Lone Star Special vs. Dr. Z Maz 38 or 18

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by GAD, Aug 31, 2008.

  1. GAD

    GAD Wubbalubbadubdub Silver Supporting Member

    May 22, 2008
    The Lone Star Special looks like a great amp for my needs, but I've read a lot of reports of reliability issues over on Harmony Central. anyone here have any issues?

    the Dr. Z Maz

    The LLS seems to be a LOT more complicated than the Dr Z. amps. In your opinion is the difference in tone/workmanship/whatever that great?

    It's hard for me to audition either. Closest Mesa is GC about an hour+ away. Closest Dr. Z dealer is two hours.

    I really like the idea of variety, which is why I bought the JSX combo, but the variety really isn't there because it doesn't do everything well. I'm starting to get the multiple amp thing...

    Which would you pick and why?


  2. casadyrocks

    casadyrocks Member

    Jan 12, 2008
    I want to know the answer to the same question!!! Hope you get a lot of replies!
  3. Kelly

    Kelly Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    I'd get in the car and drive. The nearest Fender dealer is an hour away for me; Mesa is about 2 hours. Personally, Id love to try the Dr Z. I'm not too impressed with anything Boogie offers.
  4. picnic

    picnic Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2005
    Jersey Shore or Ft Lauderdale
    I have played both and like the LSS more. It's a channel switcher, nice cleans and plenty of dirt for what I do. Great reverb, 5 15 30 35 watt levels. Lots of dials, but it's easy to understand. The reliability issue is mainly due to the rec tube blowing. Mine did and took the fuse with it. Lots of help over on the Boogie Board. The amp was running the next day, cost me about $15 for a tube and fuses.
    I liked the Z and would have bought one, but the channel Mesa just had more features that sold me
  5. powermatt99

    powermatt99 Member

    Nov 27, 2007
    If you are going to spend $1,600 on an amp, I'd make the drive.

    With that said, I really like my LSS. I have no experience with Dr. Z amps. As far as reliability, I've blown a rectifier tube which I replaced with a 5U4. The channel switching between the SS rectified 30W setting on one channel to either of the tube rectified settings is essentially the same as turning the amp on cold without using the standby. The larger 5U4 is able to handle the bombardment. Many NOS 5y3 tubes will also be able to handle abuse as well.

    The LSS is extremely versatile. It is packed with features which , IMO, do not detract from the amp. The tone controls are interactive meaning that they each add gain in their respective frequency range. I can get BFDR sounds with the LSS (I've been told the circuit is similar to a BF) which sound great with the Tele. It also takes pedals well. I use my FDII as a dirty boost in front of the preamp and it is absolutely amazing. Even with all of these features, the color of my guitar still comes through.
  6. khromo231

    khromo231 Guest

    Jun 14, 2007
    I've owned a second-hand LSS for some time, and I am very happy with it. The rectifier tube issue is avoided by not switching channels with one channel on the 30 watt setting and the other on a lower setting. With both channels on 5 or 15 watts you can switch away without a problem, as I understand it. If you run it a little hot and ride your guitars volume and tone controls, you might be able to make do without the second channel at all. As the other posters mentioned, it has great cleans and the overdrive tones are fine as well.

    It took me a while to absorb the manual and get really familiar with the controls, but once I got over the learning curve I could get the tones I wanted.

    I'm not familiar with the Dr. Z.
  7. GAD

    GAD Wubbalubbadubdub Silver Supporting Member

    May 22, 2008
    I seem to see a lot of people loving their LSS even WITH problems. That says a lot.

    Seeing the inside of a Mesa in the guts thread and the inside of a Dr. Z certainly makes me appreciate the Z a bit more though!

    Any Z owners want to chime in?

  8. tdarian

    tdarian Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2006
    Yorba Linda, CA
    I have a both a MAZ 18 Reverb 1-12 combo and a LSS 1-12 combo. These are two very different amps despite both being EL84.

    The MAZ 18 does what it does very well. The core tone of this amp is superb and it takes pedals very well. I prefer the amp with the reverb turned all the way down, and many say the non-reverb version of this amp is the way to go. I'd probably go non-reverb if I were doing this again. Nice cleans that give way to a more saturated sound as the volume goes up. Clean headroom is there but limited to what 2 EL84s can give, however the transistion as the tubes saturate is smooth and graceful. Great amp for riding the volume on your guitar to clean things up. The high and low inputs are very useful and a secret to using this amp when switching from low output single coils to higher output pickups. The Master Volume is very useful, but to me the best overdriven tones come from the power tubes being pushed. Louder than you might expect from 18 watts. Again, this amp workes very well with pedals.

