USA Brian May Red Special Enthusiast Meet-up 2022

Luke Holwerda has just announced the second US Red Special Meet-up on Saturday, March 26 2022.

It’s time to go “Back to the Light” of Phoenix, Arizona to showcase, discuss and celebrate Brian May’s homemade guitar, which has inspired so many of us to pick up our first musical instrument… and in some cases, even build it! Bring your Red Special, your Vox AC30 and accompanying gear and join us for a day of rock-n-roll fellowship… in-person! Covid-19 vaccination will be required for entry. Look out for updates on Facebook and Instagram with information on the venue, etc. in due course. Please share with anyone who may be interested. #RedSpecialMeetup2022.

Red Special Guitar Podcast host Jon Underhill and I will be visiting to Phoenix from March 24-29 to support Luke, hang out and maybe check out visitor attractions in The Grand Canyon State. We are looking forward to meeting new and familiar members of the US Brian May enthusiast community such as Woody Thomas of RS Conversions and Ron Smith, proprietor of The Cybershop, supplier of high quality, authentic Red Special guitar hardware.

Take a look at my reports from the 2020 meet-up and brief US road trip taking in Hollywood (including Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard), Disneyland Resort, Anaheim and Grand Canyon West here:

Brian May Rig Replica Build

In late 2020, I was offered the opportunity to acquire a Brian May style live rig originally built for Andy Barnett by Nigel Knight of Knight Audio Technologies (KAT). The rig was contained in an SKB roto-molded 6U shallow rack case (model 1SKB-R6S) and consisted of the following 19″ rack units:

  • Dunlop DCR-2SR CryBaby Wah Wah (1)
  • TC Electronic G-Major 2 guitar effects processor (1)
  • Sennheiser wireless receivers (2)
  • Custom made KAT audio routing and MIDI switching master controller (1)
  • Custom made KAT wireless receiver switcher (1)
  • Canford power supply unit (1)

The rig was designed to work with a custom made KAT 24 way floor switching unit with amplifier muting and MIDI/effect pedals switching features. Also included was a KAT RED-18 strap mounted treble booster and all ancillary items including two Sennheiser EW 500 G2 bodypack transmitters and various heavy duty professional cables (some custom made) to connect all the units.

I bought a second G-Major 2 unit from a U.K. eBay seller for £150 as a spare in case the supplied unit developed an unrepairable defect in the future. To house the units, I ordered a custom made shock-mounted 19″ rack flight case with removable front and rear covers and top lid with a wheeled trolley from NSP Cases (The Flight Case Company) in the U.K. The YouTube video below covers the unboxing, assembly, connection and demonstration of the rig. Also featured in the video are my home made Brian May Red Special replica, a KAT Deacy replica amp and a 2001 model Vox AC30 TBX amplifier.

Brian May rig replica build video

Vintage Vox AC30/6 Gear Story

I have created a new website section to cover musical equipment, including amplifiers and effects. The first article for it covers the story of how I acquired a classic JMI era copper top Vox AC30/6 with some history and provenance. I have included a review of the top three publications on the subject including the bible for Vox Amplifiers compiled by Jim Elyea who runs the History For Hire prop rental company in Hollywood.

KAT Studio-One Practice Amplifier

Nigel Knight recently revealed a prototype 1 W (max), all-valve 2 x 6.5″ bedroom/studio combo amplifier. The styling and overall cosmetic appearance pays homage to the legendary Vox AC30 used by Brian May.

The valves (vacuum tubes) are biased such that at each stage, the grid starts to go positive at exactly the same point that a Vox AC30 would at full volume.

The KAT Studio-One guitar amplifier features:
• Two newly developed KAT DSP 6.5 TC speakers which have an on-board filter network that tailors the frequency response to give the full bodied mids of Brian’s Deacy amplifer but without the high frequency fizz audible in many 6.5″ twin-cone drivers.
• A built-in attenuator that has been developed in-line with the speakers to ensure the same tone is produced at all output levels. -24 dB attenuation brings it down to almost whisper level whilst still producing jangly cleans and smooth full-on distortion.
• Plywood cabinet construction.

Nigel has deployed all his electronics design expertise and experience producing and maintaining Brian May’s gear to offer the holy grail that amateur Queen players have been seeking for some years: the full on Wembley ’86 tone in your home, or Project BMIB (Brian May in your Bedroom) as I’m calling it. [Other Vox AC30 + Deacy amplifier emulation BMIB solutions are available, such as the Fryer Guitars Mayday effects pedal.]

Nigel has recorded a short demonstration video in the link below using a KAT STB Stomper and Retro Sonic chorus pedal. The amplifier is still at the prototype stage and is not available for general sale yet. Note that corner protectors have been made but are not fitted to the prototype illustrated in these three images (photo credit Nigel Knight).

Update as of 25 September 2022. I recently bought three units and have released a brief (6m 43s) YouTube video in which I unbox them and show you around the inside and outside as well as a quick demonstration through my KAT Brian May rig. Please also check out my gear page for this amplifier here:

Mike Hill (1952 – 2019)

In autumn 2019, Mike Hill passed away. Readers with only a casual interest in guitars and amplification might not be aware that his technical expertise was valued by a client list that literally read like an A to Z of rock and pop including AC/DC, Eric Clapton, Brian May, Dave Gilmour, Iron Maiden, Oasis and many others. Starting off as an apprentice at the age of 18 for Marshall Amplification, Mike worked his way up through the company to eventually become joint Managing Director.

In 1995 Mike formed his own company, Mike Hill Services, which started out offering amplifier modification and repair services then expanded into provision of products and systems including bespoke pedal boards, custom switching units and variable power supplies.

“Due to the importance of high quality and reliability in all aspects of his work, Mike has always had to source and select the highest quality valves. During his inspection process there has always been a high percentage of rejection. The Elite Collection – all which live up to the Mike Hill Services standard.”

AmpliTube Brian May

IK Multimedia of Modena in Italy has released a Brian May collection for their industry-leading AmpliTube Custom Shop guitar amplifier and effects PC, MacOS and iOS modelling software in August 2019. Costing £99.99, it is available as download direct from the IK Multimedia and Brian May Guitars websites or the Apple stores.

This emulation software is one of the cheapest and most straightforward ways to recreate many of Brian May’s tones, especially the complex three amplifier, twin delay Brighton Rock solo. It is ideal for quiet practice when used with a suitable interface such as the iRig HD2 and monitor headphones and as a travel outfit. Renowned professional guitarist Jamie Humphries helped develop the tone patches and you can watch him demonstrate the software on this official video: