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How do you pick your first tube amp??

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Pou, May 17, 2011.

  1. Pou

    Pou Member

    Messages:
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    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2011
    Well, I'm playing about a year, there's a lot to be improved, but I'm finally ready to take the leap from 100$ SS amp to a tube one..

    Here's the list of my candidates:
    VOX AC-15
    Blackstar HT-20
    Marshall DSL401
    Orange Tiny Terror
    Egnater Tweaker

    They are all great, and I'm absolutely amazed at the sound they produce, especially since I'm coming from the world of cheap SS.
    However, I just can't make up my mind.. After trying all of them I find it difficult to even remember how every one of them sounds like..

    I'm just entering the business, so I don't know EXACTLY how I want my sound to be like, besides the general lines (Fender clean, British overdrive, love both Modern and Vintage, something of this sort)..

    After googling the mentioned amps I'm aware of their cons - some miss effect loop, some are hybrid, some are expensive for the first tube amp..

    If my ears won't guide me to this one specific amp, based on what should I decide eventually? it's all real confusing and I really don't want to make 600-1000 dollars mistake I'd regret..

    Thanks!
     
  2. whaiyun

    whaiyun Member

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    I'd stick with the basic tones...

    Vox Top Boost or EF86
    Marshall JTM or Plexi
    Fender Blackface or Tweed or Brown even?
    I guess you can also include Mesa, Orange, and a few others out there...

    Listen to clips over and over again... see what your favorite artists plays, if its a boutique amp is likely more or less based on a classic tube amp sound.

    I have had only one tube amp but extremely happy with it. Personally, I love Mayer's tones, and by God's grace, a used Fuchs ODS modded DRRI was on sale locally. Went to try it, loved the the similarity to a Blackface Fender but more refined. I also love the Vox overdriven tones but opted for a Vox-in-a-box pedal so I don't need to lug two amps...

    Good luck on your search.
     
  3. jrjones

    jrjones Supporting Member

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    Well, the first suggestion, since you aren't sure and don't wanna lose a whole bunch of money...thinking about buyin it new at Guitar Center? Fuggedaboudit! Seriously though, find one here or on craigslist used that's alot better priced where if you decide you hate it you can flip it easy.

    Next: What are you playing? If you want metal, forget the ac15, though I would assume since it's on your list you're not playing metal.

    I have an ac30 and really like it, but it's ridiculously loud. A friend of mine has a tiny terror that sounds incredible, but he put a mercury magnetics kit in it. I have no experience with the blackstar or tweaker, but can say the DSL is an ok sounding amp.

    For me, I'd probly choose the ac15 simply because that's what I'm used to. They don't sound very good with marshall in a box pedals as a general rule either, so make sure you consider what kinds of sounds you want to be able to produce.


    My first tube amp was a Peavey Ultra Plus and I got it from a friend for 135 bucks and used it for quite some while until I found a 69 deluxe sitting and got it for about 600, put new tubes in it, and it just wasn't my thing so I traded it off for my ac30 about 3 years ago.
     
  4. Selsaral

    Selsaral Member

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    The only way to really learn about an amp is to own it and gig with it. The vast majority of guitar players move from amp to amp over time. Nothing wrong with it. Buy used and this isn't a problem at all. Depending on the amp, you won't take a hit at all to buy used and sell it later.

    Buying used from Guitar Center can be a good idea. 30 day return policy can be invaluable, and their used prices are legit.
     
  5. mxvin

    mxvin Member

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    Location:
    Northern NJ
    go to a music store and see which of those amps does it for you. None of they may "speak" to you. When you do decide figure out what you can live with and what you cant. Have a budget and go for it. Chances are no matter which one you settle on you will be buying something different before long. If you stick with guitar you will be, like most of us, on the eternal quest for "the tone". It is different for everyone. I have several old Fenders and as they all have "that Fender tone" but one of them just speaks to me more than the others do. Just the way it is.
    BTW....dont just play the different amps you have on your list but play different amps of the same model. Sometimes one sounds different than the another. Good Luck.....this is one of the fun but frusrtrating part of music!!
     
  6. kevinhifi

    kevinhifi Member

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    Do you have a guitar that you really dig playing? If so, let it help tell you which amp to get. Since it's your first, and you've sort of left it open as far as the sound you want to develop for yourself, you really do need to try the amps out quite a bit before choosing. Certain amps just work with certain guitars, and you'll know when you get one that does what you like. It's a fun journey. Enjoy!
     
  7. Lance

    Lance Member

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    SF, CA
    You should list like your ten favorite bands/artists. We can help guide you with that info. Sometimes you just have to dive on in there.
     
  8. Jahn

    Jahn Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver Supporting Member

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    what's your general location? we can scrounge your craigslist and pop up a few looksees for you to try out on your budget.
     
  9. CharlyG

    CharlyG Play It Forward

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    I noticed that I always perked up when I heard a humbucking guitar going thru a blackface or tweed, especially slow blues. So.....that's how I did it.
     
  10. small axe

    small axe Member

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    i dont know what you like to play or what not, but i would go used and get a nice tube amp at a good price...that said....of the amps you mentioned the ac 15 would be my pick
     
  11. Chas

    Chas Member

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    No Fender on your list? IMO of the ones on the list I would get the Vox.
     
