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Old 03-12-2010, 05:36 PM
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Guitar amp shopping!


OK, I've started a quest for a small amp. This thread probably won't be as fun as the Guitar Shopping thread, but I thought it might be interesting to give it a spin. My quest began in the Reload this Page Guitar Heads - Your Rig - Your Tone thread, where the GAS finally took hold of me. I'll just quote my post there to get started:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Squeegee
I asked MrsSqueegee if I could have an amp for my birthday next month, and she didn't even turn around, just tossed a "sure!" over her shoulder. Of course this was just after she finished the taxes and found out we have a damned fine refund coming (you gotta love those quarterly estimated taxes), so I may have a limited window of opportunity.

Damn, what am I going to get? My params are humble -- I don't gig and I don't know anyone who plays; the amp is just for my enjoyment. I like a saturated tone like SRV but also warm/clean for the jazzy stuff my guitar teacher gives me (yes, 30 years playing as a hobby and I decided to take more lessons -- I was in a rut, and its worked out pretty good so far, my teacher has me thinking outside the pentatonic box). I think I want something all-tube, really traditional, and I'll juice it with outboard stuff as needed. I already have a POD, Guitar Rig software, blah blah, but I want to try living with that pure tube tone everyone talks about. I also don't want to have an overpowered amp for my situation, where I need to blow out the windows of my office to get tone. I do have a detached office, so I can get really loud if I want that, but most times I'd rather not.

I tried out the Fender Blues Junior everyone here seems to like, and once I got a boost pedal hooked up it had a nice growl, and a great clean tone. I was using a Mex Tele, which is close to what I'd play at home. The store had several shredder kids playing unfortunate Line 6 tones, so I didn't feel much like exploring other brands at that moment, I just spent maybe 30 minutes with the FBjr. I thought the Fat mode wasn't all that fat, and everything turned up sounded really clean unless I tortured the preamp with the boost pedal. I may just have to buy the thing and wring it out within GC's 30-day money-back policy.

I think my budget is maybe $400-$700. Is that a realistic price point for a, I dunno, 15-30 watt tube amp?
Next: more shopping (dun dun dunnnnn!)
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Old 03-12-2010, 06:01 PM
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So I just got back from Guitar Center, and tried out six amps today. I borrowed a Proco Rat and a patch cable from the GC effects counter, hoping to get some replication of the Tone that Wordman touts (Proco distortion to 1 or 2, gain to 11, then use it to punish the input stage of a tube amp, and turn down the guitar pots down a bit).

Up first was a Traynor Custom 20 combo, 1x12. Used (and mint, IMO), $299. I think it was [url=http://www.traynoramps.com/products.asp?type=3&cat=63&id=251]this amp[url], it looked identical and the specs match -- 15w, Celestion Greenback, etc. I thought this amp totally rocked -- nice cleans, good (not great) crunch, brutal lead tones if the boost pedal is on. And cheap, to boot! This is a $600-ish amp. Definitely on my list. I feel like I should just go get this one before it gets away.

Next up, an Egnater Rebel 20 (product link), $579 w/o speaker cab ($249 for 1x12 Egnater cab) This very cool amp head is a really interesting design -- you can dial the watts to 1 watt or 20 watts. And 1 watt from this thing was still really loud! There was so much to fiddle with on that thing I feel like it would take weeks of playing to really wrap my head around what to do with it to get different tones. In any case, it sounded really really good, and the Proco tortured it well for dirt, and it cleaned up fairly well. One downside is the price -- $828+tax for a stack is outside of my comfort zone, so I don't think I'll be getting this one. Definitely an interesting setup, though.

Next: more amps!
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Old 03-12-2010, 06:16 PM
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I have a blues jr. and love it. It is a tube amp as opposed to solid state and is well regarded among player as far as use as a "Bedroom amp". I play a Mexican Standard Strat and an Ibanez electric/acoustic through it with a Digitech RP90 modeling prossesor for effects. Many people will tell you it is a good amp for the money. Plenty loud for noodling around on in the house and or garage.
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Old 03-12-2010, 06:24 PM
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Next up was a Peavey Valve King, 50w 1x12, $399. I liked this amp pretty well, but I think it was much more than I needed. Clean channel was bright and lively, boost channel was -- wow! boosty, very nice crunch, insane over saturated tones. I didn't spend much time with this amp, mostly because it was too much power and not really my tone spectrum. In retrospect (after looking at Peavey's web site), I should have asked if they had a Classic30, which would be much more in line with what I'm looking for. I'll go back and see if they have one. Next!

Now we get to the Fender portion of the show, a Fender Blues Junior NOS, 1x12, $579. (linkity). I'd tried a different Blues Junior previously, and it was okay. I used a straight boost pedal sans dirt last time, and it sounded great clean or barely dirting, but didn't deliver that well. This amp, with the Proco, sounded aMAZing when the preamp was really cooking. Totally, utterly rocked. This particular Blues Jr has a different speaker than the 'normal' Bjr's. I tried a different lesser Bjr, and that speaker made a huge difference, much much punchier on the NOS version. That said, Guitar Center had the "unleaded" Bjr's marked down to <$400, so maybe I should just get one and swap out the speaker?

