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Acoustic Guitar

Manufacturer Spotlight: Noble Amplifier Company

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We reached out to Noble amps a while ago about their amplifiers and in all honestly because they did something different than everyone else in the boutique amp market. They ran their grill cloth at 45 degree angle across the front. We also loved what we were hearing about the amps. After chatting with Jack a while he started talking about this new Preamp DI that he had in the works.

Fast forward over a year and now that Preamp DI is on bass and acoustic pedalboards all over the world. Here is a short interview we conducted with Jack to give you some details on their new Preamp DI and how it could change the tone of your bass or acoustic forever! Jack also has a pretty cool story about his transition from his day job to the job of his dreams; building guitar gear!

(Aaron) Q: Tell us a little about your Preamp DI?

(Jack) The Noble preamp DI is a legit +350V dual vacuum tube preamp in a pedalboard friendly form factor, with six regulated DC power outputs for your other pedals, and a super high quality Jensen DI transformer on the backend.

(Aaron) Q: You’ve built your brand and name around high end hand-wired guitar amplifiers; what made you decide to add a preamp DI to your product line?

(Jack) You know, it’s funny; I’m a guitarist and initially started building amps for myself and a few friends. I wasn’t trying to make a business out of it. But as word got out I started meeting with bands and the bass players were literally begging me to build a bass amp. So I started looking at what they were working with and in nearly every case these guys were lugging around these great vintage amps but just running a DI on the pedalboard before the signal even gets to the amp. So they’re over there in the corner obsessing about their EQ and “did any knobs get moved during load in?” and sound checking and tweaking and endlessly worrying about their tone when in the end it’s all just a huge monitor for themselves. The house gets none of that, since the house feed is coming right off the pedalboard. So I started brewing this idea of a tube preamp on the pedalboard; not a pedal running at 9V, and not a “tube colored” DI, but a real high voltage amp-style preamp, suitable for use with or without an amp.

12317622_1013184178762375_1247564691_n(Aaron) Q: How does your DI compare to standard direct boxes in a live church setting?

(Jack) Most of the churches I’ve worked with have everyone on in-ears, no amps on stage, and just a DI as the typical bass rig. My philosophy has always been “the amp is part of the instrument” – when you just take a flat signal off the bass with a DI you are losing the part of the instrument that the amp provides – all the tone shaping and character, EQ control, attack, compression, overtones, etc. There are DIs out there that try to make up for this by adding a certain color to the signal, but it’s still just a DI, it doesn’t behave like an amp.

With in-ears you hear everything with a new clarity but you’re also hearing it from the soundboard, not from the stage, so when you drop a nice tube preamp into that signal path, with the clarity of in-ears, WOW. It’s like a whole new world opens up compared to a plain old DI.

(Aaron) Q: Do you have any guys using these for acoustic guitar in the church setting? If so how are they using them? After or before their other pedals or standalone?

(Jack) Oh for sure. I conceived it for bass guitar but personally use it with my acoustic, and have a number of worship leaders using it as well. The most common rig is acoustic guitar into tuner into Noble, but a few guys have added a reverb or compressor in there as well.

Running acoustic guitar direct usually sounds a bit “plastic-y” and fake. The highs are brittle and the low end is too boomy and prone to feedback. This preamp won’t make a piezo pickup sound like a high end microphone, but the tubes and EQ definitely help. The tubes add dynamics and dimension and soften the highs and attack of the instrument. The EQ is designed to be easy to operate and hard to screw up. For acoustic I typically use the low cut switch and then bring up the bass knob to around 9 o’clock to add some warmth in the low mids. If the guitar is darker you can brighten it a bit with the treble knob, but this isn’t always needed.

(Aaron) Q: Can your Preamp DI be used with both active and passive guitars and basses?

(Jack) You bet! Whether the guitar or bass is active or passive has no effect on the preamp, though I personally prefer passive instruments because there are no batteries to change.

(Aaron) Q: If guys are using these in conjunction with pedalboards have you seen an improvement or alteration of the tone coming from the instrument and pedalboard?

(Jack) Absolutely. You’ll hear the difference almost instantly. FOH will notice it too: one comment I hear often from my customers is “FOH didn’t even need any EQ on my channel, it just sounded awesome.”

And yes, most guys are using the preamp on their pedalboard, and most often they are also using the preamp’s DC outputs to power the rest of their pedals. I totally believe in pedals and that every acoustic guitar or bass player should have a pedalboard. The quantity and quality of pedal effects are amazing and it’s one of the most intuitive form factors to work with. A good pedalboard will add extra dimension to your instrument and your playing, and certain effects are essential in some styles of music. Even if it’s just a tuner and a wireless unit, I want to make it easy for bass and acoustic guitar players to put together a great pedal rig.

12135280_949463741794375_1602788307_n(Aaron) Q: Anything else we should know about the DI?

(Jack) I can’t think of anything really important that we haven’t already touched on, so let me tell you something else I think is cool – I had this idea for the preamp DI almost ten years ago and had built a few, but not many, I think I had sold about three in 5-6 years. It was just a hobby at that time, I had another full time job. During that time our family went through a number of seasons, moved several times, had kids, job changes, etc.

These all necessitated a pretty big break from amp stuff, but I started to feel that the time had come to get it going again. I also realized that I needed other people to speak into the work I was doing, so I gathered 4-5 friends and told them they were going to be my advisory board. We got together about once a quarter and right from the start they were full throttle, trying to get me to quit my day job. “We believe in you, man!” I was like “No no, that’s not what I’m trying to do.” Ha ha! We often don’t know what’s best for our own selves, you know. I was uncertain and afraid to make the leap.

I think it was our second meeting I told them I was fed up with building the preamp DI, it was difficult and took a long time and I didn’t enjoy it. One of them spoke up and said, “Bro, I think that preamp DI is your best idea yet, you need to keep going with that.” And one of the other guys pushed me to start an Instagram account.

Both of those were complete game changers, inflection points in my trajectory. Now 2-3 years later, that preamp DI has opened up whole new worlds for me. I’m building gear full time with quite a few notable artists among my customers, absolutely loving it, and none of this would have happened if not for my friends who believed in me when I wasn’t sure, were generous with their time, and spoke some great truth into my life at the right moment. The rest of my life and the life of my family is different because of these guys. It’s pretty rad.

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