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Is buying a used amp worth it?

Netty

Member
Messages
65
I'm starting to think buying used amps is too much hassle and not a good investment. Every one I've bought has need some work - usually to deal with rattles and hums. Sure, I save a few hundred bucks on the purchase, but then I have to go spend $100-200 on service, and possibly replace tubes within a few months. I bought a Fender 68 Custom Deluxe Reverb that is in great cosmetic shape for $720. Well, I get it home and discover it has a ridiculous amount of rattle at certain frequencies. Very discouraging.
Investment is different than a purchase. Maybe you need to know more about amps so your purchase process is less risky?
 

RockDC

Member
Messages
1,456
I prefer to buy new amps on special. I got a new Vox AC15C1tv for $400 shipped to my door. Also got a New NOW Blues Jr Tweed for $375 out the door.

I went through a vintage/old amp kick about 15-20 years ago. I never did work to any of the old ones except for a JMP 2204. Played them as is and then sold them for a profit a few years later.

Now I have purchased used amps that were only a couple years old at the time. I'd never really get much out of selling them again but I'd play them for a couple years... so 2-4 years use and get my money back out of it... there's a deal.
 

KevinD

Member
Messages
95
I probably wouldn't normally buy a used amp,but recently, I was browsing local reverb stuff, saw an amp that looked too cheap. I contacted seller, and he confirmed I could come try it out. Turns out the seller got the amp as an extra when he traded some gear with another guy. The first guy was a drummer and had won the amp from sweetwater.
Blackstar Artist 15 combo. Iirc, new they were around $800. Average used is $400. I bought it for $200.
 

neilcoates

Member
Messages
4
I've bought new and used. A Marshall 12W transistor combo when I started out way back in 1982-3. I swapped that and some cash for a friends early 70's silverface Pro Reverb which had a problem with the reverb not working and a noisy tremelo. I managed to fix the reverb with a soldering iron in 5 minutes , and it was a great amp. Used that for gigging , then had kids so stopped gigging and needed something a little smaller for home use.
Bought a new Blues Junior Mk II that was great and even better when I changed the stock speaker for an Eminence Cannabis Rex. However, I wanted a long term keeper with a great sound and small size and as i figured this would be my final amp, I did a lot of research and try outs (including purchasing and returning a new Bad Cat cub that had issues , but didn't quite hit the mark ). In the ended managed to get hold of a Headstrong Lil King S , brand new but heavily discounted as it was an end of line item here in the UK which I tried in store and fell in love with with it's blonde and oxblood finish. I don't think I would have stretched to the non discounted price , but this had around 30% discount and sounded beautiful. It is my long term keeper (life) , so the extra outlay is minimal if you consider how long you'll keep it. So , buy new if possible(avoiding issues such as with the Bad Cat), but try and buy during the discount season if possible.
Also , never,ever pay the ticket price for a high end guitar or amp. There is so much margin in these that there is always some room for negotiation by the retailer.
 

leegold

Member
Messages
3
It's a crapshoot. First locate s good repair person or have skills yourself odds are it'll need work. It's better if the amp is point to point or turret board vs. PCB with tubes sockets on the PCB. I just bought a used Mesa Boogie. 22+ and I concur they are nasty steep learning curve to fix with a PCB and a lot crammed into a small space. But they sound great. You need to know a good tech or have some skills in repair yourself. vs. With a new amp you can get down to making music and creating.
 

WillLane

Member
Messages
1,931
On the "investment" bit; Buying an amp isn't a traditional investment, like a cash infusion for a business with the hopes of returning your money with interest. However, if you consider the amp part of a way to make more money, i.e. getting hired to play guitar professionally, you soon will pay off the amp and gain "interest" off of it by using it..
 
