Taking the plunge with new amps.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by technicoloraudio, Apr 30, 2015.

  1. technicoloraudio

    technicoloraudio Supporting Member

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    About two years ago, after spending my whole career in restaurants I got a good job as a personal chef. It's done wonders for my marriage and bank account.
    (related?)

    I have been playing on two Genz Benz black Pearl 2x12 combos for years, and I think they're great amps. I got great deals on them, and they are my first real tube amp. I started with one, got the second one when around the same time I discovered TGP.
    (related?)

    Now, for the first time in my 32 years on earth and 16 years of playing guitar, I can afford to get the amps I've lusted after and drooled over for years: a PWE event horizon and an Oldfield Marquis. I know these are good amps, and I know they won't make me a better guitarist.

    I have to appeal to those who know, is the high-end boutique tone justified? I feel pretty confident in my discerning ears, will I experience lush thunder tone with brass balls and a heart of gold? Did you?

    I almost posted this in the lounge, but I am looking for opinions based on the step between mid-range small manufacturer amps and high end very small manufacturer amps. I play a variety of music ranging from jazzy improv to driving instrumental post rock, love my boomerang III, and generally appreciate clean headroom and natural tube crunch.
     
  2. Jazzandmore

    Jazzandmore Gold Supporting Member

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    Some years ago I had a nice Blues Jr, paid $500ish for it I think. Finally changed speakers (to Cannabis Rex) and got the BillM mods done on it. Wow did it make a difference. Loved the sound.

    But one day I got my hands on a Brunetti Metropolitan. An Italian handmade amp for less than $1000 at the time. Had it side by side at my house and to my ears it kicked sand in my Blues Jrs face. :). I also got my hands on a Brunetti Singleman 16W amp $1400ish). It's switchable to 1 or 4 W. Even at 1W, to my ear, the Blues Jr couldn't keep up. Oh yeah I experienced the thunder. I got both Brunettis, sold the Blues Jr to a friend of mine that is a serious gigging player here in town, and haven't considered anything else in 4 years and counting. Another buddy of mine, also a serious gigging and recording player, played my Singleman, sold his amp and bought one like mine. The guy he sold it to, heard the Brunetti and bought one as well. Ok sorry for that long story :D

    I'm sure you will get some interesting answers and because you used the word "boutique" it's guaranteed that someone will rail about how inexpensive amps sound as good or better than any boutique. And they are right if that's what they like the sound of. Since you are a chef, I'm sure you have experienced the same thing with food. You may have a very discerning palate, but someone else tastes the same thing and truly doesn't find it any better than mid priced meal. Nothing at all wrong with that because you like what you like.

    Since you have asked the question, no matter what we all say, we don't have your ears or know the tone that will be "IT" for you. Take your favorite guitar, go plug into all kinds of amps, and buy what you love the sound of. :) I think a great sounding amp does help you play better because you are inspired. But whether that tonal inspiration costs $ or $$$, only your ears can decide.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
  3. technicoloraudio

    technicoloraudio Supporting Member

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    To be more clear, I should add that while playing the black pearls (which are power scalable AC30's with other bonus features for the unfamiliar) I've tried plenty of other amps. Mesa Nomad, Fender Super Sonic 22, Ampeg Jet and SuperJets. I found them all to be lacking on one place or another: simplicity, depth, and reliability respectively.
    Specifically, I generally dig the breakup of ar4 rectified el84s. I keep coming back to it, but I'm not getting the clean headroom I want before it gets a little whiny/raspy. It's an early stage of break up that comes right before the creamy overdrive stuff on the black pearls, and it's just not lending itself to my sound.
    It'd be a great blues sound, or if I just sat on some overdrive all the time, but I don't. I've gone back and forth between 7 and 15 watt operation, pentode and triode, and I'm convinced that it's time to move on from all EL84 everything.
    I'm not a fender amp guy, and it's because I don't like gear that has features I won't use. I don't like to run stereo effects in mono and if an amp has tremolo or vibrato I feel like that it should be used. I'm not paying new prices for these new amps, and I don't think tone is in the wallet.
    I want a channel switchable lead amp and a nice rich rhythm and looping amp, and I think I've found those things in the PWE and Oldfield. I'm not looking for justification, but the expense is large enough to warrant some exploration ahead of time for me. Just trying to feel it out I guess.

    Clearly I'm nervous.
     
  4. TheoDog

    TheoDog Silver Supporting Member

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    I sold a whole lot of gear in order to afford stepping from an Egnater Tweeker into. Goodsell Super 17.
    A boutique amp is worth it in terms of tone and build quality.
     
