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Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 11:05 pm
by KCBluesFan2k9
As older older noob with more money than sense (well at the time I was acquiring my gear), I went all out and bought a Fender BDRI amp. Well, as you know it is way too much amp for home practice levels. I had hoped at some point that I would be gigging or at least jamming with buddies. Neither of these things panned out and I am stuck with way more amp than I need or want. I would like to get some decent gritty blues tones out of it, but need to do it without spending alot of money. (The gear fund dried up with the economy downturn.) I have considered trading it at the local GC for something smaller, but what? And I am afraid I will get nowhere near what I have in it.

I had previously tried a Boss Blues Driver pedal, but wasn't able to get the tone I was looking for. Maybe I wasn't adjusting it properly. Does anyone have ideas that I could try with the BDRI for $75-100. Otherwise I may try to trade it. I don't want a modeling amp (Vibro or Super Champ), but would consider a smaller tube amp. Maybe even a highly recommended solid state.


Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:07 am
by ricochet
I've got a "Love the one you're with" attitude about amps and such. If it's too loud, I turn it down and that's how it is. If you really want the sound of a cranked push-pull output stage, you're going to have to run an amp with such a stage through an attenuator, or home build a super low powered one. It's a lot easier to decide to like the sound of a nice little amp turned to a decent level, or use so-called "preamp distortion" from turning up the gain or using an overdrive with the master volume at an acceptable level. Actually my favorite amp for playing around the house is the low-production and no longer produced Electar Tube 10, but there are lots of ~5W tube amps with gain and master volume, and even the basic Epiphone Valve Junior works that way with a pedal in front of it. Lower powered amps have single ended Class A output stages that have their own charm, but when cranked sound very different from a cranked Class AB push-pull amp. Different mode of distortion. The single ended amp's output distortion is very much like "preamp distortion."

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 4:16 am
by cobascis
If you are primarily looking for a good gain tone, in terms of pedals (you'll never get a perfect replication of the tube breakup, but...) there are a few options.

Tubescreamers I personally despise in that they are view as the 'GREATEST PEDAL EVER OMG.' I don't think they sound all that great, either. A bit like a clean tone spliced with a mid boosted dirt.

Pedals I can heartily recommend:
-CatalinBread Dirty Little Secret -- essentially a Marshall in a box with some nice low gain settings
-Fulltone OCD -- Well known as well, iffy high gain but a good pedal at lower volumes
-ProCo RAT -- My dirtbox of choice, a very biting trebly nasty (ratty) tone that will ensure you cut through any mix, and it's built like a tank.
-MXR Distortion + -- sucks tone, but I TB modded it, and it gets a good variety of low OD tones, and when dimed the classic Husker Du tones.

Anyway, these are some options if you're thinking of keeping your current amp. If not, eBay or CL the BDRI, pick up an Orange AD5... or any other 5w tube amp, VJr suffices.


Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 5:23 pm
by Buffalo_Bill
If you have to go new, I like my new solid state, Vox Pathfinder 15R. ... sku=481948
I like clean sound, spring reverb and tremolo, it's got those real good. 8) I thought of putting in a bigger speaker for bass response and depth, but I just can't find a fault in the 8" it came with. 8)
Plenty loud, I have the Gain set very low, and the Volume set midway, for playing in the parlor.
It's got overdrive but I don't use it, however others do like it, and if I wanted distortion It would do fine because I would shape it with a chorus effect and other stuff anyway.
I saw a vintage Vox Pathfinder 15 tube amp on ebay, not so high priced, and I saw lot's of other low watt vintage tube amps on eBay as well.
From my experience with this Vox, I recommend you look at all the Vox amps, they have some small tube amps as well. :wink:

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:35 pm
by texas blues
Another way to go is to get an attenuator. -9db of cut should be fine for playing at home but then you would still have plenty of amp for gigging later on or jamming with friends. I have a Clark Regulator coming shortly for my 5E3 which at only 12 watts can be brutally loud in my music room but with the attenuator, should allow me to crank the 'thang up to the sweet spot.

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2010 3:03 am
by stratman_27
Keeley Java Boost--- Dallas Rangemaster clone with some extra options. Can be subtle or in your face.

Voodoo Labs Sparkle Drive- A refined improved Tubescreamer

Dan O French Toast- Foxx Tone Machine Clone with octavia effect added in. Its dirt cheap and a kick ass fuzz , cleans up nice when you roll back the volume.

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:13 pm
by Lo-Fi
Yeah, there are tons of nice little class A tube amps out there these days. My favorite remains the 5 watt Swart Space Tone amps. KInda pricey but I have yet to run across a small power amp I like better.

As far as pedals. I may be Old School but nothing beats learning how to coax sound out of a guitar using only your fingers and the knobs on the guitar and amp. But that being what it is, the best OD pedal I have run across is the Browntone Hoochie Mama. Again though, not the cheapest pedal you will find out there.

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 7:14 pm
by texas blues
That Swart Spacetone is a killer amp! Dig it.....

