How best to use Pre-amps in Hong Kong

Guitarists always have this problem in Hong Kong. Most of us live in small cubicles and you invariably annoy family members and neighbours alike when you practise. But if you turn down the volume on your guitar amp you cannot hear enough and you just don't get enough of the feel of the music. When you find a comfortable volume so you can hear all richness of the overdrive sound you find you are annoying people. Headphones drums your ear drums constantly, by the time you have learnt all the solo runs and difficult chord changes you would most probably be deaf by then. To me the answer is this : don't use guitar amps, use pre-amps. Let me introduce two really good pre-amps.

Marshall JMP-1

This is really a fantasic pre-amp for overdrive sound. The tone is rich and thick. The EQ section is sensitive and you can a great overdrive sound from Blues to Metal to Tresh Metal. If you cannot find your favourite overdrive sound on this pre-amp, you probably have to go shopping in the music shops on Mars or Jupitar. The pre-amp has a bass shift button and is programmable. It has two overdrive channels (OD 1 and OD 2) and two clean channels (Clean 1 and Clean 2). There is a speaker simulator output at the back and it really works wonders. You have to listen very carefully in recordings to be able to tell the difference between the sounds from a guitar amp and the sounds coming from a JMP-1 going straight in the mixing desk. As with most Marshall amps, the clean channels are not all that good, they sound a little weak and lack that pristine cleariness. For a clean sound, try the Mesa Boogie Formula Pro.

Mesa Boogie Formula Pro

The Mesa Boogie Formul Pro pre-am is a bit like the Mark IV pre-amp. It has a graphic EQ section and two individual channels. Each channel has its own Gain, Treble, Middle, Bass and Master knobs. The graphic EQ is sensitive to the extreme. I am sure you can get any kind of sound you want out of this pre-map. But as with the Mark IV, you probably need a degree in sound engineering. Having said that, if you stay simple and use only the clean channel, you will be pleased with sound. If you plug in a Fender (which I hate) you can hear all the pins and needles of a chord and single notes just ring like bells. On top of the Formula Pro in this picture is the Yamaha SPX900. If you don't know what this is, there is something wrong with you. Go and see a guitar doctor immediately.

The solution

The solution is to by-pass the amplifier stage of the gutiar amp, simply do away with the gutiar amp. What you need is a small mixing desk. Hook your CD player or MD player or drum machine to two or more channels of the mixing desk, hook up the outputs of your guitar pre-amps to your mixing desk and connect a reverb effector, say a Yamaha SPX900, to the mixing desk. After you have done that, simply connect the output of the mixing desk to your hi-fi amp. The guitar sound will come out through your hi-fi speakers and you can control the volume of the guitar sound without losing the richness and quality of the tone. It really works. It works to my ear anyway. This is one way to get round the physical restrictions in which most guitarist find in Hong Kong.