The Mark Knopfler Rig on the 2015 Tracker Tour

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Amps, Effects, Mark Knopfler gear

Guy Fletcher was so kind to post a picture of Mark’s effect rack in his tour diary . With this blog post I am trying to explain a bit what we can see in the picture, and some details we can conclude from what we see.

But first here is what Guy wrote on it:

As has been requested on more than one occasion, here is some inside info on Mark’s guitar rig. Glenn Saggers station. As anyone who has seen the show will realise, there are a lot of guitar changes not only for Mark but for everyone. Mr. Saggers works flat out during the show, tuning and preparing amp setups and delivering instruments to Mark flawlessly through the evening. I really don’t know how he does it as every amp sound and effects setting is recalled meticulously for each and every song. Two Reinhardt amps are used in leap-frog fashion and whilst we are performing one song, the next one is being set up. Also there is the ’59 Bassman (offstage) which is used for slide along with Mark’s ‘Dano’ and of course the Tone King which resides onstage in between the two 4×12 cabinets. The Tone King settings remain constant during the show.

MKGEARmontage-700
Picture courtesy Guy Fletcher (guyfletcher.co.uk)

Well, Mark uses four different amps on this tour. While Guy speaks of two Reinhardts, what we see is one Reinhardt Talyn (top left) and a Komet Linda (bottom left). Then we have a Tone King on stage, and a 1959 Fender Bassman off-stage. The tone King is for some clean guitar sounds, and the Bassman for slide with the Danelectro guitar.

Guy says two Reinhardts “are used in leap-frog fashion”, meaning one is in use while the other is prepared for the next song. I guess the same is true for the Reinhardt and the Komet we see here. However, this also means that when Mark wants to play two songs that both require e.g. the Komet but with different settings, he has to play one other song with a different amp in between so that his technician Glenn Saggers has time to prepare all settings. Or Glenn has to be very quick and change the settings in a short break while Mark e.g. announces the next song.

The Effect Rack

Some devices in the rack are the same as on previous tour (compare to the 2008 rack): we see the familiar D.A.V. electronis pre-amps (with EQ, possibly some limiting/compressing, exact model unsure, probably custom made), the same switching units, and the TC Electronis 2290 delay. There is a Furman power conditioner again, this time at the bottom of the rack. It seems to be this model.

We see that all devices – except a compressor – are arranged in pairs. Theoretically this can be for several reasons: one for each “leap-frog pair” so that Glenn can adjust the device for the next song, one for each stereo channel, or one in use and one as a spare in case of some defect.

We can’t know for sure, but there is one detail in the pictures that makes one think it is the third option: the power LEDs on some devices (the lower of the two D.A.V. electronics pre-amps and lower of the switching units) are off, so I guess these are spares.

There is one ‘new’ effect – new does not sound right for a classic that was introduced in the 1970ies – a dbx 160A mono compressor. If I had to guess I would say it is for clean slide guitars.

Let’s have a look at the switching system:

On the left we have a gain control – I guess the D.A.V. comes first so the gain will not do that much, next five insert slots, a mute button, and then five outputs.

Insert1:
unsure if green LED is on or off, no label, might be unused, has an additional mini switch (can also be a ‘bypass all inserts’)

Insert2:
labelled with FX (effects). Which effects? All the ones in the rack are in the other inserts (see below), so I guess this is for effects on stage. This makes sense as it is the first insert in the line.

Insert3:
labbeled with VP (volume pedal). The Ernie Ball volume pedal is used in the effect insert, just like on previous tours. Mark’s guitar does not go directly into the device to his feet as you might assume, but to the rack, then it goes back to the volume pedal, and from the volume pedal back to the rack. You need long cables, but as the signal is low impedance here this does not matter really.

Insert4:
labelled dbx, so it is the 160A compressor

Insert5:
the TC 2290

It seems each insert can be active (green LED on) or bypassed here.

The signal can then be routed to any of the four amps.

If you see more details, or want to speculate what the little boxes on topf of the Talyn and Linda amps (labelled with Talyn and Linda) are, share your thought in a comment to this blog post (no registration required).

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Mark Knopfler’s effect rack of the Love over Gold (Alchemy) tour in 1982/83

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Effects

From 1980 on, Mark’s guitar effects were mainly integrated into huge rack systems. At the time of Dire Straits, these were designed and built by Pete Cornish, specialist on high-quality racks and effects for numerous big names like Mark Knopfler, Eric  Clapton, David Gilmour, Lor Reed, …

Pictures of Mark’s racks however are extremely rare, mainly because the rack was often located behind the stage, and at least partly operated by Mark’s guitar technician from there.

Recently Pete Cornish published some unseen pictures of two of Mark’s racks on his Facebook page. One of them shows the rack of the Love over Gold tour (I will cover the other rack in a coming blog post). In fact it is the first time we see this rack at all I think.

In the following, I will try to explain as many details I can make sense of. If you think you can add something, use the comment function at the bottom of thispost (no registration required).  So, first of all here is the picture itself.

cornish-rack-MK-LoG-700
Click on picture to enlarge, picture courtesy Pete Cornish

The Cornish racks follow the same logic that is true for effects used in the studio: most effects sit in a dedicated aux way (send / return), thus the path of the direct guitar signal is kept short and simple. (Note that however, not all effects can be used as aux effects but only those who “add” some effect to the dry signal. Effects that also might “reduce” something of the direct signal must sit in the direct path, e.g. compressor/limiter, EQ, distortion,..)

