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How to Replicate the Led Zep/JPJ's Sound?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by AndyMan, Mar 20, 2004.

  1. AndyMan

    AndyMan Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 17, 2000
    Columbus, Ohio
    Hey everyone--

    I've been digging the Led Zep DVD and the JPJ sound. I'd like to replicate that sound.

    So, should the reciepe be:

    1. Fender Jazz (CS '64 NOS Jazz w/ vol/vol/tone??? or ?)

    2. Flats --here's the question: Which ones did JPJ use? Rotosounds??? Are the high tension (see below).

    3. solid state amp--recommendations here please
    Old Acoustic preamp + poweramp???)

    4. 18" speakers--recomendations here please. Thinking of 2 SWR Big Bens stacked

    Also, I am leary of high tension flats that would twist the neck of the jazz over time.



  2. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    You could go the Bass POD or Bass Vamp route and use the Acoustic 360 Model...
  3. Rock&Roll


    Jul 21, 2002
    I know why you're thinking flatwounds are the way to go for JPJ sound, but they're not. While JPJ's sound is nice and fat on the records, I know from recording that you can have a really bright sound out of your amp, and make it sound totally different in mixing.

    I personally own 2 301 powered acoustic cabs, and the matching 360 preamp. This is exactly what JPJ used for bass. I also have the American Fender Jazz bass with 1962 custom shop pickups.

    Although JPJ's playing is one of my major influences in bass playing, and I do love his tone, I've never really strived to try to recreate his exact sound. But, I will say, when I plug in the acoustics with my Jazz bass, I've nailed the sound numerous times. This is with Rotosound RS-66 roundwound stings and using my fingers (no pick).

    The thing to realize is this. Generally, JPJ uses pretty clanky tones. Though not as defined as Geddy Lee's clankyness. There are only a handfull of songs on the records that he used flatwounds on. One of those songs was "Dazed and Confused." Give that listen, and then listen to "Black Dog" and note the tone difference.

    So if you want to mock JPJ in the most versatile way, I suggest this.

    Go get 2 acoustic 301 cabs (the ones that have the amplifier built into the cabinet), and one 360 preamp (the preamp has outputs for up to 4 cabinets). That 64 NOS jazz bass would probably be a good way to go to. Toss some RS-66's on that, and go to town.

    You did ask about the RS-77 flatwound Rotosounds. I had some on my old P-bass, and they are high tension string for sure. I really wouldn't want them on thin Jazz bass neck. And they do play a bit stiff. But the RS-66 is the Rotosound woundwound set. These strings feel just a nice as any other roundwound string, and are not stiff at all. I really do recommend these RS-66s for your Jazz Bass.

    The 361 amplifier system is definately an odd bird. While most bass players these days go gaga for 10" speaker setups, I like to stick with 15" or 18" speakers (I've heard that acoustic even had a cab with a 24" speaker, though I've never seen proof). I've personally never heard a 4x10 cab sound bad, but they carry a much diffent tonal characteristic than the big speakers.

    When I got my 361, I was humbled. Humbled because the amp precisely recreated my every move. So that meant if i played to sloppy, I sounded worse than if I played sloppy though my yorkville combo amp. Though, I was seriously un-cool with this fact for a while, I eventually just became a better bass player because of the new need for cleaner playing.

    The 301 cabinet is a special folded horn design. The 18" speaker points towards the rear of the cabinet, and the sound is reflected in a "W" style out of the top and bottom of the cabinet.

    Though common sense seems to say that this thing would make nothing my muddy un-defined bass tone, it really has no problem making plenty of treble if desired. Just adjust the pre-amp acordingly. For instance, I use the preamp with the bass knob at roughly 10-'o'-clock and the treble at about 1-o'-clock with the bright switch on. (this gives my a healthily trebily tone, so I usually roll my guitar's tone knobs back a bit.) Then I just do a little more tone tweaking with the Variamp.

    And really, that might sound like the wrong way to get a fat tone, but really, you tone will be fat as crap if you jack that bass knob up to 12-noon or higher. Basically put, you might feel a little overwhelmed a the challenge of getting good tone from an Acoustic 361 rig, but you have to remember that this amp will work like no other amp you've played on.

    I know my ears lied to me when I got my 360 rig. I couldn't find a tone I was happy with, mainly because I wasn't aware of the fact that I had the "bass" knob to high, and it was making my tone to un-even, and thus my bass sounded quiet, even when it was thudering loud.

    So what I'm saying is, if you like JPJ's tone, then the Acoustic 361 rig is exactly up your alley. But I'd advise that if you get one, be prepared to not feel right at home with these amps right away. But really, once you gain the understanding of how to use the acoustics, you'll be in a new heaven of great warm cool and sexy bass tones that make your mouth water.

