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What will I be Missing Out on (mid vs. high priced EL-84 amps)

m.e.

Talking like a jerk except I am an actual jerk
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,360
I've never been much of an amp guy; I've always had a bunch of guitars but usually only one amp at a time. About 3 years ago, I decided that I needed something high-end, but couldn't make a decision on what to buy, so I ended up picking up an Ampeg J-20 as a temporary measure. I really liked the amp (and still do for certain sounds), and forgot about my search for a while. Well, fast-forward to a couple of months ago. I joined a two guitar band. The other guitarist has a Divided by 13 CCC 9/15, and I was pretty much blown away by the tone. In addition to sounding great, I noticed that he cut through much better than I did, even when we were at comparable volumes. So hearing the Divided by 13 got me thinking that I really need to get something else. I started going back through new and old records that I like, and one common thread between the guitar tones I liked was that they were typically made by EL-84 amps, so that's what I've focused on. I'm a pretty heavy pedal user - I use either an Earthquaker Devices White Light, an AnalogMan modded OD9, or a Fairfield Barbership for OD, and I also use a couple of different delays. My budget is somewhat limited. My top end is about $1500. Based on the research I've done so far, I've narrowed my choices down to:

Avatar 18w Head w/ Traditional Cab (1x12"): Price-wise, this amp is so appealing. The audio clips I've heard sound almost excactly what I'm looking for. I e-mailed Dave with a question about clean headroom and he got back to me right away, which was great.

Winfield Cyclone or Winfield + 1x12 Cab: I actually almost bought a Winfield 18w before I purchased my Ampeg. This time around I'm looking at both the Cyclone and the Winfield.

Watch Craigslist for something used: Used Dr. Z Maz 18 Jrs, Bad Cats, etc. come up pretty frequently on my local CL (I'm in Orange County, CA), so my other thought is to wait it out to see if anything great, that I might not be able to afford new, comes up.

I should probably also mention that I was initially really excited about the new Vox handwired series, but I've read so much about how AC15s/30s are finicky about ODs that I reluctantly dismissed them.

Right now, I'm leaning toward the Avatar. Largely this is due to the clips I've heard, feedback I've read here, and price.

My major question is, are there specific things I'll miss out on if I don't go for something in a higher price range (say, $2500 or so)? Is there anything specific that I should keep in mind? I know that a lot of deciding on an amp is preference (and a lot of it can't be quantified), but I don't want to buy something now and regret it later.
 

Crowder

Dang Twangler
Messages
19,073
I'm sure the Avatar 18 watter is solid, but you can get a lot of bang for your buck buying other, more refined 18-watt Marshall derivatives on the used market. For $1200-1400 you can probably choose from Reinhardt, Blankenship, Soultone, Retro King, Goodsell Labrador 20, etc. as they pop up here or on Guitar Center's used site.

I got an early Reinhardt 18 combo for $1199 plus tax and shipping via Guitar Center Used. It popped up in a Texas GC and they shipped it here for less than $30. It's killer, much better than the Marshall 1974X handwired reissue it replaced (which in itself may be a cut above the Avatar version of the same thing).

There's a nice Morgan MV23 listed here that would fit the bill very well. Great pedal platform!
 
Last edited:

dspellman

Senior Member
Messages
8,309
If you're in Orange County, you want to haul your butt up to the LA Amp Show the end of this month (Google it) near the Van Nuys airport. More EL84 amps there than you can shake your stick at, and a chance to talk to the people that build them and a chance to try them out at volume.

You're generally NOT going to miss out on something by staying away from the high-end on these things. Honestly, one of my all-time favorite EL84 amps is a Hasserl-modded Carvin Belair (Google both Hasserl Mods and Carvin Belair) with a pair of well-broken-in Vintage30's. Well within your budget, with boutique-level sound. Okay, you might miss out on some fancy wood and tolex on the cabinets, but there are no exotic parts in most EL84 amps. Nor is there a voicing that hasn't been done yet.
 

mageerc

Member
Messages
242
Get one of the guys in the Trainwreck forum of The Amp Garage to build you a Rocket... fantastic sound, great pedal platform... those guys know their stuff!
 

m.e.

Talking like a jerk except I am an actual jerk
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,360
I got an early Reinhardt 18 combo for $1199 plus tax and shipping via Guitar Center Used. It popped up in a Texas GC and they shipped it here for less than $30. It's killer, much better than the Marshall 1974X handwired reissue it replaced (which in itself may be a cut above the Avatar version of the same thing). pedal platform!
Awesome. Thanks for the tip. I hadn't thought about checking GC's used inventory. I tend to stay as far away from them as I can for new stuff, but it looks like their used prices are pretty good. A Reinhardt might be cool. I think I read that Bob is not making amps anymore.

Also, thanks dspellman and mageerc for the additional tips. I didn't know about the LA amp show, and honestly hadn't given a Trainwreck clone much thought!

As luck would have it, my budget has gone up a bit. Due to an unexpected bonus at work, I now have about $2500 to work with, max. I'm probably still going to try to stay around $1500 for my amp purchase, but more options are good, I guess.
 




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