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Amps: how expensive is too expensive? (long)
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next [all]
Author Amps: how expensive is too expensive? (long)
MrBiggs
I've got this problem and I'm here talking about it because you guys, some of you more than others, will understand and nod your heads and go yeah. See I picked up a guitar for the first time about seven months ago. I saw my kid playing bass in his 7th grade christmas concert, and after hearing his sister say she wanted a pink electric guitar the same day, I got them a bass and a (pink) guitar for gifts, along with little cheap amps.

Of course, in doing so, I started reading about and learning about guitars, and I remembered that I had a shitty Squier Strat that a friend had given me in the basement. I pulled it out, replaced the electronics and strings and started taking lessons. A week later I bought a fuzz pedal. It wasn't two months later that I sold my Machinedrum in order to buy a nice G&L ASAT Classic (Tele) and I've now invested in ten (yes, 10) pedals. There are two problems with this situation. One, I'm playing through the $80 Orange 12W SS amp that I got my daughter for Christmas and Two, I've been taking lessons for seven months now so I'm by no stretch any good at guitar playing. Yet.

But man I fucking love to play that guitar.

So here's where you all can relate, I suspect. Number two I can't do much about except keep practicing. I bought a Boss loop pedal so I can record my chord progressions and play minor pentatonic riffs alongside, and I play my scales for an hour a day. I'm getting better.
However, number one I can do something about and this is where I'm gonna get in trouble. I bought the G&L sight unseen on eBay from some dude in LA, and I feel I got lucky. I didn't know much about guitars at the time, and I bought it because it looks awesome. It worked out, as I love the way it sounds, and the guys at the guitar shop where I take lessons always love playing it and tell me the action is the best they've seen. So whew.
As for amps, I've decided to do my research and play a ton of them before buying. I'm getting married in the spring and figured that this would be kind of a gift to me around April of next year, giving me plenty of time from now to look. My little shop has dozens of amps that fit my wants -- which generally speaking is somewhere in between a Fender Tweed and Voxy sound, preferably with 6V6 power tubes, a single channel, and an effects loop. Up until yesterday I'd been imagining $1000 - $1100 being my limit. I told Lou who owns the shop that I would likely be happy with a 5w or 15w amp, since there isn't much hope for me "gigging" at any time, and I've been trying to get him to order some Swart amps so I don't have to travel to NYC or North Carolina to try them out (Swart because Muff has that stupid Swart porn thread eek! and has talked up in PMs the little 6V6SE and the AST and man they look good).

So I've messed around on a Vox AC15-C1 and a Night Train, an Orange Tiny Terror, and a Rivera Clubster or Pubster 25w. All good amps. I really liked that Night Train, which would be $800 with the head and 1x12 cab. But fuck Lou if he didn't let me hear some single coils through a Greer CAM18 and a Rivera Venus3 15w amp. And good christ, the difference was clear. These didn't make the others sound bad, but they did ruin me in realizing that if I got an under-$1000 amp, I'd be sitting there playing my scales through it every day knowing that no matter how good it sounds it doesn't sounds as good as this Venus3 or Greer Cam18. Lou was fucking grinning telling me that he has some more in the $1500 - $2000 range if I'm interested. And of course, we know who we are here; I immediately thought about my 9U rack of synth and mentally crossed off $500-$700 of modules and one or two pedals that I really don't need as much as I need that marshmallowy overdrive of that goddamn Greer. And, of course, it also opens up the Swart AST to my "budget" rather than just the little Space-Tones. I still like the idea of 5 watts, but there is always the possibility that I start hanging out with my friends who play guitar and 15 watts would be a better choice there.

So the initial question behind this stupid-long post is maybe deduced from all of this. Again, I've been playing for seven months. I feel that I have no business eye-balling these amps in the price-range I'm looking at. I've got friends who really know how to play who think their $600 Traynor is just great and I'm insane (which is why I go to you to talk about such things). I know I'd have to somehow tiptoe around the fact that I'm trying to not spend too much money on a wedding next Spring (do we really need THOSE flowers honey?) while also looking at $2000 amps. And lastly I'm scared to death that I'm gonna go and hear something even more expensive (Swart Atomic Space Tone Master for $2250, anyone?) and decide that I can rationalize that. I keep telling myself that if I just got the Vox Night Train then I could take that $1000 left over and get a decent semi-hollow guitar with humbuckers.

(And yes, more than once I have thought that maybe I could just sell all but 3U of my modular... it has occurred to me that I don't NEED a Pressure Points and more than two filters...)

zombie

I hope you understand. Thanks for reading...
Ankh
I don't think anyone really needs all those expensive amps. I've been perfectly happy with a Orange Rocker 30 combo.