The last amp was a VOX custom classic ac551, 1x12, $579. I need to go back and play this amp again, because I didn't get a good impression. It looked like there should be two channels on the thing, but there was no switch on the panel; there must have been a foot-switch missing, but it wasn't around, and my Help Sales Person (he actually was really helpful) wasn't to be seen at that moment. So I just messed around, and got some basic clean, and just a little dirty out of the amp, and came away unimpressed. Which is odd, because these amps have a really good rep, so something wasn't right.

At that point I finally had road-stare and felt I'd tried out a decent selection, so I called it a day.

Urgent request: Anyone have an opinion on Traynor amps? That 15w combo for $299 may walk away, and as much as I'm drawn the Bjr, that Traynor really rocked, and its a steal! I may just go buy it tonight, but I don't know if the amp or company have good street cred or should be avoided. Thoughts? Anyone?

Last edited by squeegee; 03-12-2010 at 06:26 PM.
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Old 03-12-2010, 07:31 PM
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Well, hell: I just checked with the local GC, and used gear has the same return policy as new, 30 days, no questions asked. I feel like I should sleep on this decision, but that Traynor is cheap and really sounded good. I've seen some hate online for the 'dirty' channel of that amp, but everyone likes the clean channel and some boost the clean channel to get tone.

Anyone feel like dissuading me from that amp?
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Old 03-12-2010, 07:51 PM
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Sleeping with G.A.S. is a bich ain't it? Pull the trigger, man!
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Old 03-14-2010, 03:43 PM
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OK, I pulled the trigger and bought the Traynor, basically because I didn't want it to walk away, and I can evaluate it under GCs' 30-day return policy and take it back if it doesn't do what I want. I also bought the Proco Rat, it seems like a darned useful tool whichever amp I end up with.

So, after a couple of days with it, some observations -

Plus:
- I really like the sound of the amp if I overdrive the clean channel using the Rat (distortion = 1, filter = 9, volume = 9). I can get that tubey rhythm sound that I think Wordman describes, overdriving the amp but turning the guitar volume to 3-5. Very nice Aerosmith or Stones (Start me up, brown sugar) tone, very classic. Loud as hell, too.

Minuses:
- The clean channel, when actually run clean, has very little volume even turned up all the way. I have to juice the gain on that channel to get decent voume, which dirties it up more than I'd like for some things.
- I'm still getting used to it, but I think I lean toward not liking the overdrive channel very much. Overdriving the clean channel totally rocks, but the overdrive channel is much too harsh (with or without a pedal) at moderate gain levels.
- The reverb doesn't sound very good above level 2. Above 5 it sounds like crap. Luckily I don't really use reverb, so I can overlook that.

So, I'm definitely finding my way with this thing, and I'll need to wring it out a lot more. Opinions subject to change without notice.
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Old 03-14-2010, 03:54 PM
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crap - I have to run to a meeting (yes, on a Sunday - we're at a weekend-long planning retreat).

I love what you are trying out - I don't know that Traynor, but if you are comparing it to a Blues Jr + Rat combo at least you are a/b comparing with a known quantity.

Glad to hear that the Rat seems to give good tone for you - I know the circuit has changed since I got mine 30 years ago () but I have heard they are going back to some of the original circuits.

I will read this later and see what I can offer. I will be very interested in your thoughts about a tube amp vs. your home theater rig - I am in NO way looking for you to trash one vs. the other - just understand what you are hearing - AND what you are feeling in terms of responsiveness to different strum/pick heaviness. But again, that may come over time...

Have to run!
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Old 03-14-2010, 05:25 PM
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A question to the other players: to get an amp with a great and respectably loud clean tone (please read my comment above about the Traynor clean volume), do I need to head north of 15 watts? I need to go back to GC and play that Blues Jr again, and that will likely answer this question, but still -- in general, if you want to play clean (and a little warmth is fine), are more watts needed/better?
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Old 03-14-2010, 06:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegee View Post
A question to the other players: to get an amp with a great and respectably loud clean tone (please read my comment above about the Traynor clean volume), do I need to head north of 15 watts? I need to go back to GC and play that Blues Jr again, and that will likely answer this question, but still -- in general, if you want to play clean (and a little warmth is fine), are more watts needed/better?
Hey sir - meeting just ended; off to a dinner

The short answer is - it depends on how much clean headroom you want. I know you have read some of my stuff on amps - if you crank a tube amp much past 5 it will get dirty. You don't care about it as much with a crunchy tone for obvious reasons.