Messages
106
Well, I get it home and discover it has a ridiculous amount of rattle at certain frequencies.
To me, rattles are a fatal flaw. It's worth taking a screw driver to the chassis bolts, speakers and panels to see if anything is obviously loose. But, after that, if it's still rattling, it can be nearly impossible to fix. Better off with a new cabinet. I find age and cosmetics to be nearly irrelevant. Sometimes a great looking amp is that way because it never got played much because it has a bad cabinet! These things are glued together. There's not much that is servicable. I have an old Marshall 4x12 (backet weave, circa 1974) that looks beautiful. But the cheap sh*t plastic handles rattle like mad (also a speaker coil rub, early ebay experience). It sits under a cloth ...

It depends a lot on the amp in question. At risk of opening the old "is PTP better than PCB", I'll go on record that while PTP and PCB can and should be equivalent sonically, PTP/turrent board amps are waaay easier to service. To the point that I can do some basic repairs myself. For an amp tech, the early PCBs are plenty servicable as well. These boards have large, simple traces and large discrete components (resistors, capactors) that are easily replaced. So these are fine, too. Modern surface mount technology has many advantages (including low noise and are arguably sonically superior to all older technology), but once the amp leaves the factory, that's it.

So, for a decent amp in good physical condition, that I have played loud enough to uncover the rattles, used amps are excellent!

P.S. I have already have an amp that rattles, besides tightening all the screws, the other fix I have found is to buy some silicon grommets (silicon is better than rubber, but rubber works, too) and put these between a rattling panel and the cabinet. Not a cure all, but it sometimes does the trick.

peace,
Charlie
 

mdobs

Member
Messages
16
I've tracked it down to a mechanical rattle. It completely disappears when I disconnect the internal speaker and run through another cabinet. In my experience this is just typical of combo amps. I'm considering buying a separate dedicated cab for this, but not sure what to get. Fender doesn't make any for this series (DRRI '68). Maybe the hot rod series cab would work? I'm looking for lots of clean headroom.
Yo, Keith,
I always wanted to buy a Beatles Vox amp & I bought the Vox VT 50 which has 20 amps rolled into 1 can you believe it! Well, I ordered it from Wally's Music store in Chicago, IL. That's pronounced by the way Wallance . The amp listed in the cataloge for $600.00 but, I got it back in May 2008 for the sale price of $378.00 man what a deal that I got. The amp was brand spanking new, & I only got to use it like 2-3 times & then, it went competely, out on me. I had to take it to be looked at first, & then, repaired & cleaned as well. Well, long story short, it cost me an extra $160.00 to get the power supply fixed, & cleaned up. Man, now I put her the vox vt 50 up against my buddy's amp which is a Marshall. And you know something? The Vox on only power of 3 kicked the Marshall's ASS big time. So, now I have invested $378.00 + $160.00 almost $600.00. The moral of this story is whether you decide to buy, new, or used, first check it out thoughly! Peace Mark Dobzyn guitarist from the Windy city who likes/loves Rickenbacker guitars, & Gretsch's & Vox amps.
 
Messages
106
On the "investment" bit; Buying an amp isn't a traditional investment, like a cash infusion for a business with the hopes of returning your money with interest. However, if you consider the amp part of a way to make more money, i.e. getting hired to play guitar professionally, you soon will pay off the amp and gain "interest" off of it by using it..
I have a few amps that have actually increased in dollar value since I bought them. Had I put the same money into the stock market, would it have done better? Possibly. If you take all the money I have spent on amps, however, ... let's not go there :--)

I find actual, working musicians here in the Boston area tend to not have a lot of GAS. They definitely look at the money they spend on gear as a business expense. Because it is. As a result, they have fewer guitars and amps. It's guys like me - with more money than talent - who can afford to buy a bunch of gear that I only use once in a while.

