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First of all I want to thank, (or blame), Roadjunkie for making me start this thread. Yesterday, I asked a simple question about Carvin amps, and Roadjunkie led me astray into daydreaming about the world of “boutique amps.” I don’t know if it was actually the notion of someday owning an amplifier with the ahhhhhhh factor or Roadjunkie’s avatar that bears a striking resemblance to an unrequited love that got away (the latter issue of which I am still working out with my therapist ).
Anyway, back on topic…
Pardon the naivety of my question, but I do not know the science behind tube amps.........When I am researching amplifiers, and I am looking for amps that hone in on a certain tone, (in this case super-glassy clean), which tubes will these types of amps have? What buzzwords should I know?
It seems that the discussion of amps, and tubes, and transformers, and triodes, and headroom, leg room, foot room, cup holders, air bags, and anti-lock brakes is a foreign language to me. My first baby steps in researching boutique amps makes me feel like a gullible “mark” walking onto Leisure Suit Larry’s Used Car Lot.
When it comes to researching amps, I understand little more than Fender tone, Marshall tone, or Vox tone........when folks start talking EL84, etc. it sounds cool, but I honestly have no idea what they are talking about....If I am going to research "boutique" quality amps, I think I should understand the nuances between buying a hand-built Bugatti versus picking out a mass-produced Ford from the local auto mega mall.
Anyone have the energy to walk me through “Buying a boutique amp for Dummies?”
Pete, one person's "super glassy clean" may well be another's "warm and soupy" so the caveat of "in the ears of the beholder" will apply - this can be quite subjective...
Broadly speaking, I associate super glassy clean valve amps to have 6L6 power sections - Fenders like the Pro / Super / Twin Reverbs from early-mid 60s (blackface) or after 68 (silverface).
I have found the silverface ones from the 70s to be more sparkly sounding, and the bigger they get, the louder you can play before overdrive creeps in. I'm sure it's possible to dislodge fillings in teeth with a tele played through a twin reverb at full chat.
Next I'd look at some 6V6 powered stuff, like the earlier Fender Deluxes -
I've also played some (whisper it) mass-produced solid state combos that have very pleasing clean sounds - Roland Cube and Fender Champ XDs come to mind immediately.
Depends on your needs, but at home sound pressure levels something like a Cornell Romany (6L6 - 10/2/0.25watt) or Rivera Venus (6V6 - 15/7 watt) may well suit. Don't be fooled though, even these "small" amps can belt it out when turned up.
From way out in left field, some of the gear aimed at shredders (Diamond for instance) have super (SUPER) clean channels as well as the hyper gain.
Other opinions will be along shortly, good luck fella
Put yer foot down, we'll lose 'em easy
I should note, that while I welcome & encourage the broadest of discussion on this topic, my eventual goal will be an amp that will not incite the ire of my neighbors in a one bedroom apartment.........I guess that means a low-watt amp.
Im not sure if these amps are available in the US, but I have a Blackstar HT5 all valve 5 watt combo amp. Its manufactured to a superb standard in Korea. Blackstar is a small compnay in the UK run by ex Marshall employees who set up on their own. Its got two channels clean and overdrive. Its a brilliant amp and has got rave reviews over here. Also, its great value for money (£300.00 in the UK). Only thing it doesnt have a reverb. But the tone is fantastic and comparable to boutique amps 3 times the price.
Good thread. I, for one, definitely wish I knew more than I do about this murky subject.
I recently stumbled upon a couple of articles that have some good info (naturally, as both are on manufacturer's sites, keep a gain of salt handy).
The issue with tube amps is they like to be pushed...and in an apartment even 5 watts of pure tube tone can have your neighbors calling the cops.
I dont have a neighbor issue, but I do have a studio set up in a spare bedroom and finding something to work in there has been a challange.
I am seriously looking at the Microbaby (boutique amps) http://www.emerysound.com/
Another option is the Carr Mercury...I didn't care much for the lower watt settings, but the 2 and the 8 watt settings were nice (but gettin loud).
or Carr Raleigh. http://www.carramps.com/
A box store option is something like a new Fender Vibro Champ XD...5 watts, but the voicing allows some pretty usable tones at lower volumes.
