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  #16  
Old 08-22-2017, 02:51 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Originally Posted by jseth View Post
Chris;

Looks like the Half-Pint is built to a Fender Princeton Reverb platform... they are great little amps (the Princeton) and can be had for much less than you might think, for a 40+ year old classic. A lot of folks want the Princeton Reverb, which was an option years after the model was introduced... a (silverface) Princeton can be had for less than a Grand.

Bullfrog Music, my favorite store here in Corvallis, moved and expanded their inventory. Now they have a bunch of electric guitars and amps, notably the Blackstar line-up and Vox. They make an amp that is remarkably similar to a Fender Deluxe Reverb that is VERY nice; all tube, one 12" speaker, very clean looking. Don't recall the number of the model, but I believe it goes for around $700... the little baby Blackstar amps are a lot of fun; you can get one with an extension speaker for $100! They can be battery-powered as well - pretty cool sounds from such a small inexpensive amp, although nothing like a "real" tube amp.

Lots of differing opinions (no big surprise!) from a lot of different folks... as always, it comes down to what YOU like, what YOU want to hear, in whatever size/dollar amount you want to spend.

Let us know what you decide...
John,

Roylor4 wasn't kidding about the rabbit hole. And you're right about the milkman's platform, so I go to listen to the Princetons, but of course you know there are (at least) 2 to choose between, the '65 and the '68 and they're quite different from each other. I didn't really dig either of them ('68 way too warm/dark/inarticulate, '65 was OK clean, but lacked oomph there, and its growl was weak. Plus, I've heard it a million times because it's so popular - it doesn't seem to have the versatility/range I hear in the mm or ss. Would definitely need pedals there (separate rabbit hole). I'm not sure how the milkman does it, but it just sounds fuller/fatter (clean) while remaining articulate (like the '65 princeton), and the overdrive's solid with single coil or humbucker. Princeton sounds too thin with single coil, to me. I feel about the same when I listen to the supersonic 22, though I agree with Phillip McKnight's assessment that the ss's clean isn't perfect:


I think the fact I even understand what he's talking about suggests I'm making progress. I also note that he says he the ss is the one he'd keep, even over the mesas he has. I note the ss has a "fat" channel for the clean that's apparently borrowed from the previous Bassman series, and that definitely makes the clean attractive, to me.

I mentioned I have Blackstar Flys, but forgot to mention I have pairs with the extra speaker and watts - and an overdrive button! I just use them for quiet practice and don't expect much from them, but they're unobtrusive.

I'll keep you posted, but don't hold your breath - I'm in no rush.
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  #17  
Old 08-22-2017, 04:26 PM
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What I'd suggest for a beginner, a Yamaha THD 10. Lot's of fun, versatile, won't anger your neighbors/wives/husbands----wish they would have had these in the '60's!! We had to use a Rockman and a joke for headphones, and loved it! Good luck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisN View Post
I'm new to this and researching what small tube amp (suspect =/< 5 watts) might be appropriate for my very limited needs (amateur home play). My question here isn't so much about "which amp" as it is "aren't pedals just another form of electronic modeling that purists decry?"

I see lots of folks using pedals to get distortion and other effects on small/mid-size amps (20w or so). If a tube amp can be overdriven using increased gain and a lower master volume, why use an overdrive pedal on that amp?

I came across this vid on Fender's Supersonic 22 (this one's a custom w/better speaker w/more headroom):



I really like the sound of the clean and distorted on this amp - it seems to offer complete versatility. Andy sounds like it's unusual to get sounds like that without any pedals, but this 22w amp can do it. That suggests other amps cannot, and one of my questions here is "why not?" Apart from the extra 7 watts, what does this amp have that a Blues Jr, for example, does not?

Additional research on the Supersonic found people were selling them because they were just too much amp for their needs, which suggests it needs to be played at a very high volume to get those versatile sounds. If so, that doesn't meet my needs (I'm not interested in external attenuator).

So, what is it that determines whether an amp needs pedals to create great sounds? Loud volume from lots of watts? Or something else?

Also, if pedals are responsible for creating these sounds in lesser amps and/or at lower volumes, aren't they just another form of electronic modeling? The amp's not doing the work, the pedal is, isn't it? If so, why not just add pedals to a Champ 20 or 40 s/s and call it good (except for lack of tube warmth)?

Ideally, I'd like to avoid the pedal path of constantly seeking this or that effect. I'd like a competent amp, alone, to handle the tonal spectrum from fender clean to mesa crunch and dirt, BUT I don't want excessive volume. I want enough clean headroom with an on-board attenuator that allows early breakup using gain and a master volume to keep things quietly fun. Tube-driven reverb and tremolo would be nice. The only place I'm seeing these kinds of attributes are in the boutique builders (Milkman and Carr, for example).

