Vintage vs Well Made Boutique?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by PaulS2, May 28, 2008.

  1. PaulS2

    PaulS2 Member

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    I haven't played enough vintage amps to form any sort of objective opinion so thought to ask here.

    I just bought an almost 50 year old Fender Concert amp for my brother...he's not on the internet and he agreed to let me keep and play it for a month or so in exchange. He may not actually get it after receiving it yesterday:)

    Great tone, warmth, sparkle but a little too much low-level background noise for my tastes (I could live with it if needed). Also a great bouncy feel to the amp. It has this transparent tone without any sort of hardness or harshness.....very, very nice.

    Personally I want that tone and feel but also wouldn't mind something which wasn't 50 years old - reliablity issues.

    Am I going to have to look for vintage amps to give me what I want? Is it possible to build a new amp with that warmth and organic feel...or is that something which comes with age and having been played a lot. I'm looking for amazing cleans at a lower than gigging level. Takes pedals well and sounds big, full and lush.....rings with lots of character.

    I've had: Bogner Shiva, Metropolis - Swart AST, Fuchs OD30, Victoria Deluxe, Fender modded Tweed Super, '57 Twin Re-issue, Boogie Lonestar, MK 4, F50.

    All of these amps sounded good - the tweed super was stellar but didn't take pedals that well. Most of these amps needed to be turned up to sound great and even then there was a certain amount of hardness present.

    So should I tell my brother to go find something else as I'm keeping this one warts and all:)....or given the right components, can a new amp be created which possess this vintage warmth and feel?

    You opinions and experience are appreciated.
     
  2. BBQLS1

    BBQLS1 Member

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    IMO, you can get a clone that will get you in the ball park. There is some mojo with some vintage amps, but some need attention before they will sound good. Plus, they are usually just too expensive to get a good one.

    I love vintage amps, but they just aren't for me.
     
  3. SkydogFan81

    SkydogFan81 Supporting Member

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    I've got both and I prefer the tone and reliability of the /13 over my BFDR.
     
  4. chillerthanmost

    chillerthanmost Member

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    this is sort of how I've been feeling as well... I want a late 70's JMP but not only are the getting a little pricey for me, I'm also wondering how many shows it will go before I have to get something fixed... lately I've been looking at the Ceriaone JCM800 clone in comparison to an old JMP... can't make up my mind though.
     
  5. DC1

    DC1 Member

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    Just a little OT safety comment.

    ANY old amp that has a non-polarized 2-prong plug must be converted to a modern 3-prong grounded plug and cable.

    The old plugs have a 50-50 chance of putting 120 volts on your guitar strings at any given moment and when you touch anything grounded, you will get shocked.

    People have died from this, so be very careful with vintage amps.

    DC
     
  6. Uniphasian

    Uniphasian Member

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    Vintage Martins? Yes.

    Vintage electronics, no. Well, maybe...
     
  7. PaulS2

    PaulS2 Member

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    I guess this does sum it up......plugging in that Concert yesterday sure was an eye opener. Definitely mojo filled but with that, some funky noises going on in the background.

    I wouldn't mind if some builders jumped in on this thread. I'd love to hear some honest opinions on what it takes to capture that vintage mojo.
     
  8. Kurzman

    Kurzman Supporting Member

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    If you like old Fenders but don't want an old amp buy an Allen.
     
  9. edward

    edward Supporting Member

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    Well the other way of looking at this is the vintage amp is EASILY brought back up to snuff by any good amp tech. Reliability need not be sacrificed if you want to play out with a vintage amp. Sure you'll pay a bit of scratch to have it worked over, but that is FAR less money than buying a boutiquer amp ...not to mention that the "real deal" has more cool factor and, arguably, better monetary value down the line.

    Edward
     
  10. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    There are benefits and drawbacks to each. "Vintage" is a moving target. When I think of "vintage", I think of mid-70s or earlier. Really, mostly older stuff.

    You probably won't find a 50W "vintage" amp with a great master, great clean tones and great overdriven tones and "usable" volume levels that also has an effects loop, for example.

    And you probably won't find a boutique amp that has that special "something" (call it mojo, whatever) that some vintage amps just exude.

    You can add some modern features to some older amps (may or may not work out the way you were hoping) but you most definitely cannot add "actual vintage mojo" :D to a new amp. Some may approximate a vintage tone better than others though. Again...there's no generalization that's accurate here.

    Honestly, you may have reliability issues with either. Just because you buy an expensive "boutique" amp, you are not guaranteed that it will be 100% dependable and problem-free. Lots of folks would like to think so, but IME, that's just not the case. That being said, if you buy a "vintage" amp w/o getting to inspect it first (or have a good tech inspect it), you don't know what kind of problems you may run into. Also, with vintage amps, there are many, many common problems that come with age that can be easily fixed w/o losing that vintage vibe.

