Author Topic: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations  (Read 3339 times)

Offline Tpugh

  • Pre-Piano
  • *
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« on: January 08, 2016, 12:05:45 PM »
Hello all, I am new to the forum.

I'm currently picking out some effects pedals while at the same time trying to figure out how to get the best sound out of my Mark I stage 73 for home recording. I would love to have a deluxe reverb or jc-120 to run the rhodes through and just mic the amp for my recordings, but unfortunately I simply can't afford one and it's not exactly ideal as I have a family and can't just crank a fender amp any time I want to record...so I've been exploring options of running through a dedicated and affordable tube preamp or overdrive stomp box in an effects signal chain and then plugging direct.

I don't necessarily want to mimic the sound of a fender tube amp (although that option would be great) as much as I just want to be able to dial in that warm tube sound and the ability to add some crunch to the signal. I've been looking at the Studio Projects VTB-1 and the Xotic Effects BB preamp stomp box. From what I've gathered, most guitar overdrives are just meant to further 'enhance' the crunch of a tube amp, so I'm not exactly sure that's my best option is as I'm bypassing the whole amp deal. I would like to stay in the realm of $100. Any suggestions on how I can get some great warm tube drive without an amplifier? Thanks in advance!

Offline sean

  • Mark I
  • ****
  • Posts: 621
    • View Profile
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2016, 04:08:42 PM »

Yikes.  I would be surprised if either of those products make you happy in the long run.  They are one-trick ponies - I mean, to be less-unfair, they are special-purpose devices.  They are probably great for what they are designed to do, but may not be ideal for you and your Rhodes, and your home projects.  Either of them will cost close to $180.00

Most of the beauty of your sound will be coming from your Rhodes piano, only a little bit can be blamed or credited to the amp - especially in a home recording situation.  (Okay, I like how that is a huge oversimplification.  But the point it, your Rhodes just sounds so sweet.  It just does.)

So, if I were you, I would look at the very small four or eight channel mixers (like a Mackie Mix 8, or a Behringer, or Samson), and I would look at maybe the Art Tube MP as well.  All of these are obscenely cheap (less than $100.00).

If you got a Mackie Mix 8 for $75, or one of their small VLZ mixers, you will be very happy with the sound you get out of your Rhodes (the Mackie has plenty of gain and headroom).  Your piano will not sound sterile, it will sound like a Rhodes.  The only things missing would be reverb and compression.  (Wow.  The Mackie 12FX is only $120.  If you stepped up to $200 you could get the 802VLZ4.)  Oh, you may want a phaser or a chorus effects box... but that is a different discussion.

When you use the Mackie mixer to record your Rhodes, you will also be able to plug in a microphone or two, and also maybe even another keyboard as well.  It would make rehearsals a lot easier too.

Some of the tiny mixers may not up to the job for plugging in to all their inputs.  I have a Behringer 802 mixer that I can overload by plugging in a synth or sequencer at the same time I try to play bass or organ.  The power supply circuits can't seem to keep all the ICs at full voltage, and you can hear it in the output.  I can have the same number of inputs with less demanding audio signals, and it works fine, but....  well, it is pretty sad.  I have never had this problem with my Mackie mixer.  Anyway....

I have never used the ART Tube MP but there are fans on this bbs that like it.


It would be a real pain in the ass, especially in winter, but you could drag your Rhodes down to the local music store and ask to demo a few options.  They should ooh and aah over your Rhodes, and hook you up.  Remember to try headphones as well as the room sound.

Sean






Offline Tpugh

  • Pre-Piano
  • *
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2016, 10:12:32 PM »
Thank for the reply and comments, sean.

I've been playing and running my rhodes direct for several years now, and I've always appreciated the dry, unaltered signal that it sends. I already own a yamaha mg10 that I run my boards through and it sounds great. I've never had to run more than three or four instruments at a time and have thus far had no issues. It boosts the clean signal of the rhodes great and maintains the tone with no complaints. I like your recommendations but I have no need to purchase another mixer or trade-in my current one.  I had to preface my post with my reasoning for not using a tube amp as I've been scolded on other forums for not doing so, cause that's apparently what everyone HAS to do with their rhodes. I love the dry signal of a well-voiced rhodes- just ready to send it through some additional stompboxes now.

