Studio Diary #15: Revisiting Old Gear

I’m currently getting my home studio more organised, and along the way I’m sharing my thought process, decisions, discoveries and regrets.

One of the benefits of this autumn’s home studio mini-revamp is that it’s now pretty easy to use any piece of gear that I’ve currently got. I’ve been taking advantage of that, by revisiting old pieces of gear that didn’t get much use in the past.

Thanks to the cleaner cabling, I’m finally able to hear this gear at its very best. And – spoiler alert! – I’m rapidly falling in love with a couple of items that I never got on with first time around.

Morgan AC Module For Synergy Amps

In case you haven’t heard of either of these before …

Morgan are an American boutique amp company based out in California. They’re probably best known for their EL84-powered designs (although they do do other designs too).

Synergy are another American amp company based out in California. They make and sell a modular amp system, based around all-tube preamps that are recreations of classic circuits.

One of those all-tube preamps is the Morgan AC module.

I originally bought a Morgan AC module to pair with the red channel of the T-DLX module to be a stereo pedal platform. The T-DLX’s red channel has that classic mid-scooped blackface clean tone, and the AC module fills in those missing mids in a very nice way.

Back then, I didn’t really get on with the Morgan AC module on its own. My memory of it was that it lacked both bass and treble, and just didn’t sound good without the T-DLX to balance it out.

A few weeks ago, for #CoffeeAndKlon, I ran the JRAD Animal into all of my amps. Amongst them was the Vox Mini Superbeetle. Truth is, it’s not an amp that I use very much, and I’ve mostly got it for completeness. I liked what I heard – and I liked it a lot. And, later that evening, I dug out the Morgan AC module and gave it another shot.

The Morgan AC module hasn’t been out of my Synergy rig since. So what’s changed? I think I have.

Sure, as part of the revamp, I put everything into a rack and put a lot of time into getting everything wired up as well as I could. Compared to last year, the signal path is as clean as it’s likely to get. That’s probably making a difference.

The biggest difference though is how I’m approaching it. As I’m writing this, I’m playing my Tele into it – because it suits the amp the best – and I’m adjusting the amp’s EQ to suit the guitar. Last year, I would never have done either of those.

I’m still learning to appreciate it, and I’m still figuring out where I’d want to use that sound. And that’s one of the reasons why I explore gear so much. I love exploring what’s out there, and what I can get out of it.

And I love how that changes me.

Synergy T-DLX Green Channel

When I bought my Synergy rig, two modules came home with me: the Metropoulos Metro Plex, and the Synergy T-DLX. The Metro Plex came home because it sounded just too damn good, and the T-DLX because it gave me that Fender Deluxe Reverb sound on its red channel.

Let’s rewind a little bit more. Back in 2017, my local guitar store AStrings.co.uk had gotten in a DRRI: a Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue. I fell in love with that amp very quickly. I loved testing pedals through it, and when Andrew and his crew put on an evening event, this was the amp that they cranked a bit for those shows and demos. Some gear just has more mojo than others, and that particular DRRI definitely brought the mojo.

Back then, my main amp was the Blackstar HT-100 head (RIP). The Marshall Origin and Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 hadn’t been released yet. The HT-100’s high headroom made it a great pedal platform. In my opinion, at the time, it was pretty much the only affordable pedal platform valve amp around. (Oh how times have changed!)

Hearing the same pedal through that DRRI and through my HT-100 changed my perspective forever. I’m not over-exaggerating. The DRRI made my Friedman Dirty Shirley come to life in a way that the HT-100 just never did.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the space for a large combo like the DRRI. I still don’t today. No matter how much I loved that amp, it just wasn’t for me. And that sent me on a search that – via the huge disappointment of the Kemper – ended up with the newly released Synergy modular amp system.

Synergy’s T-DLX module has two channels: green and red. The red channel gives me that Fender DRRI / blackface clean tone that so many pedals are voiced for. And that green channel? I assumed the ‘T’ stood for ‘Tweed’, and I never gave it much thought. I had the amp that I wanted. I was happy.

Second half of this year, though, I’ve been honing in on ‘my’ sound. It appears to be an overdriven Fender Tweed kind of sound. At least, that’s what the gear I’ve been settling on is aimed at emulating. I’ve never played through a Fender Tweed amp myself.

That’s when I remembered the green channel of the Synergy T-DLX module. Isn’t that supposed to be a Fender Tweed circuit? Wouldn’t it be great to try that out, and compare it with my favourite pedals? There’s a good chance I’ll prefer the cranked amp to what a pedal can do, if my plexi experiences are anything to go by.

I should have read the manual more carefully. That ‘T’ in the T-DLX? It doesn’t stand for Tweed. The green channel of the T-DLX is a Fender Twin circuit. And OMG, if it isn’t perhaps the greatest pedal platform of all time.

Seriously. For (almost) the last two years, I’ve had perhaps the most perfect pedal platform amp going, and didn’t realise it. As good as the blackface-style cleans of the red channel are, it can’t compete with the warmth and fatness of the green channel.

Since I learned what the green channel is, nothing else has gotten a look-in. For clean Strat tones, I still prefer the red channel – the blackface / DRRI-style cleans. For most drive tones – especially from the pedals that give me ‘my’ sound – the green channel gives me exactly the sound I’ve been after.

Having both in the same Synergy module is really handy.

Most American-designed boutique pedals seem to be voiced for Fender amps. It makes sense. Many of those pedal designers would have grown up playing through old Fender amps, and

Between the Twin and the Deluxe, I’ve got two of the main Fender-style clean sounds to try pedals with. It’s going to take a while to go through my pedal shelf and A/B test each pedal through both channels.

Good job Christmas is almost here, eh?

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