    The thing that you often get with vintage that you rarely get with modern boutique amps is value. Most new boutique amps lose a large chunk of their value as soon as you buy them. Sure a handful or so won't...but they're the exceptions. If you buy them used, you'll do better, but may still lose something and will usually not inherit the warranty (so out goes that advantage). Conversely, many (most?) vintage amps (including many very "cheapo" off brands like DanElectro, Airline, Silvertone, Valco, Supro) will hold their value or increase in value.

    Personally...I like having both :) but I usually feel "smarter" when I buy vintage stuff.
     
  11. DANOCASTER

    DANOCASTER Supporting Member

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    I've owned ( or used extensively ) countless boutique amps. Many of them sounded VERY good but...

    IMHO, none were able to better the vintage stuff I have. That said - these vintage amps all have been very well maintained ( mostly by Paul C ) and have nice strong tubes. There is a "sweetness" and a softness to them that I can't seem to get out of new amps ( and God knows I've tried )

    PLUS - most of my amps have at least doubled in value in the last few years. And I could easily and quickly sell any of them if I needed cash

    try THAT w/ a boutique amp !!

    ( again.. these "pro-vintage" thoughts are no surprise to anyone who knows me )
     
  12. PaulS2

    PaulS2 Member

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    That's a perfect description in a few words...."sweetness and softness".
     
  13. HHB

    HHB Member

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    I love vintage amps but got tired of the breakdowns, Carr and Tophat fit neatly into my plans
     
  14. Mickey Shane

    Mickey Shane apolitical Silver Supporting Member

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    I prefer to buy the old vintage amps. The modern amps cannot use the same components because many are no longer made that way. Even components that are still made the same don't have 50 years of settling in mojo.

    If I gigged with a '57 Bassman, or an '08 Carol Ann, I'd still bring a back-up.
     
  15. phusana

    phusana Member

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    If you're a collector and it seldom leaves the house, buy the vintage amp. Or if you're able and comfortable doing your own amp maintenance and upkeep, and you REALLY NEED to have that vintage amp on stage with you, go vintage.

    If you're a player and want great tone without worrying about your investment, or the amp making it through the gig, buy boutique. I have played some great boutique amps that have plenty of "mojo". To me "mojo" is plugging in and getting great sound.

    Headstrong is another great Fender style boutique company.
     
  16. jumpnblues

    jumpnblues Member

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    If it has "the tone" I'm looking for I don't care whether it's vintage or boutique. My Louis amps have "the tone"...that "smoothness and sweetness" for me and my ears. So, that's what I have. And over 47 years I've either owned or played most vintage Fender and many vintage Gibsons, Magnatones, and Silvertones. No Valcos though. I'd like to try one someday. I could also get along quite well with most Fender tweeds.


    Tom
     
  17. Uncle Pat

    Uncle Pat Member

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    I'm also in the "if it sounds good, use it" category, but I'd be leary about heavy gigging and pushing a vintage amp to it's limits on a regular basis.
    As it's increasing in value too, keeping it in pristine condition would be a factor for resale and investment purposes.
    Boutique stuff built with modern parts and construction techniques (learned from taking the old stuff apart and improving on it) is the better option for me.
    I guess I feel like I don't have to be as careful with it.

    Hell, I don't know...I'm just rambling.
     
  18. Walter Broes

    Walter Broes Member

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    If you have access to a good tech, there's nothing really wrong with a (quality!) vintage amp.
    I've played the same '68 Super Reverb on about 100/130 gigs a year for ten years straight, and it never acted up on me, ever. (but it got stolen a year and a half ago...)

    I've had extremely bad experiences with new pcb amps, every one I had developed problems within a year, and I plain stopped buying them fifteen years ago.

    Also own two tweed clones, one "kit", one "boutique", and both are great, but they sound a little ....."new"....for lack of a better term. I guess older amps, just like a lot of older speakers or guitars, have lost some harshness in the high trebles, to my ears anyway.
     
  19. Cowboy

    Cowboy Member

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    I have two really sweet old Fenders that I have used regualrly for years. Lately, I'm finding that I no longer want to get beer spilled on them, have ham-fisted rookie roadies drop them, or subject them to the myriad abuses which they were, frankly, designed to endure. :cool:

    Also, their increasing value calls the wisdom of such abuse into question. :MMM

    Resolved - I will crank them up around the house, and buy some shiny new boutique amps, and wring the hell outta them for a few decades. :BOUNCE

    I'll take stock again at that time.

    Cheers,
    Cowboy
     
  20. jay42

    jay42 Member

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    :agree OP wants a Brown Sugar, and there are good clips on the Allen site. http://www.allenamps.com/brownsugar.php
     

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