Will a good tube amp sound better at low volumes than a good modeler

still.ill

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I live in an apartment in NYC and am currently playing through a Fender Mustang II which sounds ok clean, but I don't really like any of the amp dirt so I use a Barber Direct Drive for gain. I'm contemplating getting a Mini Rectifier + cab (I've never had a head+cab rig) for about $1450 even though I know I won't be able to crank it. Would it sound better than modelers like the Mustang and Marshall Code at lower volumes?
 

monwobobbo

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6,210
totally depends on what your idea of "sounds good" is. i use a 50 watt 1x12 tube amp for practice and can't crank it either. so far it works fine for me. keep in mind that you will need to adjust your eq and gain settings. whether it sounds "better" is of course a matter of opinion.
 

De Batz

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2,716
Short answer to your question: no.
Long answer: Even a low power valve amp is not an apartment-appropriate volume when at half on the (master) volume. I've had a few - Cornell, Cornford, WEM, Laney and others - and I've found that these amps develop their sound well above the level you'd want to inflict on close neighbours. In a terraced house (or student digs) where the volume level of a trumpet or piano would be too much, you're better off with a much more tailorable sound from a modeller. You lose things as well, in particular that sense of plug-and-go that you get with a simple amp. You might like the sound of a valve amp in general, and perhaps be able to use one sound (a very clean sound, or a preamp-y overdrive sound) at apartment level, but for anything approaching versatility and tailorability, you will be better off with a good modeller.
My Mustang I sounded better than my Cornell Romany for almost any sound except seriously clean at volumes I could legitimately play in the house. In the cellar with a few layers of 'attenuation' between me and the neighbours, it's a different story.
 

vintagelove

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2,571
Personally, I have never heard a modeler do a clean I liked (they all sound very thin), so I would rather hear my BFSR on 1, than any modeler at any volume.

Distortion, it really depends on your preferences. Certainly for heavily processed/distorted sounds, I've heard some good stuff from a Kemper. Truthfully, you could put that next to a (insert your favorite high gain amp) with both on 1, and neither will recreate the cranked amp sound/feel.

I think the better question is, which do you want to improve? It sounds like you're not happy with the cleans, will the mesa be an improvement in the clean department? Or is it your priority to get a distorted sound you like, with a passable clean?
 

djd100

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3,113
My solution is various tube preamps and modeled tube power amps, via solid state power if using unpowered speakers.

If your preferred tube amp has a FX Loop you can put a Two Notes torpedo CAB in it to sound great at any SPL, or use a load box like the Two Notes Torpedo LIVE, or a load and reamp box like the Freyette power Station.

All of the above will give you real tube tone at any volume.

Modelers and tube amps sound different, though as to which you'll prefer you need to try them both at the SPL you be using them at. A modeler for bedroom volumes is the easier solution IMO.
 

still.ill

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3,222
Personally, I have never heard a modeler do a clean I liked (they all sound very thin), so I would rather hear my BFSR on 1, than any modeler at any volume.

Distortion, it really depends on your preferences. Certainly for heavily processed/distorted sounds, I've heard some good stuff from a Kemper. Truthfully, you could put that next to a (insert your favorite high gain amp) with both on 1, and neither will recreate the cranked amp sound/feel.

I think the better question is, which do you want to improve? It sounds like you're not happy with the cleans, will the mesa be an improvement in the clean department? Or is it your priority to get a distorted sound you like, with a passable clean?
My idea was maybe the Mesa even on 1-2 will have a better clean than the Mustang, and my drive pedals will sound better through the Mesa than a modeler
 

djd100

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3,113
If you put a Two Notes Torpedo CAB in your Mesa's FX Loop, you can drive it's tube power amp sims as hard as you like at any low SPL.

