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Old 11-24-2008, 05:51 PM   #1
Mathamology
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The Great Big Rack Amp Thread!

Okay, so after a brief search through the GG&A forum and the Gear Collection Thread, I noticed there isn't a thread for those who either run rack mounted amps/units, or those interested in building one. Post pictures, specifications, questions, answers, comments, discussions, anything - as long as it's to do with rack mounted gear!

I'll do my best to describe components commonly found in a rack amplification. If anyone has anything to add/correct, post in this thread and I'll edit it into this post.

I'm hoping this thread will generate some good information that I can construct into a concise and informative thread, so anything from reviews, pictures, tips and sound clips are more than welcome.

So, here goes!

PLEASE NOTE - I'm not an expert on the components of a rack setup; this thread is intended to be a starting point for the more experienced members to add to, so we can develop the thread this forum deserves! This thread is all based on my interest and research into rack gear from the last few weeks.


Introduction

A rack system can be described as a series of seperate units, mounted into a casing, running together to create an amplifier. The core of a rack mounted system is the same as any head or combo amp; the signal runs into the preamp, into the power amp, and out through the speakers. Where a rack system differs from a conventional amplifier, is the ability to mix and match the preamp and power amp section; you could run a Mesa preamp through a Marshall power amp, or an ENGL preamp through a Peavey poweramp. The obvious benefits to this is that you can construct an amp suited to your taste, rather than being limited by the traditional head/combo setup. Other benefits of a rack mounted system include:

- The ability to run more than one preamp; similar to A/B'ing two amps, but having them neatly stored away in a single unit.
- Ease of setup; everything is already plugged and set up within the rack, so you plug yourself into the wall and into a couple of cabs, and you're good to go!

Rack systems also introduce the switching power of MIDI devices. MIDI is where it really gets interesting...

The cons of a rack system (thanks to Kevin Saale):

- They're typically more expensive
- They can be complicated to set up
- Suited for mainly live playing

Famous guitarist rack setups:

John Petrucci
Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins)
The Edge (U2)
Steve Vai
James Hetfield (Metallica)
Chris Wolstenholme (Muse bassist) #1 #2
Justin Chancellor (Tool)

* Please post more!

The Preamp



An ENGL Preamp (E530)



A Marshall Preamp (JMP-1)



A Mesa Preamp (Triaxis)


Quick Wiki definition - "In general, the function of a preamp is to amplify a low-level signal to line-level."

The preamp is one of the core components to any rack setup. The basic job of any preamp is to boost the signal to a level which the power amp can effeciently amplify. However, the preamp goes much further than this. The basics of your tone come from the preamp - from the EQ'ing of the signal, to the gain stages. A really good preamp is the heart of a rack system; a sub standard preamp will result in sub standard tone, regardless of other units in the system. No preamp = no tone.

The Power Amp




A Carvin Power Amp (TS100)



A Marshall Power Amp (EL34 50:50)



A Mesa Power Amp (2:90)


According to the Sci-Tech Encyclopedia - The final stage in multistage amplifiers, such as audio amplifiers and radio transmitters, designed to deliver appreciable power to the load.


As with the preamp, the power amp is another core component in any rack setup. It's basic job is to provide the muscle; to turn the fairly small signal from the preamp, into the sheer volume you expect from a tube powered amp. Not unaffecting of tone, some may be looking for the Marshall bite, or the rawness of a Mesa. Most can usually be run in stereo (through two cabs, or if a cab has the ability to run in stereo - minimum of two speakers), or be bridged to run in mono (one cab). No power amp = no volume.

The Power Conditioner



Numark Power Conditioner (RC-8)

Wiki definition - "A power conditioner (also known as a line conditioner or power line conditioner) is a device intended to improve the “quality” of the power (see power quality) that is delivered to electrical load equipment."

