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What guitar amp?

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What guitar amp?

Postby GreenManSwaler » Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:07 am

I am looking for a guitar amp for my studio that is capable of a delivering a wide range of sounds for use by guitarists who may not have 'right' sounding gear suitable for what they are after.

I presume some sort of digital/valve hybrid but I am not really up on these things?

Or should I go for recording the guitar clean and playing around with amp software, not something I am keen on as I much prefer using the DAW as my 'recorder plus outboard' rather than a sound creation tool (hope you get what I mean).

Ta in advance.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:10 am

What's the budget? And what sort of bands do you work with the most? Can you make unlimited noise? Do you already own a good cab? Are we talking demos for local bands or do you need these sounds to compete at 'any' level?
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby GreenManSwaler » Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:53 am

Budget......depends on how close to my/the ideal we can get.

Bands.....just getting going so can't really tell.

Unlimited noise.......we can certainly turn up without an issue.

Cabs.....not at the mo, part of the next question really!

Any level...........just having built my studio were 'roots' at the mo! But that's no excuse for complacency regarding quality of sound.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Dave B » Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:54 am

Greenmanswaler wrote:Or should I go for recording the guitar clean and playing around with amp software, not something I am keen on as I much prefer using the DAW as my 'recorder plus outboard' rather than a sound creation tool (hope you get what I mean).

Regardless of what amp you get, you should consider DI'ing and getting something which will allow re-amping. It gives more flexibility and lets you continue to be a 'recorder plus outboard' system.

In terms of a good, flexible amp I would suggest starting with the Blackstar HT range. It allows for quite a variety of tones and there are now output levels to suite all sizes. But equally a valid criticism is that it would not be the same as having a Deluxe and a JTM45 so depending on the level you are working with this might be an issue.

Another option might be to get a good quality clean amp and then get some nice pedals to stick in front of it.

If you do consider software, then take a look at the Scuffham amp software... it's really rather good.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby The Elf » Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:41 am

Dave B wrote:Regardless of what amp you get, you should consider DI'ing and getting something which will allow re-amping. It gives more flexibility and lets you continue to be a 'recorder plus outboard' system.
+1

Dave B wrote:Another option might be to get a good quality clean amp and then get some nice pedals to stick in front of it.
This is one of the most used options here, and I've never regretted buying the Roland JC-120 I use for this. I pull in a crusty old Marshall plexi-valve-jobby for when I really need dirt, but the JC-120 wins more often than not. The beauty of the JC-120 is that it lets you hear the pedals doing their thing without adding much colour of its own.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:06 pm

OK, the end game of this scenario is that you will probably have two or three amps covering certain bases, in order to provide people with the sounds they hear on the records they buy. Those bases can't be covered by a single 'versatile' amp, because a big part of each sound is to do with the cabinet (whether a combo or a cab) and the speaker. It's not as simple even as having a cab with a variety of heads for the same reason. Some amps cover quite a lot of ground, and end up being useful across a variety of genres...EG a good Fender Deluxe type amp is good for cleans of all varieties, but it's also good for rock stuff, especially as a second guitar vs something more high gain. An AC30 does quite a similar sort of thing (although AC30's are tricky in the studio because they don't always record very well...depends on the speakers). So, if I were you I'd look for a Fender type combo to start off with. There are some nice ones that Fender do, or if you want to go up in quality a bit there are things like the Lazy J 20 which is basically a very high quality hand-built deluxe. To that you could look to add a decent cab of some sort...say an Orange 412, or perhaps an older Marshall 412, and a high gain head like a Peavey 6505 or whatever that one is that works really well for metal and heavier rock. The gap in the middle is then probably something vox'y but you can do a lot of that sort of stuff with pedals and the Fender. It's different though. There are some awesome Vox type amps which work well in the studio from the likes of Divided By 13 and Audio Kitchen etc.

What I would definitely not do is...use amp sims. You can make noise, so for God's sake differentiate yourself from all the millions who can't. Software doesn't come close to good amp and you should take advantage of that important string in your bow. I would also definitely not buy one amp expecting it to do everything.