  12. Pou

    Pou Member

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    Well, thank you guys for your replies. It does frustrate, and I find myself wasting hours reading posts about various amps with no assertive decision being made.

    Generally, I'm not living in the U.S. The used market is very thin, especially when it comes to recent models. Therefore, most of the amps I've been thinking of are unavailable, that's why I'm going to purchase from a store.

    It's difficult to define exactly my musical taste, as it varies very much.
    Sigur Ros (definitely), Hendrix, Coldplay, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Eddie Vedder, Porcupine Tree, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, Camel, IQ, Yes, Dave Brubeck, Symphony X, Beyond Twilight..the list goes further on, even covering classical music..

    Simply put, I play on Standard American Stratocaster 2008 and really love the sound of it.
    I guess I'm into the rock-bluesy kind of sound, but not hardcore though (100% fat jazzy or bluesy). I'd like the sound to breath a little. If the opposite of Stratish sound is metal (Ibanez, Jackson, etc..) I guess I'm somewhat in the middle of this scale.. more towards Strat.
    There's no way I'm going to purchase another guitar in years to come, as I'm short on money and a college student. Therefore, the amp would hold hands catholic ally with my strat for 2 years, minimum.

    I didn't list any Fender amps because the serious ones cost a lot, and they're low on overdrive. I neither have the dough nor the need to purchase pedals. I'd rather use the amp's overdrive. Plug and play..
     
  13. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I'm assuming (correct me if I'm wrong!) that you've taken a trip to the guitar store and played all of the amps on your list, and you're still unsure.

    The good news is that you can't make a mistake if you buy what *you* sound best through (as opposed to buying what someone else might sound best through).

    Take lots of trips to guitar stores. Play a bunch of 'em. Play expensive ones and cheap ones, powerful ones and low-watt ones. Play them with your guitar turned up and with the guitar volume turned down. Play them loudly and softly.

    Eventually, you'll discover an amp that speaks to you. And that's the best way to do it.

    Clips of another player are meaningless, especially if you're just getting started on the instrument. Trying to sound like a band you like is meaningless, since you're not them, and you're just starting out.

    At any stage of playing skill, it's simply more important to find something that works well with what you do than to try and cop someone else's tone, or listening to recorded clips you might like that have nothing to do with you.
     
  14. tnt365

    tnt365 Supporting Member

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    If you only need 5 watts (which can get pretty frickin' loud) look on ebay for a Fender Silverface Champ ('68-81'), they can be had at $300. All tube, even the rectifier, amazing clean sound. Take the extra change and buy a good overdrive or fuzz. You will not regret it.
     
  15. Gearopenia

    Gearopenia Supporting Member

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    the Vox will cover everything you need. clean to roar.
     
  16. Guitar Dave T

    Guitar Dave T Member

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    Living In The Palace Of The King, Big D of DFW
    Great points from the OP, and great replies here.

    What I may be overlooking is whether or not you plan on gigging with the amp, jamming with drummers or just jammin' out in the dorm room. This will make a huge difference on what works best for you.

    If you play with drummers, consider at least 15-22 watts minimum. If you want to play in the dorm room or bedroom, look at a 2-4 watt amp, which can still be plenty loud, but will allow you to cook both the preamp and output tubes enough to get a fat, warm overdrive.

    Common mistakes beginner tube amp owners make that can be avoided:

    I'll start, please add on as you see fit!

    1. Failure to understand that 80% of the things that make a used tube amp sound bad are tubes, and can be replaced/fixed easily.
    2. Failure to properly set bias when you first get the amp or when you buy new power tubes
      1. Get a decent technician to do this for you at first, then have him show you how to do it safely if you're comfortable with it.
      2. Class A amps like the Fender Champ do not need to be biased - "Fixed bias" amps like most other Fenders, and most other amps do.
    3. Anyone else want to take it from here?
    P.S. Do not attempt to service your own amp until you learn about safety precautions - there are stored currents under the hood that can be lethal even when the amp is off and unlplugged.
     
  17. frank4001

    frank4001 Member

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    Memphis, TN
    All I can tell you is that the Fender Deluxe Reverb has been/is the most versatile amplifier I have ever owned. For sound, features, reliablity and portability it's a hard combo to beat... Check one out.
     
  18. Mr. Bertha

    Mr. Bertha Member

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    Aug 20, 2008
    My first tube amp was a pawn shop amp I could afford. I learned about it, compared and upgraded over the years. It's impossible to know exactly what you need as you learn, so my advice is to start anywhere you can afford to and learn what the amp does/doesn't do before making an informed upgrade. Good luck.
     
  19. CharlyG

    CharlyG Play It Forward

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    Location:
    West Hills, Ca.
    Well, the cool thing about cathode biased output tubes is you can change from 6V6 to EL34 and back again.....no biasing necessary. VHT Special and Ultra 6 have this.

    PS - They ooze quality compared to the competition in their price range. Just flip the switches, it just seems they put a little extra thought and money into the final product.
     
  20. Scott57

    Scott57 Member

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    From your list, I own both a Vox AC15C1 and a Tweaker 15 head/cab. Both are cathode based so you don't have to worry about biasing tubes. Both are great amps and I won't be getting rid of either any time soon, if ever. If you want my recommendation, I'm going to suggest the Tweaker.
     

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