Here is where my understanding is a bit "lesser", if you will. Basically, you plug your power conditioner into the wall, and then all your rack units plug into the power conditioner itself (note the sockets on the reverse of the above image). The benefits of a power conditioner is that they are usually surge protected (saving your expensive rack system from electrical anomalies), they keep your rig tidy, and they often reduce/remove hum or other electrical noises that may intefer with your overall sound. A lot of them boast about featuring a voltage display on the front, but I'm yet to descover any real benefit from this. Anyone care to fill me in?
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Old 11-24-2008, 05:51 PM   #2
Mathamology
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MIDI Systems

Rack mount components:




A Rocktron MIDI system (PatchMate Loop 8)



A Voodoo Labs MIDI system (GCX)


Floor controllers:



A Rocktron MIDI Floor Control (Midi Mate)



A Voodoo Labs Floor Control (GCP)


Wiki definition - "MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is an industry-standard protocol that enables electronic musical instruments, computers, and other equipment to communicate, control, and synchronize with each other."


As I stated in the introduction, this is where things start to get interesting; at the heart of every really good rig will be an excellent MIDI system. A MIDI system allows almost limitless control over your rack; imagine being able to instantly go from a screaming lead channel, with a delay and reverb, to a clean channel with chorus and tremolo - all at at the press of a single switch. A MIDI controlled system easily has the potential to do this. Unless tap dancing is part of your act, MIDI becomes an extremely attractive addition to anyone's rig. It comes at a price though; remember, you're forking out not just for the rack MIDI, but also for the foot controller with which to utilise it. The possibilities of a MIDI system really can't be outlined in this paragraph, or by myself alone, so if anyone has anything interesting/important to add here, don't hesitate to post.

Other Components

There are a whole host of units out there that can become part of your rack system. Here is a listing of a few:

*If you have more to add, post in the thread

Rack Effects

There are a lot of rack effects out there, from delays that are tweakable to finest detail, to multi effects systems, such as the TC Electronic G Major. The main advantages over stomp box effects, is that they're often much more tweakable, are often available in stereo, and will more often than not be of a higher quality (not taking into account boutique stomp boxes). These can all, of course, be controlled via a MIDI system.

A word on stomp boxes in rack systems - there's no reason you can't use both stomp boxes and rack effects in your setup. With the use of a rack tray, you can stow away a few pedals into your rack setup and control them via MIDI, saving space and setup time at the start of a gig.

Rack EQ's

Rack EQ's are pretty much the same as a stomp EQ - but, as with most rack components, they are generally much more tweakable. Some offer a ridiculous amount of bands to play with (too many, in my opinion...), some have two seperate EQ sections which can be controlled via (you guessed it...) MIDI.

Tuners

Rack tuners are amongst the most accurate and visable tuners available. Not only are they practical and easy to use, they look pretty cool on your rig.

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Okay folks, that's all I have so far. Please, feel free to post corrections, or make contributions. I'd really like it if someone could write something for the following:

- Any other items for the "Other components" section (i.e. noise gates)
- How to set up a rack amp
- What to buy first
- Reccomended components
- Items to avoid
- Anything! Contribute away!

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Build your rack case:

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Originally Posted by SVStee
Here is some good info on building your own rack cases. Good stuff.

http://www.colomar.com/Shavano/rackcase.html


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Old 11-24-2008, 05:52 PM   #3
Mathamology
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Racks of UG!

This post is reserved for those UGers amongst us who run rack systems. Post your pictures in the thread and I'll pop them in here.

** Seeing as though there is a limit to the number of pictures allowed per post, I'm going to link each photo from now on **


Kayman121 - I II

deathsguitarist - I

Doodleface - I

Zachman5150 - I II III IV V Video

business - I

IbanezPsycho - I

Mark G - I II III

elision - I
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Old 11-24-2008, 06:03 PM   #4
metallicafan616
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Wow, ive just been looking for a thread like this!

when i have my whole gear fund sorted out im gonna buy a rack setup, i was thinking of possibly having it go guitar to ab box into two preamps; one for metal (probably an ENGL) and one for Shred (probably a JMP-1) then into one poweramp

what power amp would you suggest for MAB/Yngwie style shred and Children of Bodom to Necrophagist Metal? would it be better to bite the bullet for a lot longer and get two different power amps? they would preferably be 30-50 watts.

then i have the effects and stuff to purchase in the future, ill think about that when i get there
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Old 11-24-2008, 06:13 PM   #5
Mathamology
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^ Are the two style so far apart that they need two differnt power amps? Personally, I doubt you'd need to run two seperate power amps, just as long as the preamps do they job you want them too.

