Other Players

Setzer tone question for the experts (Tavo, etc)


Ok, so I've got the guitar (trestle 6120's all with TV classics) the amp (6g6-b w/2x12 cab loaded with V30s) and the space echo (301). I also have Tavo's atomic brain and several tape emulators. D'Adarrio 10's, etc..... I have everything dialed in and get a neck pickup tone along with a good neck + bridge 'middle position' tone that sounds really, really close to Setzer.

But, I'm having a hard time with my bridge pickup being too bright....as in ray gun to the face bright.

I have the amp set like this: Volume: 3-5, treble: 7, bass: 3, presence: 7-ish. I believe that's slightly lower in the highs then Brian sets his, but even still, when I switch the bridge pickup it's shrill. My sound is a lot more like George Harrison on "Roll Over Beethoven" then "Rumble In Brighton". If I back the treble and presence down, and/or increase the bass, I lose the clarity of the neck and neck + bridge sound.

I had considered the long cable attenuating highs (reported as 30-50 ft) but I can't imagine Brian using a 50 ft cable in the studio (?)

I had thought about a pickup swap, either Setzer Sigs or Ray Butts, but Brian has used Classics for years and his tone was always great and never ice picky.

Maybe I need to experiment with pickup height? Would getting them closer to the string give me more 'fatness'?

Anyway, I'm open to suggestions, but please spare me the 'tone is in his fingers' thing. I've chased a few other famous players tones and with the appropriate gear and technique have nailed it, so I do believe this is achievable with my fingers plus the gear I have on tap.


A few amateur suggestions from someone with the same rig as you.

1) Don't tilt the speaker cab up. Keep it on the floor. It has legs, but the on-axis sound is much brighter. 2) Knobs are a little vague. My knobs and your knobs may not be exactly at the same position to be at the same spot on the pot. Dial them all the way left and right to be sure they are lining up properly with where you think they are. 3) Try to get s similar height between the screw heads and the strings with both bridge and neck. 4) Cord length/signal chain does matter. 5) Studio sound can be hard to recreate, it's the live sound you can reasonably replicate.

I find anything above 7-8 on Presence to be a bit harsh when I have a reverb unit engaged.


Don’t discount the long cable. If it works live why would Brian change it for the studio?

Also, the Brain is meant to emulate the 301, not ride piggyback on it. You’re likely over-cooking the pot; one or the other makes sense to me, not both.


Don’t discount the long cable. If it works live why would Brian change it for the studio?

Also, the Brain is meant to emulate the 301, not ride piggyback on it. You’re likely over-cooking the pot; one or the other makes sense to me, not both.

– Deke Martin

I definitely don't us the brain and 301 together, the point I was trying to make (and failed) is I have the space echo which stays in the music room and also the preamp in pedal form paired with a delay pedal for a more stage friendly/reliable rig


Jack and Deke, all good points, thank you.


Pickup height is everything with filtertrons. 1/32 of an inch can make a difference. It takes some time to dial them in just right. Not with the poles - you gotta move the whole pickup up and down. I didn't get along with the Classics or the Setzer sigs as much as a real vintage long pole Filter. The Ray Butts might be ticket.

The long cable is key, adding series capacitance to soak up the ice picks.

In the studio, Brian uses little Supro amps and things like that. So the recorded sound is going to be hard to chase. Live, he is BRIGHT. I've stood 10 feet in front of his amp and it's no wonder he'd got tinnitus.


Among many other things to consider, what tone are you chasing, live or studio? Whichever it is, have you considered which mic was used on the cab and where it was placed? Are you monitoring using the same desk and monitors as used during the recording? Do you have the session notes showing what adjustments were made and when during the mixdown?

It sounds like I’m being a smartass, but really, I’m not trying to be. There are so many variables to consider that you may as well be chasing a unicorn.

