Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

HIWATT amps from the Hylight Electronics era

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Ted B
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby Ted B » Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:19 am

Rocinante wrote:Thank you for the detailed post!! Some great information there. How were you able to see the settings??


Since I wrote that post, I've seen Alex's settings much more clearly now. I was close before, but now I've positively got it.

DR103 Knob Settings from Left -> Right (o'clock positions)

2 - 7 - 12 - 3 - 12 - 3 - 3

These settings make sense, as they seem to intentionally give right about the maximum clean volume with lots of punch, which works well with his effects.

Effects

Guitar -> MXR Distortion + ->EH Electric Mistress -> Roland CE-1 -> MXR Micro Amp -> DR103 Normal Channel

Effect Settings

MXR Dist +
Distortion - 12 o'clock
Output - 12 o'clock

EH Electric Mistress
Rate - 50%
Range - 30%
Color - 60%

Roland CE-1
Input - High
Level - 10 o'clock
Chorus - 10 o'clock

MXR Micro Amp
Level - 12 o'clock

With these effects, this sequence, and these effect and amp settings, you will clearly hear Exit...Stage Left. One thing that becomes apparent now that I go back and listen to the audio is that Bill Lawrence pickup in the white Sportscaster has a big punch.


Rocinante wrote:I've read good things about the Reeves Vintage Purple and the Weber Thames, but am kind of leaning towards the Hi-tone. Something about the sound in the clips I've heard.


Definitely get the Hi-Tone with DR-Fs. I bought a DR-F loaded 4x12 to go with my '73 DR103, and I am sure glad I did.

reverberator
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby reverberator » Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:17 am

These grabs are from the film ' Beyond the lighted stage' it shows the rear of Alex's Hiwatts during a performance of The spirit of radio around 1980 , the front of the amps are de-badged.

Image

Image

Image

Jangly
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby Jangly » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:51 pm

Regarding the guitar tone on AFTK, I'm pretty sure that Alex used H/H solid State amps. I happen to love that record but if you listen closely, the tone is a bit stale and cold. The guitar tone on Hemispheres in contrast is much warmer and fuller. At least to these ears. In part that is due to Alex' use of Hi-Watt amps but also the mixing job at Trident studios. The Neve board at Trident was/is one of the most revered mixing boards in the world. They mixed at least the records (PW and MP) there as well.

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mikhailwatt
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby mikhailwatt » Wed Dec 26, 2012 5:01 pm

Jangly wrote:Regarding the guitar tone on AFTK, I'm pretty sure that Alex used H/H solid State amps. I happen to love that record but if you listen closely, the tone is a bit stale and cold. The guitar tone on Hemispheres in contrast is much warmer and fuller.

Yes, he's stated H/H in the past, but has also specifically referred to HIWATT, Roland Jazz Chorus, and Fender Twin on at least a couple of tunes, which make sense to my ears.

Agreed, some very cold, almost painfully clean tones in spots, but in sort of a good way.
And then along came Hemispheres and all was well with the world of tone. :)
You can almost feel the current flowing
You can almost see the circuits blowing

ServiceTech
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby ServiceTech » Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:41 am

This is an old thread I would like to revitalize. I have no doubt that Lifeson's Hiwatt heads were two input models with the hi gain Canadian mod. It also appears his amps had a third "input" installed though I don't know why. Maybe for linking to other amps.

http://s1237.photobucket.com/user/68les ... sort=3&o=3
Image

http://s1237.photobucket.com/user/68les ... sort=3&o=1

http://s1237.photobucket.com/user/68les ... sort=3&o=6

Also, you can clearly see some of his settings.

Listening to the Hemispheres album, one of my favs, there is no way a stock 4 hole Hiwatt has that much distortion/gain on tap. Love his tone on that album.

Ted B
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby Ted B » Wed Nov 19, 2014 4:09 pm

After having a closer look at the photos, I believe you are correct about the amps. The Hiwatts appear to be 2-input models with an additional jack in the lower left corner of the panel, placed right through the 'Bright' label. That suggests a second jack was added to the Bright channel, which is what he is using. He used three heads live, including one to drive a Leslie, and one to drive a monitor for Geddy's side of the stage. The simplest explanation is this was a means of daisy chaining the input signal between them.

As for the amp settings, you'll notice that neither the preamp nor master gain knobs are set at full tilt, with the preamp gain set well back - around 1 o'clock. So where is all that gain originating? What you're hearing on Hemispheres and in live shows isn't coming from cranked amps, but from the Maestro Parametric MPF-1 Filter/Overdrive, two of which he used for his live rig. The sound of its filter and overdrive is all over that record. By Moving Pictures, he had switched to an MXR DIstortion +.

