New Slash Good! Why Slashtone?

July 26, 2012 | By | 4 Replies More

Happened to see a clip of Slash’s band on the Guitar Center Sessions or whatever they’re called, aka MTV Unplugged 2. Personally I find that as boring as I found the Unplugged stuff (hey, let’s take the rock ‘n’ roll out of it – brilliant!), but it reminded me to look into the new Slash since John from Jersey told me I might dig it.

Turns out he was right – I do dig it.

I say that even though I’ve never been a huge fan of Slash’s tone. More on that in a sec. First give this a listen:



Les Paul, Seymour Duncan vintage-style pickups, Marshall – what’s not to like about that? A recipe for wood fo’ sho’.

But to me, and maybe you, Slash’s tone is kinda harsh. It works, especially in a band context because you can’t lose it in the mix, but….

Speaking of harsh, remember that Eddie Van Halen, for many the king of “brown” tone, played an ash guitar with an overwound pickup into a 100w Marshall with all knobs on 10. Ever played a Marshall with just the tone controls on 10?! That’s harsh, man. But the volume (and some other tricks) mellowed it out….

Anyhow, Slash has all the right ingredients and for sure gets a classic woody tone. But I had to ask myself: Why is it so dang harsh? Like this:

That’s the kind of tone I’ve tried to dial OUT of my Les Paul >> Marshall setup. Based on my experiments there, here’s what I’m hearing in Slashtone:


> Very middy, thanks to all the ingredients but especially the Alnico 2 magnet in the pickup. A2 pickups always sound that way to me because – I think I’m getting this right – the highs and lows are dialed back a bit with an A2, pushing the mids out front. About the opposite of what an Alnico 5 magnet does. (Pickup sniffers check me on that!)


> To my ears, chambered Les Pauls aren’t as warm as solid Les Pauls. Not only that, chambered Les Pauls seem to accentuate the mids of A2 pickups. Not sure what he played on the albu. I know this chambered/non-chambered mess is a Hatfields-McCoys thing, so that’s what side of the property line I’m on….


> The new Marshall AFD 100 head, which I’m assuming he used on the new album (Slash fans?), has 6550 tubes, which for sure are less warm (but more articulate) than the now-typical EL34 tubes.

> From about the AFD 100: the treble response is still quite fierce… piledriver midrange ..activating the AFD mode switches in even more gain, pushes the mid-range forward…. You get the picture.

> According to this site, Slash’s pre-AFD 100 amp settings were Pres 8, Bass 7, Mids 7, Treb 4.5. That’s a bit on the “harsher” (to my ears) side.

(Click to see it bigger.)


> Slash likes Celestion Vintage 30s. Not the warmest speaker, but even so it appears he doesn’t use regular 30w V30s. When his first Marshall signature head came out, it said this about the Slash signature cab: These speakers were specially designed by Marshall to replicate the tonal warmth and fatness of the original Marshall 12″ models. Although named Vintage 30 each speaker is capable of handling up to 70w, hence the 280w rating of the cabinet.

> More-efficient speakers = less warmth = more of the A2, 6550, middy harshness (almost a cocked wah-ness) coming through.

At least that’s how I hear it. You?

Have to say: Nothing but props for Slash. Really like the new tunes, guy walks it like he talks it and…wood is good. Check it:


Category: Les Paul, Marshall, Seymour Duncan, Slash

Comments (4)

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  1. Ian says:

    People generally gauge magnet EQ’s based on symmetric winds and usually vintage winds like a PAF (7k – 9k). However, when you couple any magnet with a asymmetric wind such as a Tone Zone (A5) or the new Duncan Hybrid (one 4.3k ’59 coil and one 7.2k Custom coil), the EQ is much different, in that the Tone Zone is extremely middy and the Hybrid is extremely balanced, unlike a typical A5 vintage pickup. This is partially due to the differences in induction between the coils and how the coils react with each other wired in series.

    You can make some very close assumptions about what a particular magnet will do, but the wind is just as important, as well as other factors such as baseplate material (brass or nickel alloy).

    One exception is the Frankenstein pickup, which I think actually sounds a bit different than the Custom Custom. It’s alleged they are the same, packaged more expensively with EVH’s name on it. No so. The actual factors of the wind, including tension, traverse, turns-per-layer and such, can change the induction and the way the signal flows through the coil, causing different resonant frequencies to emerge. The Frankie pup really doesn’t sound like a “typical” A2 pickup at all and the clean sounds are way better than the Custom Custom, in my opinion. Very clear, present and does not have a dominating midrange but is pretty balanced. That is, after all, THE tone of Mr. Van Halen.

  2. Ian says:

    I’ve never cared for Slash’s tone, just as I don’t care for Page’s, for different reasons: Slash is harsh and his neck/lead tone is too “Do, do, do” sounding for me and Page’s tone is muddy as hell.

    Regardless, they are fantastic players.

