To be honest, I'm not *that* picky about tone. I tend to set things a certain way and then go. I'm a player. I have way more guitars than amps. More than anything I want something that just inspires me to keep playing without really thinking about the amp at all. I'm getting the sense that maybe the MkIII just isn't that kind of thing...like maybe I'll always be turning knobs. That's fine enough for having some fun on weekends, but I'm really looking for one thing I can use day-in, day-out.
Sorry if this is repeating anything you already know but these are pretty standard settings and explains how to get a decent tone out of the amp quickly:
Vol 1 6-8, Treble 8, Bass 0-2, Middle 5, Master 2-3 (be careful!), Lead Drive (as required) Lead Master (set to allow similar level channel switching). Presence (as required, but probably not more than about 3 on the III).
I use this as a starting point and rarely deviate away from this. I normally have Treble Shift and Lead Master pulled, but you can pull others and until you get the sound you want and have a killer two channel amp set up. Ignore R2. It's not a real channel...
The pull switches and which channel they effect:
Vol 1 (Pull Bright) = Both Channels
Treble Shift = Lead Only
Bass Shift = Both Channels
R2 = Both Channels
Pull Deep = Both Channels
Pull Lead = Switches Lead On
Pull Bright = Lead Only
Yeah, those settings are pretty standard. I agree. I'm not committing any majors sins with how I'm EQ'ing things. Plus, I've tried all sorts of shapes with the GEQ...soft-V, hard-V, ducked highs, etc.
My complaint would be that this amp is "only" doing the late-80s Metallica thing. By that I mean it's really hairy, really tight and really sharp. It's effective for AJFA riffs but it's not really "musical." There's no quality (JP-esque) lead sound. Things are too sharp and bright.
I guess I should be asking whether the + mods even resolve this. If they don't, and this amp is truly just a monster for Hetfield-style riffs, then maybe the JP-2C is totally the way to go.
What you're saying about the ++ mod being accesible through R2 is news to me. That seems counter to what Mike said but I kind of lost him there. It sounded like he was saying the ++ mod is tonally different (which I get), but it also seemed like he was implying you'd have an additional gain boost by engaging the R2 along with Lead...well that's something I've heard can make a slight difference on all MkIII amps.
Sounds like Mike B won't do the switchable ++ mod via R2 on the III. It's theoretically possible, but it's too much of a hassle as you have to replace the entire R2 channel. He does a hardwired version instead. There IS a switchable ++ mod for the IIC+ though which he used to do by adding a push/pull for the middle pot. I did the switchable III+/++ and Mike B could do it obviously, but it's custom work and you'd be looking at a blank cheque...
So you're saying it's possible to have a MkIII that has ++ sounds on R2 and + sound on the Lead channel? Or maybe you're saying + sounds on Lead mode and the ability to get to ++ territory when R2 is simultaneously activated?
I'll try to explain the two as best I can:
1. If you have ++ hardwired in you get R1++ and Lead++ only. You can then engage R2 on both R1++ and Lead++ for even more gain! Call it R1+++ and Lead+++. R2 is switchable on/off. The hardwired ++ is not.
2. The switchable ++ mod replaces the R2 channel. So you have R1+ and Lead + as standard. Then you can engage R2 for R1++ or Lead++. It's pretty cool and if Mike B won't do this and you have a very decent tech I can send you details on how to do this.
Basically, ignore the ++ hardwired mod. It's not worth it because it sacrifices the R1 channel for extra gain. Just use a pedal!
If it sounds great already and you're handy with a soldering iron, I can send you a few common things to replace and how to do a decent service on it or get this done locally? If you want more then the Mike B route is best. I can give out details of the exact + mod done but I don't ideally want this done by local techs who make money off it when you can ship your amp to Mike B for a reasonable amount. If you can get it serviced before that and Mike is OK with that and will just do the mods then winner winner!
If you do send it to Mike B, get the + mod and the R2 mod. Ignore any Vol 1 mods. If you're after two completely truly independent channels this is not the amp for you. Go for a dual amp setup with A/B switcher or sell it and get a JP2C or Mark IV or something. The JP2C I have heard mixed things about them though and have heard people sell theirs and go back to a IIC+
The brightness is changed be some simple cap changes and a presence cap change, otherwise anything over 2-3 on the presence controls is way too harsh. As mentioned those horrible green disc capacitors must be swapped out if they're present!
Being able to switch back and forth between + and ++ tones really sounds like it would be awesome. By the way Mike B described it, I guessing he just doesn't want to sell the idea because it's probably too much hassle for him. I understand that, especially when the JP-2C delivers a lot of that anyhow. I'm assuming the Shred mode puts you in that ++ territory. Mike probably wants his work to be as cut-and-dry as possible. I don't think he wants to help anyone turn their Mark-III into a JP-2C, haha.
So here's a real question for you...should I be worried about what kind of filter caps my local tech will presumably put if when I have him check this out? He does mostly boutique-style reproductions of "simpler" 50s and 60s Fender amps. High gain Mesa Boogie stuff isn't really his thing, but he's clearly a smart and capable guy.