Upgrade for Practice and Jams; Blackstar HT-20R Mk II, Bassbreaker 30R, Marshall DSL?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Jon Rad, Jun 17, 2019.

  1. Jon Rad

    Jon Rad Member

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    Hey all. I've been playing since last year and am looking to upgrade my amp. I'm using a Katana 50 at the moment but would like to get a tube amp. I'm after something with good crunch for blues and hard rock, and being able to push the gain into metal territory would be nice too (I'm not against having to get an overdrive pedal for this if needed though). Good cleans would be great as well. And a back rub.

    As you may have guessed from the title, I'm after something that will be able to keep up with a drummer, but practicing and playing at home is my main priority for the amp and I want something that can sound good at volumes that won't disturb anyone else in the house when needs be.

    I've been reading that some people seem to prefer the sound of the DSL40CR to the 20, but I'm worried that even the 20 might be too loud and not be great at lower volumes. I'm guessing it may be the same with the Bassbreaker 30R, but I like what I've seen and heard of it on YouTube. The Blackstar HT-20R Mk II seems like it could fit the bill nicely with its 2W mode, and going by how my Katana sounds in 0.5W mode I've been thinking maybe the 5W version could be a good option too.

    It could be tough to try out all of the amps I'd like to where I live, so I'd love and appreciate hearing any advice and input that anyone's willing to give to help me with my decision. I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea of a head and cab either -- or any other suggestions -- but the Bassbreaker 30R is at the upper limit of my budget right now (so about $850USD).
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2019
  2. Oinkus

    Oinkus Member

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    Marshall DSLs are nicely priced, entry level tube amps that people use for gigging. I would go with the 40 if you plan on gigging and the 20 if you just play at home. Watts and volume are not really related until you get to needing high volume cleans/headroom.
     
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  3. Jabby92

    Jabby92 Member

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    IIRC the 40CR (2018+) got a new speaker and some tweaks to the circuit so it breaks up at lower volume. Also it has 2 master volumes which lets you get more saturation at "bedroom" levels. The Bassbreaker is a great amp and the 30R is a nice upgrade since it basically fixes all the problems with the old BB amps (proper channel switching.. more headroom.. etc). Not sure how it performs at bedroom levels, the old BB15 was a good bedroom amp but not a great gigging amp from many I've heard (can't keep up with most drummers).

    Anyway, wattage doesn't necessarily mean an amp will be too loud. It depends on the amp itself.. the circuit/design.. and how good the volume tapers are. Most high wattage amps actually sound best at lower volumes over low volume tube amps and some amps get a lot of saturation in the pre-amp section, like a Mesa Boogie.

    On a final note, I know you may be sold on getting a tube amp but you might also want to look at the boutique solid state stuff if its just for practice and jam sessions. Quilter makes some amazing SS amps and 95% of the time I leave my high end tube amp at home since I got one. This thing is loud enough for anything and you can throw any of your favourite pedals in front:



    Killer amps, way better than what Boss is putting IMO (used to own/play a JC-40 for years).
     
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  4. mobius

    mobius Member

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    This is my survival guide for using medium amps for practice and fun in an apartment.

    Clean and pedals at unity they are fine and can be played and sound good at any level. I set the amp fairly loud and then back off the guitar volume. Then set my drives to unity. This is the best “low” low volume tone I have achieved, and use at all times at my apartment for practice.

    From there as you go up in gain you’ll also want more volume. Modern lead channels will sound raspy like a wheezy pensioner or buzzy like a can of bees at low volume. You might be able to get away with a vintage low/med drive channel for practice at daytime but switch to a high gain and you’ll be edging that volume higher and higher. Not deafening or anything but your neighbours will know you’re playing. Loud violin/sax/trumpet ballpark.

    Late night practice or fun is clean or low gain pedals. A good tube amp sounds very good clean, no singing sustain but huge dynamics off the pick attack. It’s its own bag of fun.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2019
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  5. mobius

    mobius Member

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    Based on my TA-25 and ROV25, you still need to open them up a bit for gain. At low volumes the gain channels sound pretty uninspiring.

    Low volume I quite happily play clean. For low volume high gain I haven't found a better solution than my AX8.
     
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  6. Jon Rad

    Jon Rad Member

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    I'm definitely not planning on gigging in the immediate future, but I'm a lapsed bass player and still have a couple of friends to jam with so would like to be able to keep up with a drummer.