I find, also, that local luthiers and amp techs give priority to the pros. Which makes sense to me. I think that's what I would do.
 

avalonpb

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
117
I'm starting to think buying used amps is too much hassle and not a good investment. Every one I've bought has need some work - usually to deal with rattles and hums. Sure, I save a few hundred bucks on the purchase, but then I have to go spend $100-200 on service, and possibly replace tubes within a few months. I bought a Fender 68 Custom Deluxe Reverb that is in great cosmetic shape for $720. Well, I get it home and discover it has a ridiculous amount of rattle at certain frequencies. Very discouraging.
I have the skills to fix most tube amps. Therefore, I go into used amp purchases knowing that I can probably fix whatever shows up in the box. I also go into used amp purchases with the assumption that there are very likely undisclosed problems or mods to the amp I'm buying. The last several years of buying amps here in the emporium have confirmed that assumption with few exceptions. At this point, the first thing I do when getting a new (used) amp is pull the chassis and put it on my bench for inspection.

In the last several years I've bought (in the emporium):
  1. A high-end boutique amp from its original owner, who is a well respected long-standing member here, that had undisclosed modifications done by someone who clearly had no clue what they were doing. (Hint: clipping out cathode bypass caps is not the same thing as clipping out a bright cap)
  2. Amps thrown in undersized boxes with a single layer of bubblewrap that were subsequently damaged or totally destroyed in shipping.
  3. Amps with undisclosed cabinet or chassis damage that were not damaged in shipping.
  4. Amps with undisclosed non-working footswitch circuitry.
  5. Amps with undisclosed non-working reverbs that the seller later claimed "I never used the reverb" - I've heard that one enough times over the years that I ask before buying now.
  6. Amps missing footswitches, covers and other accessories (some that were supposedly shipped separately and never arrived) some that were just missing despite being listed in the ad.
  7. Newer amps that had factory tubes replaced with completely worn out tubes so the seller could keep the good tubes.
If I find a new amp I want I will typically wait for a sale or coupon and buy it new. There are many used amps posted in the emporium right now with asking prices within 10% of new pricing. Almost every used Ceriatone that gets posted for sale on Reverb or the Emporium is listed for new or more than new price at Guitar Amps USA.

I wouldn't recommend buying used amps if you don't know a good tech or have repair skills. I live in a small rural town and have access only to Fender, Peavey and the occasional Vox locally. If I want to try something else I pretty much have to buy it sight unseen and often used. If I like the amp I'll keep it. If not, I'll fix whatever is wrong with it and then sell it at the local shop on consignment or online. Its my hobby and I don't view it as an investment. At best its a break-even proposition.
 
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ArchtopAnimal

Member
Messages
678
None functioning reverb is a classic one : so is swapped-out tubes . Never the less , at 35-40% of new price , I've 22 secondhand amps . I'm a seasoned buyer and have three people I often deal with that are honest . Many liars out there though ........
 

Elmusico

Member
Messages
37
I would rather purchase used in person. Last year I bought two used amps off craigslist. Both sellers gave me ample time to try the amps out and showed me proof of maintenance via receipts from a guitar tech or pictures of the chassis. Not to mention, they were both steals. The one amp that I bought used off reverb crapped out on me after a few months.
 
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Johnny Cache

Member
Messages
255
I'm starting to think buying used amps is too much hassle and not a good investment. Every one I've bought has need some work - usually to deal with rattles and hums. Sure, I save a few hundred bucks on the purchase, but then I have to go spend $100-200 on service, and possibly replace tubes within a few months. I bought a Fender 68 Custom Deluxe Reverb that is in great cosmetic shape for $720. Well, I get it home and discover it has a ridiculous amount of rattle at certain frequencies. Very discouraging.
 

Johnny Cache

Member
Messages
255
I'm starting to think buying used amps is too much hassle and not a good investment. Every one I've bought has need some work - usually to deal with rattles and hums. Sure, I save a few hundred bucks on the purchase, but then I have to go spend $100-200 on service, and possibly replace tubes within a few months. I bought a Fender 68 Custom Deluxe Reverb that is in great cosmetic shape for $720. Well, I get it home and discover it has a ridiculous amount of rattle at certain frequencies. Very discouraging.
Since I do my own repairs and usually know what goes wrong with amps especially Fender tube amps, some others. I find it better to buy a used amp in good condition. Sometimes there isn't anything wrong that tightening up a few things can't fix. Sometimes it needs a new tube or set of tubes, when ever I pick up a amp I always test the tubes and replace any that test weak or have other problems. A few weeks ago a friend brought me his Blues Jr. with a fried circuit board, caused by a bad EL84 it shorted out and fried some of the board and other parts, fixed it in about 3 hours had to use jumper wires and a few new parts and new set of EL84's. Everything else tested ok. Later that week he called me and said he used it at a gig and it did great. I don't sell myself as an Amp Tech it's just a hobby for me.
 