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:44 am
Here's a completely different idea.

Instead of pedals , or attenuators, or a bunch of couch cushions around your amp, how's about a Harry Kolbe style "Silent Speaker Cabinet?"

Imagine an old Army footlocker, with a speaker baffle dividing it into two one square foot compartments. Put an EV speaker onto the baffle, with a mic on the other side and an XLR line out, then heavily insulate the whole deal. Put mic signal into P.A., headphones, self powered monitor, whatever... This is how Sonny Landreth got away with using his Dumble onstage in "Uptight/ No Dancing " clubs in the North East for years. Very easy to construct, and with a real EVM, will work with almost any head or combo's head up to 200 watts.

Just another Left -handed Monkey Wrench thrown into the discussion...

Best Regards, DRU

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2010 4:53 am
by Invader.CC
I would suggest you go out and by a Damage Control Liquid Blues pedal ..This also has compressor and two channels on the effect pedal..It has two tubes that will act as a pre amp and in your case give you thick gritty blues tone without cranking your volume...
This pedal is normally over $200 but is on sale right now for $99 delivered..

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2010 2:22 pm
by jaybee
if you really want to swap, have a look at Laney tube amps, they have 5 / 10 / 15W amps - the LC15R is loud enough to gig with a not TOO loud drummer.

on the other hand, if you end up in a loud band, you'll be glad you hung on to the Fender...

for a bit of grit, try a BOSS SD-1 (the yellow ones) - gain between 9 - 11 o'clock, tone about 10 o'clock should do it - I've had one since they came out, somewhere early '80s, and got me a spare one some time ago...

I also have a TS-9 that I darly ever use, the VoodooLab SparkleDrive (great for clean boost with a hair) and used several T-Rex & other 'boutique' pedals (both bought - bad idea - and borrowed - much better idea!) in the past,until I realized "old yellow" could do just the same for way less money

I'd suggest borrowing as many different pedals from friends & trying out as many possible in shops, then get what you like most, regardless of "cool factor" - my "old yellow" is not the latest coolest thing, but it gets the job done, which is why I always end up going for that one...

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 3:43 pm
by Alton
The Fender BDRI is a NICE amp. Being a fender 40 watt it is also freakin' LOUD! Great for gigs but not so great for practice in the bedroom or the basement or even the garage for that matter. I have a similar problem with my Boogie.

I want/demand tube tone. I want that beautifully and harmonically rich tone that only (read: ONLY) comes from overdriven tubes. Problem is, I want that wonderful tone at volume levels that leaves the paint on the walls and my eardrums intact. So, rather than just trying out lots and lots of amps at music stores where you can only get so loud for only so long and speakers are brand spanking new (not broken in) and you just don't have time to explore what each and every amp can do I just came up with a few parameters to narrow my search. I set out looking through lots of guitar /amp forums for many reviews and then trying those models at music stores. Here's what I came up with:
1) MUST be a tube based amp. Modeling is good. Solid state is useful but ONLY tubes can deliver the genuine goods
2) Must be less than 50 watts. This was later modified to be less than 25 watts as 50/45/40/36 watts was found to be consistently too loud
3) Must be a 2x12 combo. This was another screw up on my part. Good tone can be found in the right 1x12/ 2x10/ 1x10/ 1x15 or even using a head and seperate cab
4) Must have spring reverb. Yep! Another screw up! I'm pretty good at this.

So after figuring out that I've been trying real hard to be yet another pointless, cork-sniffing snob (I figured out that sound doesn't come out of the brand name badge on the unit) the quest for tone became a little easier. Here's what I ended up with:

Epiphone Blues Custom 30- Out of the box this amp has a cool retro look. It runs at 15 watts and 30 watts. IMO it requires an easy mod to make the tone useful as it is a naturally bright amp. I made the mod (clip 2 caps). It needs GOOD tubes as the stock tubes seemed to be a "lowest bidder" affair with EH tubes. tried various speakers only to discover the original speakers were the best sounding once broken in. This amp now just drips with blues tones. I use it almost exclusively in the 15 watt mode. Not so good points: It is HEAVY. Like 80 pounds.

Jet City Amplification JCA20H: This is a 20 watt head. It's a new kid on the block. This is very much a rock amp. It's great for "power blues" but not so great for Delta or Chicago blues. It really likes humbuckers and plays nice with P90s. It does not play well with single coil strat type pickups. It just doesn't seem interested in sounding good with single coils. Very solid, no frills, straight up rock amp. A very good amp but just not totally suiting my needs. YMMV.

Bugera Vintage 22: This is a 22 watt 1x12 combo with 2 channels and a digital reverb. This amp pretty much does it for me. The tones are just FABULOUS. Tone wise I simply cannot say enough good things about this amp. Get down to a music store and hear one for yourself. The amp is switchable between triode power (basically 1/2 power) and pentode (full 22 watt power). I practice on triode and gig when necessary on pentode. Works great. This amp delivers all that juicy tube goodness at tolerable volume levels. It delivers genuine blues tones for any style of blues which means it also delivers tones for Motown, soul, funk, rock and is useful for jazz.

