Studio Diary #49: The 65 Clean Speaker Toolkit

‘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.

In the last blog post, I went through the amp & cab settings for my 65 Clean pedal platform preset. We’re not quite done with that preset yet though. You see, while testing it, I realised that I needed even more speaker choices …

Series Tracker

This is the eighth blog 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

Why Do We Need More Speakers?

My 65 Clean pedal platform preset chases the classic Fender “blackface” sound (or, at least, it chases my best understanding of it …!). I’ve built that preset as my general purpose should-work-with-most-pedals preset.

So why do I need more speaker options for the 65 Clean preset? And what are speaker options anyway?

Additional Presets For The Cab Block

When I refer to ‘speaker options’, I’m talking about loading different pre-configured settings into the Cab block of the preset.

Fractal Audio have this concept of the ‘block library’. Instead of saving whole presets at a time, we can save the settings from individual blocks too; these go into the ‘block library’.

Then, when we want to quickly load those settings back into a (possibly new) preset, it’s just a couple of clicks to do so.

The block library in action in Axe-Edit 3.

Why Do I Need More Speaker Presets?

The main things driving this need are Marshall-in-a-box (MIAB for short) pedals.

Broadly speaking, MIAB pedals fall into three main categories:

  • pedals that chase the sound of a JTM 45 amp,
  • pedals that chase the iconic plexi-era sound (50w Marshall Super Lead et al),
  • and pedals that chase the classic 80’s hair metal sound (JCM 800).

There are pedals out there that chase other Marshall tones too. The principles that I’m about to discuss apply to them as well.

When I was building the 65 Clean preset, I did use some MIAB pedals for my testing. They all sounded good through the DRRI-type speakers that I’ve chosen for the 65 Clean preset.

They sounded even better when I paired them with era-correct speakers.

Speakers play a huge role in how our signal chains sound. If I pair MIAB pedals with the same kind of speakers that the real amp would have used, it helps me get a little closer to the tone of that real amp.

The other thing driving this is the modding community.

Not everyone gets on with the stock speakers that Fender uses in their combo amps. Most major guitar speaker manufacturers make alternative speakers for Fender combo amps. And it’s such an easy – and reversible! – mod to do too.

So why not get in on the fun, and add a few alternative speaker choices to the block library too? The 1×12 DynaCab choices are a bit limited in the Axe-FX 3, but I’m sure I can dial up some extra block library presets to give me more options.

And regular readers will be well aware that I love having more options.

Introducing The 65 Clean Speaker Toolkit

Here’s a brief description of each of the block library presets that make up my 65 Clean Speaker Toolkit.

Each block library preset uses 1×12 cabs wherever possible. (Want to know why?)

Block Library Presets For Marshall Amps

So far, I’ve only needed two block library presets to cover a wide range of MIAB pedals.

  • 65 Clean – G12M Blue: a pair of virtual speakers for JTM-style MIAB pedals. I use the real speakers together at home with my Marshall Origin 20 amp head.
  • 65 Clean – G12H V30: a pair of speakers for plexi-tone MIAB pedals. Based on the speaker choices that Friedman use in their 4×12 cabs. Should work well with JCM 800 MIAB pedals too.

Block Library Presets For Fender Modding

These presets try to stay true to the Fender sound, while offering an alternative to the classic DRRI tone.

  • 65 Clean – Hot Rod: a more aggressive-sounding setting, which reminds me a bit of a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe (I’m sure it actually sounds nothing like that amp!)
  • 65 Clean – Detailed: quite similar to the DRRI sound, just with a clearer top-end.

Misc Block Library Presets

Finally, I’ve built these additional presets just to give me some extra options.

  • 65 Clean – Mellow: a smoother-sounding setting, perfect for taming pedals that are a bit too aggressive.

How To Use The 65 Clean Speaker Toolkit

Load The Block Library Presets Into Channel D

Scenes 1-3 in the 65 Clean preset use Cab block channels A-C respectively. That leaves channel D in the Cab block free for you to load in these block library presets as and when you feel the need.

Too Much Bass? Go In And Mute The Virtual Ribbon Mic

Some of these block library presets use a virtual ribbon mic to fill out the low-end of the signal.

If you’re getting too much low-end, try muting the virtual ribbon mic in the Cab block. That normally does the trick!

Final Thoughts

It would be incredibly impractical to do this at home using physical speakers. I own four 1×12 cabs, and I simply don’t have the space for any more – nor for a collection of additional speakers to swap in and out of those cabs.

This is one area where digital modelling doesn’t just make things more convenient: it makes it possible when it otherwise wouldn’t be.

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