    Really, you need at least 2 cabinets really get the JPJ sound. Though one cabinet is plenty for most any gig, the 361's real tonal character is brought out in multiple cabinets. (remember, your doubling your wattage, and your speakers every time you add a cabinet) I've only run dual cabinets a few times, but all i can say is "wow."

    One thing I don't want to do it try to hype-up the 361s. Though these amps sound great, they are really loud, and big, and heavy duty, This doesn't mean you're gonna be able to knock down walls and blow out candles with your wall of sound. But these amps will definately fill a room, and do so with ease. With all the guys out there hypeing these things up, you'd think these amps had the equivelent force of an atomic explosion. Maybe these guys are used to using 30-watt practice amps or something. The 361 is an amp. It is a tool of a Bass players trade, and that's all any amp is. You just have to be able to use the tools correctly.

    That said, I'm able to say this. I am very happy with my "little" yorkville combo amp, and I can get good JPJ tone from this if I want. So the 361 isn't the only route to travel to sound like Led Zeppelin. Really, JPJ zone is one of the easiest tones to achieve, I think.

    One last thing to consider is this. The 361 isn't the most ideal bedroom rig. It's designed for big rooms, and big space. useing a 361 rig in your bedroom is like a 300 pound guy driving a Yugo. He can do it and get around, but you can bet he is cramped for space. And so your sound will be in a small room.

    So if you're not getting out any farther than a large bar gig, I have one amp to recomend you. The Roland DB-700. I've gotten tone so low from one of these little amps that I scared myself. And even though it has all that microprocessing crap that generally would warn you that the tone will suck, this amp is just freaking awesome, and I mean for anything. Jazz, funk, R&B, Rock & Roll, Blues, Country, anything.

    Other General Acoustic 361 info:

    -Each 301 cabinet contains an estimated 260-watt solid state amplifier. (that 260w rating seems highly underestimated in person)

    -Each 301 cabinet contains a single 18" cast-frame cerwin vega speaker, which I have been told was specially developed for the 301 cabinet.

    -The preamp can work with up to four cabinets at one time ( maybe more, I don't know).

    -The early 70's 360/301 bass rig is generally more highly regarded than the mid 70' 370/301 setup.

    -I'm told that the folded horn design was for use back in the day when bass guitar wasn't run through the PA. The folded horn makes the bass project over a greater distance than a standard front-loaded cabnet. Another very famous folded horn cab is the old old Sunn 215 cabinet. I wish I could find one for sale.

    - The cabinet is very very close to the same size of the Ampeg 8x10, and I estimate it's weight at over 150-LBS.

    - Acoustic 361s were the main rig for JPJ, Jaco Pastorias, Sly & the family stone, The Jackson 5, and the list goes on lots longer than that.

    Things to watch out for in old 361 setups:

    -These amps were built like tanks for profesionall touring bands, and that's why they are still alive today. But they are now 30 years old. You'll most likely need to get them serviced by a tech who really knows his stuff, and buy the schematics. Both of my amps needed new output transistors and a handfull of other things. I got my schematics from George Grexa in Greenville, PA. His e-mail is VETCHKING@AOL.COM. He makes really nice full size photo-copies.

    -The speakers in the cabinets are very old. Both of my speakers needed a re-cone because the cloth surround had gotten old and brittle, then started to rip apart from the speaker basket. Though, I have only re-coned one at this time, I just use the other at bed-room practice volume (65 Db or so). I found a local guy to do the recone for me (about $85), but there is some talk that because the speaker is special to the 301 cabinet, it needs to be reconed with non-standard equipment or something. Again, George Grexa might be able to help you out more there.

    -usually, the head will set you back about $400 bucks. Though, I got lucky one day. I stumbled into a local shop, and found my second 360 head for $25+tax out the door. The guy didn't know what he had, and it looked dirty, but worked great after cleaning the pots. These are one of the greatest sounding preamps in the world. I love recording with mine.

    -The cabinets are usually either way overpriced, or way underpriced. You won't find anyone who will ship the cabinet to you. I had to drive a 1000 mile round trip for my cabinets, but because I was willing to do this, I ended up getting 2 cabs and a head for what most people would have to pay for one cabinet alone.

    Anyhow, I'll do everyone a favor and shut up now. I just hope I've been some help or something.
  4. zillo


    Jun 5, 2003
    :D WOW. That is a great response. Thanks for sharing..that's really interesting and informative.

    JPJ, Phil Lesh, JackCasady...those guys all defined the wall of sound. Big, fat, round, and loud :bassist: !!
  5. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Rock&Roll...thanks for the informative post. A few corrections on Acoustic nomenclature seem warranted though...

    The 360 is a preamp, as you mentioned, with four outputs to drive up to four 361 powered cabinets. According to the service manual that I have for the 361, the power amp is rated 200 watts rms.