I don't know a lot about power amps, so my reccomendation probably doesn't hold much use, but look into the Carvin TS100 and the Mesa for the styles you listed.
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Old 11-24-2008, 06:26 PM   #6
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Great thread! I'm a rack newb and that was quite an informative read. Well done
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Old 11-24-2008, 07:18 PM   #7
Mathamology
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^ Thank you Glad it helped. I'm not much higher than a "newb", but I'm hoping I can generate some more experienced input, which we can all learn from

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Old 11-24-2008, 08:07 PM   #8
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Very informative thread. Thanks a lot.
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Old 11-25-2008, 04:46 AM   #9
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Sweet! I need this thread as I'm looking into a rack setup in the future once I get some $$$ together.

What would be a good power amp for grunge to psychedelic type stuff that won't cost the earth? I'll be using a Fender Blender for most of my distortion. I'd also want some advice on a preamp, although I'm planning to save whatever until I can find an afford a Bogner Fish preamp (I know they're sh*t rare).
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Old 11-25-2008, 11:48 AM   #10
Mathamology
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Quote:
Originally Posted by echo_4190
Very informative thread. Thanks a lot.


Thank you took me a while to write, glad you found it informative!

Quote:
Originally Posted by shadow__666
Sweet! I need this thread as I'm looking into a rack setup in the future once I get some $$$ together.

What would be a good power amp for grunge to psychedelic type stuff that won't cost the earth? I'll be using a Fender Blender for most of my distortion. I'd also want some advice on a preamp, although I'm planning to save whatever until I can find an afford a Bogner Fish preamp (I know they're sh*t rare).


Depends how much you consider the earth to be worth (budget!). Not too sure on 'which' power amp... to be honest, most of my research has gone into finding a preamp that suits my needs, and it's basically developed from there into this thread. My first suggestion would be to look into the Carvin.
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Old 11-25-2008, 12:03 PM   #11
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This thread makes me happy

I'm waiting for my new Vader cab to come in tomorrow so I can run my rack setup in stereo
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Old 11-25-2008, 12:06 PM   #12
Mathamology
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^ Woo! Post pics when it comes and I'll put them in the second/third post
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Old 11-25-2008, 12:39 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mathamology
^ Woo! Post pics when it comes and I'll put them in the second/third post



Will do
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Old 11-25-2008, 05:56 PM   #14
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My budget is about $1000AUD.
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Old 11-25-2008, 06:00 PM   #15
Mathamology
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^ Just for the power amp?
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Old 11-25-2008, 06:08 PM   #16
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Iron Maiden uses marshall preamps and poweramps if I'm not mistaken.

Underneath the pros of rack systems you should list some cons

They're typically more expensive
They can be complicated to set up
Suited for mainly live playing (IMO)
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Old 11-25-2008, 06:16 PM   #17
Mathamology
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^ Indeed they do, they use the JMP-1 and the EL34's. Yeah, could idea. I shall put that in.
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Old 11-25-2008, 06:29 PM   #18
metallicafan616
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kayman121, how is the ENGL 530 preamp, can you get shred tones allah Michael Angelo Batio with it? trying to figure which preamp to buy first
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Old 11-25-2008, 07:35 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by metallicafan616
kayman121, how is the ENGL 530 preamp, can you get shred tones allah Michael Angelo Batio with it? trying to figure which preamp to buy first


Most definitely. Shred is one thing where this amp shines at. Both lead and rhythm tones for high gain modern tones are to die for.
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Old 11-25-2008, 08:33 PM   #20
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^ How are the cleans? Should I look into a second preamp for my cleans?
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