A guitarist question on a drum forum

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I have no idea why my guitarist friend wants my opinion but he's getting a new amp, and I casually mentioned that I thought it was better if he had a smaller amp turned up loud, than if he had a big amp running at low volume.

I think guys with big amps end up cranking up the volume to get that ''cranked amp'' sort of sound and then the drummer hits way too hard and the guitarist turns it up again and then you're getting noise complaints and everyone's ears are f**ked.

Anyway he likes the laney ironheart, and he was gonna get the 60watt version. Since he asked me I thought he should get the 30 watt version, since the guy in my last band had a vox ac30 and that was more than loud enough.

This would be for home practice and also jamming with me in my drum room, but I'm sure it would be fine onstage if we ever played a show, if not it could be mic'd and run through the PA?
 

SgtThump

Platinum Member
A higher wattage can also mean a bigger bottom end, even at the same volumes. I had a hard time getting along with smaller lower wattage amps, because they just didn't have any "oomph" to me. The differences were more about tone than actual volume.

I actually preferred higher wattage amps turned to normal stage volumes, not blasting to extreme levels to get more power tube distortion. But I realize lots of other folks feel the opposite. I think alot of it depends on the music too. I played hard rock and liked a big fat guitar tone.

Again, this is all just my opinion and preferences.
 

Arky

Platinum Member
There are literally hundreds of guitar amps on the market. It might be (way) out of budget, but I'd suggest getting a good digital modeling amp. There's a few really good ones on the market but the best thing out there as of now - in fact, for a few years now - is the Fractal Axe-Fx (version II by now). I haven't used my Mesa tube amp since I bought the Axe-Fx. No matter which digital amp - they all have one advantage as compared to tube amps: Provided you power them via decent power amps and ok monitors, they will offer a constant sound across the dynamic spectrum. So the question of cranking up weaker amps vs. using more powerful ones is obsolete. That is, with the exception that the Axe-Fx is designed to even simulate the behaviour of the modeled real amps in relation to the volume level they're used at, plus there's a bunch of settings that goes beyond what solid state/tube amps have.

Here's the Fractal website:
http://www.fractalaudio.com/p-axe-fx-ii-preamp-fx-processor.php

That's the power amp that I'm using. Cheaper alternatives would be a Carvin power amp - it gets recommended on the facebook Fractal Axe-Fx group but I don't remember the exact model.
http://uk.matrixamplification.com/gt-1000-fx-2u.html

As for speakers, you can either use passive or active speakers (also available from Matrix/UK), hook the Axe-Fx up to a mixer and use a PA system so there's a lot of options. You can also use a real amp with a power amp section and some regular guitar cabinets. The only difference is that it's recommended to set up the Axe-Fx (or any digital modeling amp) for flat response (full range) or for that typical guitar speaker response (with some roll-off of the higher frequencies beginning from 6-7 kHz).

I'd recommend to save up for this thing because once you have it, there will be an enormously high level of satisfaction. I also bought the Fractal MFC-101 MIDI controller - you can use any MIDI controller but that one was designed specifically for that unit. It's clearly the best guitar processor in the digital domain. Just saying.

Haven't used it for gigs yet because I've been playing the bass in my first band (using a studio preamp - but the Axe-Fx would work also, I just haven't used it in that context yet). I've joined another band (being the lead guitarist there) and they're very pleased with the sounds I get - just rehearsing so far, hadn't any gigs with them yet. Most sounds would be presets as they are, with just a bit of editing. I've barely scratched the surface of what this thing can do. (That 3-band multi band compressor is super nice to tame the oomph of the low B string on my fretless bass - haven't checked this out live though). And Fractal Audio is extremely active creating new upgrades, presets, more modeling (amps, stomp boxes, rack effects).

Check out their artists section... Some guitarists/bands have completely stopped using real amps, both live and in the studio. To me the Axe-Fx II was the first digital amp that really delivered. I had the Standard version a few years ago, wasn't happy with it, sold it. Then skipped the Ultra (twice the processing power). The II convinced me. I've been considering selling off my analogue guitar stuff.
 

SgtThump

Platinum Member
Arky's post brings up another question. There are those that prefer the simplicity of a real tube amp, those that prefer the versatility of a digital modelling amp, and those that are open-minded to both.

It's very much like electronic drums vs. acoustic drums.
 

TColumbia37

Silver Member
If he wants the higher wattage amp, but you guys want that tone of pushing the tubes without all the volume, tell him to get an attenuator/power soak. Then he can have an amp that cranks super loud when he needs it, but he'll still be able to achieve the same great tone at low volumes.

