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Best Sub $1,000 tube amp head for a modern high-gain tone?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX  
Author Best Sub $1,000 tube amp head for a modern high-gain tone?
I am the proud owner of a Peavey Valveking 100 watt head . It can grab those sweet 80's and 90's metal tones pretty dang well, along with nice cleans and a great blues tone, but it is missing the tightness at higher gains to get Disturbed, Dorje, Iced Earth, etc. type tones. Are there any good sub $1,000 tube amp heads (I already have a nice cab with Vintage 30's) that can get those tones as well as be versatile enough to get a half decent blues tone and a good clean? I have been looking at the Mesa Boogie Single Rectifier, the Peavey 5150, Marshall DSL100h, and the Panama Shaman, but are there any others? And what do you think is the best one out there in this price range (I know its not a lot)? Thanks!
You can find a Mesa Tremoverb for under $1000. It's basically a Dual Rectifier with reverb and tremolo. If I was after the high gain and sweet cleans that is what I would go with.
I just noticed this is in Modular Synth General threads. You should try the General Gear thread. Or maybe a guitar forum like gear page or gearslutz.
diller wrote:
You can find a Mesa Tremoverb for under $1000. It's basically a Dual Rectifier with reverb and tremolo. If I was after the high gain and sweet cleans that is what I would go with.

I think Mesa's are a great option. Tremoverb and Stiletto are killer amps. I used to have a 50 Caliber+ and it was excellent for the price. A Carvin Legacy might not be a bad option either. You may also want to consider picking up a Bogner Red pedal if you can get a great clean tone already.
Synth of Darkness
I own more amplifiers than any sane person should (I think I'm up to about 30??) and own a few of the ones that you mentioned above.

If you're not as picky as I am about the end result tone, and feel of the dynamics from playing then any one of the amps that you mentioned will work just fine. However, if you want to get into it there are a few factors to consider, such as: how hot your pickups are, whether you plan on using a pedal to push/tighten the low end of the amp or want tone straight out of the amp, how dynamic/responsive you want the amp to be to your playing and to volume knob control, and what the tone of your other band members currently is.

For a while I was running a 5150 (Block Letter) in combination with a 1965 Fender Bandmaster with two Fulltone OCD pedals pushing it into distortion territory. The 5150 on it's own has killer distortion, but the clean channels are pretty non-existent. That amp is biased VERY cold in order to get some crossover distortion to add to the crunch. You can modify it to do some cleans a little better, but it's always going to be a 5150. They are not very dynamic in response to your playing (it's kind of all or nothing), and sound kind of farty when you roll back the volume knob, instead of cleaning up. These were deal breakers for me in terms of use as a live amp for shows. I still use mine for recording. I would basically switch over to just the Fender Bandmaster when I needed cleans, and it sounded good but was a hassle to bring two heads everywhere.

I then bought a Mesa Boogie Road King II, which is basically just a Dual Rectifier with a bunch of extra switching options per channel. It sounded GREAT and got that heaviness that is so apparent in modern metal. If you get a Mesa Rectifier or even Mark series it will definitely be able to do the tones that you need, but you will most likely need to put an overdrive pedal, or EQ in front of it to tighten up the low end a bit. I used this amp for a few months, and it worked great. HOWEVER, for my specific circumstance it ended up not being a good amp for the band setting. It sounded amazing on its own, but my bass player and I were basically fighting for the same frequencies and could hardly ever hear each other in a live situation. The EQ on these amps is pretty dynamic, and I'm pretty convinced there is a way to dial it in to work, but so far it hasn't been worth the trouble.

Also, the Mesa amps are great for the options they provide, but one thing that I found out only after buying one is that there is a subtle delay built into the channel switching to avoid popping. This is fine in a lot of situations, but when you're playing speed metal there is a noticeable dropout of your signal each time you switch channels, and was unacceptable to me. The "fix" to this is to leave the reverb on at all times, but set the reverb control to zero and it softens the transition, but I still couldn't live with the chance of all signal dropping out right when I'm emphasizing a part by switching channels.

For a while I also played a 50W JCM800 that was pretty nice. Lots of people use them, and when pushed by an overdrive or distortion on the front end they can get into that heavier territory. Mine did the job just fine but I was never happy with it to the point that I wasn't wondering about other amps.

