“The Brown Sound”, Eddie Van Halen’s iconic guitar tone from Van Halen’s self-titled debut album, has been considered one of the holy grail of guitar tones since the album’s release in 1978.
This tone is very raw, and is rumoured to have been achieved by cranking up an old Marshall ‘Plexi’ Superlead amp and using a Variac voltage regulator to drop the voltage going to the amp.
For my attempt at replicating this tone, I used my Kemper Profiler with a third party profile from Top Jimi Profiles called “TJ-68 SLead Max-4” as the base tone. What better way to start than to use a profile of an old Superlead amp!
In order to get the raw almost harsh sound that Eddie got on that first album, I changed the cabinet sound to a cabinet called “TillS 1960 013”. This cabinet setting is part of a free cabinet pack from Till Schleicher (available here: http://www.tillschleicher.com/tills-cab-pack-free/).
From here, I tweaked the Amplifer setting (in the Stack section) of the profile a little bit to add a bit of compression and sag – I changed the Power Sagging setting to 0.9 and the Compressor setting to 1.9.
This got me pretty close, but I still needed a bit more of a front end boost – for this I added the in-built graphic EQ stompbox in the Kemper, and used it purely for a volume boost of +1.5dB (EQ settings remained flat).
To top this off, I just added some reverb to get me in the ballpark of the original reverb sound on Van Halen I (which was said to be achieved by running Eddie’s guitar sound through a PA in a basement and recording the room sound!). For this I simply added a Hall reverb module, with the following settings:
Del+Rev Balance: 0%
These settings got me pretty close to the Brown Sound – I found myself jamming along to Van Halen I and loving the tone!
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