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Thread: Yet Another "Recommend Me Some Amps" thread

  1. #1
    Senior Member shinksma's Avatar
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    Yet Another "Recommend Me Some Amps" thread

    Hey all,

    I have a bit of GAS, and I've been doing my usual browsing of PRS guitars I might want - a 7-string, a SAS, 305, whatever. But no really great deals have fallen in my direction, and I'm not sure Yet Another Guitar is what I need/want. So it occurs to me that perhaps what I need is a different amp to play through.

    I currently have a Fender Hotrod Deluxe. I'm pretty happy with it. I usually play fairly clean, and use pedals to get the dirt/reverb/chorus/etc that I want for the moment. Because I play stuff that can really mix it up mid-song, I really rely on my pedals to get the sound I'm looking for. I use a Line Selector to switch between an acoustic-emulation mode and a distorted/rock sound (and often use my Hollowbody to really get that good acoustic sound).

    I play in weekend-gig-only band (we're not doctors or dentists, but certainly "professionals" in something other than music), nothing too serious (for me, at least), playing stuff that is somewhat of a departure from my usual at-home jamming music. We play acoustic folk/trad/irish (covers and originals) with some "light rock" covers and originals thrown in. Due to the music style and typical venue and audience, I never use my amp when we gig - I go direct into the PA. My Hotrod Deluxe would overpower everything if I turned the gain/volume to "1". For practice I have a small Behringer acoustic amp that is still too loud for the folkies.

    I use an Amp Modeling pedal to add a bit of tube-like sound to the non-acoustic side of the pedal board output prior to going into the PA, otherwise any distortion/dirt sounds way too buzzy.

    At home I am far more likely to play stuff like Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Led Zep, AC/DC, Judas Priest, or just riff away on heavy stuff. Or stuff from Beck's Sea Change. Or sludge metal by SunnO)))). Or soundscape stuff like Tangerine Dream.

    So...am I going to get any value from having a different amp to play through (combo or head+Cab), or is using a clean channel sound that I'm happy with and that takes pedals well the best solution for me, which is my current situation?

    I should mention that as I type, I have a Mojo Hand DMBL pedal shipping to me, and maybe that will provide a slightly different "amp" sound to my pedal-board output, and may completely negate any amp GAS that may be forming.

    I don't have a budget per se...if something is priced around what a Hotrod Deluxe goes for, I might pick it up fairly soon, something more pricey would be best to save up for...I'm not in a hurry, I obviously have enough toys to keep myself occupied. (Yeah yeah, First World problems...)

    I realize everyone will want to recommend their favorite amp, and what really matters to me should be decided by me in front of a variety of amps at a guitar store. And I can do that. But since I'm not able to walk into a guitar store right now and this is bothering me right now, I thought I'd throw it out there for the forum to chime in on.

    Thanks for any thoughts you may provide.
    Last edited by shinksma; 06-24-2014 at 08:06 AM. Reason: Clean up some formatting/wording

  2. #2
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    Mesa Mark V. Great cleans. Great overdrive. Takes all pedals well. You seem to be all over the place with what you play and that is pretty much the swiss army knife of guitar amps.

  3. #3
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    So, this is going to be a fun at-home amp, and it'll be in addition to your hot rod deluxe....which means you have some options since it won't need to do everything from gigging to covering all bases at home.

    Generically, here's how I see the options....

    1. You can go old-school and have fun with a single channel amp to get your classic rock ya-yas off. On the PRS side of things, it's hard to beat an HX/DA, or my favorite, the MDT....practice using your guitar volume and tone knobs to channel Gary Moore or Paul Kossoff or whatever. It really is a ton of fun in a way that will be quite different than your HRD with pedals... Clearly, this won't be the ticket for your gigging, but you have that covered anyway. If you want to go Marshall, you can pick up the fantastic Vintage Modern nowadays for super cheap and get the same sort of dealio. All of these can be set to take metal pedals well, and the MDT can do a relatively decent scoop tone with the gain dimed. An Orange AD30 is a neat thing to play around with also...

    2. You can go even older school and get one of the myriad of Superchamp clones (or get a vintage one...) Counter intuitively, this can be a bit less home-friendly since even a super champ is loud without a master volume, and the examples above all have masters.

    3. You can decide that you've got the classic stuff covered with your HRD and pedals and go for a great modern gain tone in your new amp. My all time favorite in this category is the PRS Archon...which is pretty reasonably priced....and it has a super duper clean channel. A Mesa MarkV as mentioned above, or my preference, a Mesa Roadster also will do quite nicely in this category and gives you a ton of channel switching options (though it doesn't sound like this is a big deal for you...)