A recording session - whether studio or live - is a singular moment in time. You tweak the recorded tone in the mix however you have to and usually get the signature tone you’re looking for, but right off the bat you’re almost NEVER going to capture all the tone you’re searching for without a little tweaking.


And one other thing; I don’t know if I’m taking your posts too literally, but I believe Rumble in Brighton was recorded using a Vox amp - it’d be a tough challenge trying to recreate that using a Fender.


The question is what era and album?

I’ve seen him with BSO, he rides the master volume a lot to tame those highs.

He hardly uses the bridge pickup for rhythm except when playing opening riffs - Drive Like Lightning for example.

Rumble in Brighton is bridge pickup throughout, but he lowers the MV during verses and chorus and max it out during solos BUT he picks near the neck to remove the highs. I’m talking live version here with his Fenders.

Rock This Town was recorded straight to the board IIRIC.


I sometimes wonder what we'd experience if we got the chance to pick up his guitar and play through his rig. Plus, t goes without saying, he sounds like himself whatever the amp/pickup combo


Dont forget the age of his guitars. His vintage 6120s sound different than newer HotRods imho. The HotRods sounds treblier on the bridge position. I believe he uses most of his old guitars in the studio. Also in a Premier Guitar rig rundown the tech sad he is using AMS tubes (?) for preamp section which he bought by bus load in the 80ies. Thats maybe all is a factor. The long cable is a major point too


I have struggled with this exact thing- a too-bright bridge pickup- for YEARS.

Here are my 2 conclusions.

1) this one makes sense: I have a Hot Rod, and with it's single volume control, the pickup s see 500K all the time. On the other 6120s, each pickup sees at least 2 (and in the middle position, 3) 500K pots- which shaves off high end due to more resistance.

Hot Rod
neck 500K
middle 500K
bridge 500K

neck 250K
middle 167K
bridge 250K

I therefore changed my Hot Rod's vol pot to 250K. It helps.

2) there's something I've never been able to identify... IDK if it's the construction, top thickness, I have no idea. But that bridge pickup is too bright. If I EQ the amp so the bridge pickup has that "growl" Setzer gets, the middle position loses clarity. If I EQ for the famous Setzer "jangle" in the middle position, the bridge is too ice pick.

the only solution I ever found: a Power'Tron in the bridge. I was happiest with my Hot Rod, when I was going for those tones, when I had a P'tron in the bridge and a Classic in the neck. THAT worked. I know Setzer doesn't use a P'tron, but I'm not talking about "matching" his GEAR, I'm talking about matching his SOUND.

Which is also why I went up to 11s... that also helps. A lot. Setzer doesn't use 11s, but for the NOT ice-picky bridge tone, it helps quite a bit.

I have Setzers in the guitar now.... love the neck, bridge is still too bright. I've shelved the guitar for awhile, as I'm tired of messing with it.... I might get a P'tron again for the bridge, OR I might just say to hell with it and mount 2 dog ear P90s and stop chasing Setzer's tone, and go for something completely different with that guitar... it's been very frustrating. And it sucks because I love the guitar- the looks, the way it feels, the way it plays, I have just NEVER been happy with Filtertrons. Happiest I ever was, was a P'tron bridge and Classic neck.


Something else I just remembered... something else that always worked.... and maybe this is kind of doing the same thing as the "long cable" is.... when I turned the volume control on the guitar down to 9, everything smoothed out. I really didn't like doing that, because I'm a "guitar on 10" kind of guy (unless I'm trying to clean up for something pretty like "Sleepwalk"), but one notch lower on the volume knob made all the difference in the world.


Cant help but think you need to adjust the bridge pickup height. Are you playing with a band? Sometimes a guitar sounds bright at home jamming alone, but fits in nicely in the context of a band.


Tape age in the Space Echo is a factor too. Caps and used electronics in his amp also Plus: He prefers the old string sound more. New strings sound way brighter than old slimy ones...

We need Tavo here!


