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First Time Tube Amp Buyer Who Needs Some Wisdom

Messages
21
Hey everyone! So I've been playing the same old Marshall MG solid state amp for over 5-6 years now (everyone always tells me its a terrible amp but its done alright for me) and I think it's time for a tube amp. After playing live a lot with my band I finally started noticing my tone was absolute garbage and that I needed to upgrade if I wanted to take my band more seriously. I'm in college so naturally it's been difficult to save money; however now with the nice long summer, I took on multiple jobs so I could get an amp. I've been researching for a while, but none of my questions are getting answered. I don't want to invest my money in something and then be disappointed once I start playing it. The band I'm in is considered a "jam" band because we do all styles of music; mostly funk, hard rock, prog rock and reggae, so an amplifier that can cover a lot of bases would be best. One of my favorite bands is Umphrey's McGee, because of their ability to play a wide range of music and make a wide range of sounds (for those who don't know them, check them out.) Their lead guitarist Jake Cinninger has a killer tone and an amazing ability to play some really clean funk, some scorching classic/hard rock, and some real heavy metal. I know pedals have a lot to do with sound, but everything obviously starts with the amp. I need something that's going to help me, like Jake Cinninger, cover all the bases for a reasonable price. Hopefully it's possible.

So I figured I'd turn it over to you all. What sort of tube amp should a first time buyer such as myself look into getting?
 

oldhousescott

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,812
I'm gonna say used Mesa Rectoverb. 50 loud watts. Does clean to pushed to crunchy on one channel, and vintage to modern high-gain on the other. Master volume and reverb. Solid, reliable amp. You should be able to find one for under a grand (maybe well under).
 

rmconner80

Cantankerous Luddite
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,071
Do you want a channel switching amp? Do you want a combo or head/cabinet?

I'd look for a 50 watt 1x12 combo with a good master volume so you can dial in your basic tone (clean, dirty, or in between) and supplement with pedals, as needed. Mesa is not a bad suggestion - although I'm not a big fan of their tones or approach, I have owned / played them over the years and they do represent good value (just look for the most basic one you can find).

I like hand wired amps because they can be maintained into perpetuity> however I wouldn't really get myself bogged down in that philosophical concern when looking for your first tube amp.

Don't be afraid to by a used amp. But keep in mind that tube amps do need new tubes occasionally. You may want to budget for new power tubes, get them in the amp, and then not worry about it for a few years (other than carrying a spare 12AX7 and maybe rectifier, if possible, to gigs)
 

jazzguitarfan

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
565
If you want a nice amp for not a lot of money, I would look for a used Peavey Classic 50 and get a couple of pedals of your choosing to make the sounds additional sounds you want with the money saved. These sound good and should provide the general versatility you're looking for. I recently saw a mint used one ('96) for $350. I have used these as a back line house provided amps many times and they haven't disappointed. It won't cover metal without some pedal help, but covers most of everything else pretty well.
 

Yossi

Member
Messages
3,505
Hey everyone! So I've been playing the same old Marshall MG solid state amp for over 5-6 years now (everyone always tells me its a terrible amp but its done alright for me) and I think it's time for a tube amp. After playing live a lot with my band I finally started noticing my tone was absolute garbage and that I needed to upgrade if I wanted to take my band more seriously. I'm in college so naturally it's been difficult to save money; however now with the nice long summer, I took on multiple jobs so I could get an amp. I've been researching for a while, but none of my questions are getting answered. I don't want to invest my money in something and then be disappointed once I start playing it. The band I'm in is considered a "jam" band because we do all styles of music; mostly funk, hard rock, prog rock and reggae, so an amplifier that can cover a lot of bases would be best. One of my favorite bands is Umphrey's McGee, because of their ability to play a wide range of music and make a wide range of sounds (for those who don't know them, check them out.) Their lead guitarist Jake Cinninger has a killer tone and an amazing ability to play some really clean funk, some scorching classic/hard rock, and some real heavy metal. I know pedals have a lot to do with sound, but everything obviously starts with the amp. I need something that's going to help me, like Jake Cinninger, cover all the bases for a reasonable price. Hopefully it's possible.