  5. Jonny G

    Jonny G Member

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    Bravo! Probably one of the more thoughtful responses to this kind of question.

    To the OP, seems to me you are based in Atlanta? and therefore have access to an awful lot of interesting mid and high range amps we don't even see in Europe (and so have to order blind unplayed). Given your location you DO have the advantage of being able to try out a lot of interesting gear in person. Tone is not necessarily in the wallet (though it can help) but i hear you on the el84 change. I have el84 amps (Orange and Mesa) which are great but very different philosophies - Orange = basic down and dirty Brit Rock, whereas the Mesa = huge versatility but equally steep learning curve (took me years to dial it right). What do I prefer personally? The Orange, coz it just sounds good to my ears.
    Moving on to EL34's, I can't comment on the PWE and Oldfield, though they seem highly respected. I made the EL34 move a couple of years ago with a Bogner Goldfinger 90. great amp, wonderful cleans, great vintage Marshally crunch but with its own Bogner twist and i finally got to hear the "Big Iron" experience - it really does add a different dimension. That said, i then got a "cheap" Carvin Legacy 3 for one third of the price IMHO is up to the Bogner or very close on the cleans, more versatile and half the size and weight. Nothing wrong with the Bogner and I have kept it but the point is that I didnt have a chance to check out a load of other amps and so discovered the Carvin afterwards.If youve tried the PWE, Oldfield and a bunch of other amps, and those two are IT, go for IT. If you haven't tried other big bottle amps, then you owe to yourelf to do so, especially as you seem to be in a place where you can.
     
  6. Corinthian

    Corinthian Member

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    As you pointed out a boutique amp is unlikely to make you play any better (well maybe a little because you'll be playing more). Yes, it's going to sound better. "Better" is of course subjective but better quality components and more care and attention to the manufacture will lead to more clarity and better response.

    But aside from the musical reasons for a higher quality amp, there's the experience. You've worked hard; you've earned the right to treat yourself to gear that makes it feel like an event every time you plug in. Someone on here has a signature along the lines of "life's too short for a 'B' rig". As long as you're not extending yourself or running up debt then go for it; get your 'A' rig.
     
  7. Heady Jam Fan

    Heady Jam Fan Member

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    Personal cook - thats awesome. I'm a personal cook for my girlfriend.

    I think like most things you can buy, you can quantify what your paying for in an amp. With some boutique amps, you get more quality than the big manufacturers, but you also pay for the time someone spends hand-building you amp, and the brand name. Some of these boutique amps keep their value, others diminish, and you run the risk of the builder going out of business (especially a problem if you just commissioned him/her to build you an amp). I tend to go for what might be considered the higher-end of the non-boutique amps: a vintage Fender and a vintage Mesa Boogie. My Mesa, without any pedals, will do that super-clean that is great for jazz improv, and it has two dirty channels for your post-rock crunch.
     
  8. stratpaulguy86

    stratpaulguy86 Member

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    I've played:

    Bogner
    Dr Z
    Fuchs
    Diezel
    Vintage Fender
    Vintage Marshall
    Divided by 13
    Bludotone
    Welagen
    Diaz
    Tone King
    Swart
    Reeves
    Longhorn
    Mesa Boogie
    Supro
    Laney
    Ceriatone
    Metropoulos
    Germino
    Bruno
    Trainwreck ("clones")
    Hiwatt
    Fargen

    Many more I'm probably forgetting...most are NOT worth the $$$, some are worth it, others are WAYYY undervalued. You just have to play a bunch of stuff and see what works for you. Fwiw I believe a great amp and guitar CAN allow you to become a better player. What I look for in a great amp is harmonic complexity, clean sustain, the right amount of compression for my style, a musical midrange, no harsh high end, etc.
     
  9. Echoplexi

    Echoplexi Silver Supporting Member

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    Out of that list which would you pick if you had to get everything you need out of just one amp?
     
  10. H. Mac

    H. Mac Member

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    I hope you won't mind me waxing philosophic for a minute, techincoloraudio, but I think your question might be more about life in general than it is about amps.

    You worked hard for a long time to build your career; gained enough knowledge and skill to become a personal chef; have been successful at it for a few years; have built a good marriage; and also built a good bank account, and the question is whether you should get the amps you really want.

    To put it differently, it seems as though you've succeeded on every front.

    Get the amps and have fun! Life is short, gear is fun, and there's nothing to be gained from waiting!
     