    4. There are lots of boutiquey dumble clones out there (Two Rock for example) which are a bunch of fun to play with at home. They are typically pricey though...

    That's just off the top of my head.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Dirty Bob's Avatar
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    I agree with what Aristotle said...we have similar tastes in amps...(I think he needs to try out the Paul's Amp if he hasn't yet and I in turn need to try out an ARCHON)....The PRS amps are fantastic...I use three PRS amps as my primary go to's...the HXDA, Paul's, and Recording Head.....Aristotle and I also both agree regarding the Marshall 2466....I tend to use my amp's gain and then color it with boosts and overdrives here and there as opposed to a straight clean platform...manipulating my volume knob to get different shades from clean to dirty.

    that said....

    The Hot Rod Deluxes actually are very good (sonically) as a pedal platform...going through the FX loop with the factory installed custom Eminence speaker provides a great power amp solution in a pinch for amp modelers (presence dialed in to taste of course)...back in the day I used a USA Deluxe and a Deville for quite some time very effectively...broke down on me on a couple of occasions but man overall they can take a beating...maybe your GAS could be quenched as you suggested more cheaply with a pedal or two? Catalinbread and Wampler make GREAT stuff when it comes to foundation overdrives.

    Other amps brands that you may want to look into that can be found for great prices used are Dr. Z, Zinky, and Rivera....Rivera being the channel switching monster out of those three...great Fender, Marshall, and Modern tones can be found in a Rivera...and I still can't get over what Rivera's go for in the used market...your dollars go a loooong way.
    -Bob

  5. #5
    I'm not a fan of the HRD, so we obviously have different tastes, but maybe that's the whole point of getting different opinions?

    For me, the clean sounds are the sonic foundation of the amp. Much like an oscillator on a synth. If the basic sound doesn't move the needle for me, the OD sound isn't going to, either. You can push it with all the pedals in the world, and it will still kind of suck and never satisfy.

    I had a Mark V and really dug it, big time. But I don't think it had great cleans, I think it had fantastic "cleans on the edge of dirt" on the Tweed setting. I found the other two settings pretty nice, but not to my taste for clean sounds. Then again, Mesa cleans haven't been my thing. As a point of reference, I like the cleans on the Two-Rocks, Matchless/Bad Cats, and PRS amps, and have had a very difficult time finding cleans that really move me ever since the early 80s, which is probably why I'm not an HRD owner...

    Even the Bogner cleans have been meh as far as I'm concerned, with the notable exception of the Metropolis, now-discontinued, whose cleans sounded great.

    From what I've heard in clips, if I wanted a two channel amp, I'd buy an Archon in a second. The PRS clean tones are great clean tones. As a result, the OD tones sound fantastic. And with good cleans, you can use all your pedals, and get the very most out of them. As I said, I loved my Mark V, but I'd go Archon over it, for less money, and be happier in the long run. The Mesa Roadster that Aristotle mentions is another very good amp that does a lot and is interesting to use, but again, its clean tones don't compare to the Archon IMHO (remember, I'm fussy about cleans).

    Two Rocks and some other Dumble clones are fantastic amps, if that's the direction you want to go in. They have their charms, and I played TR amps for 9 years. So you won't hear me say a bad thing about them.

    The best all-around amp I've ever owned - for my taste, and for my purposes - is the HXDA. I'm sure the MDT is every bit as cool. I have a DG30 for its distinctly different tones. It's a cool amp, and does its thing extremely well. I look at it as a great thing when I want "different."

    But the cool thing about both of these amps is that they are the diametric opposite from the HRD, so might be worth considering. They are amps with beautiful cleans as basic building blocks, take pedals well, and overdrive with rich tones (though different, and as I said, the DG amp is its own kind of beast that might not be as 'general purpose.').

    Hope this gives you some ideas!
    I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken...

    Website: http://www.elfxi.com

  6. #6
    Senior Member shinksma's Avatar
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    Hey everyone, I appreciate the comments so far! that's exactly the kind of stuff I was hoping to bring out.

    Keep up the comments and recommendations! This is where I typically learn the most in an area that is new or stagnant for me. I picked up the HRD back in the early 2000s (I think - might have been late 1990s). It had a nice tube tone that was lacking in every other similarly-priced amp, which were mostly solid state, of course. It replaced a cheap Peavey I was never really fond of, but had been the most wattage I could afford at the time. But I recognize the HRD is not the be-all and end-all to my tone - something is lacking in the cleans, and the OD channels are good but one-dimensional.

