One summer day, when I was fresh out of high school, I attended a multi-band stadium show, and from the opening act to the headliner (ZZ Top), all the guitar tones were huge and powerful.
Well, all except for one.
One player’s parts were soaked in so much reverb and delay that you could hardly distinguish one note from the next. He seemed to be drowning in his love for effects. It likely sounded incredible where he was standing, but by the time his sound was thrown into the crowded P.A. mix and projected halfway across the already echo-y stadium, all definition was lost.
In that moment, I realized how helpful it would have been if the front-of-house engineer had independent control of how much of the guitarist’s effected signal was in the main mix.
The first time I saw the solution to this problem up close was years later, when I was at a Peter Frampton soundcheck getting a tour of his elaborate rig, the heart of which was three 4x12 cabinets running “wet/dry/wet”—stage jargon for the practice of sending the core amp tone bone dry through a miked center cabinet, while stereo effects run left and right through separately-miked outside cabinets.
The result? No soupy sounds that night. The audience was treated to euphorically stereophonic guitar tones via effects added to taste by the mix engineer. And the best part about this sort of setup is that the reverb and delay are added after the amps, so even if the guitarist cranks up to the point of power-tube overdrive (the best kind!) the effects remain undistorted and crystal-clear.
But where does that leave those of us who want to rock some rock-star-approved post-power-tube ’verb and delay treatments, but don’t have a rock star’s resources? Enter the Komet AmbiKab ($1,999). It just may be the answer to your wet/dry/wet dreams.
This magical enclosure is two things in one: a quality guitar cabinet loaded with two 12” speakers (typically Celestion Classic Lead 80s or G12M-65s) and a personal P.A. system through which you can run effects separately, thanks to an onboard 180-watt stereo class-D power amp driving two 10” Warehouse G10C/S speakers mounted just above the Celestions.
Simply plug the speaker output of your favorite head into the AmbiKab. As it cranks 100 percent dry through the 12" speakers, a line-level splice of that signal is sent to the backpanel power amp. With rack or pedal versions of time-based effects such as reverb or delay inserted into the power amp (you can run them mono or in stereo), the effected sound projects through the 10" speakers. Even in small venues, mix engineers will love being able to mic these speakers separately so they can get the effects blend just right in the P.A.
Include a volume pedal in your effects chain so you can adjust effects level on the fly, and voilà!—you’ve got a bona-fide rock star rig in a convenient, 11.5" x 25.5" x 30" finger-jointed Italian poplar plywood package that weighs just 69 lbs. And if you want to run a similar setup with your favorite combo amplifier, opt for the smaller AmbiKab Jr. ($1,199). It is essentially the same as the full AmbiKab, minus the two 12" speakers.
“If you like to ride your guitar’s volume knob through old-school amps that clip beautifully in the output stage, the AmbiKab is a really great way to go,” says Komet Amps’ chief designer and co-founder Holger Notzel. “Reverb, for example, not only stays clear, it also stays proportional, so if you back off your guitar volume, it doesn’t disappear the way it often does if it’s coming from the guitar amp.”
Notzel loves this approach so much that he used to drag a complete wet/dry/wet rig to club gigs. “But I got so tired of lugging all those amps, cabinets, and cables around.” “No one had ever thought of something like this, until we came up with our patent pending solution.”