6AM

Member
Messages
1,995
I'm glad people buy new amps, otherwise there would be no used amps to buy. With the financing that Sweetwater and MF offers now, buying new is more attractive than ever. In the past, it really didn't make much sense to me.

I have owned over a hundred amps over the years (it might even approach two hundred). Maybe five of them I bought new. Most every amp was bought online (here or eBay). I can't think of one of them that had issues that were undisclosed by the seller. When buying a used amp I always assume it needs at least new power tubes. I was going through so many amps I learned how to bias power tubes myself. I'll usually buy them before the amp arrives unless the seller gives an estimation of their age.

I can understand people's hesitation to buy used, but it's been great for me.
 

axpro

Member
Messages
628
I have bought new, bought used, and custom built WAY TOO MANY amps.

New amps are nice and tend to be more stable. but if you are worried about "value" it drops off fast.
USED amps are broken in, BUT you don't really know the history. I buy nice used amps (some from the here!) and I have had pretty good luck over the years. Especially on amps and gear that are harder to find in Canada.

BUT I have a buddy who buys stuff that is super cheap bargain priced... and 9 times out of 10 he has problems with it. Mainly because when a used amp comes in to a major music store really cheap, It's BOUND to have been abused. He gets so caught up with an under $200 Blues Junior, that he doesn't notice rust on transformers, speaker just beat to hell and and many other problems that lead to him complaining that it died at a gig (with no backup)

I always say, if it is something you need to rely on, don't skimp on it. used or new.

I also buy a lot of used cause i just fix it myself lol.
 

perpetualnewb

Member
Messages
60
I paid half retail price for a dead mint Mark V:25 that had never been turned up loud and spent its life in its bag. I then sold it for the same amount after I got bored of it and was out $0 total and still got my kicks.

I paid $400 for a used 1960A cabinet just because the logo had broken off. It was otherwise perfect.

I paid $500 for a used Peavey Triple XXX because it was missing a cheap footswitch. Sounded real good at low AND high volumes. Not amazing, but a good workhorse rock/metal amp with fairly plain clean to pile effects on.

So far, I'd say yes, you can definitely get some good deals - but what constitutes a deal would be different for everyone.
 

slingacat

Member
Messages
19
Most of my amps were bought used. I just make sure to give them a thorough look over and good long test drive before I purchase them. If sticking with a name brand, you'll be in better shape.
I expect some work to be done eventually on most of the vintage tube amps I buy. But, I also hear of people having problems with new stuff as well.
I do think that Fender and Marshall are putting out pretty good quality in their newer gear.
But I don't operate under any "rule". I usually know what make/model I want before I go on the hunt.
If interested in an amp (new, old, or vintage) I treat them all the same - do some research, test drive them for at least an hour (includes turning them on & off several times during the test drive), tap on the tops and sides to make sure you don't hear anything suspicious.
 
Messages
655
Used amps that were manufactured this millennium are a huge bargain. You could get any of the below in great condition...
JCM 2000 ~$500
Single Recto ~$600
Dual Recto ~$1000
AD30 ~$750
Lonestar ~$900
That is basically half of the new price from 10-15 years ago.

Yeah, if you buy a "vintage" amp (80's & before) expect to have repair bills ahead of you. My JCM800 had to get recapped and definitely needs it's pots to go through a deep clean. I generally advise only looking at more modern used amps because chances of you getting something in mint condition for a really good deal are very high. Then again, you're the buyer, you don't have to buy a piece of junk unless you want to.
 




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