Another question - if I'm inclined to go fender for sounds similar to that supersonic, how to choose between the many fender offerings, as far as sound is concerned? Is there an article or video that discusses the nuanced differences between the models? If you wanted a baby supersonic (manageable at home volumes), which would you choose?

Any input appreciated.
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  #18  
Old 08-22-2017, 05:12 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Originally Posted by ChrisN View Post
...I go to listen to the Princetons...'65 was OK clean, but lacked oomph there, and its growl was weak...it doesn't seem to have the versatility/range...Princeton sounds too thin with single coil, to me. I feel about the same when I listen to the supersonic 22...
Sounds like you need more headroom, which means more power - and just to add to the confusion, higher wattage isn't always about higher volume. Perhaps it's because I've been an occasional NHRA bracket racer for about 30 years, but I like to think of it as two engines, both pumping out 800 HP: you can build an all-out 350-inch small-block that'll hit that figure at 9500 RPM, or a mild 632-inch big block that'll do it at 5500 - and you don't have to be an automotive engineer to figure out which one is working harder to run the number, or which will have more power in reserve. Since you're OK with the Fender clean tone but find the Princeton (15W/10" speaker) thin-sounding/lacking "oomph" and growl/insufficiently versatile, and the SuperSonic iffy in some respects, you might want to take a look at the '65 Deluxe Reverb (22W, 12" speaker - big difference, BTW - and similar circuitry); although, as you say about the Princeton, you may have heard them a million times, there's an encyclopedia of good reasons they've been so popular for the last 50 years - and if I understand what you're after correctly you'll get that solid clean that you find lacking in both the Princeton and SuperSonic. Alternatively, I could recommend some easy DIY mods to the V22 that'll put you in the same sonic ballpark, at a total net cost (new) about half that of the Deluxe - but since you're still trying to wrap yoiur head around the whole tube-amp thing (don't sweat it - it took me years) IMO you'd be better off with a buy-it-and-play-it package at this point...
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  #19  
Old 08-22-2017, 10:17 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
Sounds like you need more headroom, which means more power - and just to add to the confusion, higher wattage isn't always about higher volume. Perhaps it's because I've been an occasional NHRA bracket racer for about 30 years, but I like to think of it as two engines, both pumping out 800 HP: you can build an all-out 350-inch small-block that'll hit that figure at 9500 RPM, or a mild 632-inch big block that'll do it at 5500 - and you don't have to be an automotive engineer to figure out which one is working harder to run the number, or which will have more power in reserve. Since you're OK with the Fender clean tone but find the Princeton (15W/10" speaker) thin-sounding/lacking "oomph" and growl/insufficiently versatile, and the SuperSonic iffy in some respects, you might want to take a look at the '65 Deluxe Reverb (22W, 12" speaker - big difference, BTW - and similar circuitry); although, as you say about the Princeton, you may have heard them a million times, there's an encyclopedia of good reasons they've been so popular for the last 50 years - and if I understand what you're after correctly you'll get that solid clean that you find lacking in both the Princeton and SuperSonic. Alternatively, I could recommend some easy DIY mods to the V22 that'll put you in the same sonic ballpark, at a total net cost (new) about half that of the Deluxe - but since you're still trying to wrap yoiur head around the whole tube-amp thing (don't sweat it - it took me years) IMO you'd be better off with a buy-it-and-play-it package at this point...
I do prefer that Sound-O-Power, but I'm getting the feeling that its price in the decibels needed to achieve it is too high for my real-world needs and limitations. I really like that Deluxe Reverb - that's definitely the clean I like, and it's got enough gain that I wouldn't sweat that. A popular amp, to be sure, but there's a reason for that - it's a great amp. I liked the Supersonic's clean (Phillip had the greater issue), but the DR's is better, to my ear. No on-board attenuator, though, means probably more decibels than I'd be comfortable with around the house.

I also spent time with your Bugera recommendations, starting with the V5, which I'm afraid I didn't like - not sure why, though - smaller speaker? The particular demos (I did try several)? But I've looked at the V5 previously and, as today's time confirmed, it's not the The One for me. That V22, though, sounds great - excellent clean and more than enough gain. I don't know what mods you'd recommend, but it was a stunning sound stock, I thought - this guy had the best run-through:



He's very enthusiastic. The second half of the vid is the comparo between the stock speaker and a WGS Blackhawk (50w), and that speaker was noticeably better than the stock, though I thought the stock was fine (and the Blackhawk is $240).

Fascinating experienced - thanks for the recommendations and guidance. The V22 is likely what I'd try first to avoid wasting too much money on the wrong choice, so I'd be interested in your mod list, "just in case" I get the fever (AAS?).
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  #20  
Old 08-23-2017, 03:35 PM
redir redir is offline
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No. Pedals are not modeling. It's completely different thing. Modeling is taking samples of something and more or less recording it's values in computer algorithms for use later. A pedal is more like a filter for your signal.

