School me on Power Scaling/ Carr Mercury alternatives

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Barge Concepts, Feb 11, 2006.

  1. Barge Concepts

    Barge Concepts Member

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    So I want a new amp. I like the general sound of my Pro Jr, but it hums/hisses incessantly to the point that it's not any fun to play. And even at 15W, it's still louder than my wife and neighbors appreciate (99% of my playing is in a NYC apartment with paper thin walls)...

    Last weekend, the wife and I went to see Low. Alan was using a Carr Mercury (I presume on the 8W setting), with his Tweed PJ as a backup. The amp sounded great - clean headroom when needed, crunchy when hit with a boost or more volume from the guitar, and seemed to be very agreeable with pedals. Sounds like just what I need..... Until I saw the price. Even a used one @ $1400 is more than I can shell out any time soon.



    What are my options for a well made (read, no to little latent noise) amp, that won't drive the wife nuts when I want power tube distortion (but I could still drag to a jam or mic at the club), and doesn't require me to give up a kidney?

    I've also been looking on the web for other low volume alternatives, and I stumbled upon London Power. Is there power scaling technology what the Mercury is based on? London also sells Power Scaling kits. Is this going to get me a 'better' sound than an attenuator (a method I've tried, but haven't enjoyed)? Any reason why I can't find an amp I'm happy with (so something other than the PJ), and install a London kit? Anyone else gone this route?


    Thanks in advance...
     
  2. redjet55

    redjet55 Member

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    if you do a search on London power scaling you’ll find opinions both ways depending on what the user expected and what he got.

    Seems like reasonable technology to me but then I don’t own one nor have I heard one, but the technology seems reasonable.

    Have read some comments on the safety of add-on kits, again since I don’t own one I wouldn’t want to speculate but that would concern me but if could be shown as safe why not.

    I went with a cornford carrera, decent master and can get pretty quiet volume-wise while still getting pretty loud if needed. With the gain down it’s quiet but with the gain maxed it’s a bit noisy, I'm switching tubes around so maybe I’ll find the perfect combo.

    I like it because I can use any number of different tubes. I look at it like a univalve 1 -12 combo but then it ain’t cheap either. Not as much as a merc but not that far off either.

    light weight and should be easy to haul around.

    Just out so I'd guess there won’t be any used for a bit
     
  3. Barge Concepts

    Barge Concepts Member

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    The Carrera looks interesting. More features than I need (I've come to love the simplicity of my PJ), but I like the flexibility of using different tubes...

    But it looks like it's just as pricy as the Mercury.
     
  4. tonedaddy

    tonedaddy Member

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    I am here as you are here as you are me and we are
    The lowest priced amp that includes London Power's Power Scaling technology (that I'm aware of) is the Stephenson LJ-10 head:
    http://www.stephensonamps.com/lj10head.htm

    $1000, and includes a huge number of features (from the website):

    * Power scale master volume
    * Single channel pre-amp capable of smooth rich fat singing lead tones, crystal sparkling clean, and everything in between
    * Premium components for maximum reliability
    * Heavy duty custom made in Canada transformers
    * Dual primary supply transformer allowing 120v and 220v mains operation
    * Compact design, weighs just over 10 lbs
    * 15 watts class A tone from dissimilar power tube combination of 1 6V6 and 1 EL84
    * 3 12AX7 tubes in preamp
    * 4, 8, and 16 ohm speaker impedance selector
    * Ultra linear / pentode operation
    * Full featured tube buffered parallel effects loop
    * Footswitchable gain boost
    * Footswitchable effects loop bypass

    Search the forums on "Stephenson", and you'll find lots of threads, including this review of the LJ-10:
    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=67236

    I hope to try one of these out someday.
     
  5. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    My experiences of Power Scaling are with the afore-mentioned Stephenson LJ-10. The review, being old, is not quite accurate. My beef with the amp was that it wasn't quite tight enough for what I play (hard rock/old school metal) so I ended up selling it. I thought it sounded great for blues and classic rock though, so if that's what you play then it's worth considering. It has exceptional dynamics and takes pedals well. Propably one of the best features vs. price ratio out of all the boutique amps out there. Very low noise (as in hum/hiss) too, even though I have poor grounding in my house. The footswitchable effects loop is something that should be in every amp with a loop.

