How to sound like Eddie Van Halen (Video)

How to sound like Eddie Van Halen (Video)

Without a doubt Eddie Van Halen was one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. Austrian Audio User Ralf has tried to reconstruct the legendary Brown Sound with the help of an OC818. Let’s take a look at how he succeeded:

Without a doubt Eddie Van Halen was one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. Austrian Audio user Ralf has created his version of Van Halen’s legendary guitar tone—known as the “brown sound” among fans—with the help of an OC818. Here’s how he did it:

Gear Comparison: Eddie vs. Ralf

According to Ralf’s extensive research Eddie Van Halen used the following equipment when recording in the studio:

  • Ibanez Destroyer
  • Maxon Super 70 pickups (PAF clones)
  • Light strings tuned to Eb
  • Flex 0.75 pick
  • 1968 Marshall Super Lead “Plexi” amp
  • 4×12 cabinet equipped with Celestion Blackbacks and JBL 120 speakers, close-miked with Shure SM 57s
  • Signal chain: Echoplex, Boss GE 10 graphic EQ into the Marshall’s front input

Ralf learned these details from Fritz Katoh. “Fritz was the designer of the Ibanez Destroyer,” Ralf explains. “The Super 70 pickups were modeled after a 57-60 PAF but with one to two tenths of the output power. I have such a pickup in my ’58 Goldtop. Getting a ’70s Destroyer was impossible for me.”

In his experiment, Ralf used:

  • Gibson Les Paul Goldtop
  • PAF pickups
  • Elixir 09-46 Strings
  • Tuning: Eb
  • 68/69-style Marshall Super Lead Mark II amp, reducing the voltage using a Variac to 170-180 volts instead of 230 (in the US, that would mean dropping the normal 110 volts to 80-90)
  • Jim Dunlop Echoplex delay and preamp
  • Boss GE 10 EQ
  • Celestion Greenback speakers
  • Austrian Audio OC818, placed a little off center of the Greenback

Ralf added some high frequencies to simulate the dust coil of the JBL speakers. As a room microphone he used another OC818 to record a Hughes and Kettner Era 2 acoustic amp.

Post-recording, Ralf used the Austrian Audio PolarDesigner plug-in, crafting the OC818 results to more closely simulate:

  • the mid-punch of an SM57
  • the treble of the JBL speakers
  • the basic characteristics of the Celestion Blackbacks/Greenbacks

Essentials for the Brown Sound

Voltage Reduction:

Because the Echoplex preamp and the Boss EQ make the amp “very hot,” you are actually overloading the amp. It’s like putting a distortion box in front of the Marshall. By reducing the voltage, the Marshall’s power amp is driven below its working point, which means it has less power and the sound is softer. EVH learned this accidentally when he connected a Marshall set for 220V to 110V power in the USA. The resulting sound was cool but quiet. After Eddy corrected his mistake, he was unhappy with the sound, so he reduced the voltage again, this time using a Variac—to reproduce the tone he had liked when he had originally connected the amp to the wrong voltage.

In general, the brown sound is a product of many happy coincidences.

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