What are the essential amps?

Maguchi

Gretschie
Aug 11, 2022
172
Lalaland
There is a thread on Gretsch Talk right now about essential guitars. So it gave me the idea of starting a thread on what would be the essential amps to get the sounds we want in the studio and on stage. Depending on how this one goes, I may do a thread on essential pedals later. I'll start:
Fender Blackface DRRI, Princeton or clone
Fender Tweed Deluxe or Bassman or clone
Fender early Silverface with tremelo or clone
Marshall JCM or DSL
Vox AC-15, AC-30 or clone
Hi Watt DR or clone
some type of Ampeg (don't know the models)
Sampson era Matchless DC-30 or DC-15
some kind of Peavey
a real rotating speaker Leslie cab or clone

and a couple that are out of reach
Trainwreck
Dumble Overdrive Special 50 combo (saw one for $140k 😆)

I'm sure I forgot some big ones that should be on here.

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blueruins

Friend of Fred
May 28, 2013
5,057
Savannah, GA
Looks fairly comprehensive. A Plexi may be needed to round things out. Possibly an Ampeg, Standel, Supro and Magnatone for fun.

What was the guy that Clapton used in the eighties?

Shredder amps are underrepresented in this list.
 

Ricochet

Senior Gretsch-Talker
Gold Supporting Member
Nov 13, 2009
22,724
Monkey Island
More specific JCM800, and a pre '72 Plexi. Mesa Boogie early MK2 and a Dual Rectumfryer. Magnatone. Champ? Bogner Exctasy, Soldano SLO100, Diezel VH4?
 
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Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,681
Tucson
I tend to think in families, or as I call them, Food Groups.

There are any number of food groups, out there, but I’ll confine my comments to those I am at least somewhat experienced with.

The Tweed Fenders make up on food group. No, they are not all identical, but there is a degree of consistency. The vaunted 5E3 Deluxe is part of this food group, as is the equally vaunted ‘59 Bassman. The Tweed Twin and Tweed Bandmaster are other variations, within this group. There is a lot of variety, such as the ‘59 Bassman, which has a degree of recto-sag and seems to exude harmonics.

The Brown-faced Fenders of the early ‘60s are another food group, which amount to a sophistication of the Tweed, combined with some added features. Once again, this food group holds a lot of variety. The 6G14 Showman is the showpiece of this food group, but my favorite in the Princeton. The piggyback Tremolux is a member, and definitely quite different from some of its contemporaries, some examples having EL-84 power amps. Also, the first Vibroverb, with a pair of 10” speakers, was of this food group. This is a notable, but sometimes overlooked, amp.

Around this time, our British friends came up with the Vox AC 15, which is the star player in one of my favorite food groups. The AC 15 was sort of a British version of a fairly high gain, small amp, somewhat foreshadowing the Deluxe Reverb that would come along a bit later. The earlier AC 15s used a pentode for the front end, giving a different response to being driven hard. Later versions used an ECC 83, basically a 12AX7 up front. When Cliff Richard and The Shadows started drawing ever larger crowds, the AC 30 was developed, so that they could be heard, even in the cheap seats. The Beatles used AC 30s, until the din became such that they needed the even larger Super Beatle. This food group features a tone curve that has a fairly strong upper range, and perhaps a tiny bit of midrange scoop. The result is bright and strong. The Top Boost option on these kicked the higher end of the spectrum even higher. If you like Brian May’s sound, you like the Top Boost sound.

Next, in my world, are the black-faced Fenders of the mid sixties. The gloves were off, and these amps were no holds barred, all out, hot rods. For their time, they were fairly high gain amps, and required serious attention to lead dressing, or they would howl. These were innovative, game changing amps. The more powerful setup drove Fender away from the bias varying tremolos of the past, and towards an optical device. Personally, I find this tremolo a bit too abrupt, strongly preferring the bias varying tremolo of earlier models.

The Deluxe Reverb and the Twin Reverb seem to be the most popular among this food group. By this point, the classic Fender Sound, with accented highs and lows, and a slightly scooped midrange, was in vogue. This is sometimes referred to as rhe “Fender Sound”.

The Deluxe Reverb is a favorite, with enough power for most small to medium gigs, excellent built-in, tube driven spring reverb and a degree of elasticity, thanks to the tube rectifier. A Deluxe Reverb will start to breakup at somewhere around 4 on the volume control, and that breakup starts out airy, but can be pushed into a fairly heavy breakup.

The Twin Reverb is the 400 pound gorilla of this food group, loud, clear and not prone to sag, due to the solid state rectifier, which has plenty of amps to drive even a quad of 6L6 GTs, without sagging. A Twin Reverb will overdrive, but you’d better wear hearing protection if you crank it that high. Great amps, but truly loud.

The Marshall company started by building a version of the ‘59 Bassman, using parts readily available in Great Britain. This has spawned a family of high gain amps which are the backbone of the harder edged sounds of British Rock, and quickly filtering through to other places. It is often forgotten, but these amps sound great clean. There is a lot more midrange, as compared to the black-faced Fender.

While the EL-84 driven behemoths of the Marshall line are a food group all their own, there are also some smaller classic Marshalls, namely the 18 watt 1974 and the 20 watt 2061. The 18 watt is legendary, and breaks up nicely on its own, with a degree of sag, and a fair amount of midrange, placing it in league with the larger Marshalls, in spite of having EL-84s, instead of EL-34s.

The 20 watt Marshall 2061 is one I really like, basically an 18 watt with a stiffer power supply, using solid state rectifiers. I prefer this over the 18 watt amp, because of its stiff upper lip, and the ability to stay clean to a greater level of headroom.

in my case, I cover these food groups as follows.

