Posted tagged ‘review’

The Great Guitar Amp Search Continues

April 8, 2010

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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I wanted to hate it.

March 9, 2010

Background: I have been looking for a low-wattage tube combo amp for a long time. I originally thought I would love the Fender Deluxe Reverb ’65 Reissue or the new Fender Princeton ’65 Reissue. After all, they have 22 and 15 watt designs, respectively. But after traveling to Sweetwater’s showroom and trying them out, my take-away is that they’re just TOO DANG BRIGHT. I like more fullness and tone out of my amps.

While on that trip, I was able to find two amps that I liked. One was the hand-wired Vox AC15 ($1399). I thought it was a very serviceable sound that could do a lot of things. But the one that sent me home raving was the Bogner Duende 1×10. I LOVED that amp. It had the perfect marriage of clean gain, full tone, and grit from the overdrive channel. Alas, the Bogner Duende 1×10 is freaking $2500!!!

Today, I traveled to Indy and went to Guitar Center. In the center display was something I wanted to make fun of – a Bugera V22 combo amp. I thought to myself – let’s plug it in and see what kind of shihacky sounds I can get out of it.

You see, I was prejudiced against the amp. Bugera (whose name sounds like you took a few of the most popular boutique amp makers and put them in a blender…primarily Bogner, Egnator, and Rivera) is made by parent company Behringer. Yes – THAT Behringer. The Behringer that got sued for reverse-engineering some of Mackie’s most popular mixer designs. The company that spits out dirt-cheap electronics products by “borrowing” from industry leaders. The Behringer that is well-known to be the “bottom-feeder” of music store gear.

I WANTED TO HATE IT.

But I didn’t. I sat there for nearly 30 minutes putting it through it’s paces – looking for weaknesses, comparing it to other amps I’ve played. But you know what? I actually liked it. I liked it a LOT.

Know what’s funny? The amp had a sticker on it that read, “$349”. Yes. Really.

You can read more about the amp here: http://www.bugera-amps.com/EN/products/V22.aspx

Idol Power Rankings, Top 9 (iTunes Week)

March 31, 2009

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Here are my Power Rankings for Top Ten week on Idol.
Previous Rankings: Top13 | Week 1 | Week 2 | Top 10

  1. Adam Lambert, “Play That Funky Music”. Adam is by FAR the most consistently awesome contestant. I think we are seeing the winner unfold before our eyes. Simply amazing. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to attempt next. He’s starting to distance himself from the other contestants. They all have a lot of catching up to do.
  2. Danny Gokey, “What Hurts The Most”. Danny is still one of my favorites on this show, but I wasn’t in sync with the judges this time. I felt he pushed a little hard and oversang it. He certainly did that on the big high note, (whch squeaked out) and might have been a little sharp on the very last note of the song. I did agree with Kara, though – he does bring his heart and soul every week.
  3. Kris Allen, “Ain’t No Sunshine”. When I heard the song he was singing, I was very skeptical – but I think he actually worked it out really well. I was pretty impressed after all. It turned out to be one of his best performances.
  4. Allison Iraheta, “Don’t Speak”. She continues to amaze me that she is just 16 years old. Her tone and control is astounding for that age. I really don’t get the whole judges commenting on her looks and dress so much. I don’t really care that much about it and it wasn’t that distracting to me. And having a daughter myself that is into Hannah Montana and HSM and iCarly and everything, I think what she wore is right in line with her age.
  5. Lil Rounds, “I Surrender”.¬† Celine Dion? Really? You can pick anything you want off the iTunes charts and you picked straight-up, white, adult contemporary? LIL – You are an R&B singer. Why do you keep running from that? The back half of the song was better than the beginning, but still – I don’t get it. You are an awesome singer – but WHY CELINE?
  6. Matt Giraud, “You Found Me”. He might have been feeling it, but I wasn’t. It was a class in Oversinging 101. Not good. It was back to the Matt that did Viva La Vida.
  7. Anoop Desai, “Caught Up”. I was really not impressed this week. Sorry Anoop. Perhaps you are just a balladeer. Everytime you try to do an uptempo song you prove how cheesy you are.
  8. Scott MacIntyre, “I Love You Just The Way You Are”. Scott, it may be time to go, buddy. That was not very good, dude. Cheesy. Cruise Ship. The opposite of something hip and contemporary. Kara and Simon were wrong. It was lame.
  9. Megan Joy Corkrey, “Turn Your Lights Down Low”. I am really tired of Lady Caw Caw’s act. Please send her home America!