I would budget for some pedals, a really good quality splitter (the gig rig one is affordable) and a reamp. Sometimes players just want to use their own amp. If you really don't like it you can run to two amps and blend in a bit of something you prefer (or whatever)


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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby grab » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:13 pm

A third option would be decent modelling FX kit. Reviews of the Pod HD suggest they're pretty close to indistinguishable from the real thing (if anyone has one, please comment - I'm seriously considering getting one and DI-ing). And the SoS review of the Kemper suggests it *is* indistinguishable.

This might not be the perfect option, and it's not as cool. But a Pod is probably something you're likely to keep using, even if it's only to rough out ideas for tone which you can fine-tune later with some boutique FX or PC-based processing.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Bongooo » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:35 pm

The best range of tones i've been able to get out of one rig is a J-Station running through an old 60w valve hifi amp into either a small bass cab, a single 8" speaker, or a 4x12 depending on the need.

I have had some funny looks from the small handfull of guitarists that have been through here, but i get some great sounds.

Like the idea of the Jazz Chorus though, always fancied one.

I've also got a small valve combo, a little 10w practice amp with a 6" speaker, a smokey practice amp and some other ones in bits.

I would say that whatever i use i always mic it up, just don't seem to be able to get any air in the sounds when DI'ing.

Get a range, one rig is hard if you're after loads of sounds.

If a guitarist is really fussy they will bring their own amp. Cabs make a lot of difference so some options there will help.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby zenguitar » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:14 pm

It's one of those 'how long is a piece of string' questions. But it's worth helping you start to unravel it and find the ends.

When it comes to a studio it's all about getting the best value for your budget. You can't always second guess what sounds guitarists (and bassists) are looking for, but it is very easy to make a list of things that guitarists economise on, think they can do without, or just don't need for gigging so would never even think of buying. Amps actually come a long way down the list.

It's no coincidence that someone with as much experience and skill in this area as Jack only mentioned one piece of hardware. A good cab. Give a guitarist a budget of £1000 to buy an amp, and the odds are he'll spend every penny, or more, on a great head and then realise he needs a cab and scrape together a few pennies for the cheapest piece of rubbish he can afford. And he will probably get away with that live but in the studio it will cause no end of problems.

Top of the list. At least one great cab, ideally more. In previous conversations Jack and I have both rated a 70's Orange 4x12 as our 1st choice. But something equally big and heavy (and expensive - at least when new) is a good candidate. And think about alternatives to the 4x12 too. An open back 2x12 is a classic, as is a 4x10 (the old Session 4x10 is a nice bass cab but it works really well as a guitar cab too). Not only will good cabs solve a lot of problems, but you will learn how they sound in your room. And that means you will quickly work out some reliable micing techniques that are repeatable.

Next things guitarists skimp on are batteries and leads. Guitarists will turn up with a row of dodgy stomp boxes with flat batteries, no spares, and the rattiest road worn patch cords. Get some decent guitar cables and patch cords (make them girly neon pink or label them 'stolen from.....') and take care of them, and don't forget some decent speaker cables for the heads/cabs because some guitarists will be using a cheap guitar cable instead as well as their cardboard 4x12. Get one or two power bricks for stomp boxes from the likes of Dunlop/TRex with a range of different voltage ratings and a selection of adaptor cables. Buy a box of 9V batteries for stock and sell them (and you might consider a deal with a local guitar shop to get a few boxes of strings too, you know that plenty of players will turn up with strings old enough to be served in a pub).

Dave's point about DI is important too. Re-Amping gives you a lot of options for mixing, but it also expands your client base too. Clients can record at home, monitor through a modelling amp and headphones while recording a DI, and then you can re-amp that DI in the studio. So as well as good DI boxes suitable for guitars, I would look at dedicated re-amping tools from the likes of Radial. And I would also look at splitters so you can drive more than one amp at a time, or DI boxes that off that facility.