If you don't like the crunch tone of the amp it may not be the amp for you - ideally what you can do is, if it has two channels, use the clean for clean and use the crunchy channel with the amp's on-board Gain rolled off and use the Rat to drive the amp. A lot of low $ amps have poor-sounding Gain circuits, so you would basically be trying to reduce the influence of that circuit and use the Rat instead. I am concerned about your not getting enough loudness out of the clean channel. 15watts should be plenty for home jamming - if you really don't think it is loud enough clean then that sounds like it would be more solid state vs. tube...

I need to think about this...and go to dinner...
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Old 03-14-2010, 08:00 PM
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Dang I just saw this thread after I posted in the "noob guitar" thread.

I see you already bought the Traynor; I hope it works out for you.

I'da recommended a Fender Champ 12. They only made them for 5 years (1987-1992), but they are great little amps. I have one with a faux-snakeskin cover and it's been, well, a champ for me for 20 years now.

Comes with a stomp petal, but I actually just use the clean channel with distortion provided by my Zoom board. This little sucker is loud, too. I once had the construction crew next door come and ask me to turn down; they couldn't hear their jackhammers!*



*Seriously, that's just a little joke there. It really is loud as fuck tho.
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Old 03-14-2010, 09:26 PM
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The short answer is - it depends on how much clean headroom you want.
Well, I'd like get a tone kinda like this stuff my guitar teacher is giving me lately, at a decent volume. And, yes, I didn't buy a tube amp for the clean tone, but I was expecting it to have a usable, warm one in a pinch. And it really isn't very loud; I set clean-channel volume to 10 and gain to 2-3, and my son's GDEC on clean wipes the floor with that amp. So, yeah, this is a problem. OTOH, my experience with the BJr is it *only* does clean tones, pretty loud too, unless you overdrive it with a pedal. I'll go back to GC on Monday and play some more with it. But, ouch, it is twice the price of the other one.

Anyway I want to give the Traynor amp a week or so before I decide if its staying or leaving. I haven't brought a tube amp home since I was 19, so getting to know this one, even if it goes back to GC, is worth doing.

I guess I'm also measuring the tone against the POD2 I've had for several years. I really like the clean channel on the POD -- its a basic tone, but it can be articulate, adding appropriate warmness or gentle dirt when I lean on the guitar a bit. Also the POD crunch sounds really good, but I think I'm getting an pretty sweet punchy crunch leaning on the clean channel of the Traynor with that Rat. I just want a good clean channel from it!
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Old 03-14-2010, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by squeegee View Post
Well, I'd like get a tone kinda like this stuff my guitar teacher is giving me lately, at a decent volume. And, yes, I didn't buy a tube amp for the clean tone, but I was expecting it to have a usable, warm one in a pinch. And it really isn't very loud; I set clean-channel volume to 10 and gain to 2-3, and my son's GDEC on clean wipes the floor with that amp. So, yeah, this is a problem. OTOH, my experience with the BJr is it *only* does clean tones, pretty loud too, unless you overdrive it with a pedal. I'll go back to GC on Monday and play some more with it. But, ouch, it is twice the price of the other one.

Anyway I want to give the Traynor amp a week or so before I decide if its staying or leaving. I haven't brought a tube amp home since I was 19, so getting to know this one, even if it goes back to GC, is worth doing.

I guess I'm also measuring the tone against the POD2 I've had for several years. I really like the clean channel on the POD -- its a basic tone, but it can be articulate, adding appropriate warmness or gentle dirt when I lean on the guitar a bit. Also the POD crunch sounds really good, but I think I'm getting an pretty sweet punchy crunch leaning on the clean channel of the Traynor with that Rat. I just want a good clean channel from it!
First of all - dinner was great; thanks for asking I had some tempura asparagus and grilled oysters and then the seared ahi tuni.

Far more importantly it sounds like you are approaching this the right way. Bottom line is that tube amps are weird beasts compared to easy and straightforward digital amps or PODs. The first thing you need to do is get to know a tube amp and get a feel for whether your playing benefits from what a tube amp can do. Meaning: some folks play a heavy-gain style or use so many effects that the stuff a tube amp can do doesn't really outweigh the benefits of a digital multi-effect rig. You say yourself that your POD gives you good cleans and you hear the extra grit in the tone when you push it. Hey - that's a good thing and it may be all you need...

...but. if you are digging that Traynor clean + Rat crunch tone you are getting and you live with it a bit and find that it is somehow interesting in a new way...well, that *could* mean you are getting a feel for tubes. Trying playing some Who or stuff where you play picky quiet stuff and then unleash the fury (just like Yngwie! except not really ) If you find that it just sounds really cool when you go from really soft / cleanish to big and large, then you may be on your way.

Learning Hank Garland is totally cool - jeez what a brilliant player - but that is not the point. At this point what you want to do is figure out if the amp is meeting your needs - all trying to play Garland clean tells you is that you aren't getting the tone you want yet.