ServiceTech
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby ServiceTech » Thu Nov 20, 2014 10:32 am

I agree Ted, looking at his settings and hearing his tone live and on Hemispheres, I'm thinking either the overdrive is coming from modified Hiwatt preamps or the Parametric filter or both. Also, he is only using the Brilliant channel and both preamp volumes are at 1 O'clock which suggests the Hiwatt's preamp stages are somehow cascaded. I've read on the net that Canadian Hiwatts were very gainy and both volumes needed to be adjusted or no sound comes from the amp. See links below:

http://archive.ampage.org/threads/1/gam ... mod-1.html

Check out this link where a Canadian modded Hiwatt is recorded with ALOT of distortion:

http://www.vintageamps.com/plexiboard/v ... =3&t=12759

Here's something to consider. Back in the early 80's, I owned a 100 watt Hiwatt made in 1974. It was very clean and typical of the Hiwatt tone we know and love. Alex was my hero then and I read somewhere that he was using the Parametric Filter, so I ordered one from a local music store. As a 20 year old young man, I don't think my ears could appreciate the unit very much because I remember I couldn't even get close to the overdrive level I wanted. Ironically, I later purchased a new MXR Distortion + without realizing Alex was using one and wound up using that for a long time. I later sold the Maestro and now wish I had it back to see how my ears and playing would appreciate the effect. Regardless, I don't remember too much over drive and sustain coming from that pedal and it was noisy as hell.

If he was using two Maestros, do you think he used them in series?

I would love to cop the Hemispheres tone and then check it off my list. I wonder why he drifted away from that setup, I think his Hemispheres era tone through Moving Pictures is THE Lifeson tone.

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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby Ted B » Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:39 pm

Thanks for posting those links. I've looked into the matter further, and you are correct about the cascaded preamp of the Canadian spec DR105. In addition to removing the variable voltage input facility, the Canadian distributor made a very simple mod that increased the gain of the input section. This mod requires only two simple, easily reversible steps:

1) Brilliant Ch volume pot signal is normally routed to the grid of one side of V2. Lift that connection at V2 and reroute to the Normal Ch shorting jack. That effectively routes the Brilliant Ch output to the Normal Ch input. This is why Lifeson's Normal Ch volume is not set at zero, otherwise, there would be little sound (as other DR105 users have noted).

2) V4 PI is originally an ECC81. In the DR 105 it is switched to an ECC83. This also increases the gain of the preamp. And while the effect isn't dramatic, it is noticeable.

Here is a pdf schematic I found by Carl Gigun for the DR105 preamp that illustrates these changes: http://members.shaw.ca/carlgigun/DR_105.pdf (taken from: http://archive.ampage.org/threads/6/gagd/321907/Hiwatt_opinions-1.html)

Of course, one would actually need to hear a DR105 at Lifeson's volume settings to get an idea of how much of the clipping is from the amp, and how much is from the external devices. Speaking of which, if you want to refresh your memory of the clipping and filter sweeps of the Maestro unit, here's a fairly good demo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4Qzptnrjgc

In an old article (1980), Lifeson clarifies that the second Maestro unit is used for the Hiwatt/Leslie rig, so they aren't cascaded. Another important device that he veritably mentions in his effects rig list from that period is the MXR Micro Amp. I have one, and it more than makes up for the 'tone suck' of the 70s Roland Chorus and Electric Mistress (both of which I also have).

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mikhailwatt
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby mikhailwatt » Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:42 pm

ServiceTech wrote:I agree Ted, looking at his settings and hearing his tone live and on Hemispheres, I'm thinking either the overdrive is coming from modified Hiwatt preamps or the Parametric filter or both. Also, he is only using the Brilliant channel and both preamp volumes are at 1 O'clock which suggests the Hiwatt's preamp stages are somehow cascaded. I've read on the net that Canadian Hiwatts were very gainy and both volumes needed to be adjusted or no sound comes from the amp.

I have a couple Canadian 50 watt two-holers... one 1980 DR504 (PCB) that had the gain mod (which I quickly removed)... it still has a decent amount of preamp gain due to the different resistor/cap values compared with the earlier versions. The other is a '77 DR505 that still has the gain mod. Plugging into the normal channel it's "normal" but the bright channel requires both volumes - lots of gain to had there. I've not played that one much.

Funny, I was thinking about the MPF-1 a couple weeks ago, and found some clips of the Stone Deaf clone... might have to try that out sometime, if I ever get back to playing electric.......

Something to keep in mind - Hemispheres could well be a mix of Marshall and HIWATT (according to one interview). "The Trees" is probably all HIWATT (with the Jazz Chorus for the clean section) and it has a slightly different tone than the rest of the album. For me, the best straight tone is found in "Circumstances" - incredibly punchy, not overly gain-ey. Could be as simple as the 355 straight into a cranked up 4-holer.