  11. technicoloraudio

    technicoloraudio Supporting Member

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    Thanks. And thanks for taking the time to spell it out for me. I allocated the money last night and started to think, "wow, is this stupid?"
    As I mentioned, these are MY (I know they're not everybody's) dream amps. I played each one years ago in some shop and was floored, I just never thought that I'd realistically have the opportunity to own one, much less both.
    I never really thought about the inspiration side of it, and even a bit of obligation is a good thing. Music is a serious hobby for me, but it's not my job, so there have been times that I just haven't felt like turning the amps on, or can't push myself to break away from familiar territory.
    I am looking forward to working in unfamiliar territory again, and using a new set of tools to do so.
     
  12. Al Rose

    Al Rose Silver Supporting Member

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    I agree with Jonny....excellent and accurate response. I would have nothing further to add, but go for it and see where it takes you!

    Al
     
  13. Jazzandmore

    Jazzandmore Gold Supporting Member

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    Sweeeet! Glad you took the plunge on those dream amps. I felt the same way you talk about above regarding my Artinger. Years ago I saw one and thought "man I wish I could...one day...but it will never happen". But last year I decided it was within my means to take the plunge and I called Matt. Oh boy, once I committed i freaked out at first thinking "it's crazy to be buying such an expensive guitar". But you hit nail on the head, music is a serious pursuit for me, even though it's not my job.

    It was finished and arrived New Years Eve. Outside of one trip for work, I have played the guitar every single day and it brings me joy (good thing my neighbor can't hear it, because my playing probably wouldn't bring him joy :)
     
  14. shanesiegle

    shanesiegle Supporting Member

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    The thing is the Black Pearl is known to be one of the best amps out there period regardless of price. I feel once you get to that level of quality it's not always about finding a "better" tone but different tones that may work for you better.

    I have lusted after a Bogner for ever and will hopefully have one fairly soon but I in no way am expecting it to be a better amp than what I have, just different. If you have the funds and like what you are hearing on clips go for it, you may just find exactly what you have always wanted. I don't know about the other but the PWE is one of those amps with a rabid following (like your black pearls) so it shouldn't dissapoint.
     
  15. PBGas

    PBGas Supporting Member

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    I've had so many amps I've bought, traded, sold and returned over the years, it would boggle the mind! All for what? To search for the one that had the best gain structure that I like to hear.

    That being said, if it has the sound that you absolutely love, then you have your amp. I've wanted a Bogner XTC forever but I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much for a new one. I've tried several of them and they can be had for decent price if used. Did I end up getting one? Nope. I have always been a Marshall guy and I picked up a JVM410HJS instead and it is a beauty! I actually had one of these a couple of years back when they first came out and I sold it for a Kemper. What a mistake that was. Not because the Kemper was bad, I just had a bad one. I've been through several Kempers and we just don't get along. I also didn't like my on stage monitoring with it. Its a great unit, just not for me. I got tired of always searching for a better profile, paying for lousy profiles, and in general always trying to make it sound better. As soon as I got back to an amp and cab again, it was like the waves parted and everything was open again. I have some great tones on it, I turn the knobs and off we go. I run it with a Two-Notes Live and my tone is absolutely stellar now.

    Enjoy it, play it and most of all, keep it!
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
  16. Gallery

    Gallery Supporting Member

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    Forget whether the amp is boutique or not. Forget the price. Find the amp that speaks to you. When you find the amp that has THE sound that is in your head and compliments the way that you play, it's worth every dollar.

    I've not been through nearly as many amps as most guys on the this site, but I have owned several boutique amps and several mass produced amps. I've found gems of both that I totally clicked with and inspired me to play more and better.

    After hearing a few demos of the Friedman JJ100, my gut told me it was the amp for me. My gut was right. It was stressful getting over the price tag shock, but I don't regret it for a second. It was the same way for me with the mass produced Marshall 2204.

    Go to shops and test drive some amps. Listen to lots of demos online. Go with your gut.
     
  17. Monstercastle

    Monstercastle Supporting Member

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    Amen to this.
     
  18. stratpaulguy86

    stratpaulguy86 Member

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    The standout amps for me are:

    Welagen ODR
    Bludotone Bludodrive
    Tone King Galaxy
    '69 Marshall Super Tremolo 100


    I'm a bit biased but the Welagen ODR is the finest amp for my style I've ever played. The thing is just so harmonically off the hook and it sustains like you're using an ebow regardless of which channel you are on.
     
  19. technicoloraudio

    technicoloraudio Supporting Member

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    One major point of contention for me is that Genz Benz Black Pearl is a darn nice amp, running them in stereo has been a treat.

    But it's time for something different.
     
  20. davidespinosa

    davidespinosa Supporting Member

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    There's no substitute for personal experience -- only you can tell if it's worth it.

    If you can get one of those amps (or similar) used, you'll be able to resell it without losing much money if it doesn't work.
     

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