    Anyway, on to Power Scaling. It is definitely home friendly, no need to crank that amp to get a juicy and singing tone. Of course, SOME volume (were talking loud TV volumes at most) will drive the speakers a bit more and sound better while still keeping the neighbours happy. Compared to attenuators there is pretty much no loss of tone at lower levels and the dynamics are intact as well. I'd love to try it with a higher wattage, more "modern" sounding amp.
     
  6. Barge Concepts

    Barge Concepts Member

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    I've done some reading on the Stephenson LJ-10 - still a fair amount of coin, but it looks like it's worth checking out...

    It's MIC, right? I'm actually going to be in Montreal in about a week, I'm hoping I can find one up there to try out.

    The one (minor) thing that bugs me about the Stephenson is the cosmetics. The stick-on labels look abit cheap, especially for a $1000 product. It's a minor complaint, and not important in the long run; but spending that much money on anything is a rarity for me, so I'm going to expect a fair amount for my dollar.

    Part of me is just thinking to save up and get the Mercury. If I sell a bunch of things I have sitting around (PJ, an old bass, some random pedals), I'm almost half way to the price of a used model. I haven't played one yet, but I loved what I heard last weekend...
     
  7. Barge Concepts

    Barge Concepts Member

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    The wiring in my building is an embarrassment - bailing twine and duct tape - so low noise is very important for me...

    TV level would be ideal. The wife in one room, the amp and I in another, and no cops or neighbors at the door.... I'll have to try and track one down when I'm in Canada.

    What are you using for a cab?
     
  8. GreenTea

    GreenTea Member

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    Might want to check out a Tech 21 Trademark series amp.
     
  9. zenfreud

    zenfreud Member

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    As an ex-long-term apartment dweller in the Bay Area, I feel your pain. Are you playing out and/or jamming with other musicians? If not, don't laugh, but you might just want to use a Pod. Its got line level ouputs that can be connected to any stereo system and you can also use headphones. No, it doesn't sound (or respond) exactly like a real tube amp, but using it won't get you thrown out of your apartment either.

    If you're living in an apartment situation and you want ouput tube saturation (and you're on a sub $1000 budget) I can't think of any amps that will fit the bill. I've got a (discontined) Hughes & Kettner CrunchMaster that uses one EL84 for something like six watts and there is NO WAY I could have opened it up for output tube distortion in the apartments I used to live in. Six watts is plenty powerful enough to p.o. the neighbors.

    I haven't played a Pro Jr, but my Fender amps have a fairly low noise floor and give satisfying OD textures at very low volume with an OCD pedal. Good luck on your quest.
     
  10. amper

    amper Member

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    Have you tried a Z. Vex Nano Head?
     
  11. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    It'd cost a lot more with a fancy chassis. I liked the idea that the money was put into where it counts - the circuitry, parts and craftmanship instead of the looks. I mean it's not much good having a AAAA flamed maple chassis if the amp doesn't sound good. :)

    I used a Yamaha DG 1x12 combo as a cab. Has a G12H-100 speaker in it.
     
  12. tedwoods

    tedwoods Member

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    Speaking of power scaling and Stephenson related products, you could also consider the Stage Hog which you can run in front of your amp or even with other alternative scenarios(it's very flexible).
    It's(as Laxu has pointed out)also voiced for classic rock,early hard rock,blues rock and most styles for that matter other than modern heavier/bassier styles.
    And if someday you upgrade your amp you won't have to sell the Hog as it can compliment any good amp.So,it'll be also money well spent...
     
  13. Unburst

    Unburst Member

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    You could buy a THD Hotpate or Weber MASS and use it to scale the volume of the Pro Jnr down.
     
  14. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    The problem with that is that you lose high end and dynamics. But other than Power Scaling there is one alternative. It is using a dummy load with line-out (many attenuators have this) and run that into a poweramp and cab.

