Curious how decoupling your amp from the floor changes your tone? This video is for you!
I was curious, too, but not quite curious enough to pay the main guitar amp riser company $50 plus shipping for a square of MDF and foam. I searched for homebrew options and eventually stumbled on a forum post recommending the use of a moving dolly, which is what I’m using in the video.
I wasn’t manly enough to know immediately what a moving dolly was, but soon learned it’s a rolling platform to help move heavy pieces of furniture; it’s four caster wheels, four bits of wood, and some stapled-on carpet. Though, as the man at Lowe’s validly informed me, you could make your own (they don’t sell them), I am impatient and don’t own a saw and drove to Home Depot where I bought a finished one for twenty American dollars.
At that price I wouldn’t be upset if it had negligible or unpleasant effect, and coincidentally I am soon moving house, so I could still use it to move my elephant and piano.
Rated for a 1,000 pound load, with good chunky casters, it is quite well appointed for $20. It even has a handle, or monkey grip if you speak Ibaneze, a feature that alone would have cost me a good ten days of frowning thoughtfully at a plank, fist bunched at my hip, to produce, had I done the virtuous thing and built my own.
But let’s not get caught up in the amazing features of this particular moving-dolly-amp-riser. What’s important is that the idea works: getting your cab off the floor affects how it sounds. Quite a lot.
The quality of your computer speakers and general namby-pambyness of your character will dictate what differences you discern from that video. I would not claim it a scientific test, but I did keep all else constant in the segments with and without the riser in place: amp settings were untouched; guitars, strings, even the pick is the same throughout; and I measured both distance from the back wall and distance along the wall to ensure the riser was the only variable.
Four Wheel Overdrive
What I’d long taken to be the bass of my amp and speakers turned out to be the bass of my floor. Right away I experienced less spiking or ballOONing in the low end which had at times made recording tricky both for casual YouTube clips and more serious recording. You would get a good level going then hit a ‘bad’ bass note, usually a wound string on the neck pickup — B and C on the low E string were especially grumpy — and send the levels shooting into the crackly red. Levels are dramatically more even using the riser, which tells you what’s going on in the room.
The tone is clearer and tighter, though certainly thinner. With the riser I feel like I’m hearing more of what the amp and speakers are doing, rather than the room, or at least the floor.
If you’ve ever had that problem setting the bass control where you can’t seem to win — turned high enough to make the lead notes fat and juicy it makes rhythms muddy and causes sudden boomy peaks; turned low enough to get the detail back and tame the hot spots it sounds too thin — you really might want to try a riser.
Some low end flab I did expect to get rid of, but the change in the mids was unexpected. Focus on the little hammered-on semitone in the chords of the video’s first demo, how it clears up when the riser is added. Overdriven riffs generally sound sharper, with a bit more attack.
I hear the least differences in high register parts, like the segment of Blues Saraceno’s ‘Bouree’ at around one minute, but there’s still something more defined about the notes in places, particularly on the descending phrases that reach down into the wound strings.
You probably wouldn’t want to use a moving dolly this way at a live venue; a nudge from a mobile singer or even the pound of the kick drum could send it rolling. But live players are most often the ones to benefit from risers because it takes shitty boxy plywood stages out of their sound and gives them something more consistent and controllable in varied venues. Casters with brakes, easily found in the home improvement stores, would be a wise mod for the frequent gig player.
The take-home points:
- Removes a lot of mud or boom
- Tightens the sound
- Use your bass control again!
- Gives your amp/cab wheels without actually installing any
- Apartment players: send less palm-mute thunder to your neighbors