The guitar world is really filled over-priced boutique stuff. zombie Most professional guitarists seem to use the ordinary stuff anyway.
shred
Well...i'm not sure what the best advice would be but I'm sure you and others would agree that the way you spend you money is your business. If achieving that elusive dream tone is your prerogative than by all means go after that. I think the question you're really asking yourself is "i've been playing for a short amount of time, do I deserve this awesome equipment? or am I just lusting for it?" (forgive me if I'm incorrect in that assumption). And thats not really a question that always has a definite answer IMO. If you want it, and can afford it, then go for it I think.

Maybe take some time and really consider what it is that you have or want which will bring you happiness...maybe selling off everything but 3U will bring that maybe not, I think only you can decide. I've been playing guitar for 8 years and I play on a cheapo Crate (recently sold my larger, tho still a piece of shit Peavey to fund my Doepfer lc6) and I get great enjoyment from it. But at this point in time thinking and lusting for modular equipment is dominant in my mind. G.A.S. is a hell of drug but I think you (and just not specifically YOU) have to get over it at some point in time and appreciate the things which you're able to get without breaking the bank. Sorry if I'm missing the point of your post but it sounds like you're just at a questioning period in your life musically. Good luck with your decisions and I hope they bring you contentment.

p.s. Just keep practicing! Theres many times, the majority of the time actually, where I felt like I was getting nowhere, not progressing at all and then all of a sudden you pick up the guitar one day and stuff just starts pouring out! It's a very weird instrument but extremely rewarding if you stick with it and sounds like you will be thumbs up Rockin' Banana!
sduck
What they^ said. You can go nuts worrying about it. I'd advise getting a few medium cheap things so you can have some variety, and maybe a decent main amp that's fairly audible. Something like a fender blues deluxe or deville, or maybe a peavey classic - these can be had used for decent prices. I've got a mesa boogie mark IV (also a nice thing that can be found fairly affordably), a dumble clone, and a lin6 podxt, not to mention a bunch of small tings - a pignose, and several mini amps - twin, marshall, just for fun.
MrBiggs
At $1350, an Orange Rocker 30 isn't really, you know, cheap. The amp I play through in my lessons is a TH30 which is a really nice sounding amp and runs about the same price. I wish I liked the way they look -- though I know it shouldn't matter.
MrBiggs
shred wrote:
I think the question you're really asking yourself is "i've been playing for a short amount of time, do I deserve this awesome equipment? or am I just lusting for it?" (forgive me if I'm incorrect in that assumption).


I think that's accurate. thumbs up

I used to be obsessed with mountain biking and we hated the guys in their 40s who rode in on high-end carbon fiber frames and couldn't push their way up a hill. Those guys were more often than not just guys who loved to ride and could afford the gear, though we usually hated them. Now that I'm in my 40s and can throw a little money at what I love more than I could ten years ago, I find myself comparing me to those guys. Six months ago I would not have discerned a solid-state Peavey from a boutique hand-wired amp. But now I know the difference and it's so clear in my head. Certainly, GAS has something to do with it. The way the Venus3 and the Greer CAM18 looked and felt surely had something mental to do with it... I'll just keep telling myself that.

Part of swearing to myself that I won't spend this money til next year is to play as many amps as possible and let this new-found lust wear off a bit. So I'm sticking to that at least.
fluxmonkey
my rationalization is that i can always resell a nice piece, usually for close to or more than what i buy it for, so it doesn't actually cost that much... total self-delusion, because i very seldom sell stuff, but just to help you out here. lol

i got an insanely great deal on an older Twin about 15 years ago, and altho i'm not really a good enuf guitar player to deserve it, i love the hell out of that amp and the pleasure i've gotten out of it is worth every penny i paid.

dr z makes some nice little black boxes...

good luck!
b
pulplogic
fluxmonkey wrote:
my rationalization is that i can always resell a nice piece, usually for close to or more than what i buy it for, so it doesn't actually cost that much... total self-delusion, because i very seldom sell stuff, but just to help you out here. lol


I use that rationale myself, and yes it is helpful to buy into the delusion. It’s my opinion that you can’t really get to know an amplifier without owning it or at least having full access to it for a couple of weeks in your home / studio. You might consider shopping the local secondhand market for a vintage tube amp, just be careful of scammers. You might enjoy owning a few of different amplifiers before plunking down a fat stack of cash on a boutique amp.
Babaluma
i kept lusting after boutique and vintage tube amps, ones with a really "clean" and "chimey" sound (i generally hate distorted guitar sounds). i bought a few cheaper ones, but for general playing and recording i always preferred the sound of the electric guitar acoustically (miced up), or through a DI (avalon u5).

so, i effectively managed to (almost) kill the lust. i'd still really like to hear/play through a fender princeton (non-reverb) or one of the new audiokitchen little choppers though...

http://www.audiokitchen.co.uk/
MrBiggs
A friend of mine with two kids in private school and a recent bankruptcy lusts after old Porsches. He's a good guitar player but is happier with his old no-name crap guitar with crap pickups plugged into his crap Crate amp, just like I'm perfectly happy with my crap Subaru.