So I figured I'd turn it over to you all. What sort of tube amp should a first time buyer such as myself look into getting?
First of all, welcome to TGP!

The most powerful resource for you will be the search feature. You will find enough information to keep you reading long enough to burn out several sets of power tubes.
You are correct that a good amp is key. There are so many different amps made today that your choices are vast.
There are amps that provide a great clean platform and you could use various pedals for dirt, and there are amps that will give you all the dirt you need with multiple channels, etc.
Some amps have reverb and tremolo, while others do not.
You can buy a combo, or a head and cabinet. You can go for boutique or mass produced. You can get point to point wiring or a circuit.
There are Fender type amps ranging from Blackface, Brownface and Tweed eras, there are Marshall type amps, Vox types. Then there are the tons of hot rodded amps, Mesa Boogie, types. Of course there's the famous Dumble Amp that you are going to get unless you want to pay 5 figures. You could get the D-Type amps, and so on.
It's always a great idea to try before you buy.
Good luck in your search. Once you start, it's a lifetime affair.
 

Steve Hotra

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
9,137
All of us go through the same "amp" journey that you are on.
If money is a issue, I too, would look for used amps.
If you cover a wide style of music, pedals ( wah, OD, delay / reverbs)
try to find an amp that will give you a "clean" sounding platform or base to start with.
Don't write off certain brands like Peavey, Fender, etc. There are a lot of great starter amps from those companies.
 
Messages
21
My budget probably ranges from 1,000 to 1,600. Like I said, working multiple jobs and long hours so I can save up for this.

Do you want a channel switching amp? Do you want a combo or head/cabinet?

I'd look for a 50 watt 1x12 combo with a good master volume so you can dial in your basic tone (clean, dirty, or in between) and supplement with pedals, as needed. Mesa is not a bad suggestion - although I'm not a big fan of their tones or approach, I have owned / played them over the years and they do represent good value (just look for the most basic one you can find).

I like hand wired amps because they can be maintained into perpetuity> however I wouldn't really get myself bogged down in that philosophical concern when looking for your first tube amp.

Don't be afraid to by a used amp. But keep in mind that tube amps do need new tubes occasionally. You may want to budget for new power tubes, get them in the amp, and then not worry about it for a few years (other than carrying a spare 12AX7 and maybe rectifier, if possible, to gigs)
Yah I'm definitely just looking for a combo amp. Not sure if I'll have the cash to shell out for a head/cabinet. And if I could just find a single channel amp with a nice clean that I can drive hard with some pedals that'd be good. Unless you suggest a channel switcher? Also, I've heard good things about Mesa's but I just don't even know where to begin, with what type or where to find them.
 

GuitarArt1980

Member
Messages
1,209
Well, I looked up Umphrey's McGee's gear and found this handy article http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/22167-rig-rundown-umphreys-mcgee

I don't know what the OP has access to in terms of trying amps out locally, but based on this article, I'd be looking at the following common amps as clean platforms:

Fender Twin / Vibrolux / Deluxe Reverb (I was really impressed with the 68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb)
Fender Hot Rod Deluxe / Deville
Mesa Express
Peavey Classic 50

Honestly, I think any of these options will blow your current amp away. I'd look for a good deal on a used amp and get it checked out by a tech. Making that SS to tube amp switch is such a fun experience.
 

