How do you shop for an amplifier?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by De Batz, May 1, 2016.

  1. De Batz

    De Batz Member

    Nov 13, 2015
    I've bought and used a huge variety of amps over the last twenty years or so. Sometimes I buy things that I don't really need but I just like the look of or have a sudden fancy for, sometimes I research endlessly before taking the plunge. Neither method has a particularly marked success rate over the other... I'm a bit of an eBay addict, which can lead to rash purchases...

    What I realised thinking about it recently was that I only ever know if I want to keep an amp after I've had it for about six months, fiddled, messed, played and generally mulled it over.

    How do you go about choosing a new amp? How well can you tell in the shop if it's going to be a keeper or not? I've never come home with an amp that I've subsequently really disliked, but I've had some that I've moved on without regret having originally thought they were great...
  2. Eric Porter

    Eric Porter Member

    Jan 17, 2016
    I am currently amp shopping, and I don't think you really can know from the store. I think you can definitely get the vibe of the amp from playing it in the store,but, you really need time with it doing what you do (recording, gigging, etc.) to know if it is right for you.

    I am shopping now, and the two I've really liked are th Dr.Z Maz 18 and Mesa Boogie TA-30. I am leaning to the TA, as it is a great deal, and the Maz might be too much for what I do. Unfortunately, there are many choices, so it can be overwhelming, and there are so many I'd like to try, but can't get my hands on them. I'm not comfortable buying an amp without having a chance to play it, so that takes many out of the running.
  3. TDJMB

    TDJMB Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2005
    East Coast
    Guitar or amp - I can't really tell until I get it home for awhile. You'll probably agree this is an expensive method. Also, comparing my guitars and comparing my amps is quite surprising. I hear little differences between them that I wouldn't be aware of when playing them alone.
  4. Tommy_G

    Tommy_G Member

    Nov 10, 2007
    I mostly buy something that shows up on a good buy... something under the radar that I concluded I liked the concept of at some prior timem. Sometimes I get advice. .. other times I just buy and try to make the most of it.

    Thus I have a Reinhardt LT1... Musicman RP65... Mesa Heartbreaker... Mesa Maverick...Legend Rock and Roll 50... all except the MM65 are within range of being keepers.

    All really wanted out of my music ambitions was a JCM 800 so I figure I will hold off on it until I need that final breath of inspiration before I quit

    I have never had an amp I was totally happy with after the honeymoon. Honestly. .. tube amps have so many variables going on that they require a considerable amount of technical expertise to make the most of them. An experienced trusted tech helps get to the bottom of the issues. The Maverick has been the only amp that needs no mod.

    I have spent a decade studying schematics and tube rolling. It has helped me know what and where I wanted something modded. TGP has been a big help.
    Last edited: May 1, 2016
  5. Geeze

    Geeze Silver Supporting Member

    Jun 1, 2013
    Floating above Dallas in Marshall Heaven
    I figure out what tone I am looking for - find the guy making that tone and figure out what he used to get that tone. Now I have a basis to start. Forget about multiple function/tone - focus on one freaking tone. Then look at his speakers and pickups - a hugely overlooked area.

    After 30 years of trying to get Marshall out of Fender with effects and failing I got a used Marshall [it called to me] and the store made me any offer I couldn't refuse. The speaker was meh so did some research and found Scumback - instant and more importantly broken in - found the second leg of the Marshall tone - classic greenback. I am a super strat dude and have a number of pickups. Tone wise one guitar stands above in the ultimate tone I want - the third leg of the Marshall tone is found.

    I also learned how [for the most part] how to dial in Marshall tones - very different from dialing Fender.

    Good news is you can't do it wrong if you learn from every purchase. Bad news is you will have to take some risks and spend money. Best news is you are supporting your industry.

  6. Leep Dog

    Leep Dog Member

    Jun 1, 2012
    I just look for the amp with the most gain. Just kidding.
  7. Fulldrive-1

    Fulldrive-1 Member

    Sep 22, 2012
    1. Find old Marshall.
    2. Get it tuned up.
    3. Rock out for decades.
    T Dizz and Rhythm Rocker like this.
  8. sg~guy

    sg~guy Member

    Jan 21, 2010
    -I try every amp I can-

    -put all the tone controls at 50%, if there isn't a good "core tone",... speakers, pedals, tweaking, tubes, guitars,pick ups wont matter-

    -it's either there for ya,... or it isnt-
    joeprs likes this.
  9. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

    Mar 20, 2005
    knowing what I wanted. Five years of hearing great clips of the amp, and finally had to bite the bullet and hunt one down. Of course it'd be nice to play first, but that really hard to do. Final test is gigging. VERY happy with the result after those five years of on/off research.

