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Stephenson Amplification

Stage Hog Q & A

Q.  How does the SH do at driving a speaker cabinet, and what speakers sound best with a 1-watt amplifier?

A. The Stage Hog really excels at driving a speaker cabinet when all you need is 1 watt or less. In fact, 1 watt into a typical guitar cabinet (100db efficiency) is quite loud and is ideal for at-home practice volumes. Since the SH is Power Scaled (London Power wattage control system), the volume can be brought down to whisper levels and still have thick power amp distortion. The SH’s tone, when it is to drive an amplifier, is very versatile (clean to all-out gain). There is lots of tuneability with its various controls, plus many tonal flavours available by running different tubes (AX, AY, AU, 5751, DW). The SH actually has a fair bit of clean headroom - not typically enough to play on a stage, but plenty for home and studio. I’m a little biased, but I love the SH’s tone when driving a speaker cabinet.

The SH is not fussy about speaker impedance; it will safely drive any cabinet from 2 to 16 ohms. I have the circuit optimized (maximum power transfer) for an 8-ohm load, but tone doesn’t care about the math - just try a particular speaker and see how it sounds at low wattages.

The Stage Hog sounds great through a variety of guitar amp cabinets: 1x12, 2x12, 4x12 , 4x10, 1x8, etc.

I’m always experimenting with different speakers and cabinet designs for the Stage Hog.

What I’ve found is that any good cabinet will get the job done, but I prefer cabs that have lots of bottom. Typical guitar speakers are very efficient in the mids and highs. They generally work best at producing a full bottom when they are pushed with more than 1 watt. For this reason, I tend to like speakers that are warm sounding at low-watt playing volumes.

I’ve tested as many speakers as I can get my hands on, and I can safely say that there are lots of great-sounding speakers out there that work well with the SH. Here are just a few examples:

- Eminence 12 inch CanabisRex (super-efficient with warm highs)

- Celestion Gold (creamy highs, classic Celestion tone)

- Jensen NEO 12 inch (full-sounding with clear highs)

- Jensen Neo 10 inch  (not as efficient as a 12, also a bit warmer)

- Eminence alpha 8 inch (two of these in a custom 2x8 cabinet are very portable and sound great with the SH).


Q. Can the earlier version SH’s be converted to the newer version specs?

A. It’s not possible to convert the earlier version to the V-8, due to the toroidal transformer and top-load system for tubes.


Q.  Hi there! I have heard amazing things about your Stage Hog V-8. My question is, can it be used to plug straight into a laptop interface (without a guitar amp) to record much better-sounding guitar sounds for song demos than what a normal (tubeless) overdrive pedal would?

A.  The SH has two outputs, a speaker output and a line output. The Speaker jack can be connected to any speaker cabinet with an impedance between 2 and 16 ohms. The Line Out jack provides a low-impedance instrument-level signal that is intended to be plugged into a larger guitar amplifier. However, the SH can be plugged straight into a mixing console when clean tones are used - it's when overdrive tones are used that a tonal mismatch occurs. Distorted tones are not optimized when the SH is plugged straight into the board. Nnot unlike plugging a distortion pedal directly into a console, it just doesn’t sound the same as plugging into a guitar amplifier. Classic recorded guitar sounds ideally require the high-frequency roll-off provided by an instrument speaker. The speaker and microphone are integral parts of the analog tonal equation.

When using the SH for direct recording (no microphone) or direct-to-PA use, a speaker emulator circuit is required to reproduce a great cranked-up tube amp guitar tone. There are many devices on the market that can take the output from a tube amp and create the tone of a miked-up guitar cabinet (without the speaker cabinet and mic).

As another option, digital modeling devices such as the POD can be set up for a clean sound and then be used as the interface between the SH and the console. I've heard back from several customers who have a rig set-up like this - a pedal-board rig with no backline -and tell me how compact the system is with great tube amp tones (the SH creates the full-size tube amp tone, and the POD is the interface to PA).


Q. How much distortion is the SH capable of?

A. As far as distortion levels go, the Stage Hog produces its highest gain when running a 12DW7 in the power amp section and a 12AX7 in the preamp section.

When running these tubes with the Power Scale set on max, the gain quantity is similar to that of a JCM 800 (eighties Marshall levels of dist). As the Power Scale is lowered, the distortion and compression levels increase. With the Power Scale dialled in a bit less than half way, the level of distortion from the Stage Hog is in the area of a JCM 900 (90's Marshall level of distortion). I would consider this the maximum usable level of distortion that the Stage Hog can produce. However, I have had customers tell me that they run the Power Scale even lower for more distortion, plus run a booster pedal in front of the SH for more modern levels of gain (similar to 5150 levels of gain).


Q.  How much volume from the SH? Ideally I'd like this to drive a single 10" or 12" speaker for a small transportable coffeehouse & recording rig.

A. The Stage Hog puts out 1 watt of power. To make the most out of this amount of power it’s a good idea to use an efficient speaker. Twelve-inch speakers tend to be more efficient than 10’s; I would definitely look at a 1x12 cab as the minimum requirement. The Stage Hog through a good 1x12 cab will to produce enough volume for a coffee house gig. I have been told by some of my customers that the Stage Hog’s clean volume is loud enough for coffee house gigs.

The SH’s tone is round and full when driving a speaker cabinet. The output transformer is a full-range type with extended bottom - how much bottom at 1 watt will depend on the speaker cabinet.

I prefer to use 8-ohm cabinets with the SH, but it is simply a matter of taste.

Here is an example that works well for low-volume use:

A London Power detuned cab (Kevin sells the plans for these), loaded with an Eminence CannabisRex 8ohm 12-inch sounds huge at whisper volume levels.


Q. What impedance speaker cabinet can the SH drive?

A. The SH works with any speakers between 2 ohms and 16 ohms. There are so many good speakers out there that sound great! I’ve had great results from a variety of speakers and enclosures, so it’s just a matter of experimenting. If you don’t have a speaker cabinet on hand, there is always the option of building your own cabinet and loading it with a known good guitar speaker from companies like Celestion, Jensen or Eminence.


Q.  I'm currently playing through a couple of custom-made tweed Fender amps with a variety of pedals (Red Witch Phase, T-Rex Flanger/Chorus, Fulltone Uni-Vibe, MJM London Fuzz) and wondering where I would place the Stage Hog in the grand scheme?  

A.  When it comes to pedal placement I like to put booster pedals, overdrives, and wahs before the Stage Hog. I then like to put the time-based and modulation-type pedals after the Stage Hog.

The Stage Hog has a fairly traditional guitar-amp-style preamp, so it reacts to pedals in a conventional way. Placing devices like flangers and chorus after the Stage Hog puts the effect on the distortion tone, which can be subtle but overall creates a more powerful effect.

Of course there is no right or wrong; it takes a bit of experimentation to see what sounds best.