Some people like pedals to create the overdrive they want rather then the amp. My Fender Twin for example simply will not overdrive, it just gets louder as you turn it up so I use a Tube Screamer with it. I also have a 22 watt amp that does have an overdrive channel in it that I like very much so it doesn't need an over drive pedal however I do use a fuzz pedal in front of that.
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  #21  
Old 08-23-2017, 04:07 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Originally Posted by ChrisN View Post
...I really like that Deluxe Reverb - that's definitely the clean I like, and it's got enough gain that I wouldn't sweat that. A popular amp, to be sure, but there's a reason for that - it's a great amp...

I also spent time with your Bugera recommendations, starting with the V5, which I'm afraid I didn't like - not sure why, though - smaller speaker? The particular demos (I did try several)? But I've looked at the V5 previously and, as today's time confirmed, it's not the The One for me. That V22, though, sounds great - excellent clean and more than enough gain. I don't know what mods you'd recommend, but it was a stunning sound stock, I thought...

Fascinating experience - thanks for the recommendations and guidance. The V22 is likely what I'd try first to avoid wasting too much money on the wrong choice, so I'd be interested in your mod list, "just in case" I get the fever (AAS?).
Sent you a PM...
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  #22  
Old 08-23-2017, 04:19 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Originally Posted by redir View Post
No. Pedals are not modeling. It's completely different thing. Modeling is taking samples of something and more or less recording it's values in computer algorithms for use later. A pedal is more like a filter for your signal.

Some people like pedals to create the overdrive they want rather then the amp. My Fender Twin for example simply will not overdrive, it just gets louder as you turn it up so I use a Tube Screamer with it. I also have a 22 watt amp that does have an overdrive channel in it that I like very much so it doesn't need an over drive pedal however I do use a fuzz pedal in front of that.
That makes sense, and is responsive to my questions on those point. Thanks
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  #23  
Old 08-23-2017, 04:31 PM
Paleolith54 Paleolith54 is online now
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Originally Posted by ChrisN View Post
That makes sense, and is responsive to my questions on those point. Thanks
While I'd say Redir's point is the tehnically correct answer (in which the output of a particular amp is reduced to algorithms then manipulated), keep in mind that there are some pedals that use analogue circuitry to try to achieve the same goal even though the term "emulation" tends to get used instead of "modeling". The Tech 21 pedals, especially the Character series, fall into this category.

I only make the point so that you don't discount some excellent pedals because they are "pedals" or because they don't employ digital modeling.
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  #24  
Old 08-23-2017, 06:22 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Originally Posted by Paleolith54 View Post
While I'd say Redir's point is the tehnically correct answer (in which the output of a particular amp is reduced to algorithms then manipulated), keep in mind that there are some pedals that use analogue circuitry to try to achieve the same goal even though the term "emulation" tends to get used instead of "modeling". The Tech 21 pedals, especially the Character series, fall into this category.

I only make the point so that you don't discount some excellent pedals because they are "pedals" or because they don't employ digital modeling.
Point taken - I'd not even considered the differences among pedals. I'm stuck in Tube Amp 101 without managing a passing grade, but I appreciate the clarification.
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  #25  
Old 08-24-2017, 07:44 AM
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Well yes and then to confuse it even a bit more there are modeling pedals like the Boss Fuzz pedal for example which is not a true analogue circuit fuzz but rather a little computer of digitally sampled models of some classic fuzz tones. It's just in the same sized pedal.
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  #26  
Old 08-24-2017, 09:07 AM
KevWind KevWind is offline
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Originally Posted by redir View Post
Well yes and then to confuse it even a bit more there are modeling pedals like the Boss Fuzz pedal for example which is not a true analogue circuit fuzz but rather a little computer of digitally sampled models of some classic fuzz tones. It's just in the same sized pedal.
Good point, perhaps it helps it to note and a little further clarification among floor pedals there are digital pedals that use some type of DSP ( Digital Signal Processing ) which in fact can be based on modeling i.e. sampling a real hardware units , real spaces , etc..... or can simply be some mathematical algorithm to create generic types of representative sounds.

Then also there are completely analog pedals as Paleolith54 noted . For example there are digital delay pedals and there are also analog delay pedals. I use an all analog MRX Carbon Copy delay.

