Traditional wisdom would say two amps are better than one. Yet this is no simple act of addition or multiplication. Building a wet/dry rig doesn’t have to be hard but getting it right will make your sound exponentially bigger, better, and bolder. But where do you start this journey?
This week on TPS, Dan & Mick offered a masterclass on wet/dry (and wet/dry/wet) amp setups. With practical insights at every corner to save you time and money on your build, here’s a top three of their tips for configuring your effects and amps in a wet/dry setup. If you’re interested in building a wet/dry/wet rig, head over to our previous blog on that topic here.
Know Where to Split Your Effects
Unlike a standard one-amp setup which invests all of your effects into a single amp, a wet/dry rig parcels out your sound into two amplifiers. As Dan noted at the top of the episode, “one amp certainly doesn’t sound bad, but you can see how… things can sound processed because there’s a lot that’s going on.” The big question, then, for building a wet/dry amp rig is where to split the signal in your effects chain.
For wet/dry, typically you will want to put the split after your overdrive and modulation effects but before any effects that involve reverb or delay. This split means that both amps get your central gain sound, but only the second amp receives effects that provide ambience, space, and texture. As a result, the clean amp retains all the attack and focus of your picking and dynamics while the wet-effects amp plays a supporting role in building that sound out. In the end, however, you’ll need to experiment where and when to put the split.
Think About Isolation and Phase Reversal
While a wet/dry rig might be new territory for most, it doesn’t have to be complex. As Mick noted, you don’t need to run a full-featured switching system to play multiple amps. The recently released EarthQuaker Devices Swiss Things will easily get the job done.
There are, however, certain features that you will need to ensure your switchbox has. As Dan specified, “as long as your splitter has an input, two outputs, one of those outputs has to be isolated, and phase reversible.” As Mick summed up, sure, there are many ways to MacGyver a splitter but it’s not worth the hassle and risk: “the way to do it is get a device that does it properly from your pedalboard and then just don’t think about it!”
Building a proper setup like this will resolve two massive headaches that haunt the DIY solution. First, if your rig has multiple amplifiers and their signals are not properly isolated you risk creating multiple earth loops that result in unwanted hum and noise. Second, if your amps are out of phase and you don’t know it, the result is a sound that is oddly hollow and lacks frequency dynamics, which is the exact opposite of why you went to all this trouble in the first place.
Start at the Drawing Board, Literally
Before you tear apart your board, buy a second amp and switcher, and starting linking everything up in the way you see it in your head, take this pro tip from Dan & Mick. “It’s worth drawing a diagram. Imagine your signal is a water flow. Draw out your set up and see where you want it to go and set it out on a piece of paper. That will get you a long way down the road of understanding.” As your rig becomes more complex, there is an increased likelihood of potential errors. Providing yourself a blueprint at the outset can help you identify, diagnose, and fix some of those problems on paper before they’re lost under endless patch cables.
As Dan concluded, the big takeaway from the episode is “you don’t have to have a crazy switching system to be able to do this. You just need two amplifiers and a way to split the signal.” Toss in a pen and paper for your blueprint, and you’re good to go.
Whether you’re neck deep in a wet/dry rig build and need some final pedalboard accessories to take things the rest of the way or are just starting the adventure and need a second amp and splitter, head over to see us instore or online at Riff City for everything you need to elevate your rig.
TPS Rig Rundown:
Guitars:Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster, PRS DGT, Collings 290 DCS, G&L ASAT Special.
Pedals: Sonic Research ST-300 Turbo Tuner Mini, Kingsley Page Tube Boost, Keeley D&M Drive, GigRig Humdinger, Triangulo Lab Chorus Ensemble, Mooer Trelicopter, Strymon Timeline, Neunaber Immerse Reverb, Bespeco VM13 ZUM.
Amps: Two-Rock Classic Reverb Signature and 2×12 cab with Two-Rock TR 1265B speakers, Marshall 1987x and Marshall 1960A cab with Celestion G12M Greenback speakers, Sovtek MIG 50 and 1×12 cab wth Celestion Alnico Cream speaker.