    I see a lot of people talking about how "you have to have the tubes cooking so you can get 'that feel'" though, which is what worries me about playing tube amps at lower volumes.

    For sure. They seem very nice and well priced.

    That thing does seem pretty nice. Being a Katana user I don't have many pedals atm though, just a wah and a Ditto. I'm in Australia and will probably have a tough time tracking one down to try out, but they do seem very nice. Also, like you said, iT's NOt TUBeS! I am curious about them now though.

    Cool. Thanks for the tips!
     
  7. Jon Rad

    Jon Rad Member

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    Not what I wanted to hear, but it seems a fairly common opinion. I do kinda want a proper tube amp, but I also want to stay away from the endless tweaking possibilities of modellers. I'm that type that gets sucked in and ends up fiddling with parameters more than they actually play. I really just want something simple that sounds good.
     
  8. Geeze

    Geeze Silver Supporting Member

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    OK now from the big iron fool.

    I've found for low volume I prefer 50 & 100 watt amps as they have a girth / presence that small amps don't give me. At keep up with drummer or the deaf dudes I jam with - no contest as you can dial in the sound you want [AKA headroom] vs. trying to make a dimed smaller amp sound good. I've done the small / modeler / multi effect rigs and none of them inspired me like big tube amps.

    Some amps will need some help for the saturation at low volumes - boost/OD/compressors work for most of my amps. I have a 2555X 100 watt that only needs delay nothing else - current bedroom amp.

    So lots of blah blah to say ignore watts - too many base gear decisions on watts and not tone. IF you're near a GC or similar retailer that has a good return policy I'd invite you to try as many as you can in your primary space with your gear. I'd start with the DSL40 you may be surprised.

    Russ
     
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  9. Doomrider78

    Doomrider78 Member

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    Dare I say a Katana artist? [Disclosure] I've just got one :D:hide2:boxer
     
  10. NatGardner

    NatGardner Member

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    Home play - keep the Katana. Save your money for a good tube amp that you can use when you play with a band. No matter what you read a tube amp does not respond to your pick attack correctly, clean up as well or sound as good until you open her up and then it is loud. Buy good, buy once, know what base tone that is important to your sound and you won't become one of these posters constantly searching for a better tone/amp.
     
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  11. GreatSatan

    GreatSatan Member

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    yeah just a good clean amp with some pedals i think is the best way to get good practice tones (with maybe an eq in the fx loop)
     
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  12. Jon Rad

    Jon Rad Member

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    No retailers with return policies like that near me here in Australia unfortunately. I should at least be able to check out a DSL40 in store though, hopefully. I do like what I've seen and heard of that amp online.

    I've no grand plans to become a rock star or start gigging seriously and would probably be happy for quite some time with something like the Bassbreaker or DSL40 for jamming -- at least I think I would. Do you think even amps like the Blackstar HT MkII's won't sound and respond that well when played at moderately low volumes in their 0.5W or 2W modes?
     
  13. Geeze

    Geeze Silver Supporting Member

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    Do you think even amps like the Blackstar HT MkII's won't sound and respond that well when played at moderately low volumes in their 0.5W or 2W modes?[/QUOTE]

    The issue I've found is how much amps, speakers and our ears change at low volumes vs. loud. The classic rock sound of a large amp pushed into saturation [you pick - sweet spot or 'power tubes cooking'], the speakers being pummeled hard [adding their own distortion to the mix] and our ears filled with sound can't be directly duplicated at low volume. The physics won't be denied. You can get 1000 HP out of a four cylinder engine but it won't ever sound or feel like a blown V8.

    This is why I recommend experimenting with all the options as I did. I went down to 4 watts, played with modelers and multi effects rigs which all sounded like that four cylinder trying emulate the V8. Some of them got close but all failed at loud volumes for me.

    Russ
     
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  14. NatGardner

    NatGardner Member

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    Tube amps and even SS amps will respond somewhat at low vols. They will respond a lot better loud. IMO save your money and get a good tube amp with no less than 25 watts and with the exact tone you seek, an fx loop and ext bias points so you don't need to pay someone down the line to replace power tubes. I found a head is best so you can decide your speaker config depending on the need and don't get hung up on mega gain. A good tube amp that breaks up and cleans up well plus gives a great crunch can easily be pushed into a solo and the occasional Metal cover. I am speaking from experience. Buy once, buy high quality and you will have an amp for life. Best of luck!
     
