Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Popper-Like Rigs on a Budget

If you priced out John Popper's rig from circa 2002, you're looking at well over $10,000 in gear.  Chances are, most players wanting to get similar sounds have nowhere near the budget for it!

John's rig has undergone changes over the years, most noticeably in the amp department.  From various sources, the core of the amped sounds have come from essentially a four amp set-up.  This includes an amp for clean and distorted tones, one for effects, one for feedback, and one that functions as a Leslie (I believe this is the first I've mentioned him using a Motion Sound amp for his Leslie tones).

Nowadays, there is a lone combo amp on stage and a second feedback amp.  I have not clue if he is using four amps still, but that might not be important.

If you look at his basic needs, he needs a clean sound, dirty sound, something that works with effects, and something to give the Leslie sounds.  With current technology, you can easily replicate this four amp set-up any number of ways.  I will suggest the use of a clean bass/keyboard/powered speaker paired with a multi-fx unit.

Units like the Line 6 POD HD500 and Digitech RP1000 let you set up separate amp "patches" and tones to work with.  You can then hit a foot switch to bounce from tone to tone.  Using a SM58 like John, for example, and an impedence transformer, you can plug right into the digital modelling unit and take an output to your sound source.

These units also come with great effects.  In fact, either unit covers all the pedals listed as part of John's rig circa 2002.  On these units, you can assign different effects to each patch, etc, and use footswitches to control them.

John's preamp rack effects aren't really needed for this rig.  The Harmonizers and Quadraverb are multi-fx units to begin with, so again, the HD500 or RP1000 have you covered, even for Leslie tones.

Assuming you look for good deals, you can have a similar rig to JP for under $1,000.  If you want to spend a little more, you can add the use of some other effects pedals like the Eventide stompboxes, a higher quality Leslie, and even a harmonica specific overdrive pedal from someone like the Lone Wolf Blues Company. 

There are cons to this approach.  Not all the multi-fx units do exactly the same effects in exactly the same way.  For example, dialing in JP's synth sounds is tricky.  I also haven't nailed his pitch shifted delays. 

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