"I play a lot of country music. I listen to a lot of nostalgic Django Reinhardt jazz, esoteric composers... I don't follow heavy metal or walk to the beat of the heavy-metal-drum society in any way." - Brent Hinds
Mastadon's Brent Hinds is to heavy metal culture, what Marshawn Lynch is to sports media.
He's good at what he does, carries himself with a unique and intriguing demeanor, yet he avoids interviews and rejects media attention (well, maybe not all media attention) on a regular basis.
When he does give interviews, they're often just really strange, like this one.
Brent's unique approach to metal, and his contrarian personality, bleed into his guitar gear, which is why I believe his pedalboard and amp setup are worth a closer look. In so doing, we can learn a little about signal processing and glean a few mods for our own rigs along the way.
The Gear Side of Brent
Brent Hinds' pedalboard (and to a lesser extent, his amp setup) has evolved over the years, giving us two different "rig editions" to sample from.
- The 2011 version
- The 2014 version
In this case study we'll look for takeaways and perhaps a few best practices that we can use on our own rigs, from both the 2011 and 2014 Brent Hinds rig, as catalogued by Guitar.com and Premier Guitar.
What can we do beyond simply observing his gear and wishing we had the money to buy two Marshall JMPs?
We can dig deeper and learn a lot about how to make our own rig better.
I'd even go so far to say, "more professional."
Examining the signal processing technique of Hinds' rig can help us answer questions we may not otherwise think to ask.
Where exactly does Hinds get his distorted tone? A pedal, an amp?
What is he doing differently with his gear that we could do without spending more money?
What can we learn from his signal path? Where does it start/end/split, etc.?
All of this can be drawn out (and applied) with careful examination and a basic knowledge of signal processing. In this case, "signal processing" means the path a guitar's sound takes, getting from your pickups to an audible speaker cab.
Let's start with Hinds' 2011 rig.
Brent Hinds Pedalboard from 2011
The pedalboard employed by Hinds has gotten simpler over the years. Thus, the 2011 rendition gives us a far more complex signal processing tactic.
For our purposes, complexity gives us more tools to work with and more "gear head fodder," so it's not a bad thing.
Per guitar.com's rig diagram, Hinds' pedalboard ran the following effects:
Brent Hinds' pedalboard as of 2011. | Image via Guitar.com
It's a bit of a mosaic arrangement. Confusing, to say the least.
So, what's going on here? How do we parse the signal?
We'll start simple, beginning with the wireless signal coming into the Shure UR4D wireless receiver and going out from there into the pedal chain, which then feeds into two amp selectors.
These amp selectors, though painfully simple technology, are the governing bodies of Hinds' pedalboard. The traffic lights, if you will, charged with maintaining law end order.
But we'll get there one step at a time.
Let's start from the top.
Brent Hinds' Pedalboard Signal Path
In 2011 Hinds used an SKB StageFive Pro pedalboard, which actually had its own effects loop built in.
Please note: Henceforth, I shall be referring to the this setup in the present tense.
The guitar signal from the Shure UR4D wireless receiver goes straight into the pedalboard through an input and output (the effects loop), which then goes back into Hinds' line of pedals, starting with the Boss GE-7 equalizer.
Here's the path it takes, in the given order:
- Boss GE-7 Equalizer
- Morpheus Droptune
- Monster Effects Mastortion
- Ibanez TS808HW
- Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner
- Boss RE-20 Space Echo
- Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler
- Boss DD-6 Digital Delay
The DD-6 has two outputs (stereo outs) that allow Hinds' signal to be routed back into both of the pedalboard's send/return jacks, which I believe passes through a noise gate, and then get sent into two A/B/Y selectors.
To simplify what you're looking at, here's what we've got so far, in a diagram form:
A simplified look at Brent Hinds' guitar signal path. | View Larger Image
While there's some i/o involved with the pedalboard, I've left it out of the diagram, since that functionality isn't typically built into pedalboards. Even the SKB board Hinds used isn't made anymore.
It also takes a lot of the complexity out of the signal and gets us to the four different amplifier endpoints, via the two A/B/Y switches, much faster.
Here are a few things I took note of.
Delays (a lot of them) are at the end of the signal. Hinds runs three delay effects, all of which are digital, and at the end of his pedal chain. They are numbered seven, eight and nine in the diagram.
In so doing, he follows a practice, widely considered to be conventional guitar effects wisdom, which some call "dirt before delay." This simply means that your distortion or overdriven sounds should be at the beginning of your signal chain, followed by modulation and then concluded with timing effects, like delay or echo.