Idol Power Rankings, Top 10 (Motown Week)

March 25, 2009

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Here are my Power Rankings for Top Ten week on Idol.
Previous Rankings: Top13 | Week 1 | Week 2

  1. Adam Lambert, “Tracks of My Tears”. I’m absolutely speechless. That was the performance of the year so far. Absolutely stunning. Beautiful. Passionate. Perfection.
  2. Danny Gokey, “Get Ready”. It was good. It was really good. But Adam was better. Danny drops a spot to #2 this week!
  3. Allison Iraheta, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”. She really brought it tonight! Very very good. She jumps up 4 spots from me this week!
  4. Anoop Desai, “Ooh Baby Baby”. I might be an outsider on this, but I really really liked it. The falsetto wasn’t perfect, but the feel and interpretation was dead ON. Simon’s criticism about showmanship was good feedback, I think.
  5. Matt Giraud, “Let’s Get It On”. I was very impressed at the beginning, but it turned a little “boy band” for me near the end. The judges seemed to really like it, though. I tend to judge ANYBODY who sings Marvin pretty harshly though – he’s one of the top male vocalists of all time in my opinion.
  6. Lil Rounds, “Heat Wave”.¬† Is it me or did she sound nervous and out of breath throughout the song? It sounded like she was struggling to keep up, and kind of oversinging it. I was expecting her to come out with this genre and just KILL, but I was kind of disappointed. I agreed with Kara completely.
  7. Kris Allen, “How Sweet It Is”. It was a really smart song choice for him. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m just not a big fan of Kris’s. He did a respectable job with the tune, but I’m just not impressed with him. It was OK – but again I say – So What? I think the girlies all just like the way he looks.
  8. Scott MacIntyre, “You Can’t Hurry Love”. I just figured it out. He’s Richard Carpenter! (Great composer/arranger/musician – but so-so vocalist.) He needs a Karen.
  9. Michael Sarver, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”. White boy got completely exposed this week. Simon was spot on accurate with his criticism.
  10. Megan Joy Corkrey, “For Once In My Life”. Lady Caw Caw finally showed us the truth tonght, and everyone saw it – including all 4 judges.

Song Suggestions for Idol’s Motown Week

March 21, 2009

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Adam Lambert: It would also be nice to see Adam’s softer side with “My Cherie Amour” (Stevie Wonder), but if he wants to keep the energy flowing, he could go with “I Was Made To Love Her” (Stevie Wonder).

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Allison Iraheta: “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted” (Jimmy Ruffin). This song has a lot of grit in the vocal, which would suit Allison nice.

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Anoop Desai: “Baby I Need Your Loving” (The Four Tops). My advice to Anoop is to keep capitalizing on how strong your vocal is and don’t fall victim to feeling like you have to do something wild.

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Danny Gokey: “Reach Out I’ll Be There” (Four Tops), or “Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours” (Stevie Wonder). Both songs would give Danny some optimum time in his power range and let his natural growl shine through.

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Kris Allen: It will really surprise me if Kris can do well in this round. I had a tough time finding a song I felt like he could pull off well. But Michael McDonald’s newer version of “I Second That Emotion” could work well for him because it has the white-boy funk/pop thing in the groove.

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Lil Rounds: Lil would absolutely kill “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Gladys Knight version).

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Matt Giraud: “For Once In My Life” (Stevie Wonder) or “Mercy Mercy Me”(Marvin Gaye)

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Megan Joy: What can I say? I think she’ll butcher any Motown song I throw out there – so maybe “Baby Love” (The Supremes)?

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Michael Sarver: “Groovin” (Marvin Gaye) or “Walk Away Renee” (Four Tops)

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Scott McIntyre: “How Sweet It Is” (James Taylor Version). If not that one, then I would definitely try to find some cover version that de-emphasizes the soul part and emphasizes the musicality.

Idol Power Rankings, Final Round Week 1

March 10, 2009

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Here are my Power Rankings for Week One of the Final Round. This was a really different week for me because normally I tend to agree with the judges – especially Simon and Kara. But tonight I think the studio sound must be very different from the over-the-air sound because I found myself disagreeing with the majority of their comments tonight. (Last week’s rankings can be found here.)