My guess is Alex was using 4-input models at first, and the modded 2-holers came later. If, in fact, they were modded, there'd still be a decent amount of gain with the channel volumes rolled back.

Rambling post complete. :)
You can almost feel the current flowing
You can almost see the circuits blowing

Ted B
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby Ted B » Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:55 pm

mikhailwatt wrote:... it still has a decent amount of preamp gain due to the different resistor/cap values compared with the earlier versions.


Ah, yes, I see this now.

4-input V1 cathode = 2k2/47n for the Brilliant, and 2k2 for the Normal
2-input V1 cathode - 1k6/150uF (tied)

4-input V3 -> V4 (PI) coupling cap = 22n
2-input V3 -> V4 (PI) coupling cap = 47n

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mikhailwatt
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby mikhailwatt » Thu Nov 20, 2014 7:58 pm

Ted B wrote:
mikhailwatt wrote:... it still has a decent amount of preamp gain due to the different resistor/cap values compared with the earlier versions.


Ah, yes, I see this now.

4-input V1 cathode = 2k2/47n for the Brilliant, and 2k2 for the Normal
2-input V1 cathode - 1k6/150uF (tied)

4-input V3 -> V4 (PI) coupling cap = 22n
2-input V3 -> V4 (PI) coupling cap = 47n


It's been awhile and I've forgotten the details, but I went beyond removing the mod and actually converted it to early-mid '70s wiring - resistive mixer using 1/2 of V2.
But retaining the later component values. So it's a slightly hotter version of the classic.
You can almost feel the current flowing
You can almost see the circuits blowing

ServiceTech
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby ServiceTech » Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:31 am

Guys; I can't thank you enough for your posts! Very informative and affirming. One of these days I would like to build a clone amp, or maybe ask Clayton about it - I don't want to mess with my 69' Hiwatt. I would love to try the preamp mod.

Also, after listening to the demo I can here the Maestro overdrive tone on the Hemispheres album as Ted pointed out. I'm thinking of using my current OD pedal and possibly getting an Empress ParaQ for accomplishing a similar, if not better effect.

ServiceTech
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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby ServiceTech » Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:34 am

If you ever get around to trying the Stone Deaf, please let us know what you think as I'm intrigued as well. Also, if you try Lifeson's settings as in the pics further up this string on your 77' please let us know as well!!!!


mikhailwatt wrote:
ServiceTech wrote:I agree Ted, looking at his settings and hearing his tone live and on Hemispheres, I'm thinking either the overdrive is coming from modified Hiwatt preamps or the Parametric filter or both. Also, he is only using the Brilliant channel and both preamp volumes are at 1 O'clock which suggests the Hiwatt's preamp stages are somehow cascaded. I've read on the net that Canadian Hiwatts were very gainy and both volumes needed to be adjusted or no sound comes from the amp.

I have a couple Canadian 50 watt two-holers... one 1980 DR504 (PCB) that had the gain mod (which I quickly removed)... it still has a decent amount of preamp gain due to the different resistor/cap values compared with the earlier versions. The other is a '77 DR505 that still has the gain mod. Plugging into the normal channel it's "normal" but the bright channel requires both volumes - lots of gain to had there. I've not played that one much.

Funny, I was thinking about the MPF-1 a couple weeks ago, and found some clips of the Stone Deaf clone... might have to try that out sometime, if I ever get back to playing electric.......

Something to keep in mind - Hemispheres could well be a mix of Marshall and HIWATT (according to one interview). "The Trees" is probably all HIWATT (with the Jazz Chorus for the clean section) and it has a slightly different tone than the rest of the album. For me, the best straight tone is found in "Circumstances" - incredibly punchy, not overly gain-ey. Could be as simple as the 355 straight into a cranked up 4-holer.

My guess is Alex was using 4-input models at first, and the modded 2-holers came later. If, in fact, they were modded, there'd still be a decent amount of gain with the channel volumes rolled back.

Rambling post complete. :)

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Re: Alex Lifeson's 70’s Hiwatts - two or four inputs?

Postby mikhailwatt » Fri Apr 17, 2015 8:59 pm

“By that time I had my ES-355, and my acoustics were a Gibson Dove, J-55 and a B-45 12-string. I had my Marshall in the studio. I had the Twin and two Hiwatts, which I was also using live, but the Marshall was my real workhorse. The Boss Chorus unit had just come out at that time, but I think I used a Roland JC-120 for the chorus sound here. Hemispheres was the first of many ‘chorus’ albums.”

Mr. Lerxst himself in a 2008 Guitar World interview, lines up with what he's said before. FWIW!
You can almost feel the current flowing
You can almost see the circuits blowing


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