Recommend a tube amp...

I have 2 amps currently: a Peavey, a tiny practice amp with a 10 inch speaker; my other is an Acoustic head and a twin reverb sized cabinet. The second was my gig amp, and it is on the fritz again. Both are solid state.

I want a tube amp this time, something with that classic, overdriven hot sound, but also with a clean channel. And something I can carry easily. Too old to be dragging big stuff to jams.

My buddy just bought a Blues Jr. that I played the other night for a few hours. It was just too bright–and I tend to like a brighter sound. I tried out a new distortion pedal (MXR Super Badass) and it took a while to find a sound that wasn’t really tinny, and it never sounded good. It was otherwise what I was looking for: very portable, enough volume for a bar, clean and overdrive channels, no computer effects (other than digital reverb). When I want effects, I use a pedal, and even there, I don’t use much (delay, overdrive pedal, distortion).

A friend recommended a Vox AC15, and that has a very cool, chimy sound, but I don’t want that as my “base” sound. Even brighter. Loved the sound of a Burgera V22, but have heard bad reports on quality. But the price was right, anyway.

And, again, I like brighter, but not too bright. I’m not looking for, say, a Marshall sound. I’m a believer that it’s easier to make brighter dark, when you want it, than the reverse.

My go-to guitar is a Stratocaster (surprise). Not really gigging these days, but thinking about getting back into it, and it would be small venues. I’d like to keep it $500 or so, or less. Any suggestions?

I haven’t ran the racks on amps lately. I would’ve said a Blues Jr. What’s the speaker - can you upgrade to a 12" Celestion Alnico Blue or something like that with less-tinny highs?

GC is usually pushing Egnater, but I haven’t played one. There are other things you could look for used, like an old Music Man or Traynor. Or try one of Fender’s Tweed reissues - a Deluxe size 18 watts or so. See if you like the clean - if you do, the gritty is typically excellent, and a good dirt pedal goes well. I am a distortion guy more than an overdrive guy, but there are so many pedals these days, that if you like your base tones, you can go from there.

Good luck!

ETA: there is usually a used Mesa/Boogie at the GC I stop by. Have you tried one of those?

WordMan, knew I could count on you! :slight_smile: Haven’t tried the Mesa/boogie yet. Will give it a try. Thanks.

I second the Mesa Boogie but they are pricey, even used ones.

Agreeing with above posts re: Mesa Boogie.

Another option could be an Ampeg (something like a J20 should fit within your price range); they also tend toward a darker sound than a Fender. To me, their cleans sound incredibly lush, and their overdrive is '70’s era Keith Richards. They won’t do high gain stuff like almost any Mesa will (but neither will the Blues Jr), so for that you’d need a pedal, but for rock and blues, they’re a nice choice. As a bonus, they come with a hand-wired electrical chassis - a feature which some people claim sounds better than a stamped circuit board, but is much easier to repair, and is usually found on more expensive amps.

Happy hunting.

Thanks for the responses. EtF, I will check out the Ampeg suggestion as well. It reminded my of my first amp, a used, huge, Ampeg, with old school reverb. Thing weighed a ton. That was 40 years ago. :eek:

I had a Mesa Boogie - can’t remember the model - for a few years. It had a fairly tight, bright tone, but lots of features.

The Ampegs I have played have fairly simple circuits and a bit of darkness in the tone, a step towards the Marshall end of the spectrum, with a bit of breakup.

As a “tube amp” - i.e., a simple circuit and an amp that requires you to play IT as much as you are playing the guitar, if not more, I wonder if the Ampeg delivers more of that.

Do you want tube tone with a number of features like a Master Volume, multiple gain or tone stages, etc? Or a simpler circuit that has a bit more transparency and is the type of amp where you hookup a Tele and a dirtbox and you play the amp?

Well, he kind of answers that:

So, my first suggestions for low priced tube amps aren’t going to really be applicable. They’re usually like the VHT Super 6 Ultra I recently got: lots of tube-y goodness at a low price, but not really channel switching. It has a boost switch, but that’s more of a question of dirty and more dirty, not dirty and clean.

On your overdrive channel, do you want to go to Marshall levels of gain, or would a Silverface Twin have enough gain to satisfy you? Somewhere in between? The 70’s Ampegs I used to play through couldn’t come up with much overdrive at all. They were clean all day long.

I’m not particularly fond of Mesas, but I’d try one if you haven’t. They’ve been in business for years, so they make amps somebody likes.

