Boutique Owners - Questions for you

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Eric Porter, Apr 14, 2016.

  1. Eric Porter

    Eric Porter Member

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    I am in the market for a tube amp, I am doing as much research as possible upfront, but ultimately, you have to play them and determine what sounds best to you. There is truly no other way to judge, it is all your own ears. I don't want to think in terms of names, strictly trying to find the sounds that I want to hear and find the amp that produces them the best.

    For botique amp owners:
    1. How did you get the opportunity to test out these amps?
    2. Did you buy from a botique maker without having played through one?
    3. Have you compared them with the amps they are modeled after and how impressed were you with the difference? Do you think there is a huge difference in quality and tone?

    I do believe that buying the best gear you can afford makes perfect sense. But in the case of these botique amp makers, you are usually talking double the price for new - and that is a significant investment. Also, you always read about the pros, and I know they have the gear they love, but, if Billy Gibbons plugs into a Fender Deluxe Reverb or a Marshall, it will sound like Billy Gibbons.

    I am playing in a band, and also like to record. I plan on getting something small for home recording (also use the modeling available), but the amp I am looking for will be for small club gigs, and a few outdoor summer parties. I am still in search mode, and I plan to try as many amps as I can in hopes of finding the right one.
     
  2. whuppo

    whuppo Member

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    I bought a Fryette Aether from Fryette without seeing or hearing. There is nothing quite like it to compare to, but would do it again,
     
  3. Grasley

    Grasley Member

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    I bought a 65amps stone pony only going by youtube videos....and I wasnt disappointed! Killer amp!! Youtube isnt the greatest for hearing what gear actually sounds like
     
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  4. Salfordlad

    Salfordlad Member

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    I bought a King Amplification Tigerhund 18 210 combo off CL for $380...... couldn't turn it down for that price. It came with a Tone Tubby Red Alnico and a Jensen alnico. I had read up on it and had an idea what I was getting but it certainly was a crap shoot not having a chance to really demo it. It is basically Blackface Fender w/o reverb. I took out the Jensen and paired the TT Alnico with a TT 40/40 ceramic I bought for $50. As good a clean platform as I have played in years. The best $430 I've spent.....
     
  5. kwicked

    kwicked Supporting Member

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    I will go you one better and say that even the ones you get to play, you don't really know if it is the right one for you until you have had it for awhile and used it in different situations, become familiar with the tonestack and other controls, etc.
    My solution has been to buy used at good prices so that i know i can move it if it's not ideal or if it is and I just want to try something else. Also, the internet can be a wasteland of opinions of course, but one of the great things about TGP is that i have found a couple of guys with very similar taste and style to me that if they like an amp, pedal, brand of tube, etc. i am confident that there is a very good chance i will like it too.

    As to #3 I like Fender cleans and have not found anything that sounds better than a nice vintage SR. But with my Blackverb, i have that great clean plus a great OD channel, loop, multiple ohm settings, master volume, easy bias. In short almost all of what i like in the Fenders tone and a bunch more versatility and speaker options for gigs.
    I think the real advantage of boutique is in the build quality and features and of course it depends what they were modeled after in the first place. In terms of pure tone, i have found the biggest difference of Boutique vs production to be in the OD channels.
    If you give more detail about the sound/watts you are looking for or the amp model you like as a base, you will get lots of suggestions.
     
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  6. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    Playing in person is the best thing, but YT clips are a great resource, imo. and NOT from the over produced videos of guys paid to do it. I hate how so many of these paid reviewers making their reviews like it's up for a grammy to get a bunch of likes and they're in their high end studio production. It's not giving a realistic impression. All they're demo'ing is the amp's potential, in a high end, pro studio, lol. Hell with technology, even the cruddiest amp can be made to sound at least very good to great.