In so doing, you're delaying a distorted signal instead of distorting a delay signal.
The former is preferable, since it's cleaner and produces repeats of all the effects in your chain.
One signal going to four different destinations. Hinds is building tone versatility by separating the signal after his pedal chain, using four different amplifiers.
By using the stereo outs on his DD-6, Hinds is already splitting the signal coming out of his pedal chain.
Theoretically, these could both be routed to two amplifiers.
However, Hinds is running four amplifiers, which means each signal coming from the DD-6 gets split again, and sent into four different preamps.
Keep a pedal with stereo outs at the end of your signal. The DD-6's stereo outs allow Hinds to run his signal into two A/B/Y boxes and four total amplifiers.
Not all pedals have stereo outs, though you'll often see them on delay and modulation effects, since those boxes are more likely to sit at the end of a pedal chain.
While you don't always have to use both outputs, it's wise to make sure that you have a pedal capable of splitting into a stereo signal at the end of your chain, either for a dual-amp setup or an amp/mixer channel split.
We'll chat more about this later.
The Amplifiers and A/B/Y Switches
In 2011, Hinds used a total of four different amplifiers running into six speaker cabs.
The A/B/Y switches, with two amps stemming from each switch, allowed Hinds to select either or both amplifiers at once.
A rough diagram would look like this:
Hinds' amplifier diagram with two A/B/Y switches. | View Larger Image
In the guitar.com diagram, you see that Hinds runs the following list of amplifiers:
Here are the amp's displayed in the same diagram with the channel switchers:
Brent Hinds amplifier arrangement. | Image via Guitar.com
The curious thing about Hinds' amp arrangement is the note that says "All four amps are on all the time."
I haven't been able to confirm or deny that this was the case when he used this arrangement. Though it makes sense, considering Mastadon's guitar tone and style is consistently distorted and heavy.
Hinds is probably using the A/B/Y switches only to split the signal then simply leaves the "both" option always on for each switch.
Other Possible Uses for this Arrangement
Channel switchers can be used to give your rig a ton of variety.
While we aren't likely to need two, like Hinds, we could use even one switch a few different ways.
#1: Separate pedal lines (switch at the beginning of your pedal chain)
A channel switch can be set at any point in a signal chain. For example, you could place the switch after your guitar, and route the signal to two different pedalboards.
This can be ideal for someone who has an acoustic and electric guitar rig, or who separate their pedalboard into two sections.
Dual pedalboards going to two different amps. | View Larger Image
This also allows you to designate particular pedals to particular amps, and can also help to reduce excess noise or signal interference.
Noise is usually reduced for each amp because you have less pedals in each signal and a shorter path to the amplifier's speaker cab.
#2: Switching between amplifier inputs (amp channel switcher)
Some amplifiers will allow you to use a channel switcher (either provided or from a third party A/B/Y switch) to jump back and forth between channels in a single amplifier.
In most cases, the channel switcher is provided with the amplifier.
This means you can set one channel with a particular volume, gain and EQ, while another channel can have an entirely different set of dials.
The channel switcher lets you jump back and forth between the preset channels instantly, allowing you to sort of "bank" the two different settings.
#3: Running your signal to an amplifier and PA system or mixer channel
Another common use for an A/B/Y switch, and multi-output arrangement, is to send a line-level output (not impacted by a power amp) to a mixer or PA system, per the following diagram:
A switch splitting the signal to an amplifier and mixer channel. | View Larger Image
While most opt to mic their amplifiers and send that signal to a mixer, this can be a helpful tool if you want to avoid your amplifier's preamp and power amp, in favor of going straight into the mixing console.
A line out jack on an amp will send a line level signal after the preamp but before the power amp, giving you the benefits of your amplifier's EQ, while avoiding the volume produced by the power amp and allowing the mixer to handle overall output.
Brent Hinds' Pedalboard and Amps in 2014
Thanks to Premier Guitar, we can take a more updated look at Hinds' rig from late in 2014, where we see it has become vastly more streamlined.
Hinds now runs three Amps, which are the following:
- Marshall JMP Mark II Lead ('76 version)
- Marshall JMP Mark II Lead ('77 version)
- Diezel VH4
The Fender Twin and Marshall JCM800 have been left out.
Brent Hinds' 2014 amplifier lineup. | Image via Premier Guitar
We also see a more minimalist pedalboard, though with the two outputs still being utilized in the Boss DD-6.