I own a boss rv-3 and is sounds like the heavens on my rhodes. I already ordered a used EHX small stone (classic black chassis), and a fulltone supa trem. You mentioned a "one trick pony" special purpose device, and that's really what I'm looking for. Tube-like warmth/crunch. Folks were recommending the vtb-1 on other forums and say it works great on a rhodes. I can find used versions of that and the BB preamp on ebay/reverb.com for under $110. I'll have to revist the ART tube pre- I kind of wrote it off as I have heard they are kind of cheaply built, but it may be worth a shot. And I would be more prone to send back stomp boxes I didn't like than to drag this heavy ass thing down to the music store. Us keyboard players have it rough. Thanks again for all of the advice! All good comments.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 10:14:46 PM by dgn766 »

Offline The Real MC

  • Mark I
  • ****
  • Posts: 726
    • View Profile
    • My '67 sparkletop Rhodes
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2016, 11:36:18 PM »
I used the Tubeworks Blue Tube on the Rhodes and it sounds great.  They were a rackmount tube preamp designed for bass guitar, doesn't grunge like most guitar amps but adds a nice tube color and warmth to Rhodes pianos.  I found mine for $75.  Put the Rhodes through the Blue Tube then into a mixer with headphones.  No more amp.

Offline Tpugh

  • Pre-Piano
  • *
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2016, 09:49:11 PM »
I used the Tubeworks Blue Tube on the Rhodes and it sounds great.  They were a rackmount tube preamp designed for bass guitar, doesn't grunge like most guitar amps but adds a nice tube color and warmth to Rhodes pianos.  I found mine for $75.  Put the Rhodes through the Blue Tube then into a mixer with headphones.  No more amp.

You hit it on the money! That's the exact type of thing I'm looking for. After a quick google search, I found a few different things. BK butler makes a Tubeworks blue tube enhancer rackmount, a regular stompbox, and a bass version stompbox. Any idea if these are all pretty much the same thing?

Also, it seems bk butler makes a "real tube" stompbox that looks very similar: https://reverb.com/p/tube-works-real-tube-overdrive

Offline The Real MC

  • Mark I
  • ****
  • Posts: 726
    • View Profile
    • My '67 sparkletop Rhodes
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2016, 01:38:57 AM »
A stompbox is going to be starved plate voltage and will not sound the same as the rackmount.

"Real Tube" are the boxes for guitar players that will overdrive way too much.  "Blue Tube" is the bass preamp.  Mine is model RT-904

« Last Edit: January 10, 2016, 01:42:30 AM by The Real MC »

Offline Tpugh

  • Pre-Piano
  • *
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2016, 09:47:42 AM »
A stompbox is going to be starved plate voltage and will not sound the same as the rackmount.

"Real Tube" are the boxes for guitar players that will overdrive way too much.  "Blue Tube" is the bass preamp.  Mine is model RT-904



Thanks for the replies! That's awesome you found one for $75. The rackmounts are going for a bit pricey these days. Also, I discovered on another forum that you can email B.K. butler directly using this email address provided on http://www.butleraudio.com: tech@butleraudio.com. I got an almost instant reply from mr. butler himself regarding which of his effects processors he recommended for a rhodes mark I stage 73:

"I personally play a Rhodes 73 with a custom parametric 3 band EQ built in...
I use a modified Tube Driver (my current production).
Also use this set up for my old 1949 Hammond CV.
I could build you one if you want.
An Blue Tube should work quite well too; just be sure it's in good condition....
Best wishes,
BK Butler"

Pretty sweet! From what I understand he takes a lot of custom orders, I would imagine they are pretty expensive as his Tube driver with the bias mod is $424. Either way, I will be saving my money. Thanks again for the help!
« Last Edit: January 11, 2016, 09:51:28 AM by dgn766 »

Offline KerryWood

  • Pre-Piano
  • *
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2016, 09:06:41 AM »
As per my experience some of the tiny mixers may not up to the job for plugging in to all their inputs.
The power supply circuits can't seem to keep all the ICs at full voltage, and you can hear it in the output.
I can have the same number of inputs with less demanding audio signals, and it works fine.

High Density Interconnect PCB
« Last Edit: March 03, 2016, 03:48:55 PM by KerryWood »

Offline Rhds54

  • Pre-Piano
  • *
  • Posts: 6
    • View Profile
    • Official website
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2016, 04:16:02 AM »
A stompbox is going to be starved plate voltage and will not sound the same as the rackmount.

"Real Tube" are the boxes for guitar players that will overdrive way too much.  "Blue Tube" is the bass preamp.  Mine is model RT-904



Thanks for the replies! That's awesome you found one for $75. The rackmounts are going for a bit pricey these days. Also, I discovered on another forum that you can email B.K. butler directly using this email address provided on http://www.butleraudio.com: tech@butleraudio.com. I got an almost instant reply from mr. butler himself regarding which of his effects processors he recommended for a rhodes mark I stage 73:

"I personally play a Rhodes 73 with a custom parametric 3 band EQ built in...
I use a modified Tube Driver (my current production).
Also use this set up for my old 1949 Hammond CV.
I could build you one if you want.
An Blue Tube should work quite well too; just be sure it's in good condition....
Best wishes,
BK Butler"

Pretty sweet! From what I understand he takes a lot of custom orders, I would imagine they are pretty expensive as his Tube driver with the bias mod is $424. Either way, I will be saving my money. Thanks again for the help!