And to the OP , although I am basically new again to electric guitar as of last fall. I have been associated with audio playback since the 70's and with home studio recording of audio since 2002. Which has certainly helped with a leg up on the learning curve and understanding the basics of guitar amps and FX's

I have since acquired both technologies. I have an all tube all analog amp and I also have a Solid State (SS) smaller practice amp with some limited DSP.
And while I like both, I think there is a real difference in how they feel playing the two different types of amps

From my limited experience . If I were going to go with just one amp. I think I would opt for (as you mentioned), a small watt all tube amp to start, and really explore the tonal options available from just the amp, your guitar, and you hands ....and then perhaps consider some FX pedals to broaden the palate even further, if so desired .
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  #27  
Old 08-24-2017, 11:07 AM
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Didn't think my first post here would be in an electric thread - but there it is! As a primarily electric player through the years and new (again) to acoustics this seemed like a place to add value rather than soak up info (which I've done plenty of lurking). Anyway ...

As others have noted it can be daunting these days - the quality and variety of options, at all price and wattage and size points, is nothing like when I started playing XX years ago. Not to mention the myriad digital options/variations/hybrids, etc... to cloud the waters. Just watch rig rundowns on Premier Guitar for awhile and you'll see there are many many paths to the Kingdom of tone (albeit since they are all pros the cost of entry may seem deliriously high but the basic principles apply in the affordable world as well).

It sounds like you're after an "old school" approach of a tube amp and guitar and maybe some pedals. So we'll leave out digital modelling - amps and simulators for the moment. As I hear you - not gigging (maybe yet) so no need to keep up with a drummer, lower volumes that sound good are a priority, you want a range of tones available from clean to some gain (maybe not modern high gain but a good crunch).

Still there are decisions to make and a variety of very deep rabbit holes you can find yourself lost in (check out That Pedal Show on youtube - really knowledgeable guys and I've learned a lot but they dig deep - real deep).

Volume is perhaps the easiest to solve - if tube keep the wattage to 5 or less and you'll have the ability to generally drive the amp to satisfying results without shaking the walls. I have a 5 watt Jet City head that has a 2 watt attenuator that through a 1x10 cabinet will work up quite a sweat at low volumes. I tend to prefer a master volume setup to provide the widest range of tones at lower volumes but that is not absolute... which leads to the more complicated decisions.

Range of tones. There are a lot of options and some depend on how you want to achieve them. My Jet City for example - is a single channel amp - capable of a pretty wide range of sounds from clean to pretty high gain and points in between - but by itself all this requires fiddling with knobs and switches to get the different sounds. When I'm practicing this is not much of a problem really - but in a situation playing songs with others or in front of people this is somewhat less practical (unless you're Neil Young and you have a custom servo motor device to fiddle the knobs for you to preset levels!).

Pedals are, at least with respect to boosts, overdrives, distortions and to a lesser extent fuzzes, a means to achieve different overdrive sounds at the touch of a footswitch rather than fiddling with the amp controls (or in non master volume amps without having to crank the volume to impractical levels). Some do this via diode clipping of various sorts - some do this by boosting your signal into the front of the amp thus pushing the amps natural overdrive - or a bit of both at the same time. While this might seem like a compromise for convenience - that's not entirely true as many players have achieved classic sounds with this approach. Certain pedals are famous for good reason, Tube Screamers and the Klon Centaur (along with the myriad Klones) jump to mind. They impart tonal qualities of their own which are often very desirable.

Channel switching amps achieve a similar result through a different path - combine two separate channels in one amp - one typically a clean channel and one a gain channel (although this is not universal) which gives you the ability to change from a clean to a crunch with the press of a switch like an overdrive pedal - but it's the amp doing all the work. I can't think off the top of my head of a lot of channel switching 5w amps other than the Blackstar HT5 but that is one if this is the path you choose. I have a Blackstar HT40 as my "main" rig but it is loud and even with a master volume somewhat fidgety to really get "bedroom" levels. But channel switching is a nice feature particularly in a band setting, but as already noted, not essential. I find it interesting how many players have channel switching amps that particularly in live settings stay in one channel pretty much all the time and tone shaping takes place elsewhere - John Petrucci springs to mind as a player who very much uses all three of the channels in his signature amp but lots of guys find a good amp sound they like and use pedals to provide boost or overdrive.

All this is really about clean to gain variations. Pedals obviously do a lot more from compression to modulation (wah, chorus, vibrato, tremolo, etc...) to time based effects (delays, reverb, etc...). Other than vibrato and tremolo which may be built into some amps, Fenders most notably and famously, and chorus (in the Roland Jazz Chorus amps) you'll have to use a pedal to achieve these effects if you want them available. They come in a dizzying array of flavors and designs and circuits (analog, digital and both). You'd asked about pedals in the front of the amp versus an effects loop if it has one and the conventional wisdom always seems to be compression, drive and usually wah into the front, modulation and time effects in the loop, but plenty of players ignore this convention in no small part as there are plenty of great amps that don't have effects loops - there really isn't a right and wrong answer.