Of course, what we each call crap, the other calls "guitar with mojo" or "car with personality."

I know of the Dr. Z amps, fluxmonkey. Haven't been able to find one to play yet. The Carmen Ghia and the Mini Z both seem like shortlisters, based on spec. And babaluma, I've never seen those audiokitchen amps. Thanks for the link. And I'll also say that when I got into guitars I had zero interest in distortion. But between discovering fuzz pedals, The Black Keys, and expensive tubes, I've become very fond.
plord
I think you should go for an amp that inspires you to play more and rewards your increasing practice with new nuances of tone color, but stop short of one that is so articulate and revealing that it leads to discouragement and makes you practice *less*.

Got it? Shoot for the one that sounds juuuuust a bit better than you can currently take advantage of. Then practice until you can tell, you KNOW, that you want something out of the amp that it cannot deliver. Then hunt down the next tier up.

As for the watts thing, I guess it depends on how much clean headroom you need. I have tiny amps but I get my best cleans from 50w.
zerosum
If you want it, the price doesn't matter.

I say buy the best that you can afford.
Afford is subjective.

Play as many as you can and when you find the one that truly speaks to you, then you will know it.
I think it is a good thing for people to learn to build their own instruments, at least try to, just to get a better understanding of exactly what is inside the instrument that makes it tick.
It also increases a sentimental attachment because "hey I built that thing, its my amp!"
Once you learn what is inside, then the name brand becomes less important, it's all a pile of parts.

I have found after time that I care more about the guitar I am using than the amplification, but then I also catch myself flipping that around and not caring what guitar I have in my hand sometimes, the energy still travels through me.

It's all about sound, so if the sound doesn't excite you enough to part with your dollars, then its not worth it.
If it does then you won't be thinking about the price.
CursedFrogurt
I'll play devil's advocate to zerosum's post. While what he is saying is true (or as true as the subjective can be), there's also something to be said for practicality. Guitar amps like many things tend to follow the law of diminishing returns. If your one and only interest were playing guitars, I would say fuck it, get the absolute best that money can buy as discerned by your ears. But you have other interests as well, and chasing 'the perfect tone' could take away a lot from your interests if you end up selling off gear. I try to think of purchases in use value. An incredible amplifier doesn't really give you any more use value than a really good one, but it takes away money that could go towards things with a higher use value in other areas of your interest. When you have enough money to have all the musical things you want in terms of use, then start investing in the mega quality, as it no longer takes away from anything else to purchase it. Just my way of thinking anyway, I hope it made sense?

Also:
Do whatever you want.
Don't do whatever you don't want.
Danotranto
fender deluxe reverb
Mitchk1989
I'm in the same boat as you basically, still learning guitar player amp shopping... Might just decide I don't deserve a good one and go for the cheap-ass fender champ though.
Babaluma
Mitchk1989 wrote:
cheap-ass fender champ though.


cheap ass compared to some of the other amps discussed in this thread it may be, but the 5f1 champ circuit is just about the purest/least shit in the signal path tube guitar amp ever designed. stick it into a nice weber 10" or 12" in a quality wooden cab, and i'm sure she'll put a smile on your face. all hearsay though, never experienced that myself! wink
Babaluma
MrBiggs wrote:
And babaluma, I've never seen those audiokitchen amps. Thanks for the link. And I'll also say that when I got into guitars I had zero interest in distortion. But between discovering fuzz pedals, The Black Keys, and expensive tubes, I've become very fond.


yeah, read an amazing review of the little chopper in tapeop a couple of issues ago. looks "the biz"...

i've been playing guitar on and off for about 30 years, long enough to know that i don't like distorted sounds. wink i have a wonderful NOS germanium fuzz face, hand built for me by our very own haiku-ish, but what i usually do is use it for running synths through (via a reamp). i play rhythm guitar (open folky chords) and arpeggios, never a widdly widdly lead, or a chugga chugga power chord in sight. my favourite guitarists are robin guthrie (the cocteau twins), steve hillage (gong, system 7 etc.), and manuel gotsching (ash ra tempel), all of whom play mainly with extremely clean sounds via DI.

but as i said, i would still like to try out a princeton circuit or the audiokicthen... i can imagine a very high wattage tube amp with loads of headroom may sound incredible for my purposes.

gotta love the audiokicthen, brought to you by one of the mutronics mutator guys (another guy was in the psy trance act OOOD, and the other guy was linda lucardi's brother, markangelo, if i remember correctly, middle age fans of the sun may remember her...)

this guy makes nice looking clones of older fender tube circuits at relatively inexpensive prices:

http://www.littledawgamps.com/

i'd try and build one myself, but i just don't have the patience for DIY.
Ankh
MrBiggs wrote:
At $1350, an Orange Rocker 30 isn't really, you know, cheap. The amp I play through in my lessons is a TH30 which is a really nice sounding amp and runs about the same price. I wish I liked the way they look -- though I know it shouldn't matter.