This amp brand is dumped on regularly. It is made by Behringer. Early production models from Bugera had some quality issues. It is also made by Behringer. The music/audio community looks down on Behringer because it allegedly copies designs for it's products from other big name manufacturers (like Marshall copied the Fender Bassman). These 2 things combine to make it a laughing stock among pro-audio people and musicians. This prejudice has little basis in fact.

This particular model, the Vintage 22, does have a problem with the footswitch circuit. When it gets warm the channels will switch on their own. This is NOT good for gigs. This problem can be avoided by simply NOT using the footswitch to change channels. Simply use the switch on the face of the amp. Behringer is working on the problem and a solution seems to be at hand which I'm sure will be handled under warranty as is happening already. This problem in no way affects the tone of the amp. If this is an issue you can deal with then owe it to yourself to go check out this amp. I bought one and am looking to buy another one as a backup and/or for a stereo type setup.

Of course, these are just my opinions and your mileage may vary. However, if your looking for really good tone at tolerable volume levels I would highly recommend both the Epiphone BC30 and the Bugera Vintage 22. Both models require some work to get them to their full potential and for best out-of-the-box blues tone the Bugera is the clear winner here.

Keep an eye on Jet City Amplification. They will be introducing a 2 channel 20 watt head in the future which will add a clean channel to the existing JCA20H. This is the only thing I would add to an otherwise outstanding amp. Also, the idea behind Jet City Amplification is to have other famous amp designers to design the circuitry but to have them produced in China according to specific quality standards. Their current products are designed by Mike Soldano of Soldano amps and the guy behind THD amps. Their first products have been outstanding and I look forward to more good stuff from these folks.

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:36 pm
by ricochet
Several of my young rocker friends have really been fired up about those Jet City amps lately.

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 4:47 pm
by Alton
ricochet wrote:Several of my young rocker friends have really been fired up about those Jet City amps lately.

I can imagine so. These amps offer "that" sound which is just ideal for rock from the '70s to now. they're simple, straightforward, plug 'n chug amps. I really dig the sound but it's a sound I would've loved to have had about 35 years ago. Today I want versatility in an amp and one that deals well with subtlety and finesse in guitar tones and responds well to my fretting and picking. For my purposes the JCA20H is just too "one-dimensional" in tone. It responds well to my playing as any good tube amp will. It just lacks in versatility. this is why I think the addition of a clean channel will make this amp a stellar performer.

This might sound boring but I just can't say enough good things about the Bugera V22. For my purposes ("oldies" pop rock, soul, blues) this amp is just an outstanding performer. The tones are there.

I have the Vox ToneLab LE for FX and quite honestly it's just too much for my needs. I like some reverb, a wah pedal, maybe an occasional delay now and then and that's about it. I pretty much like the simplicity of plug 'n play nowadays. I guess the Vox was a result of leftover thinking from the rack days of the 80's. Anyway, the point is this amp is a great plug 'n play amp. You really don't need a distortion pedal of any kind to get great blues tones from this amp. The clean channel is not a Fender clean but is a good clean that you can easily push into that great breakup with just your pick attack.

The other guitar player in my band has a Marshall DSL 100 amp head over an Egnater cabinet and about 10 pedals on the floor. It's nice sounding rig. He heard my Bugera at practice and just loved the sound of it. He went down to Guitar Center later that week and bought one for himself! So now we both use Bugeras. For playing bars or any place where the seating capacity is 200 or less these amps are loud enough to gig without getting mic'ed up at least for the music we play and for the audiences we play for. This probably wouldn't work for a hard rock band or a hard playing blues band.

These are good days for guitar players. Good guitars and good amps at affordable prices.

Re: Noob Seeking Amp/Pedal Advice

PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 5:22 pm
by straightblues
You need to decide what overdrive sound you are looking for. Are you looking for Fender Tweed, Fender Black Face, Vox, Valco or Marshall type tones. (If you don't know, give us some examples of some songs you want to try to sound like.)

With your amp, there will be only two ways to get it a low house volumes. It is with an attenuator or a pedal. There are pedals for just about every overdriven tone out there. I went through a ton of pedals before I found the stuff I was looking for. Here are my pedal recommendations:

For Fender Tweed Tones: Clark Gainster, V-Stack Tweedy, and Love Pedals Les Luis are the best I have found.

For Fender Black Face Tones: Barber B-Custom Cool, Boss Blues Driver, Menatone Red Snapper, Route 66, Durham Sex Drive

For Vox: Wampler Cranked AC, Tech 21 Liverpool and Vox Big Ben.

For Valco: Greer Ghetto Stomp and BFG Honey Bee.

For Marshall: Box of Rock, Marshall Guvnor, Menatone King of the Britains, cmatmods brownie and many others.