The one part of your request that seems to be hard to fit with all the others is that it be light. I love my Traynor YCS100H, and I think it’d meet your tonal needs, it’s about $600 on the used market, but it’s a heavy beast. Three channels, 4 preamp tubes, 4 power tubes, a decent power transformer, and a long reverb tank isn’t going to come in a light package.

But, all that said, if you’re willing to go down to a 20 watt amp (and really, watts don’t matter much), I’d be looking really hard at a Peavey Valve King II Micro 20 Head. Light, all tube, versatile output in both ohms (4-16, the cabinet it can’t use would be rare) and power level, channel switching, and within your budget.

WordMan, as scabpicker points out, I’m more of a minimalist with amps, though I’d like a master volume. (And scabpicker, thanks for the insight.)

Looking at Mesa prices. Oof. Not really looking for Marshall levels of gain, though that’s cool. I played through a small Pignose the other night at another pal’s house, maybe a 10 inch speaker (can’t remember the model). It was a pleasure. Nice and clean if I wanted but it really pushed when I asked it to–maybe to Marshall levels, really. But still bright enough when we played songs that called for it. Never played a Pignose before that I can recall.

When I was shopping for a replacement for my Blues Jr., I played a few different models from Blackstar, the ex-Marshall team. I liked all of the various units I played, although model names escape me. I ended up with their 1 watt combo although i liked the features and sound of the HT-5R (5W combo)better. Mostly I needed the least loud amp I could get. I’ve been happy with it, and it’s still louder than I specifically need, even at 1 watt.

All of their amps I tried had a cool feature that would dial the basic tone profile away from a Marshall-esque sound towards a Fendery sound. Maybe something like their 20W combo would suit your needs? It’s in the price range, I think…

Pork Rind, I will check that out, especially if the price is right. Thanks for the tip…

You can find old Fender Champs on eBay and the like for right around $500; I love mine. (I have the one with the grey snakeskin cover; it totally fucking rocks!)

Have you checked out the newer fad of lunchbox and micro amps? Many of them are hybrid (tube pre-amp, solid state power) so you can overdrive the pre-amp and get that tube breakup, but they’re small (usually only a few lbs) and decently powered (20 watts).

They run the range of prices from around $200 up to $1200, depending on what you want! I’d say try out an Orange Micro-Terror and Micro-Dark, to see what you think. If you need something to push more sound, they may not be the way to go, but I have a 20-watt head, and I’ve yet to turn it above 2 on the master.

Ah, that reminds me: haven’t folks discussed that small Yamaha modeling amp head? I think there may be a tube in there in the preamp stage.

Again, there is a difference between getting a tube-ish tone that also has features like a Master Volume vs. getting a very simple tube circuit. From the sound of your needs, Stratocaster, checking out new-design amps that include a tube preamp stage may make good sense. They are inexpensive and I have read good things.

You might want to have a look at a Traynor Dark Horse or Mack Skyraider as well. Great amps, and if you have a cab you already like, so much the better!

Lots of good leads. Thanks to all for the tips…

No tubes in the THR (though orange LEDs give the look :slight_smile: ). I have a THR10 and it’s a great little bedroom amp. It is tube-ish in sound and responsiveness, responds to attack and volume control, etc.

As for gigging, if you’re doing an open-mic night by yourself, maybe it’ll work. If you’re mic’ing the amp into a PA, it should also work. But it’s not going to keep up with a drummer and the rest of a band by itself, for sure. It’s a practice amp (and to some degree a PC recording interface).

I was trying out guitars at GC somewhat recently, and the amp that was hooked up was a small Blackstar tube head. It sounded and felt GREAT, FWIW.

Ah, there ya go - clarification, and another vote for Blackstar. Thanks.

Yep, love my THR10 but no tubes to be found. Someday I might get a small tube amp but there is no real reason for it right now beyond GAS. Must resist…

Fender Blues Jr has great tone, especially IMO if you get the tweed with the Jensen speaker. As the name implies, more bluesy than rawk, but there’s a zillion pedals to juice it up, and it’ll bring the

If you want light, get a lunchbox sized head and a separate cab for it. If want lighter, replace the cab’s speaker with a neodymium driver like a Celestion Century. Sadly a lunchbox head will likely not have reverb, but you can always get a pedal to simulate that.

I have an Egnater Tweaker 15 that is in the lunchbox range (and sadly has no reverb, sigh); fantastic classic rock tones but still brings some chime when needed. Though my Blues Junior clean tones are unmatched and unmatchable, so that’s my go-to clean amp. You could get a Tweaker plus the neodymium cab above and be pretty portable and pretty loud.