Hmm, it used to be around 1000, anyway what I was meaning to say was that the small Orange tube amps (for example) are just fine, after that I'd say that playing technique makes a whole lot more difference than an amp twice or more the price.
zerosum
Quote:
An incredible amplifier doesn't really give you any more use value than a really good one, but it takes away money that could go towards things with a higher use value in other areas of your interest.


Like guitars hihi
Having a nice guitar that is comfortable to play can do more for a performance than an amp, the amp is just there to make things louder. smile
Save monies for the nice twangdoodles, then get a fancy amplifier later hihi smile

Quote:
When you have enough money to have all the musical things you want in terms of use, then start investing in the mega quality, as it no longer takes away from anything else to purchase it. Just my way of thinking anyway, I hope it made sense?


Yup, Makes sense smile

I haven't owned very many amplifiers. Four in 28 years.
I started out with a cheap squire, it made my signal louder, I learned how to play guitar, and I could afford it.
I later traded it for another cheap fender(sidekick switcher I think it was called), it had a shitty input jack that I never fixed, I just wiggled the bitch around until sound came out then played. It was louder than my little Squire I had before hihi
Eventually that amp got stolen(hahaha that joke is on them).
A couple years later I was able to talk my MOM into letting me roll a Carvin Half stack into the house.
HAHAHA lol It sounded like shit, but it was fucking LOUD! eek!
All the neighbors heard it, but they weren't pesky about it as long as I didn't crank it in the middle of the night(which wasn't an option anyway).
This thing cost me $350.
I got a job washing dishes and bussing tables for $6 an hour, it took me a couple months, and when I finally had enough to buy a "big loud amp" I quit and spent the money on this loud Carvin thing that smelled like an old garage.
That was all the money I had, and I don't regret it, because I had a nice Fender Jag-Stang to plug into it, which I loved the sound of no matter what amp I used.

A year later I sold the monster for $300 and put that money towards a drumset, that was fun. The amp served as a nice stepping stone.

I was without an amp from 99-2010, just used fuzz pedals and amp simulators.
Late 2010, Eric showed me how to build an amp and that is what I have now, If I didn't build it with Eric, their would be less interest, but that build project truly demystified a lot, I am a better person because of it( hihi )
Here is a pic of the Carvin, I don't have any other pics scanned of the Fender amps:

zerosum
Quote:
after that I'd say that playing technique makes a whole lot more difference than an amp twice or more the price.


BINGO! 8_) That is where it's at! Rockin' Banana!
MrBiggs
zerosum wrote:
Quote:
after that I'd say that playing technique makes a whole lot more difference than an amp twice or more the price.


BINGO! 8_) That is where it's at! Rockin' Banana!


Well sure. But duh, I can't plunk down a grand and buy technique, nor is my technique covered in nice blonde tolex and covered in twiddly knobs.
zerosum
MrBiggs wrote:
zerosum wrote:
Quote:
after that I'd say that playing technique makes a whole lot more difference than an amp twice or more the price.


BINGO! 8_) That is where it's at! Rockin' Banana!


Well sure. But duh, I can't plunk down a grand and buy technique, nor is my technique covered in nice blonde tolex and covered in twiddly knobs.


Even more reason to save your money and just get whatever you can afford that amplifies your guitar. smile
If it is going to hurt when you buy it, then don't buy it.

I completely understand the want, I still want more amps, but I don't need anymore.

If I didn't have what I have now, I would have settled for a Blackheart, The one day I played with one was enough for me to say: "yeah this thing works for what I do and I could afford one of these."

Still might get one someday hihi (even though I don't need one)
Rod Serling Fan Club
@cursedfrogurt

I thought the law of diminishing returns was a taboo subject on music gear forums? Like convincing a 4 year old there is no Santa.
MindMachine
How about start with an Epiphone Valve Jr. and if a year from now you have continued your lessons and improved and are still into it, then you take a step up to a whatever boutique flavor of the month amp floats your boat? That way you have a carrot to chase.

Those Epiphones are pretty sweet! thumbs up
CursedFrogurt
MindMachine wrote:
How about start with an Epiphone Valve Jr. and if a year from now you have continued your lessons and improved and are still into it, then you take a step up to a whatever boutique flavor of the month amp floats your boat? That way you have a carrot to chase.

Those Epiphones are pretty sweet! thumbs up


I wasn't impressed when I played one, but I want to pick one up anyway as I've heard they can be pretty awesome after a few mods.
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