Time for part II of my blog on which amplifier to buy. This is a tough post–one of the tougher ones I’ve had to do, simply because there are so many great amps out there now. Those of you who are opinionated purists, are welcome to send me your “hate mail.” If I think your beef is legitimate, I may even take it up in another post…but no promises.
Any other feedback, as always, you can leave on this thread. Anyway, deciding on which amps are the best is an almost purely subjective endeavor. One man’s tone is another man’s trash, so to speak.
That said, the main criterion for my choices are best value for your buck. I looked at price range (low, mid, and highend) as well as overall tone and reliability. I also tried to keep in mind the growth curve of guitarists, meaning that today’s beginner guitarists are more demanding than they were in my day in a couple of ways. They want tone and at least a few effects built into their amps, but they also want affordability. Old dawgs like myself, on the other hand are more interested in higher end all tube boutique style amps. The former group tends toward solid state amplification, while the latter are generally tube snobs, and with good reason. Tubes are the heart and soul of the beast. I don’t care how great the modeling amp’s claim. If there are no valves in there, your tone will be lacking by comparison. But as a youngster, I had complete ignorance of that fact. Also, I didn’t have a budget, which certainly made solid state amps more attractive. But you have to grow up sometime. Solid state may be okay in the short term, but I predict you young pups will outgrow it and move on to valves. Still, In making my choices, I tried to pick amps which serve the wants of a very diverse breed of guitarist, young and old alike, and that’s really the only reason for including a solid state amp in my lineup. You’ll find my picks in ascending order in terms of both price range and overall tone. Let’s get started.
Peavey Vypyr 15 15W 1×8 Guitar Combo Amp
In the extreme low end price range, it’s hard to beat the Line Six Spider IV 1×8 Combo. But there’s a new kid in town and he goes by the name Peavy Vypyr. Priced at just $99.00, this little amp is nothing short of extraordinary, even if it is solid state. Those of you who know me, understand that’s quite a statement. “With double the processing power, models and effects of competitive modeling amplifiers, the VYPYR dramatically redefines the power and scope of modern guitar amplification. VYPYR amplifiers are based on powerful 32-bit, floating-point SHARC processors that enable highly detailed, accurate modeling as well as vastly enhanced flexibility and features than ever before available in guitar amplification.
Featuring 24 amp channel models-both the clean and distorted channels of 12 popular amps for the first time anywhere—11 editable post-amp “rack” effects with dual-parameter control. The entire six-model VYPYR Series features the easy-to-use Peavey WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface” and with a very liberally rated 15 w of RMS power, you won’t believe how loud this little sucker can get. Think of it as a little amp with a huge chip on its shoulder. It packs punch that will surprise you.
Marshall MA Series MA50C 50W 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp
In the mid price range, we have the Marshall MA Series MA50C 50W 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp. This 50 W terror is a versatile beast in a very efficient package. “The MA50C 50W combo was carefully designed by Marshall’s R&D team using the same basic principles as all Marshall amps—to deliver colorful, dynamic, unmistakable Marshall tube tone in a road-ready package.
Tube Power And Tone Simply Executed
The MA50C is powered using the traditional Marshall mainstays of ECC83 double triode tubes in the preamp, and EL34 pentode tubes in the power amp. The layout and controls are kept simple, allowing you to explore unhindered the full potential of the all-tube tone within. The MA50C has separate EQ stages for both the Clean and Overdrive channels so you can optimally adjust each one without compromising the other. A 12″ Eminence AX-75 speaker delivers all this great tone to awaiting ears. An extra benefit has been provided in the form of a tube-driven Boost function on the OD channel giving you, for example, a solo boost with more volume and gain. The amp also contains a spring reverb for use with all channels within the amp.”
Finally, (I saved the best for last) it’s my pleasure to showcase the Doc Electro Club 212. In my never-to-be humble opinion, it’s the top dog in it’s class. Coming in with a $2200 base price, this amp is more than you’re paying for. Seriously, you’re stealing this amp at that price. That’s how good it is. It’s a 140 WATTS of American made, hand crafted sonic perfection. A 2×12 all tube combo, this amp is just about as versatile as you can get for any amp in its class. “Channel A has a powerful clean tone with full range tone control. Channel B is the best performing crunch circuit available. With Drive, Gain, and Master controls, you can custom tailor your crunch to a light spank or the hardest brain pounding bite imaginable. It’s loaded with reverb, which is available on both channels, along with an outstanding slope feature, for great tone control.”
This work of art is loaded with 4-6L6 Svetlanas in the power stage and 6 (count ’em) 6-12AX7 LPS preamp tubes for unbelievable warmth and crunch. I spoke with Doc Electro over the phone and he said that this amp is basically a homage to the old Fender Twin with a notable exception, it can get down and dirty with destructive force. Capable of incendiary tone in the overdrive stage, yet retaining that sought after Fenderlike clarity and warmth in the clean channel. And since these amps are completely handmade, you can have Doc customize your Club 212 to suit your needs. Like I said earlier, you have to grow up sometime; why not now? Pop on over to Mom’s Music in Jeffersonville, Indiana and talk to the Doc.