    I think I need to try out an Archon, just to see if it does what I want for a clean channel sound. And if it does, then I can also play with the OD tones. Since it is a PRS product, I do not doubt it will be very tempting.

  7. #7
    One thing I'd note is that especially with an overdriven amp, the amp has more of an influence on what comes out tonally than the guitar.
    I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken...

    Website: http://www.elfxi.com

  8. #8
    Senior Member MOBirds's Avatar
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    I have a HRDX with a Celestion V30 G12 speaker and I actually like it's clean tone - when I'm able to play it loud. I've had quite a few quality issues with it, so it's next on my list of things to replace.

    I also have a PRS HX/DA which I love. I can't really get a great pure clean tone, just a sort of clean about to breakup tone with volume on guitar backed off. It does what it does spectacularly, but I still would like to replace the Fender with something at least similar in tone that's more reliable. I was able to play around a bit with an Archon at nearby dealer, but only for about 10 minutes or so. I was pretty impressed, but I'd really like to spend a bit more time with one to get a good sense of it's tone at various volume levels. I'm also interested in the clean tones on the DG30, but I've yet to see one in person. That's the really disappointing thing about there being no Experience event this year. That's where I would have best chance to sample different amps.

    One amp that a friend of mine has that really surprised me was the Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18. It's around same price point as the Fender and has a decent clean tone, and even the OD is good, the Lead Boost or whatever the 3rd voicing was didn't thrill me at all. But I was a bit surprised I liked it since most of what he buys doesn't interest me at all.

    I really think for me, I need more time with an Archon. I liked it's tone enough that I want to investigate it a bit more. The HX/DA nails my dirty tone perfectly, just need a good clean to pair it with.

    For you, good luck! and Happy (tone) Hunting!
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  9. #9
    Senior Member shinksma's Avatar
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    So I got my DMBL pedal last night, and while I did get some playing around with it, my conclusions are too early to say whether the sound/tone satisfies my GAS for a new amp.

    However, it now seems quite clear to me that my HRD gets overdriven in the Clean channel far too early for me...I would like to get a bit louder before it starts to break up. This was with nothing between guitar and amp, and also repeatable with all my pedals/etc in-line, without the DMBL engaged. I guess I just never turned it up quite so much hoping it would stay clean.

    So now I wonder whether I want an amp to get me good loud cleans that can take all the pedal stuff I throw at it...sounds like the Archon might be what I "need". More research required, clearly...

  10. #10
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    If you really just want good cleans for pedals, it's really hard to beat these....


  11. #11
    Senior Member shinksma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aristotle View Post
    If you really just want good cleans for pedals, it's really hard to beat these....

    One thing that makes me hesitate with a Deluxe Reverb or Twin Reverb is that I have read that these do not take real heavy distortion pedals well - thus I would be possibly really annoyed when I wanted to play Maiden/Priest/Opeth/whatever.

    Can anyone comment on that? Is it any better or worse than my HRDeluxe for taking metal-style distortion pedals?

    I am honestly considering picking up a second HRDeluxe just to get a volume boost - they are available used fairly easily. And I could start using some of my stereo effects...

    Yeah, I know I just need to go play some, but playing something in a store, even if I bring my guitar and my pedals, never seem to equate to how it sounds when fully ensconced in my rig.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by shinksma View Post
    Can anyone comment on that? Is it any better or worse than my HRDeluxe for taking metal-style distortion pedals?
    Fact is, there is no small clean amp on Earth that truly is great with a metal pedal. Get another HRD, and it will sound every bit as bad to you as your one HRD, just louder. You'll have crappy times two.

    A metal pedal is itself a serious compromise over the big rigs that most metal players use.

    I found this out over the years the hard way, in the studio, with lots of players, lots of amps, and lots of pedals.

    Yeah, I know, Jimmy Page did Led Zep I with a Supro. But he was Jimmy f^&*ing Page, and you're not. On top of that, Metal's tone has evolved over the years, and it's quite different than what Pagey was getting in 1968 anyway. Besides, did you ever see Page with a little Supro on a stage?

    Me either.

    Metal really needs a big, high gain amp with a large cabinet to sound the way most players want it - raw, tight bass, feeling like the amp is going to run away with it, etc. If you want the real thing, you can't take a short-cut and think it will be anything but another fair-to-middling compromise.