Next up are stands. Not just enough mic stands to mic 3 or 4 cabs with multiple mics at various distances, but amp stands. Whether it's a heavy duty amp stand or a solid riser, you need to ensure those guitarists have their combos pointed at their ears, despite our best efforts we guitarists have repeatedly failed to evolve ears in the backs of our knees.

And finally, we can get to amps :)

Guitarists who are very fussy about their sound will have already sorted out quality amps and FX. They will bring their own and what you need to do is practice your people skills and get to know them. These people spend a fortune on gear and have a lot more at home. Encourage them to bring in a selection of their amps. Notionally this is so you can experiment with different options once you've got the main tracks down. But the real reason is to find out exactly what amps they have and how they sound/record in your room, so after a few months you will have a list of really nice amps that you might be able to borrow for a recording/re-amping session. Or maybe hire, or do a deal on some studio work. And as these players tend to tinker constantly with their rigs they often sell old gear to fund new purchases, so you get a chance to pick up good second hand amps that you know well and record well in your room.

Next up are guys who aren't too fussy, they just like to plug in and play. If their gear is better than yours, they will use their gear. If your gear is better they will use yours.

Finally you get guitarists who just can't afford decent gear. And what they generally need are good amps that deliver the basic/classic sounds without any fuss. Easy to understand controls so someone used to a cheap amp can leap in and dial up a sound they like. And for those I would look at a second hand Marshall DSL50 head (remember, you will already have bought a nice selection of cabs) and a second hand Fender DeVille 2x12 combo. That covers vintage and 80's Marshall and clean and dirty Fender.

A line 6 POD (or equivalent) would be handy. The rackmount versions have excellent connectivity and can be really handy for sketching out parts for re-amping later while monitoring on the modelled sounds.

Further down the line, baby boutique amps might be useful. And something like the Kemper modelling amp if you really want to push the boat out. That would enable you to make maximum use of the amp collections of your regular tone hounds ;)

Remember, your job is to provide things that guitarist wouldn't otherwise use, the things they should use but don't consider, the things that they don't maintain, and the things that they skimp on.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby zenguitar » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:16 pm

LOL... you can see how long it took me to write this, by the number of other replies since Dave B's !!

Andy :beamup:
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby GreenManSwaler » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:48 pm

WOW........a lot to digest....and it's not yet tea time.

To touch on odd points, yes I intend to split the signal so as to enable reamping.

A pod is already kicking around as is an original hand wired Sansamp pedal, which I really get on with.

Having a selection of heads and cabs makes sense......lots of combinations to try.

I totally agree about not using plug in amp sims as well.

I will go away and ruminate on the replies....cheers.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:02 pm

Re the PSU's...I've had a lot of problems in the studio with those things...even expensive isolated TRex Fuel tanks etc. I've found that batteries seem to be better for most pedals and if you can I'd just get a big box (take them out of clients pedals when they leave!). I'm not sure what the issue is, and it's not one of those 'batteries sound better' type things...it's noise.

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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Goddard » Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:14 pm

You might find this article by Carl Verheyen of some interest.

:D
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:34 pm

Nice link Goddard! 8-)

Nowhere near as informative as Andy's 'War and Peace' post, but then we wouldn't expect that would we? :bouncy:


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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby zenguitar » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:46 pm

Martin Walker wrote:Nice link Goddard! 8-)

Nowhere near as informative as Andy's 'War and Peace' post, but then we wouldn't expect that would we? :bouncy:


Martin

Now, if we can just get Count Arthur Strong for the Talking Book version...

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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby ef37a » Wed Aug 07, 2013 4:56 am

Quite agree about going for batteries instead of PSUs where complex hook ups might be the case.

CPC e.g do a box of 10 Duracells for 20quid and 12 bog S alkalines for 15 (+VAT) and if you are buying in the latter especially, bit mean grabbing them back?

