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Guitar amp shopping

I bought my first guitar amp back in 2005, making my choice based on never intending to buy another amp*. My choice was a Fender Twin Reverb; I ended up buying a 1972 master volume model, which turned out to be a short-run version without a push/pull boost on the master volume pot (which was the standard from late '72 on); the choice was largely based on finding a good price (~$750) on a vintage amp, rather than specifically wanting that year/feature. Twin Reverbs are a well known, sought-after amp, well known for being very loud, with a very clean tone, with a classic long-spring reverb, and generally takes effects pedals pretty well. It's a flexible amp.

That said, 8.5 years later, I'm lusting after a new amp.

The Twin is great, and I have no plans to sell it (though I considered it in order to fund the next purchase… I decided I'd regret it if I had), but it has its limitations… mostly in that it is so damn clean! I've been seeking a good overdriven, crunchy sound, and without getting into some relatively costly effects pedals, which add extra hardware and cables (which are prone to failure) into the mix, the Twin simply can't deliver. I do love the reverb and vibrato (tremolo) features, and they feature heavily in my play style, so these are features that I want in my crunch/overdrive amp. Based on features, clean headroom and classically awesome tones, I've chosen to pursue a Vox AC30! A little further, I'm going after an AC30 with Celestion AlNiCo Blues. Unfortunately, current models of AlNiCo Blue equipped AC30s cost ~$1300.

The AC30 is kinda similar to the Twin Reverb; both are big, heavy amps (30-35kg) with a pair of 12" speakers, long-spring reverb and a vibrato/tremolo circuit, but the tone and power circuits are fairly different. Both use 12AX7-type pre-amp tubes (in somewhat different circuits), but the power sections are quite different, with the Twin utilizing a quad set of 6L6 tubes pumping out about 80W of power and the AC30 using EL34 tubes, pumping out 30W of power. Despite the difference in wattage, both are very loud amps, with the similar volume from lower wattage partially being due to more efficient drivers in the AC30.
The differences in the pre- and power amp sections lead to different voicings; classic differences between "American" and "British" voiced amps. American voiced amps (Fender, Peavey, Mesa Boogie) tend to have a warmer sound, with more bass and slightly scooped mids, whereas British voiced amps (Vox, Marshall, Orange) have a more aggressive sort of high-mid emphasis. In the case of the Twin and AC30, it also means that the AC30 overdrives in a way that the Twin cannot, producing a nice even-order harmonic overdrive with a distinctive character. The amp can give great crunch all on its own, but, toss a volume boost in front of it, and it can push the preamp into some delightful saturation approaching fuzz (think the solo in Bohemian Rhapsody).

Classic AC30 players include Brian May of Queen, the Beetles, Thom Yorke (Radiohead), The Edge (U2), Tom Petty, and many, many others. It's got pedigree Wink

So, I've been saving my cash for a while now… though my disposable income is limited. After a little over a year, I'm approaching the half-way mark in the price… of course, that could all go out the window if an unexpected bill raises its ugly head Razz

* - Amplified/electric instruments consist of a collection of components which make up the full instrument; the "instrument" itself (e.g. the guitar), the amplifier (think of it like the resonating body of an acoustic instrument) and and cabling and signal modifying items in the line (e.g. effects pedals). Each component influences the end result sound to varying degrees.

3 blog comments below

You might like to check-out Truth-Surge on yourube - he has just got himself a new axe
Bikerman on Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:03 am
So you are really going to amp it now. Good for you!
standready on Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:17 pm
Well, I'm amped already... with some pretty decent gear. I'm just making a bit of a change, eventually.

Bikerman - That's a decent cover of Red Barchetta; his harmonics at the start are a little off time seeming, but not too bad Wink Certainly, better than I can do. I somewhat love Rush, and can play a bit, but not all that much. I started looking through some of his other videos, and he seems like he could have some decent content.
Ankhanu on Thu Oct 24, 2013 7:39 pm

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