good sound for cheap
August 14, 2006 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Decentgearonashoestringbudgetfilter: looking for recommendations for a $500-ish guitar head. Details and

Current setup is a Epiphone Les Paul (Seymour Duncan bridge) through a Marshall JCM100 head into a home-built Eminence 4X12 cab. Dean Markley Overlord tube overdrive pedal (Marshall dist channel is dead). Band plays rock music. I have never been thrilled with my sound, too cheap and tinny, no balls. New guitar someday, new amp now.

I am looking for a flexible setup that sounds amazing for around $500 (that's really all I can get together currently). I am looking at the VOX AD100VTH and AD120VTH . Both get great reviews, especially the 100, but I would go for the 120 if it was worth it. I'm making a trip to Banjo Center this week to test drive. I never really gave modeling amps a try, but if it sounds good I don't really care what's inside of it. I am aware that it will never sound as good as the real thing.

I am not against used gear if I can find a good deal either. I haven't yet made the rounds to the shops to see what's out there.

Any comments on the VOX amps or any other suggestions?
posted by bradn to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Re: amp modeling:

There's more to it than just 'not sounding as good as the real thing.' There's something about the way a good tube amp projects that allows their sound to get through the mix without getting muddy. I've yet to find an amp modeler than can do that. If you are the only guitar on stage and you have an amp modeler (I use a POD xtLive, myself) you should be ok.

The instant you have another guitarist on stage, though, all bets are off. I've seen (and played in) plenty of shows where one guitarist has an amp modeler and the other has a plain old tube amp. Invariably, the tube amp sounds crisp and ballsy while the modeler sounds anemic. I've tried all kinds of tweaks on my own POD to avoid this problem and have had little success.

If you want balls, then by all means get a tube amp.

I've got a POD & a Tube amp. Whenever possible, I use the amp and a bunch of pedals for my tone. I use the POD only when there is no other alternative.
posted by Rubber Soul at 11:12 AM on August 14, 2006

I take it you can't get the Marshall fixed for under $500? Because that would be my first choice, nothing sounds like Marshall tube amp.

If you're OK with only one channel and like vintage equipment, you might look around for an old 60's or 70's Fender Bassman head. The rhthym guitar player in my band has a 50W one he uses and it sounds great, he just relies on pedals to get distortion when he wants it.
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:50 AM on August 14, 2006

Response by poster: RS: thanks, that's something I hadn't really considered. My co-guitarist has a Music Man tube head, and it regularly walks all over mine. The VOX heads do have a tube in the pre stage I believe, if that makes a difference. Perhaps I can buy one with a nice return policy and try it out.

IZ: The Marshall is a solid state JCM100. It's really not much fun. I agree nothing sounds like a Marshall tube amp, but this thing is pretty lame. Also it's not mine, and I'm looking to use my own gear exclusively.
posted by bradn at 12:31 PM on August 14, 2006

I my experience, the most important thing to get in order is your amp. There really is no good alternative to a decent tube amp. I've played through plenty of solid state amps and at the end of the day, a good tube amp smokes them all. As you say, your mates' Music Man walks all over your Marshall. With a modeller, that problem will only be worse.

My bandmate plays through a Carvin 112 Nomad Vintage 50 and his tone is rockin. One of those can be had for under $500 and you'll get plenty of volume to spare. He's got a great bluesy tone and sustain to last ages. He uses a BOSS Metal Zone and a Voodoo lab Sparkle Drive for his distortions.

I have two tube amps: a Mesa Boogie Mark IV and a Crate Palomino V8. The V8 is a 8 watt practice amp that I regularly use a gigs - mic it up and it gives me all the tube tone I ever want and it's still plenty loud for on stage sound. Granted, we generally play with a low stage volume because we play private parties and weddings and stuff. Both of my amps sound better than my POD.

It's the tubes, dude. Get yourself an amp that sounds great with nothing but a cable between it and your guitar and you'll find that your tone will be the better for it. Add effects for taste, of course.
posted by Rubber Soul at 1:01 PM on August 14, 2006

You can get a Marshall DSL 401 (40 watt all tube combo) for $600 or so. That's how much I paid for mine, new. You could probably get it cheaper used. Then you can run that through its own 1x12 and your cab. It sounds sweet.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:34 PM on August 14, 2006

Some more information would be helpful:

What kind of cones are in your cab? Eminence, you said, but which ones?

Which Duncan pickup? (Your guitar's fine, by the way. Lots of professional musicians use an Epi and swap out the pups.)

What kind of a tone are you after? Can you name a guitarist or three whose tones you dig?

One of the problems with a modeling head through a regular cab is that guitar speakers tend to be very highly voiced. However, to get full flexibility from the modeling head, you want a speaker whose response is as flat as possible across the dynamic range. These "flat" speakers can, ideally, faithfully reproduce all the nuances of what's being modeled. Since you don't want to replace your cab (imo, the right decision) I'm leaning towards recommending you a tube head; the info above will help narrow it down.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:53 AM on August 15, 2006

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