Speakers? +1. There might be said to be two "standards"? The Celestion Vintage 30 (rated at 60W!). Hard rock sound most folks say, punchy mid range but plenty of bottom urge. Celestion Greenback. Various marks and power levels 20-30W. A smoother, less inyerface sound well suited to jazz. The 55Hz version has a bit of extra "reach". A pair of 2x12 cabs so loaded will cover almost any style.

Amps? Well I musn't must I?!!

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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby GreenManSwaler » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:18 am

ef37a wrote:

Amps? Well I musn't must I?!!

Dave.

Oh go on then........







Pleeeeeze
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby GreenManSwaler » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:30 pm

Just a thought leading on from one of the replies......what do people think about pedal, then valve pre, then clean amp, then cab?
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby ef37a » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:07 pm

Greenmanswaler wrote:
ef37a wrote:

Amps? Well I musn't must I?!!

Dave.

Oh go on then........







Pleeeeeze

Ok, well check my profile then the website and pick something to talk about!

BTW. How do I edit my profile please? I am no longer retired you see.

Dave.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Richie Royale » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:28 pm

ef37a wrote:
Amps? Well I musn't must I?!!

Dave.


If you can't, I can ;)

http://www.blackstaramps.com/
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Goddard » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:29 pm

Martin Walker wrote:Nice link Goddard! 8-)

Nowhere near as informative as Andy's 'War and Peace' post, but then we wouldn't expect that would we? :bouncy:


Martin

Wait, wait, I've an amp article by Tolstoy bookmarked someplace! :lol:

(had read that Verheyen article in the actual mag a while back, so had to employ my Hugh-like web searching prowess to track down the online version) :D
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Goddard » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:37 pm

An Egnater Tweaker might well serve for studio recording amp duties.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Bongooo » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:45 pm

Ooh! My credit card has jumped off the sideboard and is banging its fist on the floor, crying!
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Chimera » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:01 pm

I really can't be the only person on the planet to have one of these....

Hughes and Kettner Tubemeister 18 head!!

Excellent reviews in SOS, XLR line out (Red Box) (bet you thought that was a medical condition) power switching from 18 watts down to 5,1 and 0. FX loop

Retail about £400

What's not to like?
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby GreenManSwaler » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:04 am

Goddard wrote:An Egnater Tweaker might well serve for studio recording amp duties.


Just had a read about one of those. Sounds very suitable.

As does the h&k.......
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Guitarmoog » Thu Aug 08, 2013 3:44 pm

Hi there. This is my first post as, despite reading the forums for years and years, this is the first time I've really had anything helpful to add to the brilliant answers already posted.

The really flexible amps like the Egnater, Blackstars and the H&K may be a decent bet, but after 20 odd years of playing guitar I've realise that it really is true that there are 3 main classic amp types (excluding Mesas and other very high gain types). i.e., Fender (6L6 or 6V6 valves), Vox (EL84s), Marshall (EL34s). Of course, Orange/Matamp and others have their own characters, but these three form the majority of great guitar sounds, mainly due to their much copied electronic designs and valve types.

Without really trying, I've ended up with one of each type - a Fender Deluxe Reverb, Marshall Vintage Modern, and a Laney LC15r. The second two are cheats really, as the classic Marshall sound is really EL34s, and the VM has KT66s, but it's very close. The Laney quite rightly has a reputation as a poor man's AC15, and can be found ridiculously cheaply. It's not an AC15 by any means. It has a much smaller cab and s different speaker, but it has a similar electronic layout and EL84s, and will get you some of the way there.

If you are only buying one though as a starter, I'd really recommend the Deluxe Reverb plus a few pedals. The amp is brilliant with pedals, and really let's them shine through, even when recording, which losts of amps don't, so it provides a brilliant basis for getting other sounds. For pedals, I've been settled for a few years on the following 4 OD/gain pedals:
- Z.Vex Box of Rock - can make the Fender very Marshally, and has a nice glassy boost for a bit of clean sustain.
- Lovepedal Amp 11 - Very, very voxy, so great for jangle and uncompressed jaggy punk sounds. Also has a good pre-boost to give more gain.
- Ibanez Tubescreamer - it sound awful on its own, but sometimes it just nails the sound you need in a mix
- Emma ReezaFRATzitz - ridiculously gainy distortion/fuzz pedal, but with bags of tweak ability, so lots of great sounds in it.

