The Great Guitar Amp Search Continues

I’ve been looking for a low-wattage tube combo amp for quite some time. I did a lot of preliminary research on the web, and I thought I was going to like either a Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb ReIssue or a Fender ’65 Princeton ReIssue. I came to that conclusion based on my identified criteria:

  • plenty of clean gain, for when I use it in jazz settings
  • tube breakup when I need it, but controllable and not too loud (Master Volume important)
  • over all I feel I need something between 10 and 20 watts.
  • compliments the tones from my extensive pedalboard
  • not too bright – I like a balanced overall frequency spectrum
  • portable – I’d love to be able to throw it in the back seat and go.
  • multiple channels, for small gigs where I don’t bring my pedalboard
  • reverb would be nice but not essential

So I’ve gone to several stores and shops and tried out a lot of amps recently. One of the first things I noticed on side-by-side comparisons? ALL FENDERS ARE TOO STINKING BRIGHT. Compared to other brands, the Fenders are like an ice pick in the ear. Other brands I eliminated?

  1. Epiphone – I think they’re simultaneously muddy and abrasive.
  2. Marshall – I’ve just never been a Marshall guy. I don’t get it.
  3. Boogie – I had high hopes, but alas, it just wasn’t for me.
  4. Orange – I really don’t like the top end on this brand.
  5. Hughes & Kettner – nope.
  6. Laney Lionheart – loved the overdrive tone, but not enough clean gain.

SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US? Here’s my narrowed down list. I like all these amps. Look at the extreme price differential! The Bogner is clearly my favorite, but I just don’t have $2500 to spend on an amp.

So all you guitar players out there – what did I miss? Where is my thinking wrong? I admit I’d be nervous about buying a Bugera (basically a Behringer). There are lots of unknowns about its reliability. But come on VOX – no ‘verb? Really? In a $1500 amp?

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8 Comments on “The Great Guitar Amp Search Continues”

  1. Check out the Dr.z stuff

    • Rob Says:

      Dude, I bought a Line 6 Spider IV 120 at Guitar Center. I paid $350 (on sale) for it and I absolutely love it. The tone emulation is spectacular. It’s not really what you are looking for but you can’t beat the versatility. The only catch is the pedal board you need to really make the best use of the amp costs an additional $200.

  2. brandon Says:

    you could always search all over the internet for over a year to find an Sonic Machine Factory like i did. 15 watts. fits in my back seat… although it weighs more than a Vox AC30 i had. plenty of clean gain. two channels. breaks up really nicely, but not quite soon enough. for being a 15 watter it is louder than i thought it would be. and the most lush reverb i’ve ever had on an amp. handmade. class A. pc board.

    • jermtech Says:

      B, it does indeed work very well for you and your style/tone palette. But the combination of it’s late breakup, loud overall volume, and HF harshness in its overdrive would all be bad for my purposes.

      • brandon Says:

        which reminds me that i was meaning to ask you.. i was told that i could switch out and upgrade some of my tubes (EL-84’s) and that should take care of the HF harshness in my OD channel. Ben Sniders OD channel sounds leagues better than mine.. he doesnt even use an OD pedal.. thoughts?

  3. jermtech Says:

    I’ve heard that story, too. I used to own a Chandler Tube Driver pedal, which had a 12AX7 in it. I wanted something that broke up earlier and was a little smoother going into the breakup, and so I replaced it with a 12AT7 – which is what everyone told me I should do. Honestly, I couldn’t tell much of a difference. I sold the pedal.

  4. jermtech Says:

    Have you thought about asking SMF why two of the same model sound so different? Perhaps it’s your rectifier tube (if it has one?)

  5. brandon Says:

    SMF isn’t around anymore. Mark Sampson’s the guy that made them but he stopped SMF to form a new amplifier company called Bad Cat. Maybe they would know?

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