    The old acoustic catalogs that I have refer to that whole rig, preamp and powered cabinet as a 361 as well. There is also the term 361 power plus associated with the powered cabinet.

    I never found the Acoustics lacking in treble response either, but it's interesting to know that the 361 had a low filtered output to plug in another cabinet for enhanced highs.

    The 301 is a non-powered version of the 361 p-p. I've owned both and IIRC, the dimensions are identical.

    While I always thought that the speaker was a Cerwin-Vega, the markings on the back say only Vega...probably before a merger of some sort.

    As I mentioned, I owned both a 361 and a 371 (370 head with 301 cabinet). I finally decided that I liked the sound of my more modern gear better so I sold them both off on eBay...and shipped them to different parts of the country. Not hard to ship really as long as you're willing to build a crate for them and find a shipper that will deal with the size and weight (I used Forward Air for both with excellent results).

    I was never a huge Zep or JPJ fan so I don't know how his live tone then (with Acoustics) compares to his live tone now (with SWR).

    For more info on acoustic amps, visit http://www.acoustic360.com
  6. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    In general, you're definatley looking at an early '60s style jazz bass with Rotosound roundwounds and an Acoustic head, as mentioned above. Jonesy used cabs with 15" Cerwyn Vega speakers and played both fingerstyle and with a pick, so keep that in mind. Also, as was also mentioned, the "live" Jones tone was much more grindy adn cutting than what you hear on official releases. If you ever listen to some of the jams and rehearsal sessions for III, IV, and Presence, you'll notice a lot more treble in his tone...playing with a pick, that is.

    On a side note, while you'll never be able to recreate Jonsey's tone (as much of if is due to recording and mixing techniques used by Page in the studio), you can get very close with a lot of other gear. In fact, I'd say that you could probably get closer to a Jones vibe and "general" tone by using equipment that he didn't actually use in the late '60s and early '70s. I have a jazz that was built for me by Mike Lull and play through an old 240 watt SWR Redhead and SWR IOD/Stewart 2.1/Epifani 3X10 rigs and am very satisfied with the Jones-esque tone I can get. Nevertheless, if you want to go authentic, I think that you have the info you need. Good luck and enjoy those DVDs!!! :D ;)
  7. Beefbass

    Beefbass Guest

    Feb 4, 2001
    John Paul Jones said he quit using flatwounds during his session days, so flats are not going to be necessary.

    GK says that he also began using their amps in the early 70's. Don't know about that though, because if you've seen the Somg Remains the Same, he definetly has Acoustic amps behind him. That footage was from 1973.
  8. BillyB and R&R handled most of the data on the 360. Don't know anything about the 301.

    Got my 360 (360/361) new in '71. Gigged pretty hard with it back then. Went to work for the corporates for 25 yrs+ and just stored it in the house, playing it off and on. It's still in excellent shape.

    I'll throw in a link for pictures of my beast for your reference. I would highly recommend the remastered Zep DVD that came out last summer. JPJ is running a twin bottom 360 setup in one of the videos. Ah the old days, 100 #'s lighter (me that is), had hair and I should've stayed with the band in Jax, FL back in '71!


    Whoa, check out Sleestak's 320/804 setup, I thought the 360 was big... 4-15's!!

    BC ;)

    Ooops, looks like you got that DVD, sorry, excellent footage and sound after remaster process!!
  9. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    For what it's worth I've got a bass video that said he used a combination of flats and rounds and finger and flat picking.
  10. Razor


    Sep 22, 2002
    This is....like the best thread ever! :hyper:
  11. AndyMan

    AndyMan Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 17, 2000
    Columbus, Ohio
    Hey Guys GREAT INFO!!!


  12. shx music

    shx music

    May 23, 2006
    im not sure JPJ had a 'sound' as such.. ok, so the classic image is the jazz bass and acoustic amps/cabs but he was always trying different things, a real creative, experimental and versatile musician, he didnt just use a jazz bass, he also used a precision, an alembic copy (apparently not an actual alembic!!) Manson Basses, standup bass, 5 string and 8 strings basses, all used at various times, he also used flat wound and round wound strings, a pick sometimes, his fingers others (i did one forum where they were arguing for ages over this lol hes a great bassist! he used both of course lol) .. he would change the tone settings greatly (compare dazed with achillies for example), regarding amps ive video clips of him using acoustic amps/cabs (mostly) but also marshall, fender, GK, even wem ... i think the secret for live playing would be a jazz bass and a couple of the big bass reflex bins but you might need a big roof rack!
  13. AndyMan

    AndyMan Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 17, 2000
    Columbus, Ohio
    You guys think an SWR Grand Prix with the Jazz and Rotos into an SWR Big Ben 18 can get there??? I have a theory that because Steve Raab worked for Acoustic, when he started his own Co., that Acoustic sound and circuit made its way into the "SWR sound." What do you think???

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