    Buy right, and you'll have to buy only once. You can play around the edges forever, and never get to the meat of the thing with lesser stuff.

    If I were in your shoes, and wanted to do what you want to do, I'd sell the HRD, sell the pedals, and buy an Archon. You'll have an amp that will give you real satisfaction instead of a compromise that will still leave you with your Little Man in your hand. And if I'm right about its capabilities (at least from what I've heard recorded and posted), you'll have it for years and use it for everything.

    If the Archon isn't your thing, and you want something different with lots of flexibility, it's hard to go wrong with a Mesa Mark V. That amp can do a lot of things, though I'd go with the Archon personally.

    This is just my thinking, but you're a PRS player. You didn't compromise on your guitars. Get the most out of your investment and go with something that will really give up the goods! A great amp makes all the difference. Get a great amp, and you will see.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 06-26-2014 at 06:07 PM.
    I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken...

    Website: http://www.elfxi.com

  13. #13
    Senior Member shinksma's Avatar
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    Oh, I'll keep the HRD, simply because the few hundred bucks I might get for it would be what I would pay to have it sitting around to get "that sound". Similar for the pedals - they provide different tones for different situations.

    But trying out an Archon sounds like what I need to do to satisfy that metalhead inside me. A nice closed cabinet of 4x12s to go along with it, for that punchy low end. (I think that's what I like about the HRD, being the exact opposite of a closed-back punchy low-end - it is not the best at modern metal, but it has a nice flabby bluesy sound that appeals to me. Not for everyone, obviously, and it is a bit of a one-trick pony.)

    Too bad my local guitar stores seem to not have much in the way of PRS amps in stock to play with. I'd even buy one after trying/liking it if the premium wasn't too high over an internet sale.

    Something to chew on for the next while as I strategize my next purchase. Too many toys to acquire, not enough time or money...

  14. #14
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    I agree with everything Les has said (as usual), but also wanted to point out how frustrating small scale gigs are when dealing with an amp with a lot of iron. I sold my Mark IV because it was WAY too much amp for the bar gigs and private parties we were playing. Yeah, it sounded awesome...until you dial it back down to the volume that is acceptable and appropriate to the gig. At that point, I was just hauling around a 100lbs, 100 watt amp where a little 18 watter was more appropriate. I got to say, I laugh my ass off every time I see a guitarist haul a 4x12 into a small bar or club and plop their 100 watt Marshall head on top. The sound man shakes his head, and musicians in the room move to the farthest reaches of the bar...or out the front door.

    So, my point is: seriously consider your needs and intended uses. If you've got room and money to have a booming 100 watt monster and 4x12, go for it. If you book a gig where it wouldn't be like swatting a fly with a shotgun, rock that beast (I DO still have my Mesa Lonestar, and love it when I can gig it)! For those gigs where all you'll earn are hard looks and epitaphs from the sound man, the patrons, and the bar owner, leave it at home, and save your back by not having to carry the damn thing.

    All that said, get an Archin, cause they are really amazing!

  15. #15
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    On the other hand Egads.... (and full disclosure....I always like taking the contrarian view just for the fun of it... ) I find that my three best amps for small rooms are the Archon, the 100W JVM410H and the 100W Mesa Roadster. I attribute this to the fact that they get most of their tone from the pre-amp, and sound pretty much the same all the way down to bedroom level. Something like the DG30 takes on drastically different personalities depending on the master volume setting, so even at 30W, it's much harder to tame live. And both the Roadster and the Archon have half power settings, and in both cases, I like the tone better on the 100W setting regardless of desired output volume.

    Sounds like the OP wasn't looking to use this amp live in any case, so it's more of a philosophical question I guess. As to 4x12 versus 2x12 (or something smaller) that's more of a convenience issue for me than anything else. I have an open back Two Rock 2x12 that works well with most anything and is just plain more convenient. But a JVM410 on top of a 1960B can be soundman friendly at any gig in my experience convenience factors aside. Of course, the only way to gig a non-master 100W plexi at any reasonably sized venue is to set it as a low volume pedal platform, which actually can be made to sound quite nice also....

  16. #16
    Interesting point, Aristotle. I remember that my old Mesa Tremoverb was also capable of some serious gain at low master volume, to the point where it even sounded good enough for recording that way!

    And I also agree on the DG30, it's definitely made to be opened up and getting the power tubes involved. With the master too low, I kind of scratch my head and wonder what happened. Though with the master up, it's one of my favorite amps ever.