    I don't have honeymoons, I either love an amp and will stick with it for a decade at least or will usually hate it at the first song of a gig if it can't do what I want it to.
    Last edited: May 1, 2016
  10. Rockyrollercat

    Rockyrollercat Member

    Apr 16, 2010
    South Jerrrsey not Noith Jiosey
    I just check out what Alan Phillips has been doing lately.

  11. De Batz

    De Batz Member

    Nov 13, 2015
    I was watching some demos on YouTube of some of the amps that get name-checked here, by a bloke called Greg V. Interesting, because his playing is so slick and quick that I get almost nothing of what the amp actually sounds like.
    I probably only play 'out at the front lead' for 2% of the band's playing time, so I find it much more important to know what the core tones for rhythm playing are going to be like. I find Mick Taylor (formerly of Guitarist) and most especially ProGuitarShop Andy give me a much better idea of whether I'll like an amp. And in the shop, I get some weird looks from the staff as I play the 73rd bottom E chord and let it ring out again...
  12. Serenity

    Serenity Member

    Dec 15, 2012
    United Kingdom
    After 25 years of playing i can usually tell if i'm going to like an amp in the first 10 minutes of using it (as long as i can try it through it's full volume range), it either has the tones and feel i like or it doesn't.
    JB6464 likes this.
  13. ECHaydo

    ECHaydo Member

    Jun 22, 2015
    Calgary, AB
    For me it's a lot harder to get a sense of what an amp is like than a guitar is. For that reason I haven't ever bought an amp that I wasn't able to try in person. And I always play through my pedalboard, even if everything is turned off.

    There's a lot of really good amps out there, but only a few that make me feel like a kid on Christmas. I don't pull the trigger unless I get to that point.
  14. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

    Sep 23, 2005
    To me it has to be a two EL34, solid state rectified, high gain Marshall. Something like a TSL60 or DSL50.
  15. 00JETT

    00JETT Member

    Dec 12, 2015
    I turn on my soldering station and get out my boxes of parts. Sounds cheeky, but this helps me avoid the 'liking it in the store, hating it 4 months later' syndrome. I can always tweak and change the tone with a few parts changes.
  16. DRS

    DRS Member

    Jul 24, 2011
    British Columbia
    It usually starts with me hearing a song or clips of a song with an amp that sounds really good.
    I then see if I can get the sound with pedals and amps I have.
    If not, or if I don't want the hassle of even more pedals, I decide which amps will give me the sound
    After consulting boards and listening to demos, I narrow it down to a few candidates.
    I then hope to play the amp at a music store or at someone's house if used. If not, I buy off the internet and hope I like it.
  17. JB6464

    JB6464 Member

    Feb 7, 2010
    For me and most important the amp has to have strong midrange tones to cut through the mix properly live .
    So i prefer either a NMV Marshall for pure tube rock tones or a Soldano for an amp with gain and retains great string definition with all that tube gain .
    Also when i look a newer or boutique amps i want all the gain from the amp , most SS gain pedals bore me .
    The only gain pedal that perks my ears up now days is the Soldano GTO Supercharger with real tubes and amp plate voltages .
  18. zenas

    zenas Member

    Jul 1, 2011
    I buy used, old and cheap. Or build it. I have zero interest in new amps from the big names that used to make great amps and now sell cheap crap with a logo.
    I guess if I did buy new it'd be from one of the smaller newer builders and it wouldn't be cheap.

    36 years of playing electric guitar and 25 working on amps gets you kind of set in your ways. :)
  19. ant_riv

    ant_riv Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2006
    I get the bug for a new amp when I hear tones that inspire me.
    This can come from many sources: recordings, live band, YouTube, etc.

    Obviously I filter out if it is due to the guitar or effects, as much as possible.

    If there is a good chance that I can get a reasonably priced used one, I start the search.

    If not, I contact Robert Hinson and get his advice. He has made several amps for me that are incredible. These are the only new amps I have considered in the last five years or so. I realize there are other options, but I have been so pleased with his work, there really hasn't been a reason for me to go elsewhere.
  20. Rhythm Rocker

    Rhythm Rocker Member

    Oct 7, 2014
    New York
    Vintage Fender and Marshall amps. Leo and Jim got it right the first time.
    zenas likes this.

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