But what kind of clean and what kind of gain do the amps get on their own? And that is a whole new chapter - based on all the variables mentioned thus far from the circuit design, to the type of tubes used (preamp and power) to even the brand of tubes, to the design of the cabinet (open/closed) and perhaps the most important part of the puzzle at least to many, what kind of speaker.

As you've already noted - different amp designers and makers have at least "trademark" sounds which are connected to the choices they make in these variables. But even that gets a bit cloudy as Fender has at least three trademark tones over the years, tweed, blackface and silverface. But in very very broad generalizations Fender was/is known for a more mid scooped sound, and higher headroom sparkling cleans. Marshall is known for a less mid scooped sound and their famous crunch tones. Vox for low mid scooped sounds and hallmark breakup. But of course these are generalizations. Marshalls can get lovely clean tones, as can Voxes. But regardless some amps are designed to break up earlier than others. As someone else noted, I had a Fender Twin Reverb years ago and it would peel the paint off the walls and never even hint at breaking up. There are also some jack of all trades amps - I think Blackstar tube amps fall into this category - at least the one I own (HT40) and have played (HT5) attempt to provide a pretty wide range of tones. I don't know that any of the voices on the HT40 are as distinctive as a Twin Reverb or a Vox AC30, but they are all good to very good and cover a wide number of bases.

One reason digital modelling became so popular even at the pro level - is the ability to have access to a huge number of these variations and variables without having to own 15 amps and/or cabinets and a wall full of pedals to achieve them. I have a Line6 Firehawk and a Marshall Code25 and can attest that the HD models in particular in the Line6 and most of the Marshalls models sound awesome - but for me at least - an old guy who is tech savvy I still sometimes just want to play and the tweaking of models has proven to be a bit of a downer. But that's another discussion.

None of this touches on guitars or pickups of course which obviously impact that sound. The one thing I will throw out for consideration is regardless of the guitar/pickups - particularly with a tube amp - do not overlook the importance of the volume and tone controls on the guitar itself. I was not always attuned to this - but in a good electric they add a whole range of possibilities when you use them and don't just stick to wide open all the time. Particularly volume - roll the volume back and you clean up an amp about to break up very easily.

So if that doesn't cloud the waters enough I'll try to throw out some clarifying ideas. Pick a path and go for it. Pick a nice clean low watt amp and get some pedals. Pick an amp with more tones at your disposal and fewer (if any) pedals. Much like acoustic guitars it seems - you'll likely spend some time discovering what really works for you and what doesn't - thankfully you can sell/trade your way around to other solutions. You don't need to go the boutique route to get great sounds. Tons of pros using Fender Deluxe Reverbs, Blues Juniors, Bassbreakers and Blues Devilles, although most (other than the Bassbreaker 7) might be more volume than you need.

There are a ton of great options in the small amp world these days - something like the Blackstar HT5 is probably as versatile as you'll find and it will give you a good clean and a very good overdrive to play around with to see where you spend most of your time. Or a Fender Blues Jr. for great cleans and while probably more volume it has a master and would be a good pedal platform at low levels. But there are no bad choices really among the main options - look at the used market as well and make a choice and dive in.
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  #28  
Old 08-24-2017, 11:35 AM
muscmp muscmp is offline
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Originally Posted by HesNot View Post
Didn't think my first post here would be in an electric thread - but there it is! As a primarily electric player through the years and new (again) to acoustics this seemed like a place to add value rather than soak up info (which I've done plenty of lurking). Anyway ...

As others have noted it can be daunting these days - the quality and variety of options, at all price and wattage and size points, is nothing like when I started playing XX years ago. Not to mention the myriad digital options/variations/hybrids, etc... to cloud the waters. Just watch rig rundowns on Premier Guitar for awhile and you'll see there are many many paths to the Kingdom of tone (albeit since they are all pros the cost of entry may seem deliriously high but the basic principles apply in the affordable world as well).

It sounds like you're after an "old school" approach of a tube amp and guitar and maybe some pedals. So we'll leave out digital modelling - amps and simulators for the moment. As I hear you - not gigging (maybe yet) so no need to keep up with a drummer, lower volumes that sound good are a priority, you want a range of tones available from clean to some gain (maybe not modern high gain but a good crunch).

Still there are decisions to make and a variety of very deep rabbit holes you can find yourself lost in (check out That Pedal Show on youtube - really knowledgeable guys and I've learned a lot but they dig deep - real deep).

Volume is perhaps the easiest to solve - if tube keep the wattage to 5 or less and you'll have the ability to generally drive the amp to satisfying results without shaking the walls. I have a 5 watt Jet City head that has a 2 watt attenuator that through a 1x10 cabinet will work up quite a sweat at low volumes. I tend to prefer a master volume setup to provide the widest range of tones at lower volumes but that is not absolute... which leads to the more complicated decisions.

