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I have been curious about that amp as well after Tommy talked to me about it a while back. That guy makes some very nice pedals. It is definitely a great time to be a gear nerd. A lot of very good builders building great amps. It really just comes down to the sound you are after, features, and price with most of them now. No matter who you go with you will be getting a good amp. Some are over priced for what they are by certain people, in my opinion, for what ever reason. The tone of the Nocturne amp reminds me of my Oldfield Honky Tonk. His Tweed style series really capture that old time vibe with out having to deal with a lot of the issues you get out of those types of amps. Things like flabby low end, the amp farting out when hit hard. Another very cool amp builder is Little Walter amps. They are built off the old octal tubes, like the ones used in the old TV Tweed Deluxes. Very touch sensitive and dynamic. Both Little Walter and Oldfield are not well know out West, but they are very popular with the Nashville crowd.
I checked out both sites. Sure wish the music stores here carried the Oldfield and Little Walter. All the amps that I’d like to check out are out of my budget range right now. I usually buy used to avoid the price ding you get when buying new. Another one that looks like it’s right along the old style is the Vero amps. I’d love to try one or get a review from someone I know. Again, their prices are steep but may be worth it.
I have to agree. Their are so many great amp builders. I really like how we can pick and choose exactly what we like. I really enjoy Tavo’s moonshine. I feel like I’m getting the tone of those Saunders King, and Tiny Grimes records.
I have not heard of the vero amps. I will have to check into them. Another cool company, doing the old school thing is Vintage 47 amps. they are doing clone of the Valco amps of the 50’s. These will definitely give you that Rick Holmstrom “Lookout” and “Gonna Get Wild” era tones. Valco made the McKinnley amps Rick used for those albums. A non boutique amp that I have been digging lately is the Custom 68′ Princeton and Deluxe Reverbs Fender recently put out. The Princeton sounds very hip. They changed the tone stack to a Tweed style tone stack, and made it cathode bias like the Tweed Deluxes were. This cause them to break up earlier and get that Tweed style crunch and sag. They are a cross of the BlackFace and Tweed tone wise. For the Deluxe Reverb they kept the dual channels and made them share the Tremolo and reverb, unlike before. Now what used to be the normal channel has the Tweed modified tone stack, and what used to be the tremolo channel is the classic Blackface Deluxe set up. I really dug playing them, and was impressed. Fender’s Pawnshop Series Excelsior is cool also, given what it is is and only cost $300.
That is a bad thing about the boutique market now. The mark up on parts that has been happening the last couple years are forcing builders to make their amps more expensive. I am good friends with Paul of Oldfield amps, and know Richard Goodsell of Goodsell amps. Both of them have talked about how they are having to raise prices, and cutting out a lot of there dealers because it is getting to expensive for them. They have gone to primarily selling direct and avoiding dealers. This way they can keep prices to the customer the same and still make the same profit as before, because they are not having to give the dealer their commission. The percentage of inflation, and the dealers percentage works out about the same.
I know what you mean about cutting out the dealers. It makes it more difficult for players to get a hands on feel for the amp before buying. You also have to wait for the build in most cases. That Deluxe Reverb sounds like a winner. I’ll have to check em out but the Excelsior may be more along my budget right now. I have a Redplate RP40 (tentatively for sale) which is infinitely adjustable for the tone you want but still haven’t been able to get a real old school tone out of it. There’s more knobs and switches than the Starship Enterprise on this thing so I know the tone is there somewhere. Funny thing is, with all the boutique amps I’ve been through, I still fall back on my ZT Lunchbox solid state and even take it to jams. Great jazz tone on these little monsters but not for everybody I’m sure. I like it because I can go strait from electric to acoustic with little to no feedback issues and gets the right amount of breakup when cranking it to keep up with the drummers volume. It would be better driving an external speaker but I don’t have one available right now. I’d like something that can get as dirty as this and still clean up well too. May not be possible, I don’t know.
What other amps have you tried and not liked? I think that you will struggle to get an old school tone from a deluxe reverb.
Yes, I know what you mean about a regular Deluxe. Pretty clean amp that needs serious volume to reach break up level . I’m curious about the tweed tonestack in the one that Gretschman mentioned. I had a buddy come over on Sunday night and we played around with the settings on my Redplate amp and were able to get some pretty nice old school tones out of it. We both agreed that I have fairly low wind P-90s in my guitar so there was a limit to how nasty it would get without sounding bad but in reality I only use that tone rarely and normally play jazz tone clean or mild tweed type breakup tone. The RP40 has a Fender blackface style preamp and a Tweed preamp going to a drive section with gain, drive(distortion), and level control. Each preamp section has its own set of tone and volume controls plus the drive section is footpedal controllable. You need a notebook to record preferred settings on this beast. I’m a vintage Gibson amp fan. The only one I have left, out of the many I’ve had, is a ’49 GA-50T that needs an output transformer. Not a great amp in a band setting but had great tone.
