Had a fun amp jam day and Zinky Fender shootout (Prosonic/Tone Master) today

sickboy79

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12,809
My old bandmate came over this afternoon for a jam day and brews. Started out with my Friedman Dirty Shirley 40w head and his modded JCM 800 2204. Fun stuff. Each had their own voice and was so much fun to play.

We then went on to a Fender Zinky era amp comparison/shootout. I've got a Tone Master head and he has a Prosonic head. Very fun. Both are amazing amps. We played them both through my 2000 era Marshall 1960BX cab with original GBs. The Tone Master has a much more vintage/old school voice to it on both channels. Sounded amazing. Clean channel sounded amazing pushed and took pedals like a champ. Dirty channel was amazing as well. Just big and bold tones.

Before we switched to the Prosonic he noted that he also felt the Tone Master had that vintage older school feel where the Prosonic was more modern feeling and the drive channel being more "Mesa" or "Recto" like (and I've played it before but, don't feel it sounds like a Recto). The Clean channel was amazing. We pushed it hard to get it to break up. It's vintage sounding but, something a little more "modern" to it than the TM - if that makes sense. Pushed it up to around 6 on the volume and it just had a glorious break up, especially with P-90s. Unfortunately, at that point his amp blew a fuse. Probably a bad power tube. No big deal, it happens. But, it was a fun comparison none the less. We'll have to do it again to compare the drive channels.

Always a fun day comparing gear and trying different amps. I also got to spend a lot of time with his Mesa Tremoverb head. Great stuff as well. Really good sounding amp. Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
 

Tele Jr.

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108
Hey Sickboy, that sounds like a lot of fun. These are my two favorite amps and I play them back and forth the all the time. Bruce told me years ago that the Tone Master is based on a tweed tone signature with the beefy midrange treatment, but with a more sparkly top end. Bruce also said the Prosonic is based on a blackface mid scooped tone signature but with a more creamy top end instead of the antiseptic like blackface clean. People had issues with the original blackface clean and this design was in a certain way a more modern boutique style alternative to that.

When you hear the amps side by side it's pretty easy to hear the difference in the midrange treatment. So I consider them sort of a matched set of tweed and blackface like complements. I agree with Bruce's judgment on the designs, to me they cover everything better than the originals, so no need for anything else. The Tone Master will scale down from 100 to 30 watts, and the Prosonic will power scale down from 60 to 10 watts when using the 4 ohm setting with a 16 ohm cab.

The Tone Master has a ton of clean tone gain, especially when you use the 200% mismatch setting, but not as much compression vs the Prosonic. So the way the two amps react to the pick attack can be different. But overall as much as they are different they also have much in common. I sub an ay7 into v2 on my Prosonic to bring the B channel gain down to more of an overdrive channel like the Tone Master rather than a full blown distortion channel. This also brings the overall amp gain and compression down a bit on the A channel in a good way.

Regarding modern vs vintage, yes the hollow blackface scoop is modern vs tweed. You can also get a stiffer more modern sound if you could call it that with either amp by not availing the opportunity to mismatch the impedance as noted in the Tone Master owners manual. So I hope you are mismatching them both the same if at all to make it fair. I pretty much always use 200%, and recently switched my main Tone Master back to using all 4 tubes in order to do that, the amount of gain there is just to tempting to resist.

I did speak with Bruce about the problem of trying to use a straight blackface amp to do period correct 40's or 50's era jazz or rockabilly type stuff. He agreed it wasn't really a period correct match and this was a real problem issue for anyone trying to play period correct for that era using one. But with the creamy top end of the Prosonic and also the way the Class A setting loosens up the feel it will definitely pass no problem.

With the 12ay7 mod in v2 of the Prosonic, I consider the two amps almost equals. The Prosonic might have a slight advantage in flexibility with how the amp feels with the 3 way recto settings. The Tone Master isn't quite as forgiving with less compression, and has the ability to provide more flexibility with the nuance of the pick attack as a result, which I usually tend to favor. But I guess I do lean more towards the Tone Master mostly because I tend to favor the tweed tone signature over blackface in general.
 

sickboy79

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12,809
Very cool. Thanks so much for the great info. Funny, I've never felt like the Tone Master had the Tweed thing going on the vintage channel. I've always felt like it was always more of the Blonde/Brownface voice. More mids than a BF but, a tighter bottom than a Tweed. Still, I completely get what you are saying. And, if Bruce says it's that way, I believe it.

I'm also very familiar with the impedance match thing when using a 16ohm cab. We ran them both a 16ohms into my cab so they were both putting out full power.

Both are absolutely FANTASTIC amps. Just fantastic. P-90s just make them both ring, IMO. Thanks again for the info.
 

griggsterr

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6,839
I know Bruce pretty well. He told me many times that the Tone master at the end of the day was a complete compromise between what he wanted to build and what the accounting and marketing departments would let him build.
 

sickboy79

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12,809
I know Bruce pretty well. He told me many times that the Tone master at the end of the day was a complete compromise between what he wanted to build and what the accounting and marketing departments would let him build.
Interesting. Either way, it's one of my favorite amps. Just love it.
 