Setzer also uses flimsy picks--no idea how he picks so fast with them, but that matters too.



And...(you can only do this if you have a guitar with volume controls for both pickups)...I like to put the selector in the middle and adjust the neck pickup, turning it down a little. This leaves the bridge as the main sound but mellows it out a little with the neck pup in the mix.

Can't help thinking it's the long cable, tone settings on the amp...plus he actually doesn't use the bridge pup on it's own much. I was surprised to hear that the Rev Horton Heat plays almost on the neck all the time! The twang and bite is found in his amp settings. So if he solos the bridge pickup, he's gonna get a nip in the ass from a sharp thin guitar sound


Pickup height is important here, and Setzer also rides his volume control. He never seems to have it all the way up.

Also.. this 6G6-B is suspect. Have you had it checked to see if the filter caps in the doghouse are to spec? Too many hippies screwed with these amps and stiffened up the response. Also does it have its stock output transformer, it wont respond the same w a generic blackface OT. Is the stock tapped treble pot still in the amplifier? Are you using small bottle tungsol 5881 or phillips 6L6WGB small bottle? If you have large 6L6 STR type tubes or those horrid sovtek hybrid 5881s, the response will much more strident or surf amp like. ..and are you playing throught the normal channel and not the bass channel?

ps. the canare cables he uses have low capacitance loading, so the length is not necessarily "Warming" up his sound. The extended cable length created impedance matching (increase) to the line level Roland Space echo.


And btw... we want to see pics of your rig


As others have said, raise the bridge pickup, it makes a lot of difference.

Funny thing, I played Danman's 6120 (the one you see in the background) thru his blonde bassman on Setzer settings and a Nocturne brain and I didn't sound anything like Brian. I still sounded like me.


As others have said, raise the bridge pickup, it makes a lot of difference.

Funny thing, I played Danman's 6120 (the one you see in the background) thru his blonde bassman on Setzer settings and a Nocturne brain and I didn't sound anything like Brian. I still sounded like me.

– Gerry Ratrod

We're not talking about sounding like Brian Setzer, we're talking about getting Brian Setzer's tone.


Wow, can't thank you all enough for the suggestions.

An (easy) suggestion that immediately helped was experimenting with the volume knob-thanks Tavo and Ruger9. Bringing it down just a touch took off the top end 'shrill' while still keeping everything fat, but twangy. There is a small 'window' on the knob though; bring it back any more and it gets muddy so I'm going to have to adjust my technique as I've always been a guitar volume (and tone when I have them) full up while soloing. We have the same struggle Ruger9!

I also brought the pickups closer to the strings and that seemed to help too.

Also, I should have clarified as to the specific Setzer tone I'm chasing ( a lot of you brought up excellent points about different amps in the studio, mics, etc) since he's had a long career. The BSO live, circa 'Dirty Boogie' era is my goal.

I still have a ways to go (especially my playing) but I hope to post some clips/video of my rig soon. Please keep the suggestions coming, I'm super grateful for all the help!


Dirty Boogie is THE tone, I wish you well in your endeavours.


"The BSO live, circa 'Dirty Boogie' era is my goal."

"Dirty Boogie is THE tone"

Agree with Deke- Dirty Boogie was the PINNACLE. His tone on the live DVD from Japan was always my goal.


Dirty Boogie is THE tone, I wish you well in your endeavours.

– Deke Martin

Thanks Deke. I picked up a '99 tone post Hot Rod to help get that much closer. While I much prefer the builds on my post FMIC Gretsch's, the '99 has charm and sounds great now that I've got a better harness and TVJ's in it (I'm toying with having it refretted now). I didn't have an "OMG, so this is why Brian still uses these..." moment like I had hoped, but it is slightly different (maybe a little harder/immediate sounding?) then my trestle braced guitars and has to add-even if just a small amount-to the late 90's-early 2000's BSO live tone recipe.

Register Sign in to join the conversation