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  15. Jon Rad

    Jon Rad Member

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    Thanks for all of the advice. I'll try and get out to demo some amps this weekend.
     
  16. ShreddyKrueger

    ShreddyKrueger Member

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    From someone who has played all three, and owned two, and uses his amps exclusively for home playing - it's going to be loud. If you look at the DSL 20 in full power mode, I'm talking about 2.5-3 on the master, pushed with an EQ pedal and a klon/tube screamer (which bumps up the volume, too). And that level in an apartment is going to be heard by everyone (I can just about hear it outside, too). I know this probably sounds kind of negative, but hopefully it'll save you some time and some money and a whole lot of frustration trying to get those tones at low volumes. My solution (and I stuck with the DSL20, but lost the Bassbreaker as it isn't great for 80s/rock/metal, and bought a Friedman, too), is to play at the levels above when my partner's out of the house, otherwise use an attenuator like the OX, which has a headphone out and pretty decent cab emulation.

    As an aside - not all 20w amps are equal in terms of volume. My Friedman, for example, is monstrous. I have it set on 0.5 on the master - which is equal to 3 on the DSL. I tend to play the Friedman attenuated, though to be fair, it sounds great on 0.5, too. And that's not pushing tubes at all.
     
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  17. Jon Rad

    Jon Rad Member

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    Thanks Shreddy. I appreciate your and everyone else's input, though talk of expensive attenuators is making me think maybe I should just stick with my Katana for a while.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2019
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  18. Plaid Sabbath

    Plaid Sabbath Member

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    I guess I'll chime in as well. I own a Katana 50 and a DSL20 combo. (My kid snagged the Katana from me when he decided he wanted to tinker with the six string as well as his P-Bass. For the record, he also took my Yamaha Revstar. Gotta love teenagers.)

    Personally, I prefer the Marshall over the Katana, but I'm just more of an old school tube amp guy. I've only had the Marshall for a couple months, but it's a cool little plug and play amp. It lives in my garage. When I get the itch to bang out some power chords and doom riffs, I can do it without being a menace to the neighborhood or disrupting the entire household.

    The Katana has countless devotees and evangelists on the board. I won't get bogged down in reasons why I'm not too crazy about it. In my opinion, it's a very capable practice amp. My kid loves it. One helluva bargain for $200. It probably would have killed the Peavey brand if it were available 35 years ago. (It seems like everyone that started playing in the 80's had at least one Peavey amp at one time or another.)

    The DSL20 is much, much better than the previous DSL15. The high gain channel is vastly more usable than it used to be. The gain knob used to go from Beatles "Helter Skelter" to church-burning Norwegian death metal. Now, there's a very wide range of chewy distortion. No pedals needed. In fact, I find that the old school approach of riding the volume pot on the guitar is one of the best ways to get the most out of the amp.

    The cleans...well, they're not pristine like a Fender. A little more hair around the edges, but again...the volume pot on the guitar comes in handy.

    Tube amps sound glorious when pushed with lots of volume. However, the Marshall sounds just fine at lower volumes. (No need for attenuators or other outboard gadgets.)

    Just my opinions. Keep in mind, I prefer to keep things simple. Not a professional. Not very picky or selective when it comes to gear. It's more fun to spend my time playing rather than twirling knobs and chasing particular sounds. The amp might be small, but it's a Marshall. Sounds like rock and roll.
     
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  19. Jon Rad

    Jon Rad Member

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    Thanks for your thoughts, and I hear that! Before I got my Katana I was keen on the idea of getting something like a Helix, but even with the Katana I find myself getting bogged down with tweaking. I really just want an amp that sounds good and isn't a rabbit hole filled with parameters to get lost in rather than actually playing the guitar.

    There should be some good discounts at a few music stores' eBay pages this weekend and I'm extremely tempted to pull the trigger on a DSL40 combo. I've seen a few people saying that the 40 plays just as nicely at lower volumes as the 20 does. If I find a nice enough deal I don't think I'll be able to resist.
     
  20. ShreddyKrueger

    ShreddyKrueger Member

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    Just to clarify - how would you describe the volume level that you can play at currently?
     

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