Yossi

Member
Messages
3,505
MHG's Amps: Amplified Nation, Schroeder, Savage, Clark, Red Iron, Tube-Tone, Shadow, Star, Bad Cat, Vintage Sound, 3rd Power, Reeves, Reinhardt, BrownNote, Victoria, Quinn, RedPlate, Germino, JMI, Jackson Ampworks, ToneKing, Grammatico, Soldano, Matchless, Diezel, Morgan, Mesa Boogie, Carol-Ann, Snyder, Mojave, Louis Electric, Dr.Z, Marsh, Carr, Blankenship, Cornford, Bruno, Xits, Sommatone, Vox, Fuchs, 65 Amps, Laney, Kingsley, Roland

Wow! Now that's a collection of amps!
 

mscaggs

Member
Messages
629
Allen is a nice amp for new... I also recommend older fender silver faces if you dig that sound as they are mostly point 2 point. If you are on more of the Marshall journey look for a used Plexi or Plexi clone. I build Plexi clones which are at the top of your budget that are some of my best and favorites amps...

Thing is depending on your style, hands, pedals, guitars, etc... You may need to just sit down and really play some different stuff to see where you land. I also build a TON of Bassmans and guys who love Bassmans won't play much of anything else.

I'm sure I was no help whatsoever LOL..

Cheers from Music City
 

MHG

Member
Messages
5,962
MHG's Amps: Amplified Nation, Schroeder, Savage, Clark, Red Iron, Tube-Tone, Shadow, Star, Bad Cat, Vintage Sound, 3rd Power, Reeves, Reinhardt, BrownNote, Victoria, Quinn, RedPlate, Germino, JMI, Jackson Ampworks, ToneKing, Grammatico, Soldano, Matchless, Diezel, Morgan, Mesa Boogie, Carol-Ann, Snyder, Mojave, Louis Electric, Dr.Z, Marsh, Carr, Blankenship, Cornford, Bruno, Xits, Sommatone, Vox, Fuchs, 65 Amps, Laney, Kingsley, Roland

Wow! Now that's a collection of amps!

Not a collection, as I don't own all of them anymore, but yes, I've been through a few over the years.
 
Messages
21
Well, I looked up Umphrey's McGee's gear and found this handy article http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/22167-rig-rundown-umphreys-mcgee

I don't know what the OP has access to in terms of trying amps out locally, but based on this article, I'd be looking at the following common amps as clean platforms:

Fender Twin / Vibrolux / Deluxe Reverb (I was really impressed with the 68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb)
Fender Hot Rod Deluxe / Deville
Mesa Express
Peavey Classic 50

Honestly, I think any of these options will blow your current amp away. I'd look for a good deal on a used amp and get it checked out by a tech. Making that SS to tube amp switch is such a fun experience.
Yah I've read that article a million times. Been feverishly looking at all the gear of my favorite guitarists over the past few months to try and get some sort of an idea on the type of amp I want. I was looking at the Deluxe reverb Reissues for a while because I love the classic Fender clean and what can be done with it to get that sort of warm SRV/John Mayer kinda tone. But I started finding more reviews leaning towards the negative side on the DRRI that made me think I could probably find something more versatile that still has a nice clean tone.
 

mscaggs

Member
Messages
629
Yah I've read that article a million times. Been feverishly looking at all the gear of my favorite guitarists over the past few months to try and get some sort of an idea on the type of amp I want. I was looking at the Deluxe reverb Reissues for a while because I love the classic Fender clean and what can be done with it to get that sort of warm SRV/John Mayer kinda tone. But I started finding more reviews leaning towards the negative side on the DRRI that made me think I could probably find something more versatile that still has a nice clean tone.
Look at a Deluxe Reverb NON-REISSUE...
 

smolder

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
14,398
I'd go vintage fender... I've owned dozens. But I've never owned a Mesa... the early ones had a very good clean fender tone available and that would probably serve you very well.

The main point I wanted to make, since you're gigging, is figure out how to have a backup set of tubes that are of similar value to what you have in the amp. That way you can swap quickly if needed. If you buy a quad of matched 6L6's, and the amp uses two... you are in pretty good shape to fulfill the gig if you blow one (which frankly rarely happens, but it can).
 




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