    Gimme some decent quality, live, on the fly, phone clips! That's a much better real world representation. I figure, if it can sound very good thru a phone mic, even thru YT's compression or whatever. it's only gonna be better in person. When I got my Naylor, I heard clips, on/off for years, and the amp kept grabbing my attention, and yes the phone clips still sounded great. The telling sign to me was I never heard a clip where the amp sounded bad to me. I can't say that about any other amp that I've really listened/researched. When I got it, it sounded just as expected, ....and more!

    Now once you get it, The final test is and will always be... at a gig.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
  7. Eric Porter

    Eric Porter Member

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    Could not agree more, and of course the room you play at home vs rehearsal space vs gigs all change from what you hear in a little soundproof room in a music store

    This sounds like exactly what I am looking for, we play mostly "roots" and "classic" rock type stuff. I love Fender cleans, but I like a little more grit/dirt as an option from an amp rather than a pedal (not opposed to pedals either). These are made by Red Plate? Pricey for me, but that sounds like exactly what I want from an amp

    I am not looking for anything huge, we don't play big places, small clubs, parties, a few outdoor summer parties/jams.... My list of amps as a starting point to test :

    Fender DRRI - 68
    Mesa Boogie - 5:50 or 5:25 Express Plus & Mark V : 35 (I like what I have heard from the clean and slightly crunch vintage tones, but I dont need all the extreme overdrive options
    Vox AC30 - I know the cleans are a different clean from the Fender sound, but I tried one and thought it had a nice gain sound, and was very sensitive to the volume knob, which I liked

    There are others I am researching so far, but as I said, I am trying not to limit myself
     
  8. FFTT

    FFTT Member

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    It really helps to know the basics in how different power tubes effect the overall sound.

    6v6 thinner Fender Cleans
    6L6 fatter rounder Fender Cleans more headroom.
    EL 84 Brit small Marshall & Vox to 30 watts
    EL34 a hairier 6L6 Marshall Plexi, Hiwatt, AC50-100, clean to High Gain
    6550 Colder big cleans
    KT88 Fat full bodied warmer cleans

    Most of the well established builders have a reasonable return policy, so all you risk is return shipping.
     
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  9. Stratonator

    Stratonator Member

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    Just mentioning it because I saw it a few times ; it's spelled "boutique."
     
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  10. FFTT

    FFTT Member

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    The Gries 12 Reverb is a studio quite all hand wired Princeton Reverb build.

    The USA hand built Bad Cats are excellent and also carry a lifetime transferrable warranty.

    Matchless, Reeves, Germino, Allen, Gries, Magic, Divided By 13, Carr, Louis Electric, Red Plate,
    3rd Power, Friedman, Metro, all very high quality.
     
  11. Eric Porter

    Eric Porter Member

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    Fixed
     
  12. Pedro58

    Pedro58 Member

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    This is pretty counterintuitive, IMO. If you're after a boutique piece of gear, sound quality is at or near the top of your things to evaluate. So, why would you use the crappiest file/sample you can find to evaluate them? Why not investigate how the high-end guys made the recording. Some of them explain their signal path and processing.
     
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  13. Stratonator

    Stratonator Member

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    Cool!

    Not sure how much (if any) help I'll be with this reply but in my case, they were Metro-assembled kits. I really wanted vintage Marshall tones but Marshall wasn't going all out with their releases. In the end, I opted for some NOS-equipped pieces which would give me pretty much what I was after (on paper).

    Thankfully, once I got the amp, I was in heaven. Of course, mine is a pretty straightforward example because all I wanted was a reproduction of a very popular amp based on simple circuitry. If the pieces used to replicate it are faithful, it should (in theory) sound killer. And it does.

    If you're looking for crazy combinations (Blackface cleans and Marshall crunch, for instance), it might be much harder to do adequate research.
     
  14. boo radley

    boo radley Supporting Member

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    I agree as well - why not hear how *good* the example can sound? That's after all the whole point -- hear those subtleties that differentiate the hand-wired blackface clone from the DRRI....