Tweed and Brawn-faced meet with my Winfield Tremor, which is similar both to a Tweed Vibrolux and a ‘62 Princeton. It‘s my favorite amp, and considering my amp collection, that’s saying something.

In the Vox food group I have a Winfield Typhoon (5 watt) and a Winfield Cyclone. Both use the EF-86 pentode in the preamp, and both love to Surf the plateau between clean and broken up.

In the Black-faced Fender camp, I have a ‘68 Custom Deluxe Reverb, which has the “Bassman Tone Stack”, which has more midrange than the conventional Deluxe Reverb tone stack. I also have a ‘65 Twin Reverb, RI, which is the classic Fender Sound, in a fairly large package.

But the jewel in this food group, is the Winfield Elizabeth, which is based on tne tone handling of the black-faced Fenders, but with mine having 6L6 GTs in the power section, the wattage is closer to a Pro Reverb. No tremolo on this amp, but, preferring a sine wave tremolo curve, I use a tremolo pedal, anyhow.

There are other food groups, but these are the ones I have at least some experience with.
 

TsarNicholas

Electromatic
Jun 23, 2022
35
Dublin, Ireland
I have a couple of tweeds, a 5E7 Bandmaster and a Vibrolux, and a couple of Quilters which give me a pretty broad range of sounds. I really feel like I’ve got everything I need covered. If I was to add anything it might be an old Supro or something.
 

stiv

Country Gent
Sep 12, 2014
2,610
Firenze, Italy
I think one should do it good with:
- Bassman
- Tweed 5e3
- Blackface
- Silverface
- Bluesbreaker (or JTM if you like stacks)
- Ac30
- Reverbrocket or Gemini.
I’m partial to Hiwatts as to me they’re the best and most versatile amps ever (also the heaviest, though…) so I’d add one of those, but Bassman and AC30 could cover that range (unless you need sheer power).
 

hogrider16

Gretschie
Oct 18, 2017
407
charles town wv
No such thing as essential for everyone. We're too different. For me, my main amp for everything except a loud classic rock band has been a Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue. I bought it new the year they came out and have been using it ever since. Blues, Country, Motown, reasonable volume classic rock - it covers everything with the right pedals. For a really loud classic rock band, I played a Marshall 50 watt half stack; best paired with ear protection. I could easily get by with just those two amps to cover everything. I also have a Princeton that I practice through for convenience and a '66 bandmaster and '66 Bassman that I play through for fun, but only the DRRI and Marshall are essential for me.
 

jbrannen

Electromatic
Nov 2, 2021
32
Livingston, TX
Interestingly, most of the amps mentioned in this thread (including Trainwreck and Dumble amps) are available via Fractal Audio's Axe-FX III. It's so cool to be able to try out all these "essential" and amazing amps without having to hunt for them and pay ridiculous prices. I think they are up to just about 300 amp models. I just wish they would model a Gretsch 6162!
 

Highroller

Country Gent
Jun 11, 2015
2,201
Portland, OR
I've never been much of an amp junkie. I've got a '65 DRRI and an AC30-CC1 that cover my needs for gigs and jamming. Two things I haven't done much of recently.

I've had 'em both for years, and while I've been thinking lately of downsizing the AC30 to an AC15, I haven't done so ... yet.

Add to those a few smallish practice amps, a little Rumble 25 bass amp and an Acoustic Junior for the flattops, that's about it.

That's what essential to me.

I've had others thru the years. I don't collect amps like I do guitars. I'll flip 'em any time any day if I find something I like better. Lately I've been looking at new practice amps, maybe one of these little Fender modeling things, maybe a Boss Katana. I dunno, we'll see where it goes.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,681
Tucson
No such thing as essential for everyone. We're too different. For me, my main amp for everything except a loud classic rock band has been a Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue. I bought it new the year they came out and have been using it ever since. Blues, Country, Motown, reasonable volume classic rock - it covers everything with the right pedals. For a really loud classic rock band, I played a Marshall 50 watt half stack; best paired with ear protection. I could easily get by with just those two amps to cover everything. I also have a Princeton that I practice through for convenience and a '66 bandmaster and '66 Bassman that I play through for fun, but only the DRRI and Marshall are essential for me.
I used a DRRI, for years. It‘s amazing how good this one amp can sound. Fender hit it out of the park with the AB 763 circuit.
I've never been much of an amp junkie. I've got a '65 DRRI and an AC30-CC1 that cover my needs for gigs and jamming. Two things I haven't done much of recently.

I've had 'em both for years, and while I've been thinking lately of downsizing the AC30 to an AC15, I haven't done so ... yet.

Add to those a few smallish practice amps, a little Rumble 25 bass amp and an Acoustic Junior for the flattops, that's about it.

That's what essential to me.

I've had others thru the years. I don't collect amps like I do guitars. I'll flip 'em any time any day if I find something I like better. Lately I've been looking at new practice amps, maybe one of these little Fender modeling things, maybe a Boss Katana. I dunno, we'll see where it goes.
That DRRI and AC-30 are a good combination.
 

charlie chitlins

Synchromatic
Aug 4, 2008
634
The Berkshires
I don't think one can say tweed Deluxe or Bassman.
They're totally different. Then there's TV front, wide panel, narrow panel...
I have a '56 Deluxe that I've gigged probably over 1000 times, and a '50 Deluxe that I've only gigged a handful of times because it puts out a fraction of the volume.
And...I never thought it could happen, but a 5F6A Bassman blows a 5E3 out of the water.
The 5E3 does a few things very well, but the 5F6A Bassman does those things and several others.
I think a Super Reverb would be a good addition to the list.
Once I went 4x10, it was virtually impossible to fully enjoy a 1x12 combo anymore.
 


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