My idea was maybe the Mesa even on 1-2 will have a better clean than the Mustang, and my drive pedals will sound better through the Mesa than a modeler
 

halcyon

Silver Supporting Member
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3,474
I think so. My smallest amp is a Princeton Reverb, which is still pretty loud. All of my other amps (50-100w) have a really good master volume that makes them perfectly useable at TV volume. They sound great to me. I mean, obviously they sound *better* when they can really breathe, but they still sound great at lower volume levels.
 
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If you put a Two Notes Torpedo CAB in your Mesa's FX Loop, you can drive it's tube power amp sims as hard as you like at any low SPL.
Won't you still need to have the speaker hooked up to the amp? I didn't think the CAB had a loadbox in it?
 

dwoverdrive

Silver Supporting Member
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3,698
I think so. My smallest amp is a Princeton Reverb, which is still pretty loud. All of my other amps (50-100w) have a really good master volume that makes them perfectly useable at TV volume. They sound great to me. I mean, obviously they sound *better* when they can really breathe, but they still sound great at lower volume levels.
I have to agree with this. While tube amps sound best opened up a little, many have great preamp overdrive that makes quieter home use great too.
 

Phletch

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9,898
I live in an apartment in NYC and am currently playing through a Fender Mustang II which sounds ok clean, but I don't really like any of the amp dirt so I use a Barber Direct Drive for gain. I'm contemplating getting a Mini Rectifier + cab (I've never had a head+cab rig) for about $1450 even though I know I won't be able to crank it. Would it sound better than modelers like the Mustang and Marshall Code at lower volumes?
Mini Rec+1x12 Mini cab owner here. I assume that living in an NYC apartment means you don't want the neighbors to hear anything through the walls. In my experience the Mini Rec cleans will sound fine at whisper volumes, so that shouldn't be a problem; same with the OD channel, however, it's not the same without letting the amp breathe. For really low volume playing I find myself using my Wilson Lotus Drive OD pedal on the clean channel because it's easier to dial in a better OD at those low volume levels. With the band, though, the amp's OD just rules.

The Mini Rec is a great amp (imo, of course), super versatile for just about any kind of music, (again, imo), but it really shines when you can turn it up a bit. If you don't jam in a band or play out, there might be better options. If that's the case, I'd seriously consider one of these:
How about a Yamaha THR thingy?
.
 

rollyfoster

Silver Supporting Member
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16,097
I have a Mark V and it sounds really good at low volumes, partly because of the global output that lets you run the channel master volumes pretty high to get the tubes working. The global output is in a different section of the circuit and controls the overall volume without affecting the power section.

With the global output turned off the channel masters are responsible for volume like any other MV amp and need to be turned down at home so, while they still sound pretty good, it's not nearly the same experience as being able to get the power up. There's a huge difference in feel between having the master barely on and being able to get it to 11. If you want more gain from the preamp you may end up with a louder volume than you want even with the master barely nudged on...and at that point the feel isn't there.

I think the minirecs (I know the mini Marks) lack the global output so you'll need to rely on the channel masters which may or may not be the right solution depending on your needs.

When I don't feel like firing it up or if I want to play in another room, etc. I use a Yamaha THR10, which has really really nice gain sounds at any level. It's also a similar design in that there's a gain and master volume knob for the amp models and then a separate volume knob to control the overall level of the amp.

Honestly, you could probably find a used Mark V for around that price if you're interested in one.
 
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WillLane

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2,034
It will sound better than the Mustang and CODE stuff at any volume, for sure.

There are two issues with putting any amp at low volume: The first is that the human ear does not hear linearly at low and high volumes, from a speaker. Turn up the bass on the amp a little bit at low volumes, this helps. The second is power tube distortion is not achievable unless the amp is dialed in loud. Likely you are not needing power tube distortion though, and any amp with preamp and master volume controls will get you where you need to go, distortion-wise. You can also use attenuators.
 

stevel

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14,662
I own and use in the house (but actually gig too...) a Twin Reverb. Like many Fenders, the volume from about 1 to 2 is barely audible then it suddenly jumps at 2 to "loud enough" and by 3 is "too loud for home, loud enough for a gig".

