Monthly Archives: July 2010

What does an AX84 P1 eXtreme sound like?

From the posts in this blog you might know already that my first (and only, so far) amplifier build was a P1 eXtreme, which is a design from the AX84 ‘movement’. It has these characteristics:

  • Single-ended, i.e. Class A output stage, using a single pentode.
  • A two-stage triode-based preamp. My build is using a single JJ Electronic ECC83S (12AX7).
  • A simple tone stack sitting in between the two triode stages.
  • Capable of using multiple 8-pin tube types. My build is using a JJ Electronic 6V6 pentode.

Since I built it I’ve been playing it as much as possible, trying to get to know it’s sound and feel. The only decent amp I’ve ever owned prior to this was a Marshall 2204 50 watt head, which in itself is lovely, but it is way too loud for good tone to be had at home. This was the major reason why I built the P1 eX in the first place. But the question I am most asked is “what does it sound like?”. So this post is to present some recordings I did this weekend.

P1-eX with Tokai Les Paul copy

P1-eX with Tokai Les Paul copy, my 2×12 cab with the SM57 placed scientifically ‘in front’


I have a very crude recording setup at home. My ‘office’ is an 8’x10′ room with wood panels and a reasonably high ceiling, which is terrible for recording. But these didn’t come out too badly I suppose. Here’s the setup:

  • Apple iMac with built in audio input.
  • Nicely cheap Behringer mixer acting as mic preamp.
  • Shure SM57 placed ‘somewhere in front’ of the guitar speaker.
  • A custom build (I made it myself) 2×12 cabinet largely modeled on the THD design, with Celestion G12T-75 speakers I got off eBay years ago for $50.

The ‘made-up-as-I-went-along plan’

I decided to start with the master volume up full, and the preamp gain down low. Then I’d play a bit, crank the preamp gain a bit, play a bit…you get it. The idea being that one could hear the entire range of the amp from quite to full-on cranked. I also wanted to show the difference between the typical Les Paul type guitar and the typical Strat type guitar.

Recording One – Les Paul

About 5 years ago my wife bought me a fantastic Tokai Les Paul. It’s a pretty damned good copy of someones notion of what a ’59 sun burst would be like. I love it. It plays like butter. (Towards the end listen for my apology to my wife…apparently a cranked P1 was enough to completely freak-out the dog). Pickups-wise I started with the neck and made my way through both pickups on and then the bridge only. As is fairly typical when and amp is cranked you end up with a good tone on the bridge, but then you get mush when you switch to the neck.

Click the orange/white play button for the audio clip: 

I was standing about 4 feet away from the amp which was the sweet spot where feedback was easy to control….right up until it was dimed. You can hear at the end (if you last that long) where she just wanted to squeal whenever I stopped playing. So it must be said, this amp is great just below ‘full-on’. The recording doesn’t do justice to the feeling of being in the same room as this amp, but we’ve all been there, right?

Recording Two – Steinberger

This recording is with my Steinberger. It has the so called ‘7’ configuration of pickups, which means an 89 in the neck position, an SA in the middle and an 89 in the bridge. The 89s have the ability to turn off a coil and pretend to be SA pickups. This means I use this for strat-like tones rather than Les Paul tones. So this recording starts off with the neck pickup in single coil mode. In fact I never use humbucker mode on this recording at all.

Click the orange/white play button for the audio clip:

While I like the tone of a strat-type guitar with this amp, I am still so very biased towards Les Pauls. i.e. if Eric Clapton calls me right now and said “I need another guitarist tonight” I’d take my Les Paul.

Recording Three – Les Paul + a lame tune

This is a simple jam track that I made with my son Dylan. He was noodling around on the keyboard and created this lovely haunting chord pattern. I then ruined it by putting drums and bass on it. Anyway, the ‘solo’ guitar is the Tokai in the middle position, with the neck volume backed off a bit, and the P1 preamp gain at about 80% and the master volume at about 30%. Same recording setup otherwise, in fact the picture above was taken right after I recorded this.

Click the orange/white play button for the audio clip:

I love this tone. It’s what I always end up dialing up on any amp and the P1 gets me this tone at very low volume. That was the whole point right? 🙂

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