The Fender plays great with all of them, so i'd say most people I record end up using this clean with one or other of those pedals, and just occasional use of one of the other two amps for certain parts.

One issue with it though is that it is open back. Sometimes you just need the real focussed thump of a closed back cab, so I have a marshall closed-back 1x12 with a Greenback in it that I hook the fender up to when I need the thump, but with a more Fender sound.

So, if you're planning on the long term, I'd go for the Fender DRRI and 1,2,3 or 4 of the above pedals (or similar ones). Not a cheap solution by any means, but it would never cease to be useful.

Hope this is helpful,

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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Jack Ruston » Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:16 pm

I wish my first post on this forum had been as decent and informative as that.

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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby caveman82 » Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:55 pm

Crikey, what a first post. Some great points in this thread so far. The wizard of strings, Zenguitar providing some excellent points as ever.

There are some amps which allow for Power/Pre Amp valves to be varied, eg THD Uni/Bi Valve. I've not used one but theoretically they could provide a number of different valve tones (not sure if it's a jack of all trades though). There are a lot of 'micro' valve amps around too which could provide cost effective for producing a lot of valve tones, but once again I have no experience of using them, I'd fascinated if anyone has used them to positive use in studio settings.

There's the Kemper Profiling Amp which from the SoS review is rated very highly, which produces a myriad of different tones and sounds; which potentially could be the swiss army penknife of amplifiers.
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Imran500 » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:24 pm

Seriously look at the Kemper Profiling Amp, it's a digital technology which effectively clones amps is amazingly accurate.

You can just download user profiles and have Mesa Boogie Rectifiers, Marshalls, Diezels, Fenders, etc. etc. - just a range of expensive amp tones in a box.

I'm getting one in the near future :D
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Re: What guitar amp?

Postby Jack Ruston » Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:33 pm

No, seriously don't.

Sorry Imran, it's not that I don't think it's a good product, although I'd find it more reassuring if any of the AB videos of it online sounded the same. I know some seriously great metal producers who have them and use them from time to time.

But here's the problem...Bands are going to come in, and they're going to want to use amps. In particular they're going to want to use the amps that are used on the records they love. Now ok, perhaps a selection of 1960's classic amps is an unrealistic goal, but there are great sounding equivalents. The advice about Fender, Vox, and Marshall is great. Aim for classic versions of tried and tested studio amps. Have a cool selection of pedals. Make something happen in a room the old fashioned way. That's what the guitar player wants from you. If you get out your Pod HD, your Kemper, your digital Vox or whatever and start fiddling with patches they're automatically going to start seeing a divide between what you're doing, and what they believe you should be doing. Trust me on this, I've been down that road with bands and they start to lose confidence in the sound. And for good reason.

Those products have a place. That place is as part of a setup where you can't make noise, or you're a TV composer etc who needs to work very quickly. In the case of the Kemper, it can be useful if you need to replicate the sound of the mic'd rig after the band have left, or again on another session with that player where you don't have access to the same setup.

Here's another thing...You buy a couple of really good amps...Fender Deluxe or Princeton, Super Reverb, Twin, Marshall super lead or JMP, JCM800, Vox AC30 or 15...or modern equivalents Divided By 13, Lazy J, Matchless...You're not going to lose money. Those amps serve you well and keep their value over time. If you buy a Pod, a Kemper or whatever, the second a better version comes out the thing is drastically devalued. It just becomes old technology and not in a cool way.

I've owned loads of these things, and finally over the last few years I've bought a collection of really good studio amps. And they're well worth it. Don't throw your cash away on short term solutions which are not where you want to end up.

Just my opinion of course, I'm not trying to put anyone down who might disagree.

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