Hope this helps
__________________ Just because your bendin' strings...doesn't mean your playin' the Blues.
Thanks everyone so far for your input and advice..............I'm glad to see that I'm not the only "little lamb that's lost in the woods" when it comes to the science behind tube amps.
One of the "cool" amps I ran across is the Gem from Mack amps:
I stumbled across the Gem retro-looking lunchbox after Roadjunkie set me down this path. According to the description on-line, it is rated from 4 watts to a super tiny .4 watts. The manufacturer's website makes the statement that there is no tone loss at low volume levels, going so far as to claim that some of the soundbites available on-line were actually lower in volume than the acoustic sound coming out of the electric guitars that were being used for the recording. The head is $547.....Hmmm, I thought to myself, match that with a quality open-back cabinet & I might be on the right track. For the budget minded, such as my impoverished self, I felt that a good, reasonably priced cabinet to pair it with might be the Epiphone Valve Junior 1x12 cabinet for $159. (The Epi cabinet is open-backed and has an Eminence speaker)
...........for sexy, the choices over at Emery Sound are hard to top!
Realistically, though, the Emery Microbaby with matching Mahogany cabinet is just a pipe dream for this humble posters budget. (about $1700 for the enclosed Microbaby head and 1x12'' mahogany cabinet shipped)....... Lord have Mercy, that Emery amp is a beautiful piece of artwork!!
Well, that's the extent of my knowledge gleaned over the last 18 hours...
My first amp was a Silvertone head into a monster 2x15 homemade cab that I wish to my dying day I could have back. Sadly I remember very little about it. It bothers me as I want to know the what speakers I had or if the impedence matched up on it! Like a spider crawling up your neck it's got me spooked!
Then I went acoustic for many years until I gave up altogether! A few years back I decided I ought to get back into it. I picked up a Telecaster back when the Gibson website still had an auction. Screw Ebay that was the greatest guitar auction online! Sadly missed! I went thru a number of small Fender amps namely the Frontline series to a BJR. I still have a Princeton Stereo Chorus from back in those days. Great lil amp on the clean side but basically junk. I mean let's be truthful while we at this! Fender channel switchers are junk so that eliminated a bunch of Fenders for me. You would think that would make life easier. Nope!
I started to search the world of boutique amps and found every sound clip possible and just listened! I thought the Dr Z Mazerati with a 4x10 cab was it. The problem is no master volume. If I gigged that would be no problem but being a home player it wasn't going to happen so I went back to my clips and listened some more. I found a site called Amazing tone .com who at the time was a Tophat dealer and they had some truly amazing clips of various Club Series amps I just knew that was it so I read everything I could get my hands on and listened some more.
I have a tendency to stick with what I know. I know the Tophats did it for me. I like a simple circuit single channel amp. They are not as loud as some but they're filtered that way. Compared to a 18 watt Maz the Maz is louder but to my ears shrill compared to the Club Royale.
Listen and read up because some of these amps aren't readily available. More times then not the first time you will hear them live is after you bought it. Take the Gretsch amps for example. Not many on this board or the GDP ever heard one up to maybe a year ago. When Gretsch brought Proteus along as a roving reporter we finally had a first hand report on how good these amp truly are. June a year ago I heard the Executive & Playboy for the first time and fully realized this isn't just hype. They are that good as fjr can testify to! Now people are actively shopping for them! This is a good thing! take me at my word!
As has already been mentioned, Tophats and Emory Sound amps are nice. Some others that you may not have found yet are Vero, Louis Amps, Kendrick, and Electrosonic. Tube amps are generally hand made and point ot point hand wired, although not exclusively so. They use better piece parts than their mass-produced counterparts. I won't even discuss sound since that is so subjective. Some of the builders even hand wind their own transformers. Louis Rosano has his speakers custom made from special paper that most approximates the paper used fifty years ago.
...there is secret agents and insurance agents and real estate agents and all kinds of agents and you can't trust none of the bastards...