  1. Danny Gokey, “PYT”. The judges obviously loved it – it must have sounded awesome in the studio. Over the air, I thought it was a little shouty and he had a lot of adrenaline pushing him further than it should have been. But overall, I still loved it. He’s still my favorite.
  2. Adam Lambert, “Black or White”. Wow…I think he’s the only person to sing in Michael’s original key! He’s still a little screamy for me at times – but there’s something I really, really like about this kid.
  3. Matt Giraud, “Human Nature”. I was very impressed with this version – with the playing – with the singing…loved the song choice. Felt fresh. The falsetto is extremely hard to do live!
  4. Lil Rounds, “The Way You Make Me Feel”. I didn’t feel as good about this performance as the judges did, but still – she’s an awesome singer. It was a little safe., though
  5. Alexis Grace, “Dirty Diana”. Wow…this song got the Beyonce treatment in the verses, and the hard rock treatment in the choruses. Alexis can definitely sing…she’s got great tone and range. Overall it didn’t have me jumping out of my seat though.
  6. Scott MacIntyre, “Keep The Faith”. Unlike the judges, I thought this was very, very good. It was an excellent choice and it changed my opinion of him a litle bit. He did great and I liked it.
  7. Allison Iraheta, “Give In To Me”. Allison lost a couple of spots from me this week because she chose a boring, unknown song which had no range, and was pretty over-the-top grating on my nerves.
  8. Michael Sarver, “You Are Not Alone”. He did good for himself. He really can sing, and this performance was much better than I was expecting. But still, he’s not one of my favorites at all.
  9. Megan Joy Corkrey, “Rockin’ Robin”. Man, her stage moves are so awkward! Can’t say I’m a fan of this song choice. How is this performance relevant at all to trying to place her in today’s music market? Caw Caw!
  10. Jorge Nunez, “Never Can Say Goodbye”. Boring. Karoake. Old. Forgettable.
  11. Kris Allen, “Remember The Time”. Kris brought out the acoustic guitar this week, which I’m not sure really helped his cause as it didn’t really fit the style of the song. The pitch was off in places, and it just felt disjointed. As the song wore on, I was just begging for it to stop.
  12. Anoop Desai, “Beat It”. Are you kidding me? You follow one ridiculous song, My Prerogative, with one of the silliest songs from MJ that does not stand the test of time? It was silly. It was pitchy. It showed that Anoop does not belong here with the better singers in the competition. A horrible choice.
  13. Jasmine Murray, “I’ll Be There”. Over the air, her tone is brassy, shrill, obnoxious, grating, whatever word you want to use. You can hear the immaturity in her voice. I think she’s going home very soon.

Idol Power Rankings – Top 13

March 7, 2009

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We had an exciting week on Idol – a fierce wildcard round culminating in a first-ever Top 13 (instead of Top 12). If I had to vote right now, here’s the order of my picks:

  1. Danny Gokey, “Hero”. My opinion is he’s been pretty much flawless so far.
  2. Lil Rounds, “Be Without You”. She’s good. Reeeeeeeaaaaaaaal Good.
  3. Adam Lambert, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. What a range! You can tell that he’s grown up in musical theater, however – he’s got a little cheese to him. He also gets shrill on the top end. Will that get old fast?
  4. Alexis Grace, “I Never Loved A Man”. Wow. Pulling off the Etta tones and attitude is quite an acheivement. She has tons of upside.
  5. Matt Giraud, “Who’s Lovin’ You”. Matt has an unbelieveable voice – but the judges are right – he’s weak on personality and stage presence. He reminds me of the position Elliott Yamin was in.
  6. Allison Iraheta, “Alone”. At this point, I’m saying this year’s female rocker has more range, spunk, and fire than last year’s version – Amanda Overmeyer.
  7. Jasmine Murray, “Reflection”. Very ordinary. What are the judges seeing that I’m not seeing? They think she’s great. I think her tonal quality is quite brassy and harsh. I don’t get it.
  8. Anoop Desai, “My Prerogative”. How long can he get away with his campy appeal before it gets old? We’re going to find out.
  9. Jorge Nunez, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down”. The most “classical” or “traditional” of this year’s voices. Sadly, I just don’t think it’s quite good enough to go the distance.
  10. Scott MacIntyre, “Mandolin Rain”. I really WANT to like Scott. He’s a great story. I find myself rooting for him (even in spite of the Producers crammig him down our throats). The problem is simple though – he’s just not that great of a vocalist. He’s more of a musician who also sings, like many of his obvious influences.
  11. Megan Joy, “Black Horse & The Cherry Tree”. I really like the genre that Megan brings to the competition. The judges are right – it’s very different than the other contestants. That fun, new, folky, bubbly genre is right up her alley. The problem is, she’s just not that good! Her lower register is especially weak and prone to pushing sharp.
  12. Kris Allen, “Man In The Mirror”. Kris has potential but he’s going to have to do a ton better with song selection in the future. He was extremely lucky to make it through.
  13. Michael Sarver, “I Don’t Want To Be”. I still cannot believe that this dude is in the Top 13 – way to go, America! [sarcasm] It is an absolute travesty that this dude is here and Jamar Rogers is not.