The fact that the Blues Jr. is so much louder clean AND can sound great with a distortion box in front of it leads me to believe that the Traynor is not your amp. You should continue to mess with the settings to see if you can get a good clean and a good crunch tone, but I suspect it will help you start to get a feel for tubes but not much more. A BJr can handle effects pedals well for an inexpensive amp - and, to be clear, that is a big deal; when you read up on amps a key criteria in rating them is whether they are pedal-friendly; many are not.

Keep playing and getting a feel. You were smart to get the amp with a 30-day return - I always try to live with new gear a week or two before I draw conclusions simply because I go in with certain expectations and sometimes the gear has to educate me about that I should really be looking for from it.
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Old 03-15-2010, 01:04 AM
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Quote:
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Keep playing and getting a feel. You were smart to get the amp with a 30-day return - I always try to live with new gear a week or two before I draw conclusions simply because I go in with certain expectations and sometimes the gear has to educate me about that I should really be looking for from it.
Great advice in your whole post, but wanted to point out that Sam Ash has the same return policy: 30 days, no questions asked.

I can't even begin to tell you how many wah pedals I've taken home and returned over the years, always deciding that I like the Gibson wah I rebuilt better than the new ones.
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Old 03-15-2010, 02:46 AM
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Gibson Wah?
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Old 03-15-2010, 03:01 AM
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Are you refering to a relic by the name of "Boomerang" by any chance? That pedal was made by the Gibson subsidiarie Maestro in the 70's.
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Old 03-15-2010, 03:04 AM
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Are you refering to a relic by the name of "Boomerang" by any chance? That pedal was made by the Gibson subsidiarie Maestro in the 70's.
That's the one. I found one in a pile of junk back in like 1990 or so, rebuilt it, and have been using it ever since (on the rare occasions that I need a wah sound).
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Old 03-15-2010, 11:33 AM
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I have a 15W Peavey amp that I bought back in the 90's. I was a poor college student, so I figured that I could use that as a practice amp and upgrade if I ever needed to.

Now I have a mortgage, car payment, kids and taxes. I went to a jam party a couple weeks ago where everyone brought their own amps. Even cranked and standing next to it, I could barely hear it over the other amps.

I would love a 30W amp if I could somehow convince my wife. Since I don't play lead, I don't really have a need for a tube amp which opens my options up quite a bit since I can get a good quality 30W digi amp for a lot cheaper than than a 30W tube amp.
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Old 03-15-2010, 11:50 AM
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I play 3 amps:

1) 1970's silverface Fender Bassman Ten. This is basically a Bassman combo (4x10), but with the headroom of a Twin. It's loud and clean, with all of that Bassman punch.

2) 1969 Ampeg B-25 head. I don't know what it is about bass amps for guitar. I generally love the sound of 'em. This one is also loud and clean, but has slightly less headroom, and if I really push it, it can get into that wonderful '70's sludge rock sound easily.

3) Peavey Classic 30 head. Sometimes shat upon by elitists, this is a fantastic amp. It's loud and versatile, with good headroom, but a nice OD sound. It has two channels (and the distortion sounds good!), an great-sounding effects loop, nicely musical reverb, and a treble boost (which I never use. I'm basically a Tele guy.)
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Old 03-16-2010, 01:35 AM
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So, I'm just curious -- what is the next step above Blues Junior in the Fender all-tube lineup? Looking at their web site it appears to be a Hot Rod Deluxe, 40w 1x12, $989 msrp. Is that about right? I find Fender's amp lineup confusing as heck.
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Old 03-16-2010, 02:20 AM
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So, I'm just curious -- what is the next step above Blues Junior in the Fender all-tube lineup? Looking at their web site it appears to be a Hot Rod Deluxe, 40w 1x12, $989 msrp. Is that about right? I find Fender's amp lineup confusing as heck.
Yup. Sam Ash has em for $699.00
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Old 03-16-2010, 09:21 AM
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So, I'm just curious -- what is the next step above Blues Junior in the Fender all-tube lineup? Looking at their web site it appears to be a Hot Rod Deluxe, 40w 1x12, $989 msrp. Is that about right? I find Fender's amp lineup confusing as heck.
I can't keep up with their amp lines - and I can't always tell what is fully digital, digital with some sort of quasi-tube circuit so they can claim that the pre-amp or power amp has a tube in it (which, if there is a lot of digital circuitry, doesn't really behave like a tube amp - it's just a spice), or fully tube.

Check with Crotalus regarding HR Deluxes - he has one. I believe he will tell you - and their rep - is *great* cleans, but not so great crunchy. The on-board crunch circuit is not so good, and they are not all that effect-friendly when it comes to distortion boxes (they take choruses, delays and other time effects well, though).