Hey Tpogh,

how did all this turn out? What equipment did you end up using? Did you eventually order the Tube Driver from Buttler Audio?

Thanks!


Offline pnoboy

  • Mark I
  • ****
  • Posts: 262
    • View Profile
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2016, 06:25:54 AM »
I think the advantages of a tube amp with a Rhodes are exaggerated unless you want to use the amp in overdrive.  I have one tube head and 2 solid-state heads, and they all sound very similar.  Sometimes I think the tube head sounds a little sweeter, but other times I wonder if I really would be able to pick it out in a blind test as long as all 3 heads were adjusted to have closely matched frequency responses.

My tube head has a master volume control and enough preamp gain to drive the Rhodes into overdrive, and quite frankly, I don't like the sound.  Overdrive seems to be magical for guitars, but for a Rhodes it just sounds like an amp that needs repair.  Of course, the harmonic profile of a guitar is way different than that of a Rhodes.

Offline Tpugh

  • Pre-Piano
  • *
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2016, 01:17:43 PM »
A stompbox is going to be starved plate voltage and will not sound the same as the rackmount.

"Real Tube" are the boxes for guitar players that will overdrive way too much.  "Blue Tube" is the bass preamp.  Mine is model RT-904



Thanks for the replies! That's awesome you found one for $75. The rackmounts are going for a bit pricey these days. Also, I discovered on another forum that you can email B.K. butler directly using this email address provided on http://www.butleraudio.com: tech@butleraudio.com. I got an almost instant reply from mr. butler himself regarding which of his effects processors he recommended for a rhodes mark I stage 73:

"I personally play a Rhodes 73 with a custom parametric 3 band EQ built in...
I use a modified Tube Driver (my current production).
Also use this set up for my old 1949 Hammond CV.
I could build you one if you want.
An Blue Tube should work quite well too; just be sure it's in good condition....
Best wishes,
BK Butler"

Pretty sweet! From what I understand he takes a lot of custom orders, I would imagine they are pretty expensive as his Tube driver with the bias mod is $424. Either way, I will be saving my money. Thanks again for the help!


Hey Tpogh,

how did all this turn out? What equipment did you end up using? Did you eventually order the Tube Driver from Buttler Audio?

Thanks!

Delayed response here, but after a ton of research I went with Tech 21's SansAmp Bass Driver: https://www.amazon.com/Tech-BSDR-SansAmp-Bass-Driver/dp/B0002D0EN8

Through my research I found from replies on other forums that standard electric guitar pedals have trouble maintaining the full range of frequencies and tones brought on by a Rhodes, and that bass pedals often are a better fit. I found several forums where people were raving about the Sansamp Bass driver, so I found one for $120 on reverb.com. Been playing on it for a few months and it is EXACTLY what I needed and is so incredibly solid and warm sounding. My Rhodes sounds like butter now.

Offline StageRhodesFanboy

  • Pre-Piano
  • *
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2017, 06:42:56 PM »
I had to chime in here, even if the thread is dead. I have a Rhodes 73 Mark I Suitcase Piano, circa 1978 and couldn't agree more that the TubeWorks Blue Tube is perfect for it. The two 12AX7 tubes give great warmth to the Rhodes sound, and the bias and contour knobs give you a good amount of range. You can add a cheap on / off latching stomp switch for the "boost" switch and bypass for even greater range. It can be anything from warm and smooth to crunchy and driven.

Since it has two channels, one line-in and one "instrument" you can use it to go straight into a power amp, or back into the Rhodes' suitcase amp (or a mixer). It's simple, small, effective and even tours easily.

Offline freekey

  • Fiesta Red
  • **
  • Posts: 35
    • View Profile
Re: Rhodes pre-amp recommendations
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2017, 01:17:34 AM »
Looking forward to trying out a Blue Tube one day, in the meantime thought I would share my latest discovery. I have been using a cheap little Fender Vibro King XD 5w amp as a pedal/preamp in my home studio and the thing is pretty versatile. It's a modeling amp w/ a 12ax7 tube preamp stage. It has a gain dial plus on board efx. It's great for adding a bit of crunch. It has a line out which allows me to loop it in via the efx send on my peterson.... or ill tie  it directly to the harp and send the line out directly to the board... or both... the line from my harp is split. Either way its been a joy to use and is a great tool in the studio. I even use it with my Hammond.. Jon Lord tones at speaking volume = happy neighbors, wife and recording sessions while the kids are asleep.
'69 Custom "Jetson" Student Piano
'78 Custom MKI WIP
Wurlitzer 214a
Hammond C3/147 Leslie
Hammond Chop A102/122 Leslie
Horner Clavinet C
Moog Source
Moog SubPhatty
-----
TwoThreeFour.Me
The Freeks
SugarFly
Earth Moon Earth