The story of Eddie Van Halen’s involvement with Michael Soldano is limited and brief. Given that over time, Eddie noticed that his Marshall Superlead amplifier was losing its power in terms of tone, Eddie needed a new way of keeping his sound alive.
Soldano Amplifiers have been around for some time, and are custom built in the Soldano factory.
Picture courtesy http://www.seymourduncan.com/forum/showthread.php?224992-Soldano-in-a-box
In an attempt to remedy this problem, Ed decided to give a call to Michael Soldano. Soldano worked nearby where Eddie lived at the time, so it was convenient to him to travel down to Michael Soldano’s workshop and pick up a Soldano SLO-100 amplifier. Soldano himself had built up his reputation beforehand as a gigging guitarist and a “Mr. Fix it” style attitude around the west coast for amps. He and Eddie Van Halen perhaps saw the stroke of genius in each other.
When Eddie Van Halen sent in his faithful Marshall to be fixed to Soldano, he replaced the tubes in his Marshall. However, in the meantime, Eddie fell in love with his SLO-100 and used it as a transition amp between the Marshall Superlead and his first line of branded amps, the Peavey 5150 range.
Michael Soldano is an intelligent man when it comes to understanding amplifier design.
Picture courtesy http://www.perfecttranslator.com/Soldano
Was it a necessary move on Eddie Van Halen’s part? Most likely. It seemed that listening to the amp and setup that Eddie Van Halen had used from the 1984 album onwards, it was losing its power. The sensible thing for Eddie Van Halen to do at this point was to search for a new sound, using the SLO-100. Strangely enough, the Variac used on the Marshall amplifier, boosting its tone, killed the tubes in the long run. This was due to the fact that using a lower output of voltage via the Variac killed the operation of the amplifier by adjusting the settings of the tubes, making them burn out more quickly than usual as they were not operating at a normal rate.
Eddie Van Halen used his SLO-100 most notably on the vast majority of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. He also used his old Marshall (although repaired) and a prototype Peavey 5150 on the album, but for the most part, it was the Soldano sound that made up most of those songs on that album.
The amp itself is an interesting piece of work. It is run on preamp and power tubes, with two channels: Normal and Overdrive. Features include preamp gain, footswitch between channels, bright/clean/crunch switch on the normal channel, plus a two channel tube-buffered effects loop and an additional slave output. A rotary Impedance operation also allows the use of 4, 8 or 16 ohm speaker cabinets.
The SLO-100, although not cheap, will enhance your own understanding of the Brown Sound that Eddie Van Halen sought to progress with around the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge era.
Picture courtesy http://en.audiofanzine.com/tube-guitar-amp-head/soldano/SLO-100-Super-Lead-Overdrive/medias/pictures/a.play,m.297209.html
Below are some additional stats:
Retail price (USD): $4 900
Power: 100 Watts
Weight: 42 lbs
Size: 9.5°H by 25°W by 9.5°D
Preamp Tubes: Five 12AX7 / ECC83
Power Tubes: Four 5881 / 6L6
Eddie lost interest in the limitations of the Soldano Amp, noting that the high gain channel was not favourable to him by the time he had developed the Peavey 5150 range of amps. Still, it was another step towards truly being a master and artist of his sonic craft at hand.
Eddie Van Halen was just beginning to develop his truly unique sound in terms of marketing and design. Although perhaps in transition mode, Eddie Van Halen was one step away from creating his own amplifiers.
Picture courtesy http://soldano.conforums.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=print&num=1296516202
- Soldano Hot Rod 25 With Mike Araiza and Mike Soldano. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBIcicqIfCM
- Soldano’s Story: Getting Started. Soldano Custom Amplification. http://www.soldano.com/about/
- Q & A Session with Michael Soldano. Musician’s Hotline. http://pasutto.net/divers/Brown%20Sound/Variac/MichaelSoldano.htm
- 100w Super Lead Overdrive. Soldano Custom Amplification. http://www.soldano.com/products/guitar-amplifiers/super-lead-overdrive-slo-100/
- Edward Van Halen Interview: EVH at Play. HP Newquist. http://guitarinternational.com/2010/08/20/edward-van-halen-at-play/
EVH used a variac turned down which provides the tubes to enhance an almost squishy tone. Soldano demonstrated this technique in his Hot Rod 25 head. Soldano told a story of how when he replaced the tubes in that Marshall that he couldn’t achieve the tone turning his own variac up, but once he turned it down it displayed a squishiness to the tone. Eddie himself even admitted he fabricated the story of his sound through that marshall by saying he burnt up tubes by turning his variac down when In fact he wasn’t burning through tubes because his variac was really running 88-90 which doesn’t have any real effect on tube life. I’m still not convinced his Marshall didn’t have some sort of mod going on. Variac or not. And while EVH still sounds fantastic his best tones were used while using that Marshall and The SLO 100 may have been his best ever. The peavey amps just didn’t have that ‘brown sound’
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The original line of Peavey 5150s *did* have the brown-sound, very Marshall-like, *if* you cranked the hell out of them (loud live settings). Always thought it sounded cheap/fizzy at home, but then got a recording of a show I played, and it sounded almost like it was the Marshall from the 5150 tour – in 1999!
The newer gens of 5150s don’t have to be pushed so hard to get rid of “dull tones”… But virtually all tube-distortion amps sound best when cranked up. 😉
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