Range of tones. There are a lot of options and some depend on how you want to achieve them. My Jet City for example - is a single channel amp - capable of a pretty wide range of sounds from clean to pretty high gain and points in between - but by itself all this requires fiddling with knobs and switches to get the different sounds. When I'm practicing this is not much of a problem really - but in a situation playing songs with others or in front of people this is somewhat less practical (unless you're Neil Young and you have a custom servo motor device to fiddle the knobs for you to preset levels!).

Pedals are, at least with respect to boosts, overdrives, distortions and to a lesser extent fuzzes, a means to achieve different overdrive sounds at the touch of a footswitch rather than fiddling with the amp controls (or in non master volume amps without having to crank the volume to impractical levels). Some do this via diode clipping of various sorts - some do this by boosting your signal into the front of the amp thus pushing the amps natural overdrive - or a bit of both at the same time. While this might seem like a compromise for convenience - that's not entirely true as many players have achieved classic sounds with this approach. Certain pedals are famous for good reason, Tube Screamers and the Klon Centaur (along with the myriad Klones) jump to mind. They impart tonal qualities of their own which are often very desirable.

Channel switching amps achieve a similar result through a different path - combine two separate channels in one amp - one typically a clean channel and one a gain channel (although this is not universal) which gives you the ability to change from a clean to a crunch with the press of a switch like an overdrive pedal - but it's the amp doing all the work. I can't think off the top of my head of a lot of channel switching 5w amps other than the Blackstar HT5 but that is one if this is the path you choose. I have a Blackstar HT40 as my "main" rig but it is loud and even with a master volume somewhat fidgety to really get "bedroom" levels. But channel switching is a nice feature particularly in a band setting, but as already noted, not essential. I find it interesting how many players have channel switching amps that particularly in live settings stay in one channel pretty much all the time and tone shaping takes place elsewhere - John Petrucci springs to mind as a player who very much uses all three of the channels in his signature amp but lots of guys find a good amp sound they like and use pedals to provide boost or overdrive.

All this is really about clean to gain variations. Pedals obviously do a lot more from compression to modulation (wah, chorus, vibrato, tremolo, etc...) to time based effects (delays, reverb, etc...). Other than vibrato and tremolo which may be built into some amps, Fenders most notably and famously, and chorus (in the Roland Jazz Chorus amps) you'll have to use a pedal to achieve these effects if you want them available. They come in a dizzying array of flavors and designs and circuits (analog, digital and both). You'd asked about pedals in the front of the amp versus an effects loop if it has one and the conventional wisdom always seems to be compression, drive and usually wah into the front, modulation and time effects in the loop, but plenty of players ignore this convention in no small part as there are plenty of great amps that don't have effects loops - there really isn't a right and wrong answer.

But what kind of clean and what kind of gain do the amps get on their own? And that is a whole new chapter - based on all the variables mentioned thus far from the circuit design, to the type of tubes used (preamp and power) to even the brand of tubes, to the design of the cabinet (open/closed) and perhaps the most important part of the puzzle at least to many, what kind of speaker.

As you've already noted - different amp designers and makers have at least "trademark" sounds which are connected to the choices they make in these variables. But even that gets a bit cloudy as Fender has at least three trademark tones over the years, tweed, blackface and silverface. But in very very broad generalizations Fender was/is known for a more mid scooped sound, and higher headroom sparkling cleans. Marshall is known for a less mid scooped sound and their famous crunch tones. Vox for low mid scooped sounds and hallmark breakup. But of course these are generalizations. Marshalls can get lovely clean tones, as can Voxes. But regardless some amps are designed to break up earlier than others. As someone else noted, I had a Fender Twin Reverb years ago and it would peel the paint off the walls and never even hint at breaking up. There are also some jack of all trades amps - I think Blackstar tube amps fall into this category - at least the one I own (HT40) and have played (HT5) attempt to provide a pretty wide range of tones. I don't know that any of the voices on the HT40 are as distinctive as a Twin Reverb or a Vox AC30, but they are all good to very good and cover a wide number of bases.

One reason digital modelling became so popular even at the pro level - is the ability to have access to a huge number of these variations and variables without having to own 15 amps and/or cabinets and a wall full of pedals to achieve them. I have a Line6 Firehawk and a Marshall Code25 and can attest that the HD models in particular in the Line6 and most of the Marshalls models sound awesome - but for me at least - an old guy who is tech savvy I still sometimes just want to play and the tweaking of models has proven to be a bit of a downer. But that's another discussion.

