In a wildly impulsive moment at a silent auction last night, I bought an electric guitar. It’s handmade by a local craftsman called Chaotic Wood. This one, in fact. I’ve had acoustics in the past, but never an electric, and am clueless about amplifiers, other than I know they generally don’t go to eleven.
So what is a good home amp that sounds good and won’t break the bank?
I can highly recommend the Korg Pandora. I have an older model but it still works great. I use it for playing in hotel rooms when I’m on the road (with headphones or earbuds) and have used it with an amp at home on occasion. It has tons of effects and amp/cabinet models and allows you to create your own setups too. IMO, at US$90 it can’t be beat.
My criteria these days for practice amps, in order:
Ease of Use
When I bought my first amp I wanted great sound, so I bought a really nice Fender tube amp. I never use it. It’s too darned heavy to move around, and it has too many dials. I play jazz, so I only care about clean sound, and never overdrive it. Even the 4 dials on my guitar are annoying to me.
Then I bought a couple of smaller ones: a Fender tube practice amp, which sports two dials only: Volume and Tone. This one sounds great, but it is still slightly heavy and it has a warmup time.
Even though I prefer the tube sound, I almost always go for the Orange. It’s solid state, so it comes right on, and it is very easy to cart around.
One day at church after the service I was packing up my guitar while chatting with a friend. He jokingly asked if the amp goes up to eleven, and we both smiled at how most of the church members would miss that reference.
Then we looked down at the Fender amp and saw that the dials all are marked from 1 to 12(!). So, a Fender amp may indeed go up to eleven
On a related note (ha!), can anyone recommend an electric bass amp?
I’ll be playing with some old friends for the first time in years. I’ll be playing bass (nothing fancy, just a fretless Precision Bass).
Here’s what I’m looking for:
Portable. Important. I’ll be lugging this around. Sometimes on the subway.
Nice sound. Warm, natural. No distortion, no metal stuff, I don’t need a bunch of effects.
Doesn’t need a huge amount of volume – won’t be playing arenas. Small rooms, the back of the bar, parties, like that.
Playing mostly country/Celtic music.
Cost does matter, sorry to say.
IMO, best for a bass is 15" speakers. But that’s not very luggable. I suggest a combo with one 12" speaker. No, you probably don’t need a lot of power. I doubt you’ll need more then 35 watts and might be able to get by with less. A student/practice amp should work for you and your wallet. And IMO, there’s nothing to be apologetic about a fretless precision bass. It’s a fine instrument.
Thanks – I’m starting my search, and this is helpful information.
And I know that the P-Bass is a fine instrument – I just meant that my bass doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles and active electronics and stuff. It makes one sound, which is the perfect sound for me. There’s no bass I’d rather have.
It’s a heavy bitch, for sure. Sounds pretty good without an amp and is staying tuned. Wish I knew more about it, but whoever make them doesn’t have a website that I can find. Nobody else seems to have any ideas on the amp, so perhaps I’ll go with a Fender.
Just last weekend I picked up an amp I’m finally happy with for home use. Previously, I alternated between a heavily modified Fender Blues Jr. and a Trace Elliot Velocette. Both 15 watts, both sounded great, but at volumes that just didn’t work for my wife, neighbors and dogs.
On a whim, as I’ve been playing a ton recently after a couple of years away, I bought the smallest Blackstar, the HT-1R. It’s a very simple 1 watt tube combo with a clean and drive channel plus a serviceable reverb. The sweet spot for me is in the clean channel, with the gain up all the way, I can surf that spot where picking and guitar volume can take me from sweetly clean, through a little bite, and into some nice grit all without touching the amp. The overdrive channel gets crunchier than I need so I have plenty of tone to play with.
There’s no eq, but there is a tone knob that is supposed to change the characteristics of the eq from American (Fender-y) to British (Marshall) tones by changing the balance of bass, mids and trebles. It provides a nice range of adjustment, but I’m not sure I think of it as American<->British.
The downside is that with an 8" speaker, there’s only so much that can happen in the bass, and that’s apparent when it’s dimed out. Maybe gets a little farty. But on the upside, in the sweet spot, you get that great interactivity you get from a tube being driven hard with very reasonable volumes. It sounds really good plugged into a 2x12 cabinet based on what I heard in the store.
They also have a 5 watt version with a larger speaker, but that was back into the range of too loud for the spare bedroom.
I disagree with this. A small practise amp such as a 35-watter is passable only for solo practice at home, IME. Low frequencies need power to project. A rule of thumb for bass amp wattage in a band setting is 150 watts or more. Nothing more frustrating than to buy a bass amp and find out a single electric guitar and drums drown the bass completely. Been there, done that. Also, decent bass amps of sufficient power easily cost as much as a nice bass, sad but true.
What kind of tone are you looking for? What’s your pocketbook limit? If you’re playing material like you would on acoustic, you may want a combo that includes reverb sweeten things a little. One of my amps is a head that doesn’t have reverb, and I miss it sometimes when playing clean material.
I don’t really have a limit, but I’d rather start small since I’m unlikely to go far on this. In the distant past, I farted around with whatever pop songs were big, but at this point it’ll probably be just noodling unless I sign up for lessons somewhere. Tone? Beats me. I like jazz, but can’t play it. Can’t pick for shit, and usually did mostly chord playing.
Short answer: it was probably a mistake to buy it.
For Jazz, a nice tube amp without anything fancy is all you need. Most jazz is played clean, possibly with a touch of reverb.
Enjoy everything you do. When it ceases to be fun, then let it rest for awhile.
If you are interested in jazz, find a jazz teacher, and with luck you will be able to play enough to please your own ear. I have never considered myself an accomplished musician, but have been taking lessons forever and just doing what I like.
Last year I was in Brazil visiting family and had one of the most enjoyable evenings when my wife’s uncle brought out some guitars and we spent the evening playing Bossa tunes together. The fact that he is such a talented musician made it quite easy for me to stumble through my own progressions and still not ruin the beautiful music.
I’m sure there are no shortage of guitar teachers in Portland. Finding one that doesn’t mind taking on a geezer may be an issue. To my credit, my fingers seem to still have the muscle memory for most of the chords I knew, just no necessary calluses yet, and of course I’m a lot slower with chord changes because of the whole not playing for the last 20-30 years thing. I think I can still tune one, although my hearing isn’t as good as it used to be.
Come to think of it, the guy who lives behind me is a luthier and plays with some local bluegrass groups. Maybe he teaches, also.
Did you notice that Saintly said he needed to be able to transport his amplifier and bass on a subway? I can’t imagine getting a 150 w bass amp with, what, a 4x12 or 2x15 or even a 4x15 cabinet down the stairs to a subway platform. Or back up the stairs either. My feeling is if a 35 watt amp isn’t powerful enough, buy a microphone and a small base and gooseneck , stick it 2" from the center of the grill cloth, and plug the cable into the sound board.