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#1
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?
Last edited by Mathamology at Dec 4, 2008,
#2
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.

__________________

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!

__________________

Build your rack case:

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

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


__________________

Last edited by Mathamology at Dec 4, 2008,
#3
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
Last edited by Mathamology at Jan 14, 2010,
#4
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

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost
#5
^ 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.
#6
Great thread! I'm a rack newb and that was quite an informative read. Well done
HOWAYA LUV ;D



BUGERA USERS MILITIA
#8
Very informative thread. Thanks a lot.
I'm Joel. I play guitar. I am a student. I look at the cost of tuition, not in a dollar value, but in the guitars I'm sacrificing now, to be able to buy later.
#9
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).
Quote by Cathbard
If all you had to go on was the forum you'd think a Decimator could cure noise caused by dodgey stage lighting and restock the ocean's population of sperm whales
Last edited by shadow__666 at Nov 25, 2008,
#10
Quote by echo_4190
Very informative thread. Thanks a lot.


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

Quote 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.
#11
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
Baron K2 SE 120
MILLS 4x12 Afterburner
Eventide TimeFactor Delays
ISP Pro Rack G Noise Suppressor
BKP Warpig pickups
#13
Quote by Mathamology
^ Woo! Post pics when it comes and I'll put them in the second/third post



Will do
Baron K2 SE 120
MILLS 4x12 Afterburner
Eventide TimeFactor Delays
ISP Pro Rack G Noise Suppressor
BKP Warpig pickups
#14
My budget is about $1000AUD.
Quote by Cathbard
If all you had to go on was the forum you'd think a Decimator could cure noise caused by dodgey stage lighting and restock the ocean's population of sperm whales
#16
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)
I don't give a shit if you listen to me or not
#18
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

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost
#19
Quote 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.
Baron K2 SE 120
MILLS 4x12 Afterburner
Eventide TimeFactor Delays
ISP Pro Rack G Noise Suppressor
BKP Warpig pickups
#21
Nice thread, I know very little about rack setups, doesn't mean I wouldn't like one, but the costs can very quickly add up. After my next amp maybe I'll try one.

Can you combine preamps and rack mount EQs, FX etc with standard heads? I would assume preamps etc have their own output which needs to be matched with the output of the power amp?
^Note: Probably sarcastic
Gear
Schecter Blackjack C1-FR
Few Agile 8-strings
Ormsby Hypemachine 2014 otw!!

Carvin X-100B
axe-fx II

W.A musicians FTW
Quote by crisisinheaven
Deep*Kick. You have destroyed every concept of life I've ever had.
#22
Quote by Mathamology
^ How are the cleans? Should I look into a second preamp for my cleans?



Very clear and glassy.
Baron K2 SE 120
MILLS 4x12 Afterburner
Eventide TimeFactor Delays
ISP Pro Rack G Noise Suppressor
BKP Warpig pickups
#23
Quote by Mathamology
^ Just for the power amp?

Yeah, I'm not gonna have a rack steup until I can find a Fish which could take a few years.
Quote by Cathbard
If all you had to go on was the forum you'd think a Decimator could cure noise caused by dodgey stage lighting and restock the ocean's population of sperm whales
#24
Quote by Deep*Kick
Nice thread, I know very little about rack setups, doesn't mean I wouldn't like one, but the costs can very quickly add up. After my next amp maybe I'll try one.

Can you combine preamps and rack mount EQs, FX etc with standard heads? I would assume preamps etc have their own output which needs to be matched with the output of the power amp?


Thank you Yeah, cost is a major really, but I figure it's worth it if you're serious about what you're doing.

I'm sure there is a way to do such things (perhaps not with all kinds of heads), but I have no idea how. I think it depends on the head itself, but you'll have to ask someone else for a definitive answer.

Quote by kayman121
Very clear and glassy.


Excellent...

Quote by shadow__666
Yeah, I'm not gonna have a rack steup until I can find a Fish which could take a few years.


Okay, fair enough. Mine is going to take a while to construct too. Good luck finding the preamp!
#27
so kayman121, im guessing it would be the perfect rack preamp for me, how much does it cost in uk? if the lead sound is similar to Michael Angelo Batio's tone then its first on my list of things to get

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost
#28
There should be companies that gather up the right equipment and set it up to work all by midi. You could just say.... 'i have £10,000 and want to sound like malmsteen, get on it!'

Wouldnt be so fun tho
#31
Quote by metallicafan616
so kayman121, im guessing it would be the perfect rack preamp for me, how much does it cost in uk? if the lead sound is similar to Michael Angelo Batio's tone then its first on my list of things to get



They are 477 euro on thomann.de. they are centered in germany btw.

here are some new pics of my rig in stereo


Baron K2 SE 120
MILLS 4x12 Afterburner
Eventide TimeFactor Delays
ISP Pro Rack G Noise Suppressor
BKP Warpig pickups
#33
That is sexy.

I wish I had the money for a rack system, but I don't play huge gigs yet where I need to be hauling around a flight case and a 4x12 or anything
Quote by H4T3BR33D3R
Way to show everybody up jackass.

Guitar: _______________ Amp:
_ Ibanez SZ320 _________Fender Hot Rod Deluxe

V-Picks!
#34
that is sexy kayman! can see what you mean by tone freak, cant wait to get some rack stuff

are there really low wattage valve power amps btw? like 5 - 30 watts? I'll probably need something quiet-ish for home practice, although i wouldn't mind using the little SS poweramp built into the ENGL if its decent.

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost
#36
yeh, but i dont want a tone that everyone has with a standard head+cab/combo setup, and i will probably get acoustic foam to make it quieter too

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost
#37
Give a look at a mesa 20/20 power amp. not in production anymore, might be able to find one cheap on ebay
Baron K2 SE 120
MILLS 4x12 Afterburner
Eventide TimeFactor Delays
ISP Pro Rack G Noise Suppressor
BKP Warpig pickups
#38
theres a marshall 20/20 thats in production, i'll look at that aswell then!

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost
#39
Man I wouldn't waste my time putting together a rack for 10 watts. I've heard some damn good rack setups but I prefer to use the head. The head I have the pre amp and power amp right there in the same thing. I can't mix and match but... I have perfect tone anyway. but I do have rack gear. Just not the amp. The power conditioner I have keeps the current the same so you don't get to much popping in your tube amp.
#40
Just to bear in mind the 20 watt power amps will all be EL84 powered which in my experience is no bad thing as I love the tone of the Engl through my EL84 powered Atomic but it can sound abit vintagey for a modern amp depending on the eq on the engl. The Preamp does sound more aggressive through EL34s like in my Marshall which you will find in the 50 and 100 watt power amps.
ESP M-1 - Dimarzio Super3
Ibanez RG3270 ToneZone/Blue Velvet/Paf Pro
Ibanez RG1527
PRS CE22
Mercer Blackmachine Replica

Diezel Herbert
Diezel Einstein Combo
TC GMajor

Gain Wh0re and Diezel Mafioso