In the past year since my last rig rundown, I have changed things up a good amount.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I have made the jump from analog to digital amps and haven’t looked back. I also bought a guitar that I can’t put down and helps me get the sounds I’m looking for.
We all have different preferences, and not all things work for every player. I want to walk you through some of these changes, discuss how I dial things in and explain why they work for me. Hopefully, this will spark some creative ideas you haven’t thought of and encourage you to pursue a path of your own.
Lately, I have gotten rather tired of the “tone hunt” and marketing hype of the countless amps, pedals, and guitars on the market (many of which are clones with fresh branding). There is so much mystical mojo put into guitar tone, and the wave of influencer-culture tends to create some false expectations on what you “need” to sound good in “worship”.
The realities are:
- A great player with not-so-cool gear will still sound great and a mediocre player with all the hype gear will sound mediocre.
- “Worship gear” isn’t a thing. If Keith Urban can blow everyone away with a Strat in country music (as seen here…) you can use whatever guitar for worship music.
- What works for me, or any other person, may not work for you.
I just want to use gear that I like and I want you to use the gear you like. If a company hooks me up, which they have and I’m very thankful for it, I use their stuff because I believe in it. There are companies that have helped me that I don’t use anymore because I couldn’t make peace with their quality. Everything I mention today I have purchased out of my own pocket. With that said, let’s check it out:
Fractal Amp and Cabs
Last summer I switched to a Fractal AX8. I don’t think I’ve plugged into a real amp since (besides the Masterclass videos). I have even sold a couple of my favorite amps. I’ve used the AX8 on a number of records and haven’t ever wished I had a different setup. If you’re hesitant to try a digital setup I encourage you to check out this video and other blind tests on the internet.
For the amp block, I have experimented with many different models and continue to do so. To me, the hundreds of options you have are some of the more fun aspects of having a Fractal. For the most part, I have used the silver and blackface Twin Reverbs, and I am now loving the 5F8 tweed Twin.
The silver and blackface models with their paired cabs are going to be a bit cleaner and brighter, which I like for some tones, but I like that the 5F8 with its cab doesn’t really ever get harsh. The great thing is that I can flip back and forth between any amp by hitting a switch.
Regarding the cab block, I have found that this is one of the most vital aspects of getting the tone you hear in your head (just as they are for real amps). I purchased some Fractal as well as OwnHammer Deluxe Reverb cab IR’s. I personally loved all the OH ones for the most part. For the 5F8 I’m trying out the Fractal 2×12 Double Amp cab on the left and the Deluxe Reverb 57a cab on the right.
I also want to note that I have an EQ positioned after the cab that high passes frequencies to 100 Hz or so and has a narrow cut around 2.5k to get rid of harsh resonance.
I’m running some pedals outside of the AX8, to save CPU power and because I know those pedals very well. The biggest downside to the AX8 (versus the rack) is that you can max out its processing power easily. I have the pedals powered by a Voodoo Lab 4×4 underneath. Fractal and AX8 are powered with an IEC splitter cable.
In signal order:
Sonic Research Turbo Tuner Mini – Still my favorite tuner, and as far as I know, the most accurate one you can get. Small, great for setting intonation on guitars, super fast when you get used to it – can’t lose.
Diamond Comp JR – Still my favorite pedal compressor. It doesn’t compress as hard as other comps (optical and lower ratio) so the noise floor is great and it’s rather transparent. You can still crank the compression and get a great clean poppy sound if you want it.
Electro Harmonix POG2 – Industry standard, great tracking, and flexible controls. I started running this up front just for a bit more accurate tracking. I mainly use it for a bit of octave down added in, but I have a short synth swell sound (i.e. Kari’s In The Name of Love cover) and a low passed 1 + 2 octaves up with no dry signal settings that are fun to mess with. I may swap this pedal out for an HX Stomp (as a rig backup) in the future…we’ll see…
Maxon OD820 – Still my favorite Tube Screamer variation I’ve used for years. They’re cheap, so it doesn’t hurt to try one. TS’s roll of the low end and high end a bit to make it sound more midrange-focused. I find that it’s best to put them up front in the chain to tighten things up.