I also have a Champion 600 and a Pro Junior.

In all cases, clean, at house volume, they all sound "good". However, there's certainly "sweet spots" on the smaller two amps that are at a volume louder than what would be considered home volume - I'd call them, "play out on the back deck" or "play in the garage" volume, or good rehearsal volume with a band - though mic'd you could gig with the PJ for sure (I have).

Neither of those are amps I'm going to crank for their gain tone, and the Twin is certainly not something you can do with that (windows will break before it does).

So I use pedals for dirt with all of them.

My son has a Mustang II and I have to say, at "inside volumes", the Twin model is every but as full as my Twin, with the primary difference being the single speaker instead of 212s. For $200, I was EXTREMELY pleased with that purchase for him (he also uses my old POD XT Live for effects and other gains, etc.). It sounds every bit as "good" for what he wants to use it for as mine gear does for me.

You have to understand that because people like those that inhabit TGP want to "crank it to get the goods", that's how those amps are designed (and of course historical precedent).

So generally speaking, no, an amp designed to sound great when its pushing itself is not going to sound good running under-powered (low volume). It's like Sammy Hagar said: "when I drive that slow you know it's hard to steer".

I can understand not liking the built in gains on the Mustang as a lot of times you get what you get with a modeller. That's why I've always used a clean amp with pedals because you can choose what gain structure you want by trying different pedals - but individual amps - especially those known for a particular type of gain structure - and models of those amps, are going to be one-trick ponies in that regard - and if you don't like that tone, well...

For overdrive/distortion, I'd stick with what you have. Because anything else you're going to have to run so low it's going to turn into a clean pedal platform anyway. Yes, a tube amp will likely sound "better" clean - but not one designed for be driven hard. For that, the modeller makes more sense.
 

still.ill

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Messages
3,222
I own and use in the house (but actually gig too...) a Twin Reverb. Like many Fenders, the volume from about 1 to 2 is barely audible then it suddenly jumps at 2 to "loud enough" and by 3 is "too loud for home, loud enough for a gig".

I also have a Champion 600 and a Pro Junior.

In all cases, clean, at house volume, they all sound "good". However, there's certainly "sweet spots" on the smaller two amps that are at a volume louder than what would be considered home volume - I'd call them, "play out on the back deck" or "play in the garage" volume, or good rehearsal volume with a band - though mic'd you could gig with the PJ for sure (I have).

Neither of those are amps I'm going to crank for their gain tone, and the Twin is certainly not something you can do with that (windows will break before it does).

So I use pedals for dirt with all of them.

My son has a Mustang II and I have to say, at "inside volumes", the Twin model is every but as full as my Twin, with the primary difference being the single speaker instead of 212s. For $200, I was EXTREMELY pleased with that purchase for him (he also uses my old POD XT Live for effects and other gains, etc.). It sounds every bit as "good" for what he wants to use it for as mine gear does for me.

You have to understand that because people like those that inhabit TGP want to "crank it to get the goods", that's how those amps are designed (and of course historical precedent).

So generally speaking, no, an amp designed to sound great when its pushing itself is not going to sound good running under-powered (low volume). It's like Sammy Hagar said: "when I drive that slow you know it's hard to steer".

I can understand not liking the built in gains on the Mustang as a lot of times you get what you get with a modeller. That's why I've always used a clean amp with pedals because you can choose what gain structure you want by trying different pedals - but individual amps - especially those known for a particular type of gain structure - and models of those amps, are going to be one-trick ponies in that regard - and if you don't like that tone, well...

For overdrive/distortion, I'd stick with what you have. Because anything else you're going to have to run so low it's going to turn into a clean pedal platform anyway. Yes, a tube amp will likely sound "better" clean - but not one designed for be driven hard. For that, the modeller makes more sense.

thats basically the core of the issue i'm asking about, will the tube amp sound better as a clean pedal platform at low volumes vs a modeler
 




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