EVH’s 2008 Rig Details, Photos

September 9, 2010 | By | 4 Replies More

EVH_2008_live_1The one and only Edward Van Halen was roundly criticized for his tone on the most recent VH tour. (Everyone’s a critic on the interweb!) I was at two shows on that tour, one in New Jersey (sounded bad), one in Madison Square Garden (sounded good). Neither guitar tone sounded particularly warm, but then again, there was a heck of a lot of volume involved.

Then there are the YouTube clips, which “clearly” do not demonstrate much woody tone. “Clearly” is in quotes because YouTube clips, especially of guitar tones at immense volumes, are basically awful. Or at least don’t tell you much.

But we’ll all listen anyway, and what you can clearly hear in the clip below is a cocked wah, which you can also see Ed step on. To my ears it makes for a nasally tone – in the clips and when I was there. Some have said that’s because Ed’s hearing is so shot that he’s cranking the treble to hear it. Me, I’m not so sure. No way I’m going to second-guess this guy’s ears or tone-chasing instincts.

(Caution: Dave says the F word in the intra-Panama banter.)

Anyhow, I’ve never looked into what he was using on that tour – or actually tours, because the band (really Ed) took a break about halfway through – and I wasn’t real curious…but I should’ve been.

Why? Two reasons:
1) This is Ed with the golden ears, and everything he does he does for a reason.
2) This might (MIGHT) give us a sense of where he’s heading for the VH IV album.

But as I said, I wasn’t curious until I found a couple pics of his ’08 rack on flickr (how, I can’t remember). From there I found a thread on hugeracksinc.com with info from LA amp guru Dave Friedman, who is THE man now when it comes to EVH tone – meaning he works on Ed’s stuff!

Here we go. Everything in italics is from Dave Friedman.

Dave Friedman photo.

Dave Friedman photo.

Back of the rack. (Dave Friedman photo)

Back of the rack. (Dave Friedman photo)

The head goes to a dry center cab. A line out is taken off the head speaker line and feeds a Lexicon PCM70. The PCM splits to stereo and on either side he has a Roland SDE-3000 delay for stereo echo then to a H&H V800 power amp. The power amp powers two more cabs and there are switches on the board for the PCM70 and the SDE-3000 delays. The PCM70 is used for Cathedral and the 3000s do the stereo echo around 250ms and 500ms with a few repeats.

5150 III heads and cabinets are stock. Look closely and you’ll see there’s a complete duplicate/back-up rig in this rack.


(Dave Friedman photo)

(Dave Friedman photo)

All pedals are true bypass loops except the wah.

On the MXR Chorus: It is just there for a couple of songs like “Pretty Woman.”

Someone asked: Dave, if you don’t mind me asking, since his pedals are in bypass loops anyway, why not get all of that stuff – pedals, power supplies, etc. – offstage and use a smaller and less-cumbersome pedalboard? The answer is so he could reach down and twist a knob if he wanted to. Dave said:

Yes on [twisting] the knobs…that is the way he wanted it, so that is what I did. The thing with him is you have to listen to him. No matter how backwards it sounds, there is always a reason and he is generally right.

More from Dave

> No midi in the rack – the pedals are in true bypass loops.

> Then [the signal] hits a BS2 balanced to the rack. Yes he runs through the rack effects [delays]. Those units sound great, almost better running through them. The PCM is only used for “Cathedral” and maybe to get a lot of delay in some solo spots. The 3000s do the stereo echo around 250ms and 500ms with a few repeats. The BS2 buffer is able to balance the signal to the rack and then at the rack it is converted to unbalanced to go to the head. This makes for a noise free 100-foot [cable?] run with no losses.

> In the rack it is two SDE 3000s, one PCM 70 and a Dunlop Smart Gate not used any more.

> On the SDEs: No new processor sounds like all the great old ones. Audio is just crap now. It amazes me how an 8-bit unit can sound so much better [than the current higher-tech stuff]. Also these [older] units are so much easier to use – no menu pages no cryptic manuals.

> He got rid of all harmonizers in 2004.

That’s it – except let’s not forget that new guitar he was playing too (EVH Wolfgang). Wonder what that did to the tone.

Category: Boss/Roland, Edward Van Halen, Lexicon, MXR

Comments (4)

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  1. Todd says:

    I agree on not knowing what to believe you're actually hearing in YouTube clips. His tone has definitely changed. I saw several shows in 2004 and it I thought it wasn't his tone but his playing that was just downright sloppy, bordering on awful as times.

  2. Ken A says:

    Judging his new tone by the YouTube clips is a ridiculous idea. You're not going to get the faithfulness of a Shure SM-57 out of a cell phone or a pocket-sized digital camera. If you're using a tiny, plastic microphone, you're going to hear exactly what you get in that video–a lot of high-end cut, a lot of low-end buttmud, and not much else.

    I also saw them on the 2008 tour, and I thought the tone was pretty good. It is important to remember that the equipment is going to sound different depending on the sonic characteristics of the different venues. Perhaps some people got shortchanged because of shitty acoustics. I'm sure Ed would love to personally ensure that he only gets booked in the places that he hand-picks, but I doubt that's feasible.

    I haven't played through the 5150 III, but the middle channel is allegedly pretty close to the old Van Halen sound. So there's that.

    The only other good indicator I can think of for where his tone is going is the sound on the 2004 songs. To my ears, the tone he was using back then isn't entirely bad, but it is buzzy and mushy. You lose a lot of definition as the gain goes up, and I think that's what was going on there. The beauty of the sound on the old albums is how deceptively CLEAN the amp is. You can hear everything, and there's a lot of attack. Not so with the 2004 sound.

  3. EdHead says:

    Having seen the REUNION Tour twice (first in Chicago, second in Cincinnati) to my ear's Ed's tone seemed to be bright (to much treble) for both shows. My first thought was he was compensating for his hearing (high frequencies go first) but, despite the elusive "brown sound" (I'm not sure Ed himself could find it again) and noticible loss of "the king's technique and fluidity" it sure was great to seem them ripping it up again! God rest Mike, though. I'm afraid that was the last gasp.

  4. Steve Gough says:

    Eddie made a huge contribution to the guitar.
    I saw vh 79 I think Leicester UK just fantastic.
    Lets just remember the great vids and you never know he might just come back and surprise us with something really new.

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