What's changed in my live sound?
Good question ST. Almost everything. I have a feeling that this might turn out to be a long story, so make a coffee, get out the biscuits and make yourself comfortable.
I started performing live with a Gospel folk group at the end of the 60's. It was a quartet with 2 guys and 2 girls. 2 Guitars, 4 vocals. Typical of the time. Most gigs were in churches and not amplified barring the small amplifier needed for the electric guitar my friend played (only clean). In some places they would set up a couple of microphones in front of us to help with clarity the back.
Then came my first electric band. This was at a time where PA technology was in its infancy. Guitarists had to provide their own volume. They also liked to have big stacks behind them. I was no different. For "smaller" locations it was a full Marshall Stack. 100W Head and 2 4X12's. For bigger gigs it was 2 full Marshall stacks. The guitar sound was phenomenal but also extremely loud. Clean/Overdrive was controlled by the volume pots on the guitar. You could feel the air being moved when you were running hard. Fortunately we had roadies, so I didn't really have to do too much heavy carrying.
The PA, if it could be named as such, was a fairly rudimentary mixer (compared to today) going into few amps powering a fair wall of WEM speakers (did I mention that we had roadies? They were a godsend). Mixers were really also in their infancy. EQ was more or less bass and treble. In those days if you wanted a monitor system you had to have 2 microphones for each vocal.One went to the FOH mixer and the other to the backline mixer.
At some time I had a break from rock music and the Marshall Stacks were sold. The next amp was a Kitty Hawk 100W head with a 2x12 cabinet which was enough for any gigs I played because if you needed help the cab was miked up. 100W was really just for the clean headroom I needed. The Amp had 3 switchable channels. It was sort of copy of a Dumble and sounded fantastic. The head was really heavy and if I remember correctly it had switchable Power Amp Valves (Tubes). 6L6 GC's and CA7's. Eventually it just became too much trouble to carry and lay dormant for about 20 years until I sold it about 4 years ago.
Over the years PA's developed into really good systems. Tops, subs. The cabinets for these became heavier and larger, making transport a problem. A couple of vans weren't enough any more. If you were lucky, someone knew someone who had a furniture van which could be borrowed. We were lucky. Mixers with aux paths for monitors, effects etc. became larger. This was now the time of full blown triple systems. And loud. Once again, it was always good to have roadies. Part of the Band and always getting their share of the gig money. They earned it. At the best of times you turned up for a gig and more or less all you had to do was a sound check.
Around 2000 I joined a dance/cover/gala band and for this I used the first line 6 POD. We all used preamps straight into the mixer with small amps on stage set to clean as individual monitors (each individually receiving the same signal as the mixer). The sound on stage was now at a reasonable level. The drums we used were DDrums and later Roland V-Drums, so that really made things easier and quieter on stage.
Around 2008ish marked the end of rock/cover bands for me. I was already playing in an Acoustic trio and that that had taken off pretty well. PA-wise we had an HK Audio Lucas Impact system (2x250W satellites at 7.5 kilos each and a 700W sub which also housed the power amps. This weighed in at 32 kilos I think. We still have it for emergencies or maybe big parties. I don't want to have to carry that thing any more. As a mixer we used my Yamaha AW2400 recording workstation, as it had a fully fledged digital mixer with fully parametric EQ's, 4 stereo effect units, motorfaders etc. For an acoustic band we were well equipped and had a good sound.
The big game changer came for me in 2011. I'd been reading this forum for a while and decided that for my solo project I needed a small system that I could easily transport and set up alone and quickly. I bought a Compact and a T1 Tonematch mixer which I mounted on my microphone stand. I've never looked back. This small system has kept me making music. It took me quite a long time to convince my colleague in the acoustic band that the L1 system was the way to go, but after we'd done a few living room concerts with just the Compact, T1 and his small bass amp he started to realise just how good the Bose L1's are. I managed to acquire a used Model II with B1 and T1 about 3 years ago which had only been used in a living room and which was part of someone's estate. With that and the T1 I'd bought with my Compact I had all I needed to amplify my Acoustic trio. The second T1 goes into the analogue input of the power stand. The Single B1 gives us enough bass for his bass guitar. My colleague is now happy that he doesn't have to carry the 32kg sub any more. And to top it all .... no need for us to use a monitor system (we'd been using "in ears" which does tend to isolate musicians). It really is great being able to hear what the audience does and being able to communicate easily on stage.
In 2015 I bought a Kemper Profiler with Remote Pedal board (after a few discussions with ST etc.). This is my go to rig for everything concerning guitar. I've profiled different settings on my T1 for different acoustic guitars. I only need 1 T1 channel for all my guitars as I can change the EQ's just by changing rigs on the Kemper. Even I use an electric guitar I still only need one channel on the T1.
My electric guitar rig is very similar to ST. Kemper going through either the Compact or Model II. Usually the Compact as it's much easier to transport single handed. The 2 big advantages for me with this rig are:
1) The sweet spot is everywhere. Everyone hears the guitar with the same clarity.
2) I no longer need to be really loud to have a good crunch or overdriven sound. I can play as quietly as I wish.
So back to the original question. What's changed in my live sound?
I've almost gone full circle.
I started out basically completely acoustic, no PA.
Then came the Massive PA's and guitar rigs. Hours of transporting, setting up and tearing down with roadies and sound guy.
Then came the Bose L1 systems and the Kemper Profiler.
Now I can travel light with a system that can be heard everywhere in the room with the same super sound and clarity. One or two trips to the car. A quick sound check for the room acoustics as the mixers are already more or less set up for the gig (saved scenes). As a retired person I'm still able to go out and gig and do my own sound.
I also love the questions .... "What's that stick thing over there?" .... and ... "Where's the PA?"
Last but not least, as a guitarist I have an awesome sounding rig which doesn't break my back when I have to carry it.
Thanks Bose, and thanks Christoph Kemper for making it possible to keep on gigging without having to compromise on sound.