Hiwatt amps & WEM cabinets

When David replaced Syd Barrett in early 1968, he continued with the same setup as his predecessor, – Fender Telecaster and Selmer amplifiers and cabinets. The cover on Ummagumma also reveals two Sound City L100 amps, but it is more likely that these belonged to either Waters or Wright as David went straight from Selmer to Hiwatt sometime during July 1969, – a relationship that would last almost uninterrupted for 40 years.

David’s Hiwatt settings (2006):
linked input (upper normal and lower bright, guitar into upper bright)
normal 2:00, brilliance 1:00, bass 11:00, treble 10:00, middle 1:30, presence 3:00, master 9:00 (o’clock)

1969 – 1972
One of the earliest known pictures of David with his Hiwatts dates from the Van Dike Club in Plymouth UK. 1 August 1969. It is not documented when he bought the amps but most likely sometime during July as the band was vacant for most of the month. Dave Reeves, who had been working for Sound City between 1966-68, had started his own company called Hiwatt and by January 1969 he began making custom 100w heads for local musicians and bands like Jethro Tull and The Who are seen using Hiwatts in May later that year.

– (left) One very early shot of David using Hiwatts, Van Dike Club, Plymouth, UK, August 1. 1969 (photo used with permission – John Tozer, Plymouth). (right) The classic 3-head setup here in Lyon, France 1971.

David used only two Hiwatt heads throughout the autumn of 69 and the more familiar three heads setup appeared sometime during the summer in 1970. David later got these placed in a custom rack in early 1971. Two main heads powered four 4×12″ WEM speaker cabinets while the third head was a spare. David would also scale down his rig for TV-appearances in 1970-71 using only one Hiwatt head and a WEM cabinet.

– Hiwatt DR103 All Purpose 100W heads with Mullard 4xEL34 power tubes and 4xECC83 pre-amp tubes. Controls for normal volume, brilliance volume, bass, middle, treble, presence and master.

– WEM Super Starfinder 200 cabinets with 4×12″ Fane Crescendo speakers with metal dust caps.

1973 – 1977
When Phil Taylor was hired as chief of Pink Floyd’s backline during their summer rehearsals in 1974 he bought several new Hiwatt heads and WEM cabinets for David – “I went down to Hiwatt in Kingston and saw Dave Reeves and bought two 100 watt heads which are still in Dave’s rack today.” (Guitarist ’95). During the Dark Side of the Moon tour David would have four Hiwatt heads on a custom rig to his right on the stage. Two heads powered the four WEM cabinets, one was a spare and the fourth head was used to power David’s front stage monitors.

Click for bigger image
– David’s four Hiwatt heads setup during the Dark Side of the Moon tour pictured at Earl’s Court in May 1973.

David had over ten Hiwatt heads on the Dark Side of the Moon tours in 1973-75 and he always performed soundcheck on them all himself to make sure they sounded right. A roadie tells a story from one of the shows that David complained about one of the heads but no one could hear a difference. Annoyed, the roadie carried the head backstage and brought it back. David replied, “Well, this is the same head!” and the roadie had to replace it with an apology!

Another funny story dates from the Earl’s Court shows in May 1973 where the sound crew reported that during some of David’s solos his rig wasn’t in the PA at all. He played too loud for the arena!

For the Animals 1977 tour David had three Hiwatt heads, again two mains and one spare and a 1960s Marshall 100w plexi.

1979 – 1982
The setup for The Wall was pretty much the same as both Dark Side and Animals with the custom rack including three Hiwatt heads (two mains and one spare) powering four WEM cabs. He also had a Mesa/Boogie head, which he used as a pre-amp for overdrives set up in a send/return chain to the pedal board. During the second half of the show, the band would perform a couple of numbers in front of the wall and David had a small rig with one Hiwatt head and a WEM cab for easy on/off rigging.

David’s Hiwatts were now modified with combining the normal and brilliance inputs. A common trick to make the rather dark British amps sound a bit brighter without loosing the lower frequencies. Details of the amps reveal that the normal channel inputs were simply covered up with tape (the brill/norm combo requires that you only use the brilliance input once the two are combined).

1984s About Face saw David parting with his traditional setups from the 70s and going for Fender Twin amps. This was also the case in 1987 for the Momentary Lapse of Reason album and tour, but he soon replaced the Fenders in favour of his old Hiwatts prior to the second leg of the tour in 1988. By now, Pete Cornish had modified the amps adding extra input points allowing David to just use the power amp stage with the Alembic F-2B acting as the main preamp for the whole rig.

During the Division Bell tour in 1994 David’s rig consisted of overwhelming six Hiwatt heads in two separate racks, – not mentioning all the spares he travelled with. All heads had the preamp section either removed or disconnected as in 1988-90 with the Alembic serving as the main preamp for the rig.
– Rack 1 consisted of the classic three DR103 heads modified with norm/brill input combo and preamps disconnected. One head was a spare, while the two mains powered each a WEM Super Starfinder 200w cab with 4×12″ Fane Crescendo speakers and a Marshall JCM 800 400w cab with 4×12″ Celestion G12M speakers. The left channel was “coloured” by a Boss CE-2 chorus for a wider stereo.
– Rack 2 consisted of three STA-100 slave heads (no preamp section). One powered the Heil Talk Talk box, while the two remaining powered the Doppola rotating speakers.

– The left side of David’s amp rig in 1994. L-R: Doppola custom rotating speaker, Marshall JCM 800 4×12″ and WEM Super Starfinder 200 4×12″.

– David’s jaw breaking Hiwatt rig during the 1994 tour.

On the On an Island tour in 2006 David went back to the classic early 70s three Hiwatt heads setup, now using the preamps in the heads. Two heads were powering one WEM cabinet each and the third head was used for the Sound On Sound delay effect with a third WEM cabinet.

Studio sessions
Between 1968-1969 David used Selmer heads and matching cabinets. He is mostly seen using Selmer Stereomaster 100w, as he did live, but it’s also reported that he used Selmer Treble and Bass 50w like Syd.

Pictures from the Atom Heart Mother and Obscured By Clouds sessions reveals that he would use one Hiwatt DR103 and a WEM 4×12″. David has mentioned that he used Fender amp and a fuzz box on Dark Side of The Moon, notably on Time and Money. A Twin is also spotted on the Live at Pompeii Abbey Road feature (although the footage isn’t really from the DSotM sessions).

Most of Animals, David’s first solo album, The Wall and Final Cut were recorded with a Hiwatt DR103 and WEM 4×12″ cabinets. In an interview with Sound Magazine in 1983 David mentions “For amplifiers I used a Hiwatt 100 and two 4×12”, while talking about the Final Cut sessions. These four albums and Dark Side also include Leslie and Yamaha rotating speakers on songs like Us and Them, Dogs and Comfortably Numb.

Division Bell and On an Island are both kind of old school albums regarding David’s choice of amps. He is seen using 1950s Fender Twins and Bassman tweeds, Hiwatt SA212 combos and the old Hiwatt DR103s with WEM cabinets. See the David Gilmour Gear Guide for detailed studio setups.

– Guitarist January 1995, interview with Phil Taylor
– Sound Magazine 1983, interview with David Gilmour
– Various interviews with David Gilmour, Phil Taylor and Bob Ezrin
– PULSE DVD 1994/2006
– Remember That Night DVD 2007
– On an Island studio session footage from DavidGilmour.Com
– Various bootleg footage of concert performances and studio sessions
– In the Flesh by Povey/Russell for pictures and concert dates references