Why are you looking to go bigger? A Blues Jr is a gig-level amp - it can get over drums if you ever need to...
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Old 03-16-2010, 11:56 AM
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The trouble with new Fender tube amps, in addition to the widely held opinion that the crunch circuit is not that good (which I agree with), is that they are simply priced too high for what they are. $1000 for a new HRD is just ludicrous to me, when there are better, older Fender amps (esp. silverfaces) that can be gotten for less. Hell, my local mom 'n pop has a brownface (1960) Bandmaster quarter stack for $1000.
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Old 03-16-2010, 12:29 PM
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Hell, my local mom 'n pop has a brownface (1960) Bandmaster quarter stack for $1000.
WANT!
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Old 03-16-2010, 12:32 PM
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Me too. Dibs!
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Old 03-16-2010, 09:25 PM
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Why are you looking to go bigger? A Blues Jr is a gig-level amp - it can get over drums if you ever need to...
Like I said, I'm just curious. I think the Bjr is probably plenty loud, but I just haven't gotten a chance to go back to GC and experiment with it again. If the clean-tone loudness is a fail, then I was wondering what the next step up is. I doubt I would need to take that step, just wondering out loud.
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Old 03-16-2010, 09:31 PM
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Missed the edit window:

Isn't another plus buying Fender is that it holds resale value really well? I see them in craigslist for around $400-$500, which is pretty close to the GC price for a new one. If I keep the Traynor, it seems likely I'd never be able to unload it if I tired of it.

Another question I posed above: I was in love with that Blues Junior NOS, and it sounded much better than the regular Blues Junior, I would guess because of that Jensen speaker. Is it a reasonable expectation that I could buy one of the cheaper Bjr's, swap in a speaker, and I'd get basically the same tone as that NOS?
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Old 03-16-2010, 10:22 PM
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Missed the edit window:

Isn't another plus buying Fender is that it holds resale value really well? I see them in craigslist for around $400-$500, which is pretty close to the GC price for a new one. If I keep the Traynor, it seems likely I'd never be able to unload it if I tired of it.

Another question I posed above: I was in love with that Blues Junior NOS, and it sounded much better than the regular Blues Junior, I would guess because of that Jensen speaker. Is it a reasonable expectation that I could buy one of the cheaper Bjr's, swap in a speaker, and I'd get basically the same tone as that NOS?
I wouldn't worry too much about this. Traynor amps definitely have their fans. I've owned two of them, which I liked very much. In the end, I was able to get good money for both of them.

I gigged pretty hard for two years with a YBA-200 bass amp. It had loads of wallop. Great sounding amp. I also had a YCV40WR (essentially the 40-watt version of yours) for some time. These amps are basically the Traynor answer to the Fender line (YCV20 for the Blues Jr., and YCV40 for the HRD.) They are really nice sounding amps, but they suffer from the same problem the Fender amps do - the crunch channel ain't that cool.

Now, I used to run a good crunch pedal into the clean channel and never switch channels on the amp. This works very well, for both the Fender and Traynor amps. And the clean channel on both these amps is very, very good.

I eventually got rid of both of mine in order to upgrade, and because I like used gear. I like the old stuff, and in a lot of cases, the old stuff still costs less than the newer lines.

Last edited by Ogre; 03-16-2010 at 10:23 PM.
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Old 03-16-2010, 10:29 PM
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Addendum: but I don't know how much demand for the YCV20 there is. I know I considered buying one for a while, but eventually found my Bassman Ten, which I fell in love with.
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Old 03-17-2010, 07:56 AM
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I have had my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe for six years. I am by no means a tone expert, but hereís my review of the amp. The clean tone is great, a nice typical Fendery sound with lots of subtle harmonics that make chords sound rich and lovely while giving a bit of fatness to single notes. It provides lots of clean headroom; this is a loud amp. I like the overdrive circuit; to my ears it gives me the crunch and sustain that I want out of an overdriven tube amp. When I bought this amp, I sold my vast collection of distortion pedals. The Hot Rod gave me all of the distorted tone I needed for the rock band gigs I was playing when I bought it.

There was a problem with the master volume pot on these amps that Fender may have since corrected. They used a linear pot for the master volume, which meant that somewhere between 2 and 3 the amp would reach a very loud volume that was verging on too loud to use. This effectively meant that the master volume knob had a usable range that was too narrow for fine adjustments, and made it very touchy and difficult to adjust. I bought an audio taper pot and took it to an authorized Fender repair shop where they installed the pot and told me that they would not consider my warranty voided by the modification. This pot increases the volume of the amp much more gradually, making it much easier to use. If you decide to by a Hot Rod, and if Fender still ships them with the linear pot, you will probably want to change to an audio pot.