  3. Tyler says:

    I apologize for my lack of technical knowledge, but Apocalyptic Love and the self titled before it are in themselves very harsh sounding recordings, just like many others today the production/mix is terrible. Overly compressed and lifeless… I cant stand either in my stereo for more than a few riffs… which are killer… but the sound of these albums is pure crap. I have a Mcintosh power amp with meters, the meters are a great confirmation of what you ears are telling you sucks… the needles barely move. Compare to say Moving Pictures…or anything pre 90s really….the needles dance all over the place… dynamics. Not trying to get off the topic, but analyzing Slash’s tone within the context of these awful recordings is something to think about.

  4. Windwalker9649 says:

    Slash is one of my favorite rock guitar players. The second solo in Sweet child of mine has remained (after the outro solo for Comfortable Numb) my favorite guitar solo. I find it to be the quintessential “Slash” solo. It shows just how much feel and emotion can be given, even in a very simple, basic minor pentatonic scale. His tone, like it or hate it, is his tone. The fact that one can have such a recognizable voice, especially by playing blues based rock with a Les Paul into a Marshall stack, is based solely with the player, I mean it’s not like that type of music played with that guitar/amp combination hadn’t been done 10 million times before.
    He definitely has a very midrange heavy sound, and I agree with the comment about his beech pickup having that do do do tone. I believe, at least early on in G&R, the Marshall’s he played used a clipping circuit on its lead channel (terrible sacrilege IMO). I used to work full time in a guitar repair/restoration shop. I will not call myself a luthier, because though I’ve built manystrats, and tales, and have done every repair you can think of, from neck resets to repairing cracked acoustic tops (REMINDER; WINTER IS COMING, KEEP YOUR ACOUSTICS HYDRATED! Buy one of the dozens of guitar case humidifiers, and use it. FACTORY WARRANTIES WILL NOT COVER DAMAGE CAUSED BY DRY WINTER AIR. You’re expected to keep your instrument humidified, and any damage caused by not doing so will be considered neglect, sorry for the all caps, but every winter I see way to many damage guitars brought in by players who should know better), though I’ve done it all, I’ve yet to build an acoustic all the way myself.
    So I’ve come across every pickup imaginable. The Duncan Alnico Pro II’s are a midrange heavy pickup, but the ones he uses are overwound. Anyone who’s used overwound PAF type pickups can attest to this. But the commenter who spoke of the type of winding being much more responsible for the tone/character of pickup than the magnet type is 100% correct.
    I own 3 Les Pauls; a2010 standard, a Traditional Goldtop, and Japanese built Tokai LP copy. In regards to the classic Les Paul tone, they go Tokai as the most “Les Paul” sounding, then the Traditional followed by the standard. Oddly enough, except for the finish and weight, I prefer the copy over the Gibson ones in every way. Personally, I use Fralins in all of my Humbucker equipped guitars except one, and most are the ‘Pure PAFs’. I’ve had real vintage instruments come in the shop (we’ve done Brad Whitfords guitars a few times, and setup his Strats before he did the “Experience Hendrix” tour a few years back, and the Fralins matched the true Gibson PAF pickups than any I’ve heard, including (and in some cases especially), the newer Gibson PAFs.
    They’re all Alnico II’s. He custom makes them to your specifications, but a standard set read at 7.5 ohms on the neck and 8 ohms for the bridge. I use a standard set on the Tokai, a standard wound neck on the traditional with the bridge with a 5% over wind for the bridge (the Standard I have Fralin high outputs, they use Alnico 4 magnets. Normally I don’t like H.O. pickups, I usually find them lacking in dynamics and character, but the Fralins aren’t too crazy, around 13.5/14 ohms, and are very dynamic, with loads of harmonic over tones. They also don’t exibit the volume drop when I tap the coils). They have a real vintage sound, but dont have the “mids pushed to the front” sound. I have an ES335, and an Edwards 335 copy (again it’s amazing what you get for your $ with the Japanese copies, the Edwards uses solid maple for the top and back as opposed to the laminate on Gibson). Those both have underwound Fralin PAFs in them. The Gibson has a standard wound bridge and the neck has a 5% underwind on the neck and the Edwards has the neck with a 10% underwind/neck, 5% underwind/bridge.
    Everyone who hears these are jealous. What I hear the most is some players think I have a piezo to get acoustic tones because the pickups “pick up” everything. You can hear my fingers rub against the strings, you can practially hear the top vibrating. The midrange is much more subdued in the underwound set.
    I’ve gone off in a few tangents here, but all to say, yes the winding has far more influence on the pickups EQ than the magnet.
    On a side note, while the Gibson Slash model may be chambered (I haven’t played or seen one so I don’t know), I’m pretty sure that most of the Les Paul’s he records are vintage ones and not chambered. These guys may use their signature models on stage, but I’d be surprised to find they actually record with them. Like Eric Johnson; personally I find the Eric Johnson Fender Strats to be the best Strat Fender sells, sure there are $8000 CS models, but IMO there isn’t a strat in existence thats worth that, I mean it’s a bolt on slab neck to a plank body. As good as the EJ Strats are, he uses his vintage one to record.

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