    So I also agree with Egads in the sense that a lot of amps really need to be opened up.

    It really depends on the amp.
    I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken...

    Website: http://www.elfxi.com

  17. #17
    Senior Member shinksma's Avatar
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    I've been spending some of my break time today looking over alternatives to the Archon - sort of a "look at the stuff I would consider if the Archon was simply out of my league, pricewise". Not saying I can go out and buy two or three Archons right now, but one would be within reach sooner or later - I do like to manage my cashflow.

    So Bugeras and Blackstars became a sort of x vs y comparison, since they seem to offer more budget-friendly models that may satisfy a typical metal-head. But if I'm gonna spend $700 to $1000 on one of those, I think I'd be better served to spend more and get the Archon.

    But what Egads said was also on my mind. I won't be gigging with this (unless I can find a local band that needs a guitarist that plays heavy but not fast ), so it is a home-use-only metal-capable (but not just metal) amp that I think I want. A 100W amp that only sounds really good when the gain and volume are up past 6 or 7 will probably be too much for my everyday enjoyment. (Neighbors and family are not a factor, per se, but my hearing is!)

    Good thing is I don't need this right now...just something I would like to get eventually, since I think I'm missing out on some tight punchy riffage by only having a HRD. How is the Sweet 16 for heavier stuff? Does it take pedals well?

    Yeah, I know I'm all over the map with my questions, but if I knew what I really wanted (or rather if I knew what product out there met my particular needs at a budget I considered reasonable), I'd just go out and get it. I'm not the type to ask for validation from the forum.

  18. #18
    Happy Egads's Avatar
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    Don't get me wrong: Aristotle, if I had a rehearsal area like yours (I'm gonna hunt you down next time I'm in DC), and a frequent live gig that could stand it, AND I DID'T HAVE TO CARRY THE DAMN THINGS, I would rock a 100 watt head and two 4x12 cabs all night long!

    I love the way my Lonestar sounds on 50 or 100 watts, but I just don't want to carry that much a land only have the master at 9:00.

  19. #19
    Member Texas_minor_blues's Avatar
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    my 2 cents

    The Bogner Shiva (20th Anniversary version even better!)
    This is probably one of the best amps I have ever had the good fortune of playing. It covers cleans wonderfully and as far as metal goes I can get everything from In Flames to Pantera with little trouble

    it takes pedals very well
    Whale Blue 2008 McCarty w./ IRW neck / DGT IRW neck incoming
    Black Slate 513 w./ IRW neck
    PRS 2 Channel H + Bogner 20th Shiva
    EBMM BFR Petrucci 7 string (IRW neck)
    EBMM Mystic Dream 6 string (IRW neck )

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by shinksma View Post
    So Bugeras and Blackstars became a sort of x vs y comparison, since they seem to offer more budget-friendly models that may satisfy a typical metal-head. But if I'm gonna spend $700 to $1000 on one of those, I think I'd be better served to spend more and get the Archon.
    I agree, for a few reasons.

    First, Aristotle says the Archon has an effective master volume that works well. So does my HXDA; if it's similar, the nominal wattage of the amp won't really matter. And it's switchable to half power anyway. While I love the HXDA cranked, the amp really does sound great at volumes I can talk over.

    Bugera is a Behringer company. Besides being entirely made in China as are all Behringer products, Behringer has been the subject of criticism and lawsuits over copying other manufacturer's designs. Roland, Peavey, BBE, Aphex, Drawmer, are a few of the companies claiming infringements of one kind or another. Something about Behringer products rubs me the wrong way, and let's just leave it at that. I also have yet to hear one I like the sound of, so there's that, too. Bleccch, etc.

    For Korean-made amps, I think the Blackstars sound good for the money. They aren't in the same league as PRS or Mesa amps in terms of build or sonics. If you have to go that way, however, there are worse amps on the market!

    I have a friend who plays a few sessions for me here and there, very good player, great guy. He's always buying gear in the "bargain bin" so to speak, and he's never truly happy with his tone. He can certainly afford to buy whatever guitar gear he wants, but just won't pull the trigger on the good stuff. When he does sessions for me, he uses my amps.

    Anyway, he gets really excited about the latest-greatest bargain gear for a short while, and then becomes dissatisfied with the shortcomings, and replaces it.

    I understand selling stuff based on other needs, but I don't really grok buying gear simply because it's inexpensive. To a degree, you really do get what you pay for.
    I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken...

    Website: http://www.elfxi.com

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