I paid $499 for my amp at Musicianís Friend in 2004. At the time, it was a bargain-priced all-tube amp, but due to price increases for the Hot Rod and new entries in the market, it seems like less of a bargain now. If I needed an amp now, I would probably buy the Epiphone Valve Junior combo and use a ProCo Rat to push it over the edge, since it doesn't have an overdrive channel.
  #31  
Old 03-17-2010, 04:11 PM
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There was a problem with the master volume pot on these amps that Fender may have since corrected. They used a linear pot for the master volume
Wow, that's really surprising. It's not like log vs linear pots are a big mystery in audio electronics. Talk about bone-headed.
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Old 03-17-2010, 04:22 PM
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OK, so I went and did it. I now have both the Fender BJr and the Traynor sitting side-by-side in my office at home. Mwah Ha ha ha ha!! Now I have 25 days left in my evaluation window before I have to return one to Guitar Center, and I can really do a head-to-head comparison at my leisure.

It gets better: I went to buy the Blues Junior NOS @ $579, and they were out of stock. After I reminded the sales guy that I'd gotten a flyer from GC which said "DEMO CLEARANCE ON ALL FENDER TUBE TONE! limited quantities, demo units only, prices too low to print!", he got on the horn with someone, and I got the demo amp for $399. Score!
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Old 03-17-2010, 04:35 PM
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I recently bought a B-52 AT-100. A 100 watt 2x12 combo.

This amp rocks. It has great dirty tones, you can dial anything from a little bit dirty to 'I'm gonna rip out your heart' evil gain. The clean tones are quite nice as well. The only down side to the amp is that the reverb kinda sucks. Since I am using it mostly for recording, that isn't a big deal. Oh, also the amp is LOUD.

If you can find one in the stores try one out. I think they recently stopped making them for some reason.

Slee
  #34  
Old 03-17-2010, 04:43 PM
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Wow, that's really surprising. It's not like log vs linear pots are a big mystery in audio electronics. Talk about bone-headed.
The rumor around the various boards and websites I frequented that taught me about the problem and the solution was that Fender used the linear pot to impress young players with how loud the amp was. Who knows? All I know is that the amp was very difficult to use without the simple modification.
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Old 03-17-2010, 04:58 PM
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Ha! I just noticed that on this BJr, all the knobs go to 12!! Is this a "vintage Fender" thing, or a Spinal Tab reference?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crotalus
Fender used the linear pot to impress young players with how loud the amp was
Wow, that's truly bizarre. Now I'm going to look for that not-feature on amps next time I'm in GC. Weird!

Anyway, thanks for the detailed review of the HRD!

Last edited by squeegee; 03-17-2010 at 05:00 PM.
  #36  
Old 03-17-2010, 05:00 PM
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OK, so I went and did it. I now have both the Fender BJr and the Traynor sitting side-by-side in my office at home. Mwah Ha ha ha ha!! Now I have 25 days left in my evaluation window before I have to return one to Guitar Center, and I can really do a head-to-head comparison at my leisure.

It gets better: I went to buy the Blues Junior NOS @ $579, and they were out of stock. After I reminded the sales guy that I'd gotten a flyer from GC which said "DEMO CLEARANCE ON ALL FENDER TUBE TONE! limited quantities, demo units only, prices too low to print!", he got on the horn with someone, and I got the demo amp for $399. Score!
TOTAL Score! Yay you!

Let us know how the Great Amp Comparo(tm) goes and any observations / questions you may have...
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Old 03-17-2010, 05:12 PM
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Ha! I just noticed that on this BJr, all the knobs go to 12!! Is this a "vintage Fender" thing, or a Spinal Tab reference?

Wow, that's truly bizarre. Now I'm going to look for that not-feature on amps next time I'm in GC. Weird!

Anyway, thanks for the detailed review of the HRD!
When anyone (especially WordMan) talks about an amp that goes to 11, I mention that mine goes to 12. That's one more, right?

I did the best I could on my review of the HRD. I have a lot to learn about tone, but the HRD is a very usable amp for me, with the MV mod. It has taught me to check out the nature of the volume controls on any amp I test drive.
  #38  
Old 03-27-2010, 08:29 PM
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Just to start wrapping up this thread, I think I've decided to adopt the Blues Junior, and send the Traynor back to the pound. What's decided me is that the BJr is the amp that makes me want to play it, it just sucks me in completely. The Traynor, not so much. I don't know exactly why this is so, and it may be unanalyzable, but there it is: I gotta keep the amp that makes me want to play it, and that amp is the BJr.

The BJr and the Traynor both have very good clean tone. The BJr just has a much better clean tone, really lush, sparkling and lovely. The Traynor's is merely pretty good. The BJr also has a good sounding reverb, where the Traynor really doesn't.

The Traynor is certainly a more flexible amp -- two channels, a standby switch, an effects loop, a balanced direct out, a headphone jack, external speak jack. The BJr has none of these things. However, I really, truly hate the Traynor's drive channel, so that feature matters little to me. I can overdrive its clean channel with a pedal, and get really good, loud, rawk tone. But, I can do the same on the BJr, and its a better, punchier tone. Not as loud, but close.