The amp that I landed on that can do it all (Dynamics of playing coming through, responsive to volume knob roll off, heavy without stepping on my bass player's frequency range) was the ENGL Ritchie Blackmore Signature edition. I think it's the E650 model. You can get them used for right at the $1000 mark if you're patient. Mine is very dynamic, very loud (when needed) and does crushing metal tones. A lot of people mistakenly assume these amps are only for classic rock (which they can do well), but it is also the amp that Abbath from Immortal has been using recently.

I have a lot of other amps that I've compared against for metal tones (plenty of different Sunn amps, vintage Ampeg, Marshall, and Fender amps) so let me know if you have other questions, but I would say you'll probably be happy with something in the 5150/6505, Dual Rectifier, JCM800 or ENGL realms. Most of the modern metal you listen to is using one of these amps. Push them in the front end with a Tubescreamer, or SD-1, and try throwing an EQ in the effects loop if needed, cut your bass on the front end and add it back in after the preamp stage (in the loop) and you'll sit in the mix well.
The main reason I sold my old mesa triple recto was, while it had a great evil high gain tone, it always felt a little mushy when playing fast. That was in the 90's so maybe mesa have changed their designs now.

Anyway I had a 5150 II that I chose specifically for its tightness and great high gain tone. Despite the complaints I've read I always liked the clean channel on that amp.

I run a JMP 2203 with a boost in front nowadays but those aren't sub $1000.

It's been a long time since I had the 5150 and I haven't heard the newer 6505's to recommend them, but if I were going for a tube head with a mean tone and excellent high gain articulation for a reasonable price, I'd get one of that family used and be done with it.
diller wrote:
I just noticed this is in Modular Synth General threads. You should try the General Gear thread. Or maybe a guitar forum like gear page or gearslutz.

Why has this gentleman joined muffwiggler today, just to start this thread, and post in the "What Video Game Are You Playing?" and "What TV show are you watching?" threads.

Miley Cyrus SlayerBadger! seriously, i just don't get it

I really enjoy this little site we have, but I will never understand how some people found it.
Synth of Darkness
diller wrote:

I really enjoy this little site we have, but I will never understand how some people found it.

This would be a great thread in the general discussion area... "How the heck did you get here for the first time??"

Also, can't agree enough with Hex about the mushiness on the Mesa Rectifier amps. It's part of the sound of those amps, even when using the diode rectifier, and "Bold" settings. The Mark series can be a little tighter, but they're pricey, and a 5150/6505 can get you just as tight for a lot less money.

I've worked on quite a few of the 5150/6505 amps and the newer ones are just as good as the old ones. Don't worry too much about which model you get. When it comes to the heads the 5150 is equivalent to the 6505, and the 5150 II is equivalent to the 6505+. Only major difference between the 5150/6505 and the 5150 II/6505 + is that the latter has a three band EQ for both channels, whereas the former only has one EQ section for the amp.
Take a look at Ola Englund's youtube channel - he demos tons of amps in the modern hi gain territory, and does a great job of it. Also Rabea Massaad's channel.

I'm a huge fan of the mesa boogie sound, and own a Mark IV, which hits all the buttons for me. Any of the later Mark series amps will get you into modern metal territory, but they're probably out of your budget unless you get lucky.

The 2 amps that have really got my interest in the last few years have been the panama shaman, and the new small Hughes & Kettner tubemeister 40 amps, which will definitely fit your budget.
+1 for the original peavey 5150. Peavey sometimes gets a bad rap for making budget minded products, but they definantly killed it on this amp. Highly recommended.
An OD or boost pedal going into the amp should tighten up the sound a bit. One of the tubescreamers or clones might be an option to look into.
Peavey Triple X

Albion TCT

Crate / Blackheart
As already mentioned, Peavey 5150 / 6505 to me define modern high gain tones. I tried a bunch of amps for exactly that tone, but was never fully satisfied with the result until I got a 6505. Straight away and with minimal messing around it was the tone I was looking for - tight punchy, aggressive, crunchy with lots of note articulation. As is commonly bandied about it's worth combining with a good compressor, 4 cable noise gate and an overdrive pedal before the amp to tighten up the low end (I use the Horizon Devices Orecision Drive) although the Maxon OD808 does I think just a good job.

I am also hugely impressed with the EVH 5150iii
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