    The LSS has or is capable of a very different presentation. The "clean" channel can sound almost Fendery sparkly and "alive". The reverb is actually quite nice on this amp, and it has two voicings. One voicing is spring reverb and is brighter at least in the reverb trails. The other voicing is like a plate reverb and a little less airy. There is a separate reverb level for each channel which is very useful. The clean channel on this amp has apparently more clean headroom with all 4 EL 84s running, but again the master volume is useful and with the ability to throttle back to two EL-84s or even 1, you can get closer to the MAZ 18 sound. This amp also seems to work well with pedals (I've only run them out in front and have not even used the effects loop).

    The 2nd channel on the LSS is voiced with a bit more gain, and it has another gain stage called "drive" which can be switched in to really heat things up. You can get into that singing sustaining lead type tone and at very low volumes on up. There are so many ways to go with this channel.

    I find that I do not use many of the features of the LSS, but I could see where they would be useful for many. For example, I have the effects loop bypassed, and that means I'm bypassing the solo boost function and the global master volume (I'm using the masters associated with each channel). The amp just sounds slightly more "direct" or "tighter" to me this way.

    I honestly love both of these amps. If I had to choose one over the other, it would be tough, but the versatility of the LSS would likely give it the edge. If you love what the MAZ does and need nothing more, it is also a fantastic amp. That's why I have and love both.
  9. tuna

    tuna Member

    Feb 22, 2004
    Powhatan, Virginia
    I agree with tdarian. I've had both amps too. The LSS is a cool amp and has a lot of features for the money. The DR Z amps in IMHO are the best value for a PTP amp. The MAZ 18 Jr is a great amp and is very toneful. It does have gain but not as much as the Mesa. Yeah, it doesn't have all of the bells and whistles that the Mesa has, but that's what pedals are for and the Z takes pedals very well. I heard one not to long ago that had been ordered with a Celestion Blue. Man, that was a nice combination. Only thing is you when you order that combination, you have to be careful you don't blow the speaker as the Blue is rated at 15 watts and the MAZ is rated at a conservative 18 watts. Tough choice, but after hearing the MAZ and Blue combination, that would be my pick.

    Good Luck with your search
  10. mangoman

    mangoman Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2008
    Hello there,

    I owned a Maz Jr. 2x10 combo. Its a great amp. However, I wanted something even LESS complicated/tweakable. I have the RXjr with a Blue in it. Its heaven.

    The only thing I can say is that when I was deciding on which Dr Z to purchase, I tried a dozen different amps, and narrowed it down to 4. Then had the guitar tech in the store play and I just closed my eyes.

    All I can say is that the LSS sounded completely Sterile to me. Now, that's may or may NOT be bad. Just depends on what you are trying to do. For me, the Z's just sound more lively and dynamic. That being said, its a difference between handwired and PCB. Also, a thing to note is a LOT, and I mean A LOT of studio musicians play the LSS.

    You got to go try. It will definitely be worth the drive. The prices of each are similar, and you'll never be left wondering......I wonder what.....

    Good luck!!
  11. fox5150

    fox5150 Member

    Mar 14, 2008
    Essex, UK
    I also have the LSS. For all its features, it is one *amazing* sounding amplifier. I find myself noodling away on the clean channel, totally mesmerised by how it sounds. Throw in all those features and you have one killer amp.

    One thing I've found useful is when playing at practice or live, is to set Channel 1 (Clean) on 30W for the headroom and then to set Channel 2 (OD) at 15W to really get the tubes going.

    Hope this helps.

  12. pjrhd28

    pjrhd28 Silver Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2004
    I have a LSS with an ext cab and used to have the Maz 38 with the Z best 2 x 12 cab.

    Kept the LSS, sold the Z. Here's why:

    1. The LSS is SO much better with humbuckers.
    2. The LSS will get kind of Marshally at reasonable volumes.
    3. The 5 watt setting on the LSS produces the best "soft, whispy" clean I've ever heard.
    4. Remember, the LSS has two complete tone stacks for the two channels; that's what all the knobs are. So, its NOT really that complicated.
    5. You can use just one channel on the LSS. Dial in gain, reverb, wattage, tone, and you're good to go.
    6. Reverb adjustable by channel. Slick.
    7. Channel 2, thicker, all other controls at noon. It'll take you less that 2 minutes to dial in a killer strat tone from there and the presets are spot on.
    8. Economics are pretty close and they both hold their values pretty well.
    9. All that being said, at gig volume, the Z had a very slight edge in what I would call "boldness". But the edge was very small and everything else favors the LSS.

    One other thing- not one shred of trouble after about 4 years and I switch the channels with different wattages constantly.