As for the rest of the Traynors features, I'm unconvinced I need them. I tried monitoring the Traynor via the effects send, but the tone was buzzy and unlovely vs what was coming out of the speaker, which seems really odd -- shouldn't it be a close approximation? In any case, I don't see the utility. And I don't care about the external speaker jack, headphone jack, etc. Nice to have, but not crucial. The tone is what's important, and the extras are window dressing.

I do wonder if I'm really just testing the BJr's Jensen speaker vs the Traynor's Celestion Greenback, and the Jenson won? If I could reasonably swap speakers in a few minutes, I'd try out the reverse, but that's much more fiddling than I care to do when I'm returning one of these amps.

I have about another 1 1/2 weeks to return one of these amps, but I think I already know the final verdict. The Traynor is a really good amp, but the BJr just works better for me.
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Old 03-28-2010, 09:16 AM
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Just to start wrapping up this thread, I think I've decided to adopt the Blues Junior, and send the Traynor back to the pound. What's decided me is that the BJr is the amp that makes me want to play it, it just sucks me in completely. The Traynor, not so much. I don't know exactly why this is so, and it may be unanalyzable, but there it is: I gotta keep the amp that makes me want to play it, and that amp is the BJr.

The BJr and the Traynor both have very good clean tone. The BJr just has a much better clean tone, really lush, sparkling and lovely. The Traynor's is merely pretty good. The BJr also has a good sounding reverb, where the Traynor really doesn't.

The Traynor is certainly a more flexible amp -- two channels, a standby switch, an effects loop, a balanced direct out, a headphone jack, external speak jack. The BJr has none of these things. However, I really, truly hate the Traynor's drive channel, so that feature matters little to me. I can overdrive its clean channel with a pedal, and get really good, loud, rawk tone. But, I can do the same on the BJr, and its a better, punchier tone. Not as loud, but close.

As for the rest of the Traynors features, I'm unconvinced I need them. I tried monitoring the Traynor via the effects send, but the tone was buzzy and unlovely vs what was coming out of the speaker, which seems really odd -- shouldn't it be a close approximation? In any case, I don't see the utility. And I don't care about the external speaker jack, headphone jack, etc. Nice to have, but not crucial. The tone is what's important, and the extras are window dressing.

I do wonder if I'm really just testing the BJr's Jensen speaker vs the Traynor's Celestion Greenback, and the Jenson won? If I could reasonably swap speakers in a few minutes, I'd try out the reverse, but that's much more fiddling than I care to do when I'm returning one of these amps.

I have about another 1 1/2 weeks to return one of these amps, but I think I already know the final verdict. The Traynor is a really good amp, but the BJr just works better for me.
[Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally]

YES! Yes, yes, yes, yes - YES!!

[/Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally]



That, my friend is the WHOLE point - if you are one of the folks who have played enough to get to the point where you can hear *something* - even if you can't put your finger on it - that makes you realize you need to choose between "one tone I like, but less features" vs. "tons of features, but only an acceptable tone" then you are starting to hear the tubes. NOTE - that does NOT mean you should always choose the tube option - only that you can make a more informed decision, right?

In this case, since you have your current home-theater+POD rig, choosing the option that is more tube-alicious makes sense, because you have the equivalent of a digital rig already. My hypothesis is that the Traynor is either not really a tube amp (i.e., the stick a tube in the circuit but only as window dressing on a digital design) or it is not as well made. Blues Jr's are just simple, rock-solid amps that deliver tubey goodness...

What starts to get interesting is that, if you do dig into the amp, you will find that while it is a bit of a Johnny One Note of an amp - it really isn't. You will find that you bring the variations you want by using your hands - i.e., tweaking your technique to emphasize things, which a tube amp can accentuate in ways that a digital can't - and by tweaking the knobs on the every-versatile Tele.

This could be fun for you.
  #40  
Old 03-28-2010, 04:23 PM
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In this case, since you have your current home-theater+POD rig, choosing the option that is more tube-alicious makes sense, because you have the equivalent of a digital rig already. My hypothesis is that the Traynor is either not really a tube amp (i.e., the stick a tube in the circuit but only as window dressing on a digital design) or it is not as well made. Blues Jr's are just simple, rock-solid amps that deliver tubey goodness...
My friend, both amps are tube amps. However, both the BJr and the Traynor contain tubes and (a very small number of) transistors. Here is the service manual for the Blues junior; it has 3 12AX7s and 2 6BQ5/EL84s, but also a couple of op-amps. Here is the service manual for the Traynor; it has 3 12AX7s and 2 6BQ5/EL84s, also several transistors and ICs. Which is more tube-alicious? I can't say, I'm not an electrical engineer. I suppose if you really want to get old-school, having a printed circuit board is a problem and the design should be bread-board and wires with hand-soldered joints, but I think that is slicing hairs a bit more than necessary.

