The following article is a WoodyTone.com exclusive. WoodyTone is a great site for guitarists that’s written by a self-professed “tone-freak” who’s favorite guitarist is Edward Van Halen.
There’s been a lot of stuff written about, said about and speculated about regarding Edward Van Halen’s mind-blowing, world-altering Van Halen I setup. Was he running “slaved” amps (one amp into another), was he using some sort of boost and/or distortion pedal, etc.
If you read hard and don’t fall prey to speculation (which is tough!), it looks like he didn’t use more than his regular club setup, which was: Frankie guitar >> pedals >> his famed Marshall Super Lead (stated to be all or largely stock, but those heads were all different back then!), all knobs on 10 >> 4×12 cabinet(s) with Celestion 20- or 25-watt speakers and JBL-120s – and a Variac used to “brown” the sound and decrease the volume.
This makes sense – why would he change what he spent so much time dialing in? On the other hand, he was changing stuff all the time….
Anyhow, the latest shot fired in this tone info craziness comes from Dave Friedman, who knows Ed and his circle, and who recently posted the following on the MetroAmp.com forum:
“Well here is what I was told by Rudy Leiren [Ed’s] long time tech. This was just last week. [Ed’s VHI] setup was [MXR] flanger-[MXR] phaser-Echoplex-amp. His main 100-watt was used on everything. The [tube] bias was turned all the way up and the variac was set to 91 volts into only one cab.
“There is a pic of the early days with a 50-watt [head] and a Vox [head]. [Rudy] told me the 50 was a backup to the 100, and the Vox was a last-ditch backup. [Ed] often borrowed amps for his backups. In fact, [Rudy] told me a story that at a party they were playing, Ed blew a fuse in his main amp and did not have a backup and had to run home to get a fuse while the band was playing. After this he always made sure he had a backup.
“Rudy said the EQ pedal [MXR 6-band] was used only for certain guitars or sometimes when he used rental gear that sounded bad [meaning NOT on VHI?!]. Also the Univox echo [located in the practice bomb!] was patched in by hand for Eruption only, and then was taken out of the chain after.
“As time went on [post-VHI], more cabs were used and so were more amps. The amps would only drive one cab, though.
“He did say Ed was always trying [new things], but would always come back to this setup.
“This info follows everything Ed has ever said to me personally. Also, when ‘84 hit he changed his setup to H&H power amps and some different effects. He still used a cab off the head, though no load resistor. The Load resistor came for the 5150 tour.”
And there you have it.