When I used to play guitar live frequently, I was running an Egnater Tourmaster 4100 through a matching 412 cabinet, with simple rack unit. I would run the head on 50 watts to a TubeJuice attenuator, and out from there to the cabinet, crank the head, and control the volume on the attenuator. It really makes a world of difference in tone.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
I love the Fractals or Kempers for studio or practice, but I have never cared for them in live, on stage situations. I did hear one that was put through a Mesa tube preamp that was passable, but that comes with a very hefty price tag.

The key is a master volume tube amp. There is no modeling amp or effects processor that can compare to the sound of a tube amplifier. While that may only be my opinion, it is one that is shared with a huge majority of professional guitarists. The Mesa's have great saturation at lower volumes, and many have wattage switching capabilities. The Peavey Classics and 5150/6505 type amps sound great at lower volumes.

A guitarists tone is such a personal thing, it takes years or playing and trying out gear to find the right gear. Some guys love playing low wattage amps at higher volume and some like it the other way. Its up to him to find his sound.
 

tothemax

Junior Member
Over the years I've had a number of amps and the one that comes to mind is the Fender Twin I'd always wanted. In the mid-80's I found a deal on a Super Twin and it cured me of over powering. Don't get me wrong it was a great sounding amp, but to drive the tubes to the level that you got good breakup was ear bleeding volume wise. Lesson learned...

One thing that folks forget is that wehn Marshall, Hiwatt, VOX and others came out with the high wattage amps it was because PA systems weren't where they are now and you were powering guitars for large venues. We're a 4 piece and I use two amps with an AB\Y switch for my sound, a Fender Blues Jr. (15w) and a Egnator Rebel 20 (with 1x12 cab) only because I love the tone mix - either amp would do what we need for practice or small to medium rooms (also with two you get a bigger sound). 30 tube watts raised off the floor should be plenty for most music.

Just my 2c's
 

firesgt911

Senior Member
There is a lot to consider with this. What kind of music will he be playing? I play an Orange Rocker 30 and at full rock band volumes, my headroom is almost non existent. If I played primarily cleaner music, I would go with a higher wattage amp.

Now, if he is planning to use the amps gain as his primary distortion, then lowering the wattage will help get some saturation at more tolerable levels.

Also consider the fact that the Vox AC30 is louder than my Orange Rocker 30 even though they are both 30 watts.

Either way, 60 watts in not an unreasonable size. It would be have enough headroom to cover a lot of ground. 30 watts is really pressing the lower limits of what I can accomplish unmic'd. In other words, I have to work at making my 30 watts work for all situations. I would have to work a little less at 60 watts.
 

Wavelength

Platinum Member
30 watts should be plenty for most purposes. I have a 50-watt Koch Twintone with the option to halve its power thanks to an internal power soak, and the 25 watts have always been enough.
 

SgtThump

Platinum Member
30 watts should be plenty for most purposes. I have a 50-watt Koch Twintone with the option to halve its power thanks to an internal power soak, and the 25 watts have always been enough.
Again, with me, it's not about the volume. You can crank up some 5-watt tube combos, run it through a PA, and the volume levels would be adequate for distorted tones. You can crank up some 20-watt tube combos without a PA and it would be totally adequate for distorted tones.

However, they still don't sound like a higher wattage amp and certainly don't have the oomph I prefer.

All I'm saying is that it's not all about volume and of course, it's a personal preference regarding tone.
 

firesgt911

Senior Member
Again, with me, it's not about the volume. You can crank up some 5-watt tube combos, run it through a PA, and the volume levels would be adequate for distorted tones. You can crank up some 20-watt tube combos without a PA and it would be totally adequate for distorted tones.

However, they still don't sound like a higher wattage amp and certainly don't have the oomph I prefer.

All I'm saying is that it's not all about volume and of course, it's a personal preference regarding tone.
Agreed. There is so much that goes into deciding on an amp. It has the greatest impact on your tone than any other piece of gear.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
Valve watts seem to be larger than solid state watts.

Recently I picked up a Legacy Blues Custom 30 watt amp, with 2 x 12. (As far as I can tell, Legacy is a re-branded Epiphone amp for the Aussie market.) The tone is just awesome. The lead guitarist in my garage band plays through it and absolutely loves it. Plenty volume for a similar playing situation to the one you describe Dre25, and the 2x12's give plenty of bottom end grunt to the sound. We play classic rock stuff.

Oh, and the amp is switchable between 15 and 30 watts, and we're using the 15W setting.

