Guitar Zen: The Art of STEREO!!!

Stereo and then some… is there ever too many Marshall Amps?!

The Audience is Listening

For years, playing the electric guitar meant simply plugging into an amp, cranking it up, and rockin’ out! But these days, there are so many ways to expand the sound that is delivered from your axe via that little guitar cable to a vast array of effects and hi-tech amp & cabinet simulators, that can transform any guitar into a wall of THX-like surround sound!

Although there are several products that will give you a “stereo” sound, there are a few ways to run your guitar rig in stereo and there are some pretty cool things you can do with your effects when running in a stereo setup.

Double Your Tone

For example: On a recent tour with Red, Disciple and Silverline, I got to check out some pretty well designed stereo guitar rigs. In talking with Disciple guitarist Andrew, he showed me how he runs two amp heads that power two 4×12 cabs each and he puts a small millisecond delay on one amp and it further enhances the stereo effect of the 2 amps running simultaneously. This is just one of many cool things that you can do when running stereo, so here are a few easy ways to get you started in STEREO:

It Doesn’t Co$t Much

There are a few cheap options that could be picked up at a Radio Shack or Guitar Center. You could find either an adapter or a cable that runs out of your guitar or pedals (1/4 inch Male) and splits into 2 mono (1/4 in Female) output jacks. Then you can run a cable to each amp. Another option is an A/B switch that will allow you to switch between amps or run them together at the same time. This is the best option for a clean signal with ease of use, especially in a live situation.

Once you have your guitar blaring in stereo you can do all sorts of good stuff like:

Run one amp distorted and one amp clean.

Blend one amp with effects and one amp running dry

Experiment with stereo panning of delays, reverb, and chorus effects

Try different EQ settings for each amp to blend 2 layers of unique tone

Try moving the amps apart from each other a bit to fill the area with a wider stereo blend

There are many other options to run stereo and expand the width and depth of your tone and overall sound. So give one of these in-expensive options a try and see how far you can expand YOUR sound!

Scott “SVH” Von Heldt is a staff writer for SMG. Scott is currently the lead guitarist for Brian “Head” Welch (ex-Korn) and has worked with members of White Zombie, Cirque Du Soliel and many others. In late 2008 he released the first book of his Mystic Art of Self-Discovery series entitled Mind Over Metal: The Musician’s Guide to Mental Mastery.


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  • Stan

    Thanks for the post – and ideas!
    I don’t quite have enough amps just yet (this may change this evening) but I was thinking about starting to play around with some stereo effects…

    Any recommendations on A/B switches – especially any that offer A/B/AB?… (this may be a stupid question – I am an electric n00b).

  • I know that the delay trick is something you can do when recording too, if you don’t want to actually double-track the guitars. It seems like you need something like 20-50ms delay to really help make them sound separate instead of just like a big mono track, although I might be getting my number off.

    In addition to the size of your stereo field, doing one amp clean and one distorted is a great way to bring out some definition or note separation that gets lost with distortion, or for that matter just to get a slightly different tone. I did that for both guitars on my last album (shameless plug:

    • xpnctoc

      Very dangerous to use the 20ms delay trick. It’s very easy to push things out of phase. You’ll think you’ve got a big guitar sound going until you’re in an unexpected situation where you’re listening to your recording on a mono system and WHOOSH! all your guitars disappear due to phase cancelation. The only way to get a reliable stereo signal is to mic two amps to start with.

  • SVH

    There are a bunch. Behringer makes a few, Rapco, Whirlwind etc. If you Google search Guitar Amp A/B Switch and you’ll find several options!

  • For those who think modelling works: An option are the Line 6 amp Modelers (X3live and current HD series) with dual tone. You can set up two rigs to run through through different amps (modeled) and pedals and send it out through two outs.

  • I’ve always liked playing stereo, or even in a stripped down situation, A/B. I used to use a DOD A/A+B switch box, My main overdriven sound was an early 70’s Marshall & 4-12 cab, & my clean was a chorused Roland JC-120. I ran my main Marshall on the B side, & would leave the Roland switched off. When it came time for the ballad, I’d switch on the Roland JC-120 & switch to “A”, & when the crunch parts came, I’d hit the A+B switch. It worked great. When that song was over, The Roland was switched off, & I was back to the B channel. These days, I play with a channel switching head for the same effect.

  • DaveC

    Great article. It really got me thinking. Just with misc. amps I have laying around my studio, I could probably come up with some pretty cool sounding tones if I try all kinds of different combos and delays. All I think I need to buy is a A/B splitter switch and I’m good to go. Can’t wait to try it out!

  • CGT Guitar

    I like the idea of separating the signal and applying a slight delay on one side. I think Brian May (Queen) does something similar (although he uses it to harmonise with his current part and create a multi-guitar effect).

    I suppose this creates a similar sound to when you double track a guitar part in a recording and separate the two tracks left and right? Overall, these things can create a huge sounding guitar part and add much heaviness!

    • Definitely. For me, its really fun to record a guitar track and then play around with various effects, duplicate and pan and see where it goes. Keep up the good work man!

  • Preetika Thakur

    Cool Ideas!

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