    Essentially it's like this: guitar -> (pedals) -> tube amp -> dummy load line-out -> poweramp -> cab. Gives you total control over the volume and only causes little high end loss and compression, nothing to worry about if you have an amp with good dynamics. Of course, this can easily cost as much as getting an amp with Power Scaling and isn't quite as good, but can be moved from amp to amp and allows you to put delay, reverb etc. after the tube amp output.

    For fun I tested an Uraltone attenuator and Uraltone line-out box with the Stephenson LJ-10 and compared them against Power Scaling. At home-friendly levels (9 or 12 db attenuation) the attenuator sucked - big loss of high end and pretty much no dynamics. The line-out box setup (into my solid-state Yamaha DG80 amp's powersection) sounded and felt much more natural and closer to what the amp sounds like when using Power Scaling. Not quite as transparent but very usable. I'm actually thinking of using this setup once I get my next amp, unless I decide to have it modded for Power Scaling.
     
  15. bobontheair

    bobontheair Member

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    How does the stage hog sound as a practice amp plugged directly into a cab. Do you get better low volume results/tone this way or using it as a tube pedal in front of a clean amp
     
  16. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

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    Another preamp/amp sort of solution is the discontinued H&K "Machine" series-1/2 rack, single ended with the output of the tube tapped and sent thru a 30w solid state amp-sounds very good at low volumes. That said, for truly quiet playing, the London Power scaling is the best solution IMHO. Safety doesn't seem to be a factor, but availability is-besides the Carr, Stevenson and Germino (all mid-priced but more than your target) London Power is the only place to get it-and I don't think they're building amps right now...
     
  17. mainsale

    mainsale Member

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    There are a few used Maven Peals floating around. Their controllable output wattage and Sag are just what the doctor ordered.
     
  18. Barge Concepts

    Barge Concepts Member

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    Had one. The amp expired less than two months after the warranty did.

    That's a thought... I don't think it's going to have enough headroom, but still worth looking into...

    Had a hotplate, still have the Weber. Kills all of my dynamics.

    I've thought about this, but I'd still want to replace the PJ due to it's noise issues.
     
  19. Barge Concepts

    Barge Concepts Member

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    Playing out? No, although I'd love to get back to that someday. Jamming with others, occasionally. But I do want a quiet, quality amp for testing and recording the pedals that I build.

    My budget isn't fixed at any set amount, I'm just a generally thrifty sort. I love and entirely believe in low cost gear. Handmade, boutique - it's great, often made by exceptionally talented, nice people - but for those of us on tight budgets, it's not always an option. I've always done well with massproduced amps, but now I'm in a situation where assembly line stuff isn't meeting my needs. If I find something that meets my needs, I'm willing to accept that fact that i'll need to open the wallet a bit wider than usual. And buy the wife some extra flowers the day the amp shows up;)

    The Pro Junior is a decent little amp, even stock, especially for it's $200-300 price tag. It's just notorious for being VERY noisy. I've had three in the last year (found them cheap, and hoped to find a quieter one. No luck there, but was able to sell them off at a profit); and I've gone through all the 'tricks' to quiet them down, but she still hisses like a succubus. And not in a good way.
     
  20. Ben Furman

    Ben Furman Member

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    I'm in a similar position except that I love the sound of my primary amp - a Reverend Goblin 5/15. Even on its 5 W setting, the amp will still shake the house cranked up. To get down to TV volumes, you'd need something along the lines of the Mercury's 1/8 Watt setting.

    I've done the Tech 21 thing (unsatisfying dynamics) and also the H&K Cream Machine/Blues Master thing (nice warmth but no presence). My Goblin already does a better job than either of those solutions. Still, I want more saturation with less volume. I'll be going with the Stage Hog.

    From all accounts, the Stage Hog is dead quiet. Your PJ isn't noisy on the clean settings, is it? As long as you're using the Hog for your high gain, I don't see the issue with noise.

    London Power is now offering the power scaling circuit in a stand-alone box for 200 bucks. Only a small card needs to live inside your amp's chassis. If you're handy or know a good tech, then you could modify your amp with one of those- but that probably won't solve the high-gain noise problem.
     

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