Q: Is it true that guitar speakers need time to break-in to sound optimal? If yes, how long does it take?
A: Yes, this is true – and in a big way. Ultimately, all speakers need time to break-in, even those dedicated for Hi-fi use. But it’s even more applicable in the case of guitar speakers.
Guitar speakers are typically made from pressed paper cones, joined by the stiff paper edge to the steel speaker basket. This design has its merits – besides the desired (ie midrange-heavy) frequency response, the goal is to obtain high sensitivity and fast response; at the same time it is obvious that all of these moving parts form a relatively rigid unit.
To achieve the tone the speaker is truly designed for, it simply needs time to “break-in” – or, to put it differently, to “soften up”. The difference in the sound between the new and a fully “broken-in” speaker is simply HUGE – bubbly vs. tight basses, smoother mids and much rounder highs without initial harshness. Even the subjective sensitivity improves – the speaker seems to be louder over time due to changes in its frequency spectrum. So, if you really want the best sound from a particular speaker, never underestimate the break-in process.
There are various methods recommended for accelerating the break-in process; nevertheless, our own experiences show that it takes pretty close to one year of normal-to-heavy usage for guitar speakers to be well broken-in and great sounding. This process will continue for several years.
Q: Is it possible to stack your H/LXtra or L/HXtra 4x12” enclosures?
A: Yes, as all of our 4x12” enclosures have the same footprint. However, to achieve the sound these speakers were really built for, we recommend that speakers of the same range (HXtra/LXtra or H/L) be combined with each other.
Ultimately, from the sonic standpoint, it is usually better to place the enclosures side-by-side on the ground (especially the slanted types) than to put them in a classic vertical stack arrangement.
Q: How often should I change the amp’s tubes?
A: Usually, well-biased power tubes last for about two years of normal usage. However, this lifespan shortens depending on how hard you push them and how often you play. Another thing to consider is that Class A amp power tubes usually age a bit faster due to the way that these amps are designed. Preamp tubes usually last twice as long as power tubes.
Keep in mind, however, that tubes – like lightbulbs – can blow up any time without any prior warning. That is why we strongly recommend to keep at least one spare set of new, high-quality tubes at the ready to avoid any possible on-stage problems. Ultimately, you are free to order this full spare set of the specially burned-in, measured and hand-selected tubes directly from us for each of our amps to not only guarantee the functionality but also to preserve the sound quality of the amp.
Q: Do I need to set up the bias when changing power tubes, even if they are of the same type?
A: Well, it depends on how you value your sound. We vigorously recommend to do so as even tiny changes in the bias level makes a HUGE difference in the final sound characteristics of (any) tube amp – including changes in the amount of compression present, the frequency spectrum and overall dynamics. From a technical perspective, if biased improperly, you can also drastically shorten the lifespan of your brand new power tubes.
However, if you do not care that much about these aspects, you do not need to set the bias every time you change the power tubes – you will most probably not cause any harm to your amp even without proper bias setting. But this begs the question – if tone isn’t important to you, why did you buy a great tube amp in the first place?
Q: Why don‘t your amps have the EL34/6L6/etc. bias selector?
A: Well, basically, every amp is built with the specific sound in mind. In this regard, the tube types used are then the most optimal choice allowing the manufacturer to achieve this goal; the tubes are an integral part of the amp circuit and cannot be simply separated from it.
EL34s and a 6L6s (including all subvariants) are very different types of tubes with diverse electrical and sonic characteristics – albeit equipped with a similar octal base. They both can sound great, but only as a part of a well-optimised circuit, which, naturally, includes a dedicated output transformer; otherwise, they would sound sub-par – at least by our strict sound quality measurements. So the proper bias setting is only part of the equation, and not a sufficient solution by any means. Besides, the bias level set by the bias switch is inevitably a crude approximation and should the final sound be optimal, you would have to set the bias properly anyway.
Frankly, there is no obstacle preventing us from equipping our amps with one simple switch. However, following our “no compromises” approach, if you – for whatever reason – prefer a different type of power tubes than our suggested choice, you are free to order your brand new amp with your preferred tube type factory built-in and you can be assured that the amp’s sound will be as good as possible.
Q: I have heard that a parallel effects loop is better than a serial one. Is this true?
A: No, this is not the case.
From a purely technical standpoint, a parallel FX loop is more complicated and less straightforward than a serial one. It has to contain an active or passive mixing stage to mix the “dry” and “wet” signals, which always has a negative impact on the sound (even when no effect is in use). If you are using high-quality effects (presumably rack mount machines) with built-in mixing capabilities (which, frankly, is the case of the vast majority of the effects available today) and quality cabling, it is virtually a pointless feature. In addition, most of the parallel loops on the market do not allow you to set the mixing ratio in the full 0 – 100 percent range, which can even render some of the effects unusable (phasers etc.).
On the other hand, a serial FX loop in itself is sonically more inert and easier to set up than a parallel one; you can treat it as a parallel loop permanently set to 100% “wet”, but without the built-in mixing stage burden. Add to this the advantage of being remotely switchable allowing you to turn off the looped effect(s) and cabling completely when not in use – as is the case of all our amps – and you have the answer why we have chosen the serial FX loop as our primary loop choice.
Q: Does my choice of cables have any impact on my sound?
A: Although often underestimated, cabling is a very important part of the signal path and its level of quality has a significant impact on the final sound. There is no excuse for a guitar player with a great guitar and high-end tube stack to use low-quality cables as this will result in sub-par sound no matter how the amp is set. Additionally, bad, unreliable power cabling can even damage your amp as all tube amps must ALWAYS be connected to a speaker load when switched on.
To preserve the sound quality and value of our products, we now offer a wide range of high quality guitar, speaker and other cables made from highly-rated CORDIAL® wires and the original NEUTRIK® connectors. Feel free to choose your preferred type or let us custom-build the cabling for your specific needs.
Q: Do you make modifications to your amps?
A: Yes, we make modifications our amps, as well as upgrading past models to our newest circuit versions. We firmly believe that it is in our and also in our customer’s best interest that the amps which bear the ESH brand to always sound as good as possible. So even if you have bought an older model amp in the past and would like it to sound like our more modern amps, you aren’t left out in the cold.
However, if technically or financially unviable, rather than to complexely modify your existing hardware to obtain the sound or features you are looking for, we would recommend that you consider our current equipment offerings to better fit your current needs.
Do you have any questions? Do not hesitate to contact us!
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