Anyway, both amps sound good and tubey (overlooking the Traynor's drive channel), they both seem very well built and solid (the Traynor feels like it could survive a drop down a flight of stairs). I just enjoy playing the BJr more. I think this may rest on the Blue's Junior NOS's speaker. I played some BJr's with the stock speaker in the store, and if I'd tested one vs the Traynor, I think I might have chosen the Traynor.

Any thoughts on why that Jensen vs the Celestion might sound better? Or just guitar speaker observations in general? I know next to nothing about that topic.
  #41  
Old 03-28-2010, 04:41 PM
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On BlackBerry, waiting to pick up Indian food. I will try to do a speaker brain-dump sometime tomorrow...
  #42  
Old 03-29-2010, 06:55 AM
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Anyway, both amps sound good and tubey (overlooking the Traynor's drive channel), they both seem very well built and solid (the Traynor feels like it could survive a drop down a flight of stairs). I just enjoy playing the BJr more. I think this may rest on the Blue's Junior NOS's speaker. I played some BJr's with the stock speaker in the store, and if I'd tested one vs the Traynor, I think I might have chosen the Traynor.

Any thoughts on why that Jensen vs the Celestion might sound better? Or just guitar speaker observations in general? I know next to nothing about that topic.
I don't know what to say - I mean, your discussion of their circuits supports your point: they're both tube amps. But yeah, those "chips and circuit boards" may make a difference - but I don't know enough to provide credible specifics. And yes, speakers are part of the Holy Trinity - pre-amp, power amp, speaker - of Tone, i.e., the 3 most critical components (and yes, I will try to do that speaker dump in a paragraph or two)...so for now, let's just assume that they are both entry-level simple-tube circuits and this combo of components takes the BJr up a notch.

As for why Jenson vs. Celestion - no specific answer; specific models have widely varying specs. Also, I have not spent a lot of time A/B'ing speakers over my guitar lifetime; like effects pedals, it is an area I have not delved into deeply. I have found what worked for me and stuck with it.

Here are some basic points of "conventional wisdom" about speakers -

- There are American Voiced and British Voiced - i.e., Fender-style, traditionally Jensen, Weber, etc. and Marshall/Vox style, typically Celestion. One is not better than the other but people have clear preferences. Dialing in your tone involves making a choice and from the sound of it, you picked Jensen - now, that may be because the speaker model is a step up vs. the Celestion in terms of speaker quality, not due to a preference in the voicing, but we'd have to geek a bit harder if we wanted to go that far.

But Jensens contribute to the overall Fender / American voice - i.e., more open bell-like cleans and an overdrive that comes on more smoothly, with a steady increase in warmth and grit until you end up in crunchland. The speakers aren't as "tight" - typically because they are part of a Fender open-back cabinet design (because the cab is open, sound pours out the back, adding more sound in a slight delay from the sound in front - so it is thickened up with that slight delay and tight lows get blurred a bit...).

British-voiced speakers are heavier built as a rule and break up earlier and with a more aggressive crunch. They are part of a closed-cab system, so the sound is more focused out of the front, and the speakers have a tighter travel, because the air stays in the back, providing a bit of resistance to the cone. All of this contributes to the tighter lows, even gained up, of a guitar through a Marshall stack.

- Magnet size matters - as a rule, the bigger the magnet, the more responsive the speaker is. I am not sure why.

- Obviously - cabinet design matters; see above. With amp circuit, speaker type and cab type, geeks like me mess around. I like Fender circuits coupled with Marshall speakers. I really like closed-back cabs, especially in a 2x12 or a 4x12, but for my small rig, I use an open-backed Tweed design (i.e., based on Fender's "Tweed" amps from the 50's) fitted with a Celestion Blue...

- Celestion Alnico Blues rock - they are a small-watt speaker (I think they can handle 15 watts vs. 30 for the Vintage 30's, but there is a new Celestion Gold which is supposed to be like a Blue but rated at 50w). They were originally in Vox amps and so have that clear articulate tone that crunches up really smoothly and nicely.

So, my friend, that's what I've got for now - process it and see if anything clicks in your head based on what you've been experiencing and/or push back as needed...
  #43  
Old 03-29-2010, 12:01 PM
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Wow!! Thanks for the detailed guitar speaker primer! Maybe this should be also posted in the Great Guitar Thread. It seems like something that is generally useful knowledge for players.

Re: open v closed cabs - Are there closed cab tube combos? I'd think no, because the tubes need air to cool them. OTOH, I suppose you could just make the combo taller to give the tubes some space, and have an open, upper part that has the tubes n chassis, and a sealed lower part where the speaker lives. I poked around on Marshall's web site and couldn't find any pix of the back of one of their combo amps, nor on Musician's Friend.
  #44  
Old 03-29-2010, 12:10 PM
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Yes, there are closed back tube combo's - you will see where the amp head/chassis at the top has an opening for the tubes to cool, but the speaker section has a full back...
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