Tag Archives: Variac

Soldano SLO-100

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.

EVH & SLO photo EVHandhisSoldanoSLOs-1.jpg

Picture courtesy http://soldano.conforums.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=print&num=1296516202


  1. Soldano Hot Rod 25 With Mike Araiza and Mike Soldano. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBIcicqIfCM
  2. Soldano’s Story: Getting Started. Soldano Custom Amplification. http://www.soldano.com/about/
  3. Q & A Session with Michael Soldano. Musician’s Hotline. http://pasutto.net/divers/Brown%20Sound/Variac/MichaelSoldano.htm
  4. 100w Super Lead Overdrive. Soldano Custom Amplification. http://www.soldano.com/products/guitar-amplifiers/super-lead-overdrive-slo-100/
  5. Edward Van Halen Interview: EVH at Play. HP Newquist. http://guitarinternational.com/2010/08/20/edward-van-halen-at-play/

The Early Van Halen Amp Setup

To understand more about the early Van Halen sound, one must examine the amp and effects setup that Eddie Van Halen used, not just his guitar and playing style.

Eddie is a technical genius when it comes to production of sound.

Picture courtesy http://www.flickriver.com/groups/584497@N21/pool/interesting/

It is well known that Edward had a stock Marshall amplifier in the early days, although there is much confusion over the exact type and modifications of the said amp. The primary amp that Eddie used was a stock of many that he owned mid to late 1960s Marshall Superlead amplifier in the transition stage where Marshall amplifiers changed their build1. It is noted as well since Ed liked to put his amps on full blast, he used an Ohmite Variac to lower the voltage and change the sound.

There are Marshall Superlead reissues out there, check them out online, eBay is a good place to start as Marshall do not sell them on their website.

Picture courtesy http://www.pinterest.com/pin/187180928237410760/

Another trick that Eddie used was to use a dummy load box system through the amp. Essentially this would place the effects and other additional sound modifications more directly through the amp, and adjusting the reproduction of sound effects as a result. This made the effects less noisy, and sounding more realistic as a result in terms of sound production. Eddie also used a couple of sixties style basket weave cabinets along with his main Superlead amplifier. This was probably to modify and contain the sound emitted from his amp. When it came to effects pedals, Ed used a fairly basic setup. He was known to use the MXR effects pedals for basic effects2 (including a MXR Flanger and Phase 90 pedal). He also used on Eruption a standard Echoplex tape delay system to achieve that sound at the end of “Eruption” on Van Halen I. His pedalboard would grow and change over the years.

The EVH Gear website does sell some interesting pedals, amongst other things, if you cannot follow the original setup.

Picture courtesy http://www.highprofilemedia.com/oldnews.html

By the way, Eddie never uses a distortion pedal, preferring instead to use the in-built distortion in the amplifier itself3. This is just a basic early setup of Eddie Van Halen’s gear. Here is a link to assist you in achieving that classic Van Halen early setup and sound: http://www.rig-talk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=43828 This is a link to an online forum where a more in-depth analysis of Ed’s early setup for the first Van Halen album is.

The true appreciation of Eddie’s genius is not just found in his music, but also in his equipment.

Picture courtesy http://www.harmonycentral.com/forum/forum/LivePerformanceCategory/acapella-54/409280-

Additionally, below is a diagram of Eddie Van Halen’s early amp setup. The basis of his setup was fairly stock, although was slightly modified over the years. Please see the diagram below for a basic reconstruction of the setup EVH used for the main part of his career.

This is a perfectly good reconstruction of how Eddie Van Halen set up his amp rig to play with on-stage, or in the studio.

Picture courtesy http://www.legendarytones.com/edward-van-halen-brown-sound/

According to Legendary Tones where this diagram originated from, there is a several step process for linking Ed’s guitar to the end chain of the output of sound:

  1. MXR Midboost (used only occasionally, depending on which guitar Ed used)
  2. Marshall Superlead (late 1960s), as mentioned before, with some modifications possibly in place, although mostly stock otherwise.
  3. Ohmite Variac as mentioned before, yet set at different levels, depending upon studio/stage requirements, mostly around 89 Volts. DO NOT under any circumstances, set the voltage higher than normal, as this will damage the amplifier and possibly be dangerous to the user.
  4. Dummy load box used to deal with effects and output more easily.
  5. MXR Flanger.
  6. MXR Phase 90, sometimes Ed used this on stage, rather than linking it into the signal chain. This was totally dependent upon what song or sort of performance Ed was doing at the time.
  7. Echoplex EP3.
  8. Occasionally Eddie would add an EQ box, dependent once again, on the sound and need for the output.
  9. H & H Power Amp. Please note that Eddie did initially not use this until the early 1980s. It was designed to shape the signal before reaching the speaker output.
  10. Marshall, JBL and later on, Celestion speakers used for the end output of the signal.

This is a rough guide to the amp setup Eddie Van Halen used in the early days. Of course, Ed loved the sound of his Marshall amplifier, which is present on all the early David Lee Roth albums. It is a fantastic sound and is very audibly recognizable and simple to setup.


  1. http://www.legendarytones.com/brownsound.html
  2. http://www.angelfire.com/ri2/bob2/evh.html
  3. http://equipboard.com/pros/eddie-van-halen