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:

Next: more shopping (dun dun dunnnnn!)

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 [this amp, 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 [url=](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!

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.

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?

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?

Sleeping with G.A.S. is a bich ain’t it? Pull the trigger, man!

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 -


  • 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.


  • 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. :stuck_out_tongue:

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 (:eek:) 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!

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 :smack:

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…

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.

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.

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.

Gibson Wah? :dubious:

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).

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.

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.)

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.