Other Amps

A question of tone…

1

... or is it actually a question of timbre?

Reading many threads here recently about the sweetness, or lack of, "tone" of amps, I'm beginning to wonder about the differences being described. I often hear that a (insert brand, or even era here) doesn't have the "tone" of a good vintage Fender. But are people really talking about a difference in basic sound characteristics/signature? Is it a bit ripe to suggest that an EL84 powered amp "lacks" something that an amp with 6L6s has? Would you criticize a saxophone for not sounding as "clean" as a cornet? I wonder whether we should think different amps are simply "voiced" differently, or actually constitute different "voices" as such. No one criticises a tenor for lacking the unique qualities of a soprano, even though men and woman both make sounds with their larynx.

2

What an interesting point you make. I had never looked at it in that light before.

3

Good point. I've felt that way for a long time. Good tone is very much in the ear of the beholder IMO. Some people like glassy cleans. Others prefer warm cleans (which to me, is what good jazz tone has). Ditto for distortion. Some players prefer smooth uber compressed distortion tones, whereas others prefer rougher tones ala blues players like Hound Dog Taylor, and still others prefer extremely saturated tones. As a result, amps are often voiced differently to meet these requirements. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that many of todays reissues, are voiced at least a wee bit, towards modern tones (which have much more bass response, and a bit more gain). Also, many of the older amps we consider classic, have had decades for their speakers, and other components, to age, which all affect tone.

4

Well, sure, absolutely, but some amps just sound crappy, bad, thin, etc..., just like some people don't have a very nice speaking or singing voice.

5

one man's "warmth" is another man's "mud"

95% of most amps is a direct reflexion of bassman circuitry"hot roded" in some form or another including my particular fave(hiwatt w/34's)...

6

Interesting point, Ray. 'Tone' has become something of catch-all term.

funny, cyclo, because 'mud' and 'dirt' ('muddy'/'dirty') are two words that I like to use to describe the sound I want from my amps--its a linguistic thing I guess...8-)

7

Yes, No, Maybe, Could be:D Tone really is a catchall, as posted above. Every amp sounds different or there would just be one amp in different sizes :) . From what i get from experts is that circuitry can have more to do with tone than tubes. The fact that we use 6L6 or EL84 or any other tube as a reference is also kind of Catchall...ish8-) Correct me if I'm wrong.
I think it's more than a different voice when you compare the old to the newer Fender Black Face amps, as an example. Does anyone remember the original ADAT? Remember recording into it & listening to it back afterwards? The bit rate was so poor that it sounded like the signal had been stuck in the refrigerator. That to me is what I hear a new Fender Black Face.

8

I've spent the past months digging deep and researching amp design with the intent of doing some building. As far as I've been able to tell, there's so many variables going on that achieving your dream tone is like chasing rainbows. The circuit design and tube selection will influence the frequencies and harmonics that are communicated to the speaker, especially when you start intentionally overdriving the amp to create distortion. Speaker selection will dictate what parts of that signal are broadcast most effectively. Cabinet design will influence how the speaker can move the air in the room. And to top it all off, the acoustics of the room itself will change all of THAT. Folks get all hot and bothered over vintage equipment, thinking that it will give them the sound of their favorite old record, but the reality is that manufacturing was fairly inconsistent in the years that those amps were made, and age degrades the integrity of many parts of an amp's circuit. There's a lot of myth making going on at the hands of magazine editors and marketing departments. +1 on Cyclo's warmth / mud point. Let your ears be the judge.

9

I think the most significant aspect of this is the component between our ears. We have a remarkable ability to think something sounds better just because we think it should (esp if we've paid big bucks for it). The genuinely blind listening test is the only way to properly evaluate tone and even then, the most you can say, is that YOU like it.

10

"There's a lot of myth making going on at the hands of magazine editors and marketing departments."

So so soooo true. The term 'tone' has much more value in those worlds, its too the point now that its practically meaningless when people are trying to talk about the sounds coming out of an amp/guitar.

11

After my OP, I got nervous about my understanding of timbre, and stumbled upon this site. For anyone who is interested in explanations of the different factors in the voicing/voices of amps, it's worth a look...

http://www.gmarts.org/index...

12

i like the confusing terms "headroom","open","compressed"

OH! when is the last time you've seen a fly /parker guitar on stage??

13

imo there was a virtue in pre-internet ignorant bliss.

you kinda had to struggle through it on your own.

Ironically the lack of multifarious choice made it more likely that you would develop your own idiosyncratic sound/tone/timbre, by working with the gear you had.

The internet, principally youtube and forums, have destroyed this innocence forever, and now we are tempted at every turn and tormented by the seemingly low hanging fruit that we read about or watch demo's of.