Bondi Breakers – I loved the EQ and brilliance of the Del Mar so I figured I’d try one of these. I really just like the flexibility of being able to control the low-end with these pedals. Most overdrives seem to just have a treble control. They’re also less compressed if you switch them to the downward setting. I kind of want to do a blind test with a Del Mar now that they’re selling for thousands of dollars.
Empress Reverb (In stereo effects loop) – Reverb uses the most CPU power. It was a no brainer to still incorporate this pedal. I use so many of its sounds and am always exploring new settings.
I’ve been really digging the blue spring setting with short decay and a higher mix for a classic but fresh vibe. Lately, I’ve tried to not use any delay at all and mess with reverb for added character. Delay-heavy parts are very traditional in sound and the parts I’m inspired by lately don’t have a lot going on in that area.
Bright Light – Helps you see set lists and not trip over cables. Dope.
The AX8 has 8 different footswitches for controlling effects and settings. Each one has an X and a Y mode (enabled by holding down the switch). Overall, it’s a flexible setup that I never get bored with. There are always new sounds and features to explore.
All delays and reverbs are in stereo and sit around my guitar signal, which is more centered. This actually creates a rather studio-like sound, which gives a clean in-ear mix as well.
1X – Standard 8th note (lower mix and few repeats) – I try to use this when I don’t want to be too washy.
1Y – Really heavy triplet delay (Check out Interpol’s “Untitled”)
2X – Medium 8th note delay – I’ll use this for bigger lead stuff. I’ll double tap this and 1X for 16th notes also.
2X – Heavy 8th note delay – This is when I want to hear the repeats on very select parts.
3X – Dual delay (1/4 and a dotted) – I only use this if a producer or artist absolutely wants this sound.
3Y – Dual delay (very loud and long pattern with 4 different rates, pans all over) – I use this with a lot of palm muting stuff in flow moments for texture. Always trying to find unique sounds that aren’t swelling. I probably got inspired doing stuff like that by Thrice’s “Night Diving”.
4X – Vibrato (fast rate) – Love this setting. Gives parts some extra edge when needed.
4Y – Chorus (CE-2 setting) – Haven’t used this a whole lot lately, but it’s cool on some low-string verbed out stuff
5X – Pitch shift (octave down blended w/ dry) – I haven’t used this much since I added in the POG
5Y – Pitch shift (100% wet octave up w/ Whammy functionality w/ expression) – I’ll roll my tone off on my guitar and use this with reverse reverbs for some vocal chop-like effects.
6X – Rotary (fast rate) – I’ll use this with lots of other effects for some alternate vibes. Great by itself for some pop-like parts.
6Y – Rotary (slow rate)
7X – Formant filter – This is essentially a resonant midrange-focused filter (Check out “My Thoughts on You” by The Band Camino)
7Y – Not used
8X – Enhancer – This is a stereo image spreader that can give a feel similar to running stereo amps. A lot of spreaders sound rather modulated or lopsided (how I felt about Kemper’s), but Fractal’s is very transparent. I will sometimes turn it off to add some clarity to my ear mix and keep my guitar more up the middle.
8Y – Not used
Notes: For the main delays I think I’m using the BBD and Tape settings. The reason is that it makes the stereo repeats a little off time with each other, which gives a wide organic sound. I have them filtered a bit darker than normal. I use delay more for space and sustain than a bright rhythmic effect most of the time.
I have several different guitars I’ll use, which I have mentioned in my last rundown, but this last year I’ve mainly been using a Music Man Valentine Tremolo that I bought. The playability and intonation are incredible. It’s a very well-made guitar and appropriately priced. The pickup flexibility and silent circuit make it invaluable to me. I can get most tones that I want out of this guitar. When I found it was based on a 335 and a Tele I was pretty sold.
For darker tones, or just to change things up, I have been using my Gibson ES-355 VOS a lot. It’s a great alternate option and has so much warmth.
That’s really it. Clean and simple. Loading in and out and traveling has been stress-free. I have consistency and reliability with endless flexibility. If you have any questions feel free to hit me up on Instagram at @jordanholt_ or comment below.
You may also be interested in these posts!
- How to Get the Most Out of Any Guitar
- Worship Guitar Tone Master Class
- 8 Tips for Better Band Dynamics for Your Worship Team
- Talking Creativity and Gear with Brian Carl from Passion
- Guitar Rig Rundown: Pedals & Gear