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124
@sickboy79 I’m raising this thread from the dead because you may be the one person in the universe who can help me make this decision! hahaha pardon the dramatics, but I have been looking at buying another higher gain amp again and it’s literally between a Friedman, the Prosonic and ToneMaster.

I used to own a fire red Prosonic combo and it was the best Boogie Fender hybrid I could have ever dreamed of. My ideal tone was a truly channel switchable original Mesa Mark 1, with wattage scaling and possible separate eq for each. Even with the shared eq, the Prosonic was my end all be all gigging amp. Being the dingus that I am, I sold it to fund my tone chasing GAS. After many turn and burn amp choices the Prosonic happens to be the only one I ever regret selling.

So, lately I’ve been eying a Friedman for that Marshall thing, but can’t get the Prosonic outta my head. My cousin owns the Friedman I’ve played many times but I’ve never ever seen a ToneMaster in person before. They’ve been on my radar since the beginning. I’m leaning towards one of the two Fenders as I cannot live without a great clean tone from the start. My main guitars also happen to have p90s, so what insight would you have on picking one Zinky over the other? Any advice would be much appreciated.
 

J-W

Member
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19
@sickboy79 ... but I have been looking at buying another higher gain amp again and it’s literally between a Friedman, the Prosonic and ToneMaster.

…My ideal tone was a truly channel switchable original Mesa Mark 1, with wattage scaling and possible separate eq for each. ...
Hi,

I've had a tone master since they came out, I picked up a Mark V:35 last year, and am familiar with the various OG Mesas. I've played prosonics in stores, but not long enough to know anything about them or remember :) I jam with a gentlemen often that has a BE and dirty Shirley. They're all different amps, but you can get similar real world tones if you're motivated.

The tone master has the most forgiving cleans. I think it can get pleasing clean tones with no reverb or delay. Pushed on the clean channel or on the drive channel with the gain low it can sound like the best bassman on steroids. The drive channel can be muscular, but it's really not the same as the Mark I, the prosonic, or the Friedman. I think Dave Grohl has been known to play one.

It's a heavy amp. Loud too. It's got a beefy output transformer, and the manual actually suggests changing the impedance setting based on the volume and to taste. It still is tough to play at the volumes most of us get to play regularly at. Another thing to keep in mind is that it has a unique setup with an effects loop per channel.

I had mine mostly sitting for years before a power station brought it back into use for me. If you can rent one, that would be best. I was able to rent one for a show in Chicago years ago. I love mine, but I have different taste than most. :)
 

sickboy79

Member
Messages
12,809
@sickboy79 I’m raising this thread from the dead because you may be the one person in the universe who can help me make this decision! hahaha pardon the dramatics, but I have been looking at buying another higher gain amp again and it’s literally between a Friedman, the Prosonic and ToneMaster.

I used to own a fire red Prosonic combo and it was the best Boogie Fender hybrid I could have ever dreamed of. My ideal tone was a truly channel switchable original Mesa Mark 1, with wattage scaling and possible separate eq for each. Even with the shared eq, the Prosonic was my end all be all gigging amp. Being the dingus that I am, I sold it to fund my tone chasing GAS. After many turn and burn amp choices the Prosonic happens to be the only one I ever regret selling.

So, lately I’ve been eying a Friedman for that Marshall thing, but can’t get the Prosonic outta my head. My cousin owns the Friedman I’ve played many times but I’ve never ever seen a ToneMaster in person before. They’ve been on my radar since the beginning. I’m leaning towards one of the two Fenders as I cannot live without a great clean tone from the start. My main guitars also happen to have p90s, so what insight would you have on picking one Zinky over the other? Any advice would be much appreciated.
Good question. I guess it really comes down to what voice you like a bit more - PS or TM. For me, it's the TM based on what my ears like, how I play, etc. It just fits the styles of music I play more than the PS. But, I could also easily do it on the PS as well.

For cleans, I feel like the TM has more of a Brownface/Blonde vibe going. Its got that warmer and fatter midrange to my ears. The PS is maybe a touch more BF? Drive wise, both are great but, my ears just hear and fell a little bit more of a "hot rodded vintage" tone, if that makes sense.

Then there's 100w vs 60w. It just depends on your taste and what your ears like. Good luck!
 
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Thank you so much for the breakdowns. This helps a lot! So, would you say the drive on the PS is a little more modern BUT COULD be dialed in close to the TM? I really like that hot rodded vintage thing you describe, but sometimes go into heavier territory, and having the extra gain is nice. Does the PS have more on tap you think? As far as cleans go, I had a feeling the TM reigns supreme BUT I actually own a 6G6-B Tuxedo Bassman clone which has all the surf and rockabilly I need. Not saying the TM clean would be exactly the same as a blonde/brownface clone but would the TM clean overlap too much where as the PS might be giving me a different flavor if I added it to my collection?
 
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