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20 watt amp for exquisite classic rock tones?

MikeMcK

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,801
Hey guys, I'm back on a tone quest. I'm interested in a 20 watt amp to get those sweet classic rock tones that have been in my head for years. My budget is around $1000 give or take. I currently have a DSL40 and an EVH 5150 III. Although these are amazing amps, they have a more compressed, modern tone to them. I'm looking for more AC/DC to early VHII types of tones. I'd be using it in my band to play small bar gigs. An effects loop would be necessary as well.

So far, I've been researching the Marshall SV20, Dirty Shirley Mini (a bit over my budget), and the Victory rd1. What else would you guys recommend?
This is a tricky one, since you're going to have to do with the circuit (or maybe pedals) what Angus Young and EVH did with volume... a lot of the harmonics in their tones back then came from standing in front of massive amps that really didn't have as much gain as most people think.
 

Mattbedrock

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,712
I use several different 20ish watt clones for my live bands that work well for me. AC-15 has that jangly clean that turns into ripping distortion, especially the EF86 channel. Marshall 2061 sounds very plexi like for an EL84 powered amp and takes pedals well. Supro 1624t captures that early Zeppelin tone and is very manageable volumes wise. But my favorite and go to is a 6g3 Brown Deluxe. I think it’s the best small rock amp ever.







 

ledvedder

Member
Messages
621
Guys, I already have some great amps (DSL40, 5150 III) and lots of pedals and an HF Effects. I'm just looking for a good lower wattage amp that gets great classic rock tones and is plexi-like, with the most being close to VHII tones.

Or, if you think one of those 'plexi in a box' pedals would work with my current amps, I'm all ears.
 

bman5150us

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
610
I own a Friedman PT20 and it can do exactly what you want it to do. Trust me. Just make sure if you go used, get one that has the three-way switchable gain levels. On the lowest gain switch setting and not going too crazy with the gain knob, you can get that AC/DC crunch. With the switch on the highest gain setting, you can get VH’s brown sound. Even with the switch on full tilt, I tend to back the gain knob off some and just juice it with a boost for the higher gain stuff.

and it’s a loud, very gig-able amp. Note, this amp likes a little volume IMHO for the best touch response/feel. I personally think it also does best with trebly boost or gain pedals - adds some bite
 

stargazer747

Member
Messages
2,239
If you don't need much cleans then an Orange Dark Terror, if you need crunch and clean channels then the Rocker 15 Terror. You mention 20W, these are both 15W lunchbox models, not so far off, but don't let that sway you in any way, these are ferociously loud with thunderous Classic Rock tones ala 70s & 80s. Yet, they can do modern metal too, just about anything if you learn how to dial it in right.

Both have tube driven buffered FX Loop and take almost all pedals nicely in front and thru the loop. Well built, portable, from quiet practicing at home, to jamming with the band in the studio, to gigging small pubs and clubs, an Orange Terror is all you'll ever need.
 

bman5150us

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
610
How does the Runt 20 compare to the DS20 and the PT20?
i played all three before buying the PT20. I can’t honestly say I remember too much about the other amps, but I was looking for a really solid sounding lunchbox or smaller amp that provided me with a great rock tone. the only thing I do remember was I thought the PT20 clearly did the high gain best between it and the Runt 20. The Runt does have a clean channel, but I really didn’t care about that.

Id have to think that the Dirty Shirley would also work well for you. Just use a boost for higher gain stuff. I’m sure some other DS20 owners will chime in but I’d bet the DS20 too would provide a great tone platform from which to build on and layer. The PT20 has an effects loop. Pretty sure the Runt did too. I don’t remember if the DS20 did or not but it probably does.
 

ledvedder

Member
Messages
621
If you don't need much cleans then an Orange Dark Terror, if you need crunch and clean channels then the Rocker 15 Terror. You mention 20W, these are both 15W lunchbox models, not so far off, but don't let that sway you in any way, these are ferociously loud with thunderous Classic Rock tones ala 70s & 80s. Yet, they can do modern metal too, just about anything if you learn how to dial it in right.

Both have tube driven buffered FX Loop and take almost all pedals nicely in front and thru the loop. Well built, portable, from quiet practicing at home, to jamming with the band in the studio, to gigging small pubs and clubs, an Orange Terror is all you'll ever need.
Aren't Orange amps a bit dark for getting that high mids Marshall tone? I thought they were more hairy than barky with their distortion character? I don't have much experience with Orange, so I'm just asking.
 

stargazer747

Member
Messages
2,239
Aren't Orange amps a bit dark for getting that high mids Marshall tone? I thought they were more hairy than barky with their distortion character? I don't have much experience with Orange, so I'm just asking.
There is a warmer darker tone in my Orange Terrors yes, and in fact, I prefer that instead of a bright tone. I think to describe it as "hairy" or "barky" or any adjective you choose to use is subjective to the user and how its dialed in, everyone here's things in their own way. You'd have to give them a try in person to know if its right for you, there is no other way, even listening to video demos don't do it for me. I took the chances on mine and liked them right off the bat.

Perhaps another Orange? Although its been recently discontinued rather suddenly in just under 2 yrs of production, the Brent Hinds Terror has the bright tone that's often compared to Marshall vintage amps. You can find those readily available at reasonable prices used or NOS on reverb.com, ebay.com, and some online sellers. Aside from the voicing differences, its design is the same to the Rocker 15 Terror. I had the BHT and also the Jim Root Terrors (also recently discontinued) but sold these 2 wanting to downside a bit. I'm a big Orange fan.
 

Gasp100

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
21,102
Marshall SV20 is a great sounding amp, very loud, it's a Plexi tone for all intents and purposes. Very open and airy as you described, tons of treble content but jumpering channels and using the volumes it is great.
The Dirty Shirley Mini is also great, much fatter / thicker bottom end. Definitely a "vintage vibe" but the abilitly to dial in different levels of gain depending on how the swith is set. Also gets really nice broken up tones and can be boosted with pedals.
Never played the PT20 but my understanding is that is it less versatile, but can work really well if you are a guitar volume knob guy. I think might be "hand wired" vs. the other lunch box heads from Friedman?
Runt 20 is great, nice clean channel. I think the gain is more modern/refined and does not have the same vintage vibe as explained above, surely farther away from the core Plexi tone then the SV20.

I just ordered a Drybell the engine pedal to test in from of clean amps to see how well that does for vintage Marshall tones.
I also have a Synergy Friedman Dirty Shirley module enroute (which I have owned before) for my Synergy SYN-30 combo because I believe it is probably the best all-arounder Marshall-esque tones I have ever had from an amp; everything from Plexi-like broken cleans (but thicker) to straight up rock leads (still thick!). Also takes pedals extremely well.

I don't think you can go wrong with the SV20 (if you can handle the volume) or the Dirty Shirley Mini. In fact I had them in the house at the same time and chose the DSM at the time, but it was SUPER CLOSE (DSM volume more manageable, at bit more versatile as well?). The SV20 into a great cab brought that 3D sparkle in the high end, I was VERY impressed.
For me personally, if I pulled the trigger on another SV20 I would have to include a high quality attenaution device. It begs to be played loud (even set pretty clean) and putting volume pedal to cut down on volume or similar in the loop does NOT cut it. You need the entire amp working to get the goods.
 

Gasp100

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
21,102
I just love this tone,
He does great work in his vids but EVERYTHING is loaded down and going into IR cabs of his choosing.
The real tone is completely different (and neutered imho) using this technique and most amps end up sounding very, very similar.
Search for well recorded clips of the amp opened up and rocking into a real cab in the room; even iPhone clips could suffice.

 
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