My money is where my mouth is, and it's for a 15-30 watt valve amp all the way.
 

tothemax

Junior Member
Probably one more thing to add to all the comments... I've also got a 4x8 cab for the Rebel 20 which doesn't really work for smaller rooms because the sound is large but doesn't cut through the mix without kicking up the amp volume (which becomes overpowering). But that same cab is fine for an outside gig where you can use a big sound. Point is there's lots of options and the same setup doesn't work for all settings.

Lots of trial and error, the great thing is that there is lots of used gear out there to try until you find the tone you're looking for.
 

groove1

Silver Member
The quest for "guitar and amp tone" is like jazz drummers looking for a great ride cymbal.
I play guitar and my "favorite tone" I ever had was a Les Paul through a Fender Super Reverb
with Telefunken and RCA black plate tubes along with Weber speakers. I can't answer
your question directly because there are way to many variables.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I think you can't go wrong with your standard Fender Twin. The cool thing is that you can switch it from 25 watts to 100 watts (if I remember correctly). So you basically have two amps in one. I played with a guy who had a small Fender Princeton (2x10) that literally blew my hair off.

If I recall correctly, the favorite tones we hear on albums is actually a number of different amps running together, so there's really no way one amp could cover everything, so I figure compromise on something big ;)
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
I think you can't go wrong with your standard Fender Twin. The cool thing is that you can switch it from 25 watts to 100 watts (if I remember correctly). So you basically have two amps in one. I played with a guy who had a small Fender Princeton (2x10) that literally blew my hair off.

If I recall correctly, the favorite tones we hear on albums is actually a number of different amps running together, so there's really no way one amp could cover everything, so I figure compromise on something big ;)
Pics or it didn't happen. :)
 

SgtThump

Platinum Member
A Fender Twin is EXTREMELY heavy to carry around and can be SUPER loud with no distortion on tap. If you like distorted guitar, a player will need to use a pedal with a Twin. Lots of folks (me included) have never been fully satisfied with pedal distortion.

I could talk guitar gear forever, since that was my main instrument from the ages of 13 to 38 or so. LOL

It's all just opinion, of course, and there is no right or wrong.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
If he wants the higher wattage amp, but you guys want that tone of pushing the tubes without all the volume, tell him to get an attenuator/power soak. Then he can have an amp that cranks super loud when he needs it, but he'll still be able to achieve the same great tone at low volumes.

When I used to play guitar live frequently, I was running an Egnater Tourmaster 4100 through a matching 412 cabinet, with simple rack unit. I would run the head on 50 watts to a TubeJuice attenuator, and out from there to the cabinet, crank the head, and control the volume on the attenuator. It really makes a world of difference in tone.
Yes. I discovered this when I watched a youtube demo of the ironheart amp. He can have the 60 and turn the ''soak'' down so that it has some gruff at lower volume, like the smaller amps would.

So I guess in a way it was a redundant question. Now he would just need to decide whether he needs the extra 30 watt and how that would affect the cost, weight, transport of the amp etc.

I sent him a link to this thread (Hey Housie), if you wanna throw any other amp suggestions out there feel free. I don't think I can categorize his playing, he does a bit of everything, is more creative and musical than he is technical. He has a fender strat.

Thanks everyone.
 

Starship Krupa

Senior Member
A pretty important question is what style of music is the amp going to be used for.

Jangle pop, jazz, black metal, country, hardcore, blues?

For live performance stuff, guitar is usually mic'd and run through the PA.

I repair and design amps for a living, and the sweet spot, in my opinion, is about 20 watts these days. I can play my 17 watt amp with a full band outdoors with no PA and be heard just fine.

A 30 watt Laney is going to be really loud.

The only people I see who really need more than that are people who play really heavy music, usually downtuned, going through a 4-12 cabinet or some such.

Springsteen tours with 35 watt Hot Rod Deluxes. Neil Young gets his face-melting sound with an amp that probably puts out about 25 watts.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I have no idea why my guitarist friend wants my opinion but he's getting a new amp, and I casually mentioned that I thought it was better if he had a smaller amp turned up loud, than if he had a big amp running at low volume.

I think guys with big amps end up cranking up the volume to get that ''cranked amp'' sort of sound and then the drummer hits way too hard and the guitarist turns it up again and then you're getting noise complaints and everyone's ears are f**ked.

Anyway he likes the laney ironheart, and he was gonna get the 60watt version. Since he asked me I thought he should get the 30 watt version, since the guy in my last band had a vox ac30 and that was more than loud enough.

This would be for home practice and also jamming with me in my drum room, but I'm sure it would be fine onstage if we ever played a show, if not it could be mic'd and run through the PA?
. . .
 

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