The Secrets Behind Ty Tabor's Guitar Tone on "Out of the Silent Planet" by King's X

(Image credit: Jimmy Fuson/Classic Rock Magazine)

The gear Ty Tabor used to create his highly coveted tones on the first four King’s X albums — particularly the amp that was the source of his richly distorted yet surprisingly crisp and clearly defined rhythm sounds — was one of guitardom’s best-kept secrets until early 1996 when Tabor finally revealed the details. For years, guitarists guessed that Tabor played through an expensive custom or heavily modified tube amp, but actually he was using a long-discontinued solid-state Lab Series amp that was — and still is — an inexpensive bargain on the used market. The rest of Tabor’s rig was similarly modest, including budget Alesis Midiverb II and Ibanez DD200 rack effects and his beloved Fender Elite Stratocaster — a darkhorse ax from the last days of CBS’s ownership of Fender.

Tabor’s Lab Series L5 amp (removed from its combo chassis and mounted in a head-only configuration) and Elite Stratocaster have unusual features that collectively shaped his distinctive midrange sound. The L5 amp provides a variable midrange peak frequency that is adjustable from 100Hz to 6.4kHz, midrange boost/cut and a multifilter that also tweaks frequency response. The Elite Stratocaster has built-in active electronics that consist of TBX treble expander and MBX midrange booster circuits featuring a preamp that provides up to 12dB of gain. Tabor combined these unusual features to dial in pronounced upper midrange with a resonant, nasal-like quality and brilliant attack.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.