Studio Diary #47: Dialling In The 57 Vintage Amp & Cab

‘Studio Diary’ is an occasional series where I talk about building a home recording setup for hobbyists and enthusiasts like us. I share my personal experiences, and the thinking behind some of the decisions that I’ve made along the way.

Fractal Audio have recently overhauled their amp modelling in the Axe-FX 3 / FM-9 / FM-3. And my recent dive into the Orange Getaway Driver has shown me that I need to revoice my signal chain. I’m taking this as an opportunity to re-evaluate everything about the pedal preset I’ve built for the Axe-FX 3.

Over-arching decisions have been made. So without further delay, let’s get into the heart of the pedal platform patch: the amp and cab emulations. And I’m going to start with the tones that are dearest to my heart: a vintage-voiced platform for my tweed-tone pedals.

Series Tracker

This is the sixth post in this series.

You can see the full list of these blog posts over on the dedicated FW 25 Pedal Platform Preset page.

Table of Contents

An Upfront Caveat

In this blog post, I’m going to mention some extra EQ tools to help with dialling in support for multiple guitars. At the time of writing, I haven’t blogged about these EQ tools yet. Once I have, I’ll link to them from here.

Requirements – A Preset For Tweed-Tone Pedals

I’m using the MoSCoW system for ranking requirements:

  1. Must have
  2. Should have
  3. Could have
  4. Want


As these are specialist scenes, I don’t have many hard and fast requirements.

  1. I need a vintage-voiced amp and cab combination to use with my tweed-tone pedals.
  2. I need this preset to support the three types of guitar voicing that I identified earlier.

Requirements Discussion

A Specialist Scene

I don’t need these scenes to work with any other type of pedal, such as Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB for short) pedals.

I’ll create other scenes inside this preset for that.

More Flexible Than A Real Tweed Deluxe

My real Tweed Deluxe amp doesn’t really get on with a lot of guitars. It sounds fantastic with a Nocaster / Blackguard-style Tele bridge pickup, for sure. The more I move away from that, though, the less I like the results.

(This is probably the main reason why I’d recommend the Cornell Romany 12 Reverb over Fender’s 57 Custom Deluxe reissue if you want a real tweed amp of your own. Or something based on a Bassman if you want a do-it-all kind of tweed amp.)

Thankfully, many of the tweed-tone pedals I’ve tried do produce great tones with a wide variety of guitar styles.

However, very few of my tweed-tone pedals include a powerful EQ section, which makes it tricky to dial them in for every guitar. Some guitars do benefit from a bit of EQ between the guitar and the pedal. They also sound better if I tweak the speaker cab tone afterwards too.

Choosing The Amp & Cab

An Amp That Doesn’t Get In The Way

I’m not going to build this preset around the sound of a clean 50’s guitar amp. I’ve tried that off-camera (so to speak), and didn’t like the results.

The reason it failed is that, in my experience, tweed-tone pedals aren’t voiced to go into clean 50’s guitar amps. They seem to be designed to make a typical 1965-ish Fender blackface amp sound like a 50’s tweed amp.

Except they’re not, at the same time. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

My go-to amp model for Fender blackface clean tones is the Princeton Reverb. I just love the sound, and find it incredibly easy to work with. So I’m going with that.

Era-Correct Speakers Make A Huge Difference

I think that speaker choice is a big part of the tweed sound. The Jensen speakers in those old 50’s tweed amps sound quite different to the speakers of today.

However, it’s not as simple as just loading up the 1×12 Deluxe Tweed cab and being done with it. That would be too easy.

I’ve done some experiments with different DynaCab models before sitting down to write. From those, I’ve concluded that some tweed-tone pedals work best with speakers from tweed amps, and some tweed-tone pedals work best with speakers from blackface amps.

I’m going to need both options.

Dialling In The Amp

Choosing An Initial Amp Setup

From what I’ve read, the real Princeton Reverb basically has two sweet spots for running it with pedals.

  • You either go Bass around 4 and Treble above 6,
  • or you go both Bass and Treble above 6 (to act as a mid-scoop).

I’ve tried both, and discovered that it really does depend on which pedal I’m using it with. I’m going to have to get used to tweaking the amp settings when I switch pedals.

In the end, I’ve gone with both Bass and Treble above 6. I had to go with something, and perhaps it’s just my brain being weird, but I found myself more willing to turn the Bass down than to turn it up 🤷‍♂️

The basic tone settings for my 57 Vintage pedal platform preset.

Going Beyond The Real Amp

In the Axe-FX 3, we’re not limited to just the controls on the real amp. We can go under the hood – so to speak – and tweak all sorts of typical amp knobs that don’t exist on the real amp.

I’ve done exactly that:

The ideal amp settings page for my 57 Vintage pedal platform preset.

Let’s talk about a couple of key settings on here.

What To Do With The Mids?

I mentioned earlier that some pedals sound better when the Bass control is at 6 or above, and some sound better when the Bass control is down around 4.

Turns out that the same is true for the Mids control – but it’s also more guitar-dependant than the Bass control (the joys of playing a Les Paul I guess).

When switching pedals, I’ve found myself often moving the Mid between 4 and 6. I like starting with the Mids at 4 so that the pedal’s going into more of that blackface mid-scooped sound. Then I’ll switch the Mids up to 6 to see whether or not that’s too much.