    What I'd really like to hear, however, is a demo of the boutique blackface, or vox clone played in the same conditions as a DRRI or AC-15C1 or something, by the same pro. Be interesting. :)
     
  15. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    I didn't say find the crappiest sample. I said "a decent phone clip" to keep it honest. Phones, can do a fine job of representing the majority of the tone. And as I said, if it sounds good on the phone, it will only sound better in person. I had one of those old Flip video recorders and it did a great job of capturing majority of the acoustic or amp's tone, of what was really heard in the room, live.

    The highly produced clip, it's like when you see a commercial for weight loss or something and they show before and after pics of the pants on them and on the after pic, they also have their hair done, make up etc... it's all extra fluff for the psychological effect. and it still sells even tho' people know that trick. lol.
     
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  16. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    Well that's what I said, it'll show how good the thing will sound in a pro studio with a ton of icing. Special mic, placement, plate verb, compression...whatever. And then you have to start trying to imagine without that stuff out and listen to just the amp. And you can to a degree, but it's much nicer to just hear the amp straight, dry or with it's own verb or whatever it has. I just want to taste the cake, not the icing.

    I remember how good we made a Gorilla amp sound back in the days of the cassette tapes in a studio when we were goofing around. Sometimes, I guess you can polish a turd.
     
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  17. PurpleJesus

    PurpleJesus Staff Member

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    I've bought several "boutique" style amps without ever playing them before. I knew what to expect from Komet, Two Rock, Swart, etc....and if you can find a good used price on one then you're pretty much guaranteed of being able to get your money back out of it IF you don't like it. But, you do enough research I bet you'll be able to narrow it down to 2-3 amps you can be pretty damn sure you'll dig and then just make the leap and go for it. Worst case scenario you'll sell it and use the funds to try something else out. Best case, you'll love it and that's the end of your hunt. Either way, it's all good :aok
     
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  18. Silent Sound

    Silent Sound Member

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    I wouldn't follow this. There's so much more to an amp than power tube types. The preamp circuit will have a much larger impact on sound than the power tubes. Not to mention the effects of the power supply and phase inverter (if the amp even has a phase inverter). Plus, you can dramatically change the sound of the power tubes by altering it's voltage and bias point/type. Besides, I have several amps that defy these generalized characteristics.

    I would say the only way to truly know how an amp will sound is to try it out. So I'd buy from someone with either a good return policy, or someone who's willing to make alterations to it to fit your needs.

    I'd also suggest staying away from clones of other famous amps if you go the boutique route. Most of the time, you can buy the original that it's cloned after for around the same money, maybe a bit more, and have an amp that'll be worth lots more if/when you go to sell it. Why have an expensive copy that won't hold it's value when you can have an expensive real deal that will? To me, the whole point of going boutique is to have something that doesn't copy other famous designs. That's why you pay the extra money. It's not for the name brand, because those names won't usually be recognized outside of TGP. It's not for the investment value, because they're almost always terrible investments (unless you find a great deal on a used one). The whole point to go boutique is to own something special and unique that you couldn't buy off a shelf at a big box store.
     
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  19. FFTT

    FFTT Member

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    That just gets you somewhere in the ballpark.
    Of course the preamp section and quality of components and design will all make a difference.
     
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  20. Eric Porter

    Eric Porter Member

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    It's not so much to get a "clone", but as to find a sound(s). What Kwicked mentioned in his post regarding the Blackface sounds like what I am interested in. I love the Fender cleans, but would like a nice OD sound from the amp and not a pedal. And having wattage options which Fenders currently don't have -

    But - I have not really started trying out any amps yet, just doing a lot of research first. Something else about the boutique amps that peaks my interest is that everyone talks about quality, and I do have some concerns with the mass produced amps - are they well made? I read about a lot of modifications that people do to certain brand amps like Fender etc..., retubing, new speakers, special mods for certain amps. Amps are expensive, and boutique even more so, it is a big purchase that I want to do as much research and testing as I can while weighing the price point as well.

    I have a lot to do yet, really just getting started. I just really need to hear what truly sounds best to my ears and then start narrowing my scope.
     

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