None of this touches on guitars or pickups of course which obviously impact that sound. The one thing I will throw out for consideration is regardless of the guitar/pickups - particularly with a tube amp - do not overlook the importance of the volume and tone controls on the guitar itself. I was not always attuned to this - but in a good electric they add a whole range of possibilities when you use them and don't just stick to wide open all the time. Particularly volume - roll the volume back and you clean up an amp about to break up very easily.

So if that doesn't cloud the waters enough I'll try to throw out some clarifying ideas. Pick a path and go for it. Pick a nice clean low watt amp and get some pedals. Pick an amp with more tones at your disposal and fewer (if any) pedals. Much like acoustic guitars it seems - you'll likely spend some time discovering what really works for you and what doesn't - thankfully you can sell/trade your way around to other solutions. You don't need to go the boutique route to get great sounds. Tons of pros using Fender Deluxe Reverbs, Blues Juniors, Bassbreakers and Blues Devilles, although most (other than the Bassbreaker 7) might be more volume than you need.

There are a ton of great options in the small amp world these days - something like the Blackstar HT5 is probably as versatile as you'll find and it will give you a good clean and a very good overdrive to play around with to see where you spend most of your time. Or a Fender Blues Jr. for great cleans and while probably more volume it has a master and would be a good pedal platform at low levels. But there are no bad choices really among the main options - look at the used market as well and make a choice and dive in.
welcome to the AGF! good info.
whew!
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  #29  
Old 08-24-2017, 01:45 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Originally Posted by KevWind View Post
From my limited experience . If I were going to go with just one amp. I think I would opt for (as you mentioned), a small watt all tube amp to start, and really explore the tonal options available from just the amp, your guitar, and you hands ....and then perhaps consider some FX pedals to broaden the palate even further, if so desired .
That's exactly where I'm headed. Thanks
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  #30  
Old 08-24-2017, 01:59 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Originally Posted by HesNot View Post
Didn't think my first post here would be in an electric thread - but there it is! As a primarily electric player through the years and new (again) to acoustics this seemed like a place to add value rather than soak up info (which I've done plenty of lurking). Anyway ...* * *
* * *
It sounds like you're after an "old school" approach of a tube amp and guitar and maybe some pedals. So we'll leave out digital modelling - amps and simulators for the moment. As I hear you - not gigging (maybe yet) so no need to keep up with a drummer, lower volumes that sound good are a priority, you want a range of tones available from clean to some gain (maybe not modern high gain but a good crunch).

Still there are decisions to make and a variety of very deep rabbit holes you can find yourself lost in (check out That Pedal Show on youtube - really knowledgeable guys and I've learned a lot but they dig deep - real deep).

Volume is perhaps the easiest to solve - if tube keep the wattage to 5 or less and you'll have the ability to generally drive the amp to satisfying results without shaking the walls. I have a 5 watt Jet City head that has a 2 watt attenuator that through a 1x10 cabinet will work up quite a sweat at low volumes. I tend to prefer a master volume setup to provide the widest range of tones at lower volumes but that is not absolute... which leads to the more complicated decisions.

Range of tones. There are a lot of options and some depend on how you want to achieve them. My Jet City for example - is a single channel amp - capable of a pretty wide range of sounds from clean to pretty high gain and points in between - but by itself all this requires fiddling with knobs and switches to get the different sounds. When I'm practicing this is not much of a problem really - but in a situation playing songs with others or in front of people this is somewhat less practical (unless you're Neil Young and you have a custom servo motor device to fiddle the knobs for you to preset levels!).

Pedals are, at least with respect to boosts, overdrives, distortions and to a lesser extent fuzzes, a means to achieve different overdrive sounds at the touch of a footswitch rather than fiddling with the amp controls (or in non master volume amps without having to crank the volume to impractical levels). Some do this via diode clipping of various sorts - some do this by boosting your signal into the front of the amp thus pushing the amps natural overdrive - or a bit of both at the same time. While this might seem like a compromise for convenience - that's not entirely true as many players have achieved classic sounds with this approach. Certain pedals are famous for good reason, Tube Screamers and the Klon Centaur (along with the myriad Klones) jump to mind. They impart tonal qualities of their own which are often very desirable.

Channel switching amps achieve a similar result through a different path - combine two separate channels in one amp - one typically a clean channel and one a gain channel (although this is not universal) which gives you the ability to change from a clean to a crunch with the press of a switch like an overdrive pedal - but it's the amp doing all the work. I can't think off the top of my head of a lot of channel switching 5w amps other than the Blackstar HT5 but that is one if this is the path you choose. I have a Blackstar HT40 as my "main" rig but it is loud and even with a master volume somewhat fidgety to really get "bedroom" levels. But channel switching is a nice feature particularly in a band setting, but as already noted, not essential. I find it interesting how many players have channel switching amps that particularly in live settings stay in one channel pretty much all the time and tone shaping takes place elsewhere - John Petrucci springs to mind as a player who very much uses all three of the channels in his signature amp but lots of guys find a good amp sound they like and use pedals to provide boost or overdrive.