Low-End Resonance

One thing I look for from my tweed-tones is a solid low-mids foundation. Yes, vintage tones need to have a lot of their energy in the upper-mids, but I don’t want the tone to be all-mids.

For my tweed-tone pedals, that low-mids foundation is largely controlled by the Depth control. I’ve found what I think is a sweet spot, and gone with that.

The One Big Tweak That I’ve Made

With the amp settings above – and the speaker cab settings below – I’m very happy with the tones I can get out of my tweed-tone pedals. But it doesn’t feel quite right to play without one additional tweak.

“Feel” is such a difficult thing to describe. The best I can come up with is that it doesn’t feel as immediate as my real Tweed Deluxe amp does. The Princeton Reverb has a more laid-back feel.

I don’t understand why this works – or whether it’s just all in my head – but I’ve fixed this by swapping the power amp tubes over to EL34s.

Power tube settings for my 57 Vintage pedal platform preset.

Output EQ To Add Final Polish

This is probably me correcting for how my room sounds?

I’ve added a small EQ cut at 250 Hz to take away a little bit of boxiness from the final tone.

Output EQ settings for my 57 Vintage pedal platform preset.

Dialling In The Virtual Speaker Cabs

I’m using three different speaker cab settings, one for each kind of guitar that I want to support.

For Most Guitars

I’ve gone with the classic SM57 & R121 mic combination on a 1×12 Tweed Deluxe cab & speaker.

DynaCab choices and mic positions that suit most guitars.

I’ve also added in a little bit of a 4×10 Bassman cab, mic’d with a condenser mic, just to add a little bit more detail in the mid-range.

Rather than set a global Low Cut in the Preamp section, I’ve gone with per-mic low cuts instead. I found that the virtual Ribbon mic needed more of a cut than the virtual SM57 and condenser mics did.

DynaCab low-cut settings that suit most guitars.

For Darker Sounding Guitars

Here, I’ve mostly pulled the virtual mics further away, to reduce the amount of low-end that they’re picking up.

DynaCab choices and mic positions that suit darker-voiced guitars.

This had a noticeable affect on the mid-range detail, so I’ve increased amount of 4×10 Bassman cab in the mix, while darkening it a little so that it’s not overloading the upper-mid frequencies.

I’m using exactly the same low cuts that I did for the ‘Most Guitars’ setting.

For Brighter Sounding Guitars

Here, I’ve mostly got the same settings that I used for darker-sounding guitars.

The one big difference is that I’ve pulled the SM57 back quite a bit, to stop the top-end on my Strat bridge pickup from sounding sharp and fatiguing.

DynaCab choices and mic positions that suit brighter guitars.

I’m using exactly the same low cuts that I did for the ‘Most Guitars’ setting.

Other Notes

Max IR Length Is Too CPU Expensive For Me

On the DynaCabs, I’ve had to set the ‘IR Length’ parameter to 1024.

I honestly can’t hear a difference between the 1024 and Max settings. But there is a noticeable CPU difference. The 1024 setting saves me about 7% of CPU, which is quite a lot.

Mis-Aligning The IRs To Smooth Out The Top End

This is another trick I’ve copied from Leon Todd.

I’ve put the three virtual speakers to be slightly out of phase. This has the effect of smoothing out the top-end of the tone just a little bit.

Align settings in the Cab block.

How I Auditioned These Settings

I basically used one pedal with four guitars, and then double-checked the results using a couple of additional pedals.

Scene NamePedals UsedGuitars Used
57 4 Most GuitarsMad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD)

Mythos Lark

DanDrive Tweedy 5B3
Gibson Les Paul (middle position)

Fender Telecaster (bridge position)
57 4 DarkerMad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD)Fender Telecaster (middle position)

Fender Telecaster (neck humbucker)

PRS Paul’s Guitar (middle position)
57 4 BrighterMad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD)PRS Silver Sky (bridge position)
Test scenarios for the three 57 Vintage scenes.

Regular readers will not be surprised that I did most of my initial testing with my beloved Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short). It’s my #1 tweed-tone pedal after all!

However, I also wanted to make sure that my amp and cab settings worked just as well with other tweed-tone pedals too. Here, I went with the Mythos Lark because it’s a pedal that needs my rig to be much brighter-voiced than it has been in the past. And then finally I threw in the DanDrive Tweedy 5B3 because it’s the drive pedal that gets closest to the sound of my 5e3 Tweed Deluxe amp.

When it comes to guitars, I voiced the preset around the middle position on my Les Paul. That’s what I use most of the time, and I find it’s a good middle ground.

The ‘4 Darker’ scene is specifically built for two guitars: my Fender Postmodern Telecaster and my PRS Paul’s Guitar. Both of these put out a lot of low-end in the middle position, and neither work well through the ‘4 Most Guitars’ scene. I think this scene also suits neck humbuckers in general, but that’s a happy accident rather than a deliberate goal.

Finally, the ‘4 Brighter’ scene is built for the brightest guitar pickup combination I have: the bridge pickup of a Stratocaster (or, in this case, my PRS Silver Sky).

Final Thoughts

My new ’57 Vintage’ preset is really just an evolution of the pedal platform that I’ve been using for the first half of 2024. The speaker cab is the only part of the preset that’s changed much – but those changes have made a huge difference.

Now I just need to find the time to go back and revisit all the tweed-tone pedals in my collection!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.