

    Mmm. Shorted coil?

    SD's repro pickup is around 9.5kOhms dc – both coils functioning, FWIW.
    Who'd have thought those sounds could come from a split gibson unit with a slug/bar mag setup? Did Eddie get hold of extra thin coil-wire to get the juice above that of a stock fender unit on the much smaller bobbins?
    Anyhow, the unit is angled in VH's strat and has gibson string-spacing, the "front coil" bottom E polepiece isn't even actually under the string. Odd.

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