The Premier Guitar article doesn't mention, nor does the accompanying video picture, the A/B/Y switches that seemed so integral to Hinds' 2011 rig. I would speculate that since he reduced his number of amps, he no longer needed the switches to properly route the signal.
Brent Hinds' pedalboard in 2014. | Image via Premier Guitar
It's also possible that one of them are still in use and not pictured, or that he's replaced it with a three-way switch. Addressing signal routing via a rack-mounted system is also a plausible explenation.
He has a second pedalboard, which is used for a lap steel guitar.
Brent Hinds' second pedalboard used for a lap steel guitar. | Image via Premier Guitar
Other than the Marshall and Diezel amps, the only carry-over from his old rig is the DD-6 delay on the first main pedalboard, and the Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner from the second board.
This quote from Hinds in the guitar.com article helps to explain:
"Man, I'm ALWAYS changing my mind about guitars and gear - I never use the same setup. I have three different rigs out there that have different guitars, pedals and amps in them. This is just a nice little snapshot of what I use."
It seems as though Hinds makes a habit of switching out gear.
Thus, his 2014 arrangement, and the fact that it omits most of his old pedals (even his pedalboard has been switched out), shouldn't surprise.
A couple things are worth noting about the 2014 setup:
A Couple More Rig Takeaways (2014 version)
Hinds is running a bass wah pedal: This can be a creative way for lead guitar players who play with heavy distortion, or use a lot of lower tunings, to get a wah that's voiced deeper. Bass wahs are often more accommodating to heavier styles of music.
Two boards and two volume pedals: It looks as though Hinds has replaced the need for multiple amplifiers and channel switchers, in part, with volume pedals, which are also a great (and cheaper) alternative for those of us who can't (or don't want to) run a lot of amps. The Ernie Ball Volume pedal that Hinds uses is cheap and a super-effective method for controlling output at a single point.
A/B/Y switches: Good or bad?
While Hinds may have moved on from the traditional A/B/Y switch setup, it doesn't mean that these switches aren't helpful for our own rigs. Used properly, an A/B/Y switch can have the following benefits:
- Saves time switching between settings
- Allows you to plug two instruments into the same amplifier
- Allows you to split one instrument into two amplifiers
- Allows you to diversify your pedalboard (two separate pedal chains)
- Can split a signal at any point
Some might feel this over-complicates their rig, but even Hinds' setup, with two switches, made sense after some careful examination.
It's not an absolutely critical piece of gear, but it does make your rig a lot more dynamic.
Moreover, they're really cheap, usually retailing under $50.
The Morley version is one of the most popular.
Why use multiple amplifiers?
Typically the pros will have at least two separate amplifiers, one for their clean sound and another for their dirty sound. In some cases, those amplifiers have multiple channels which are set to varying gain and volume levels.
Switching can then occur between both the amps and the channels thereof.
It's a great way to "dedicate" certain amplifiers to specific tasks.
If you need those tonal variances, it's better to get them from multiple amps than to try and draw them all out of one amplifier.
Is it a luxury?
Sure, and not a cheap one.
But, you'll commonly see the pros setup their rig this way, because it's far more functional and versatile. If we can mirror that setup, at least to an extent, we'll benefit in the same manner.
Do I need all this stuff?
Remember, I'm looking for helpful takeaways.
I've no interest in simply plagiarizing Hinds' pedalboard and amplifiers.
Few could afford to do that, anyway.
So, I'm not suggesting that you must have two A/B/Y switches and four, or even multiple, amplifiers. However, you should be able to recognize if you're the type of player, or if you're in a situation, where this type of setup would benefit you.
On a smaller scale, it still works.
If you have two amps and want to set them up to serve two different roles, Hinds' rig gives us a clear picture of what that could look like.
Resources from this Post
Guitar.com Brent Hinds 2011 Rig Diagram. Guitar.com (who purchased Guitar Geek a few years ago) has a fantastic library of rig diagrams. While some of them are a bit dated, they're all useful, since most guitar gear is somewhat timeless.
Premier Guitar Mastadon Rig Rundown. The Rig Rundown video (and article) series from Premier Guitar is one of the best "gear resources" in existence.
Brent Hinds Wikipedia. A detailed list of resources (in the references section) about Brent Hinds.
Brent Hinds: The Epiphone Interview. An intriguing interview that gets deeper into the personality of Brent Hinds.
Getting the Most out of your Delay Pedal. A short piece by Joe Charupakorn on Premier Guitar that details a helpful list of delay pedal best practices and confirms the wisdom of Hinds in keeping delays at the end of his signal chain.
Flickr Commons Image courtesy of Ansik