    Of course, YMMV and its always best to A/B the amps. But I can tell you that I had both amps over 6 month period and to me, it wasn't even all that close.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2008
  13. tourultimate

    tourultimate Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2008
    I've played an LSS for the last 2.5 years as my main amp. Rect tube when out within a week. I called mesa they said a bad batch of rect tubes went out. Not sure how, because they are very quick to brag about the testing that their tubes go through. Got a new mesa one. It never went out, but i replaced it after about a year with a NOS RCA.

    I love the cleans on the LSS, I run mine in a 1x12 combo config with a Scumnico.

    Unfortunately, I don't use the reverb or the second channel. So I'm not using the amp to it's full potential. I bought a hayseed 30 the other day to see how I like that. Haven't received it yet.

    I don't know how it compares with other amps at this point. I've never owned another el84 amp.

    The reason i don't use the second channel is because i play with a lot of delay, and didn't really want to run through the effects loop. So i use pedals in front of delay for gain sounds.

    I have a strat. It's not my main guitar, but the LSS loves it... Sounds great with my tele though too.
  14. Steve73

    Steve73 Member

    Apr 12, 2008
    Alberta, Canada
    I have gigged an LSS a lot for a couple years with no issues. They are built like tanks. Mine even fell off a trolley about thigh high hard onto the pavement and worked without a hiccup. It is the only amp I've ever owned that I could do most of my gigs with and have no pedalboard if need be.

    The LSS might look complicated looking at all the dials but it is really simple. Basically, it is like two amps in one. Two channels, each with independent controls, including reverb and EQ.

    I don't like the stock speaker that LSS come with, I found they sound tons better with a nice alnico speaker, like a Blue, Scumnico or a Gold.

    I've never gigged a Maz but I did try one in a store extensively. Nice amp, it was a bit too bright for me though.
  15. Blanket Jackson

    Blanket Jackson It's Time For Action Silver Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2009
    Brooklyn NY
    I owned a LSS for about 4 years until last week (sold it to prep for SC30 buy). No problems, heavenly tone, not complicated at all. Found the cleans to be very 3D and bewitching. Drive is not as dark as other Mesas. Overall a beautiful amp.

    Never played the Dr. Z that you mentioned but I have never bonded with any Dr. Z amp that I have ever played. Don't know why, just nothing there for me.
  16. MightyGuru

    MightyGuru Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Obviously these two amps are quite disparate in their tonal offerings.

    The MAZ Sr 38 is one of those amps I wish I had back. A tone machine with great headroom. The cleans are gorgeous and the dirt is great for rhythm. I always used a Tim and an Addrock Boostmaster with it but handled any box with aplomb....again...I love the amp and was way into the next-great-thing and sold it...a mistake.

    Run that sucker with some greenbacks ( i use the mojotone BV25M) and your fave OD pedal and you would probably love the amp for a long time.
  17. Zeon45

    Zeon45 Member

    Dec 13, 2006
    Southeast Texas
    Dr Z Maz 18 - no contest. The only thing I liked about the LSS was the Class A setting. The amp just felt lifeless to me. Cleans weren't great and drive setting were horrible. The Maz 18 is a superiour amp by far.
  18. Bikedude

    Bikedude Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2005
    Cleveland, Ohio
    I own one of each, but in slightly diff. flavors. I have a Lonestar Classic 1X12, and a Carmen Ghia Head/Avatar Vintage 1X12/C-Blue. Both sound great. The Carmen Ghia has a volume, and tone control, and takes 10 seconds to dial in great tone. The Mesa takes considerably more time to dial in with all the controls, but you can get there. I would not hesitate to recommend the Dr Z, they are fantastic amps. You call the Dr. Z shop, and 9 out of 10 times you can talk to the guy who's name is on the amp. I got great service from Mesa also, and the'yre great amps too, and Randall Smith is exceptional. In fact after I bought my Mesa, I got a call from the Mesa Service Dept. in CA., thanking me for buying one of they're products. That was a first after buying over 10 new amps from different manufacturers. I would say buy the Dr. Z amp. Go over to the Z forum and read up on em. Listen to Frankie Starr do his demos. I'm really stoked with my new Z CG. It sounds better than any amp I presently own, including the LSC. My Goodsell 17 is really, really, close but there is just something about the Dr's. fine products, plus the simplicity of the circuit is just amazing.
  19. vibratoking

    vibratoking Member

    Sep 29, 2009
    I have one of the first LSSs. Never had an issue and I also switch between 30W and 15W channels all the time. It has a very good sounding clean channel. Not as sparkly as my 65 SR or 69 Twin, but still very Fendery. The second channel has a lot of drive and can be set many ways - very versatile. The thing I like about the LSS is that it is easy to play. I never feel like I have to overplay like many other amps. It's a great amp, but it can sound like dogshit in the hands of the wrong player. There are a few guys in my town that have them and they all manage to make them sound flat with no sparkle at all. YMMV. You have to understand what a good sound is to set it up well.

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