Cornish uses buffers on many locations within his racks. These can colour the sound is an intended way. The foot remote control is a wooden case of heavy-duty waterproof multiplex wood, all switches are normally military-grade quality products.

The control unit

top-part-cornish-rack-MK-LoG

On top left, we can see the power indicator / power button. I think that those square button-like elements are push switches that glow in different colours when switched on. I am not sure of the five elements we see next to the power button, I cannot read the description properly … does it end with … 15 – 15 V? So we possibly have indicator LEDs here that might show the presence of different voltages to run the rack, or the input or output level of the signal.

On the top right, we have what looks like a rotatory switch labelled with something like “1/P Gain” (or I / P ?). The same description can be found a bit more on the right where other five elements are located, labelled with numbers 1 to 5. I guess the rotary switch has five positions, and the selected one is indicated with an LED. It might be the gain of the first input stage, this would make technically most sense to me. On the other hand,  the “P” makes me think of “parallel” so it might also be about gain of the send/return paths. This might go together with the two elements right below this section, which seem to be a control and a jack labelled with “?X 1 / P” and “AUX 1/P”

The serial number of the rack is 078.

Next we have a line with 8 controls and many of those square switches that partly correspond with the controls. The controls seem to read “VOL” , “EQ” “555” (= Roland Space Echo 555), “REV” (Reverb), “DDL” (I guess Deltalab Delay or digital delay) “FLND” (Flanger DynaFlanger”, and “Wah” (well, Mark used a wah for at least It never rains on that tour).

I suspect these controls to be rather return levels (and thus controlling the actual effect depth of the corresponding effects).  The corresponding switches might mute or enable the respective effect path (alternatively, these can be switched with the foot remote control).

Between the VOL and EQ controls, we have a “EFFS” switch, I guess it is a master switch to enable or bypass all effects.

One of the two buttons on the left seems to be an “AMP SELECT”, with two LEDs for amp A and amp B, and the other one is “AMPS OFF” and will mute the signal to the amps.

I am not sure if VOL is simply a master volume control, or if it has to do with the volume pedal. Also is is unusual to have a path for the wah as normally a wah is not used in an aux way.

The effects

Below we see the different rack effects. These are partly identical to the ones used on the previous On Location (Making Movies) tour. A description of these effects can be found in the blog post about that effect rack.

The effects are (from top to bottom):
MicMix DynaFlanger
Deltalab Digital Delay DL-4
MicMix Master Room Reverb XL-305
Roland Space Echo SRE-555
Roland Graphic Equalizer

The foot remote control unit

With the foot remote control unit, Mark could  enable or bypass the different effects.

foot-control-cornish-rack-MK-LoG

We see 15 foot switches. Each one seems to have a corresponding status LED (although we cannot see these for the upper line of switches).

I cannot read most of these, the ones that seem to be clear are (line one) REV (Reverb) and EQ (all others not sure), and (line two): DDL (Digital Delay) – FLND (Flanger) (all others not sure).

The one second to the last has two LEDs. It looks like the A/B amp select, and I guess the last one is “(All) Amps off”.

I cannot tell if any effect programs (e.g. from the Deltalab delay) could be selected from here as well.

As said, feel free to add your suspects or thoughts on any elements with the help of the comments.

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Cleaning a scratchy poti of the older Ernie Ball volume pedal

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Effects, Mark Knopfler gear

The Ernie Ball volume pedals often become scratchy after a long time of usage. While you can replace the current poti model with a brand new poti, it is almost impossible to get a replacements for the older poti types. However, the older potis can be opened and cleaned which – not always but often – cures the scratching. As I did this successfully a few days ago, I took some pictures to demonstrate the procedure.

The poti was the Canadian type used in the mid 90ies but the previous Allen Bradley / Clearostat poti used before can be treated in the same way.

First, I recommend to remove the two screws that hold the black metal block which holds the poti. The string can be released from the poti easily then (you might take pictures before so that later you know how it was assembled).

With these poti types, the wires are plugged to the poti and can be removed without any soldering (again, take notes where they were, or take a picture).

 

Bend open the two mounting tabs with a screwdriver. Be careful not to bend too much as these might break. Often is is enough to open only two of the four tabs, on the side that exceeds the metal block.
Bend open the two mounting tabs with a screwdriver. Be careful not to bend too much as these might break. Often it is enough to open only two of the four tabs to remove the cover, on the side that exceeds the metal block.
Remove the cover, then put a piece of fine sanding paper between the wiper and the carbon resistor. Turn the poti several times to clean the wiper.
Remove the cover, then put a piece of fine sanding paper between the wiper and the carbon resistor. Turn the poti several times to clean the wiper.
Repeat this a few times. Note the amount of dirt removed by this procedure.
Repeat this a few times. Note the amount of dirt removed by this procedure.
Next use a pipe cleaner soaked with pure alcohol to clean the carbon resistor.
Next use a pipe cleaner soaked with pure alcohol to clean the carbon resistor.

Now the poti should be clean. Note that disassembling the wiper from the carbon resistor is not possible with these poti models so you need to clean it like this. Mount the case again, bend down the tabs to close it. An instruction how to assemble the string again can be found in this video:

Note that you can clean a modded volume pedal in the same way, just make sure to assemple all wires and the string exactly as they were before!!

Another note on this topic: I meanwhile tend to believe that the different taper on Mark Knopfler’s volume poti is not due to a different poti model but to an electronic solution possibly built into his rack. A first prototype circuit works promising, and also avoids the noise of a scratchy poti electronically. Watch out for future updates, I hope to offer something here soon.

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