All this is really about clean to gain variations. Pedals obviously do a lot more from compression to modulation (wah, chorus, vibrato, tremolo, etc...) to time based effects (delays, reverb, etc...). Other than vibrato and tremolo which may be built into some amps, Fenders most notably and famously, and chorus (in the Roland Jazz Chorus amps) you'll have to use a pedal to achieve these effects if you want them available. They come in a dizzying array of flavors and designs and circuits (analog, digital and both). You'd asked about pedals in the front of the amp versus an effects loop if it has one and the conventional wisdom always seems to be compression, drive and usually wah into the front, modulation and time effects in the loop, but plenty of players ignore this convention in no small part as there are plenty of great amps that don't have effects loops - there really isn't a right and wrong answer.

But what kind of clean and what kind of gain do the amps get on their own? And that is a whole new chapter - based on all the variables mentioned thus far from the circuit design, to the type of tubes used (preamp and power) to even the brand of tubes, to the design of the cabinet (open/closed) and perhaps the most important part of the puzzle at least to many, what kind of speaker.

As you've already noted - different amp designers and makers have at least "trademark" sounds which are connected to the choices they make in these variables. But even that gets a bit cloudy as Fender has at least three trademark tones over the years, tweed, blackface and silverface. But in very very broad generalizations Fender was/is known for a more mid scooped sound, and higher headroom sparkling cleans. Marshall is known for a less mid scooped sound and their famous crunch tones. Vox for low mid scooped sounds and hallmark breakup. But of course these are generalizations. Marshalls can get lovely clean tones, as can Voxes. But regardless some amps are designed to break up earlier than others. As someone else noted, I had a Fender Twin Reverb years ago and it would peel the paint off the walls and never even hint at breaking up. There are also some jack of all trades amps - I think Blackstar tube amps fall into this category - at least the one I own (HT40) and have played (HT5) attempt to provide a pretty wide range of tones. I don't know that any of the voices on the HT40 are as distinctive as a Twin Reverb or a Vox AC30, but they are all good to very good and cover a wide number of bases.

One reason digital modelling became so popular even at the pro level - is the ability to have access to a huge number of these variations and variables without having to own 15 amps and/or cabinets and a wall full of pedals to achieve them. I have a Line6 Firehawk and a Marshall Code25 and can attest that the HD models in particular in the Line6 and most of the Marshalls models sound awesome - but for me at least - an old guy who is tech savvy I still sometimes just want to play and the tweaking of models has proven to be a bit of a downer. But that's another discussion.

None of this touches on guitars or pickups of course which obviously impact that sound. The one thing I will throw out for consideration is regardless of the guitar/pickups - particularly with a tube amp - do not overlook the importance of the volume and tone controls on the guitar itself. I was not always attuned to this - but in a good electric they add a whole range of possibilities when you use them and don't just stick to wide open all the time. Particularly volume - roll the volume back and you clean up an amp about to break up very easily.

So if that doesn't cloud the waters enough I'll try to throw out some clarifying ideas. Pick a path and go for it. Pick a nice clean low watt amp and get some pedals. Pick an amp with more tones at your disposal and fewer (if any) pedals. Much like acoustic guitars it seems - you'll likely spend some time discovering what really works for you and what doesn't - thankfully you can sell/trade your way around to other solutions. You don't need to go the boutique route to get great sounds. Tons of pros using Fender Deluxe Reverbs, Blues Juniors, Bassbreakers and Blues Devilles, although most (other than the Bassbreaker 7) might be more volume than you need.

There are a ton of great options in the small amp world these days - something like the Blackstar HT5 is probably as versatile as you'll find and it will give you a good clean and a very good overdrive to play around with to see where you spend most of your time. Or a Fender Blues Jr. for great cleans and while probably more volume it has a master and would be a good pedal platform at low levels. But there are no bad choices really among the main options - look at the used market as well and make a choice and dive in.
Thanks for the comprehensive response and great info. You say, "It sounds like you're after an "old school" approach of a tube amp and guitar and maybe some pedals" and you're exactly right, and you mention the Bassman, which (in '60s capacities of 50w head into 2x12) is used perfectly here (w/Helium Octave Distortion pedal likely because, like you with your Twin Reverb, he's unable to get sufficient breakup into the 2x12) up to 3:36:



That's way too much volume for me, and I've read about reliability issues on Fender's replacement Bassbreaker series, but I do love that sound!

I agree with, and will digest, the other points you made. Only wish I'd started this journey earlier in life - I've got to cram to catch up, and there's not much time left for getting it wrong. Having fun, though.
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