A very cool amp, and can be had very cheap if you can find them is the Ampeg Jet II from the 90’s. They can be bought from most people under $400. They get very raunchy at about 4 (dial numbered 1-10) on the volume. They really do not get any louder than that after that, just get nastier. To me 3 is the perfect spot for beefier pickups like P-90’s and humbuckers. It is that point where guitar dimed it is that greasy, gritty clean, and then just back off the attack cleans right up for you. Killer tremolo on them. I did a video under the Hollow Body chat topic to display some different guitars that were being discussed. I played those through this Ampeg at about 2 on the volume if you want an idea of how it sounds. There is some dirt added by the camera, but it will give you an idea of the vibe of the amp. Since you mentioned Gibson amps. Gibson had a line they did under the Maestro name and built an amp called the GA-45T. It is the Gibson GA-40 Les Paul circuit everyone craves except mated to a 4X8″ speaker configuration. Very cool amps. I dig the tone coming from the 4X8″ but if you wanted the GA-40 tone you just have to change it over to a 1X12″. I know some people who have done this and they sound very cool.
Most new amps, and what most of the boutique builders are doing (unless they are specifically copying the old amps like Victoria) are not going to give you that old school tone. Blackface amps, Dr. Z’s and the like because they are all designed to be more clean and HiFi, and their gain comes from the preamp side. That tone people seek of Charlie Christian, or the video posted of Sumlin is hard to capture for many reasons. Speakers were not very efficient back then, or the amps. The recording equipment from back then also plays a big part in how it sounds to us as well. A lot of the dirt you hear comes from the recording gear.
Another thing about tone, that is often over looked, is tone comes from the player more than the gear. The sad truth to it is 90% of it comes from the hands. The majority of it is the way you play, and if you want to sound like them you have to learn how to play like them. If you can do that you will get that tone on a wide variety of gear. Granted you will never get certain sounds out of a Marshall Plexi that you get out of a Blackface Reverb, or a Tele sounding like a Les Paul. I know when I come out to play with Tommy, or hear Paul Pigat when he plays with Tommy, we both play through Tommy’s amps and his guitars and neither one of us sound anything like Tommy.
I’m inclined to think that a tweed tone stack in a blackface style amp isn’t going to get you where you want to go…you can put all season tires on a car, but you’re not gonna offroad it–very well anyway. I think with your redplate amp, you’ve already got that tone covered. If you want raw grease, you’re gonna have to go with a specific amp. You already have an old Gibson, why not just replace the output transformer? That would be your cheapest option at this point.
Gretschman is right about all the factors other than the amp and guitar. Their is so much that goes into the color of a tone. My head just spins thinkin about it. I think I’m gonna start a thread on the worst amps we have ever played. I think a Roland JC120 or red knob fender is at the top of my list.
I will probably get blackballed by everyone in the forum for this. To Tommy’s worst amps I have played comment, they are not the worst amps I have ever played but I have never had good luck with recent Fender amps. Fenders from the 90’s to early 2000’s. Everyone I have ever owned has broke, or had some issue with them that was constantly having to be fixed. A lot of my friends had the same issues. They seemed to be fine playing in the house, but out sided of that they didn’t seem to take it very well. I had Twins, Deluxe Reverbs, Supers, and don’t even get me started on the Hot Rod Series amps like the Deluxe and Deville’s. I think there is a reason you see so many used Hot Rod Deluxe and Devilles, and the Blues Deluxes and Devilles constantly popping up used on sites. That group of Hot Rod amps would definitely make my worst amp list. People talk about the high prices of some of these boutique builders, but with the Twin Reverbs, and Deluxe Reverbs I owned (mentioned earlier) getting fixed all of the time I could have bought a couple of amps like Dr.Z or Bogner. Yeah I paid a few hundred more for some of the boutique amps I own now, but 8 years down the road I have never had any issues. These things have been dropped, rained on, dollies ran into them, and they are still going strong. Still work as good as the day I bought them.
I gig with a 74 silverface twin and its awesome and cost me less then the so called blackface reiissue. I took the the v1 preamp tube out which causes channel two to break up a little earlier ( the channel I use ) . I got a twin because a few gigs I do have to be un miced but it works great micd too. I try set it up to have a nice clean round tone at about 7 or 8 on my guitar volume and thats my tone for swing etc volume down to 4 or so for comping and then for blues\rockabilly I just turn the guitar right up for grease and it will add a bit of treble too. More grease in a pedal if I need it, echo for one or two songs and a tuner.
To me the less I can think about gear and concentrate on playing guitar the better. Gear is so over complicated these days imo.
Modern fender amps I agree with gretschman they are junk and will most likely let you down when its not convenient. Any point to point amp is going to have way more character then something with a pcb. pcb amps in my experience are just lifeless and sterile sounding.
Dan made me think of a point with the Silverface Fender amps. Like he mentions you can get them much cheaper. One thing most people do not realize, the early Silverface and Blackface are the same amp, 71’ish they started changing some parts like Caps but still the same circuit. I am not sure of the exact year, but it wasn’t until the mid 70’s they started changing parts and circuit. Now to me the later Silverfaces, though different, still have a desirable sound all their own. The later Silverface though are very easily changed back to Blackface specs if desired by a good tech. Even after having this done, and paying someone else to do it if needed, they can still be had cheaper than a vintage Blackface. My favorites though have always been the Tweeds and Brownface Fenders. I think the Brownface are a good middle ground that fix some of the issues that plagued some of the Tweed designs, like flabby low end, but still have some of that grease that comes from the Tweed amps. Blackface are just a little too clean, and harsh for my taste. Brownface Tremolos kick ass.
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