I'm as guilty as anyone- but I somettimes wish I could close Pandora's box :)

14

more expensive is an amp better the amp is built and of course it sounds better, then up to each to choose the sound that best matches the style of music that is played, vintage are great but today, there are many option to get great tones, Victoria Amps, Standel, and lot more brand do great amps, EL84 sounds great on a Mesa Boogie Lonestar Special (by example) in the clean channel Thick round and nothing icepicky, much better amp for recording than my Victoria 20112 with vintage tubes and speakers (Fender vintage kinda sound) also i suspect the news VOX hand-wired have a very great tone too, and much more... Also guys like Billy Zoom do great amps, i have acquired a Little kahuanna built by Billy and the reverb has nothing to envy to an old Fender 63, if i have to choose i prefer the Kahuanna over an old fender unit, the same with the amps, i much prefer to buy a new Victoria amp over an 30 years Fender old amp, but just me, i really don´t want to deal with the problems that old device can cause, your point of view is wise

15

imo there was a virtue in pre-internet ignorant bliss.

you kinda had to struggle through it on your own.

Ironically the lack of multifarious choice made it more likely that you would develop your own idiosyncratic sound/tone/timbre, by working with the gear you had.

The internet, principally youtube and forums, have destroyed this innocence forever, and now we are tempted at every turn and tormented by the seemingly low hanging fruit that we read about or watch demo's of.

I'm as guilty as anyone- but I somettimes wish I could close Pandora's box :)

– David Watts

imo there was a virtue in pre-internet ignorant bliss.

you kinda had to struggle through it on your own.

Ironically the lack of multifarious choice made it more likely that you would develop your own idiosyncratic sound/tone/timbre, by working with the gear you had.

The internet, principally youtube and forums, have destroyed this innocence forever, and now we are tempted at every turn and tormented by the seemingly low hanging fruit that we read about or watch demo's of.

I'm as guilty as anyone- but I somettimes wish I could close Pandora's box :)

– Ob_Com

Yes me too, I agree, now i´m unemployed and I discovered that I have not yet taken advantage of all the material I have in my studio more concerned about buying everything new that comes, without learning to use what I already have, Internet has destroyed innocence has you pointed well

16

The internet is a vast resource of partially correct information.

17

imo there was a virtue in pre-internet ignorant bliss.

you kinda had to struggle through it on your own.

Ironically the lack of multifarious choice made it more likely that you would develop your own idiosyncratic sound/tone/timbre, by working with the gear you had.

The internet, principally youtube and forums, have destroyed this innocence forever, and now we are tempted at every turn and tormented by the seemingly low hanging fruit that we read about or watch demo's of.

I'm as guilty as anyone- but I somettimes wish I could close Pandora's box :)

– David Watts

imo there was a virtue in pre-internet ignorant bliss.

you kinda had to struggle through it on your own.

Ironically the lack of multifarious choice made it more likely that you would develop your own idiosyncratic sound/tone/timbre, by working with the gear you had.

The internet, principally youtube and forums, have destroyed this innocence forever, and now we are tempted at every turn and tormented by the seemingly low hanging fruit that we read about or watch demo's of.

I'm as guilty as anyone- but I somettimes wish I could close Pandora's box :)

– Ob_Com

Soooo true! In the pre-internet days, I went through umpteen different amps, before I found one I liked, and what was it? A Marshall Artist! - not exactly everybody's favorite JCM800 at the time. I've just re-discovered an amp, that I had for a while in the late 90s, that is almost forgotten - a Trace Elliot Supertramp! As the years have gone by, I've realized, that it really was a good sounding amp. There was one in the local GC's used section for $140. I went and gave it a try a couple of weeks ago. It sounded SO GOOD, that I traded my Marshall Valvestate towards it, and put it on layaway, until next payday! Nowadays nobody would even consider buying it, because it isn't a part of the internet pantheon of amps. But ya know, back in the day, we seemed to be a bit more adventurous about trying different amps. If I hadn't been curious enough to try out a Trace Elliot back in 1998, I never would have even considered one nowadays.

18

The internet is one aspect of an unsettling trend: where more access to more information gives us the reassuring feeling that knowledge is so close within our grasp, that wisdom may virtually be assumed.

19

The internet is a vast resource of partially correct information.

– Billy Zoom

The internet is a vast resource of partially correct information.

– BillyZoom

Haha :D

21

Indeed. It starts (and I suspect, ends) right there. ;-)

23

Top tip: Let someone else play on your guitar and rig.

24

Tone.....

– jaycemumford

Tone.....

– jaycemumford

:D yes of course the grey scale

25

Seems like we're blaming the internet for our own ability (or lack thereof) to clearly articulate personal taste and preference regarding amp sounds. Given the inadequacy of words in describing sound, I don't see any quick way to reach consensus on this stuff.

However I describe amp to amp differences - whether I characterize them in terms of tone (what I hear) or amp character (what it seems to me the amp is doing) - those differences are real. Almost impossible to convey, but very real. I have no way to assign causes, being without sufficient technical skill to attempt that. Perhaps if you know enough about electronics and build enough amps, you could be more precise and actually say what does what.

For me the hearing is enough. Actually, feeling just as much as hearing. I spend hours going back and forth between several amps (same speaker cabs) ... lately a musicman rd50 head, Allen Encore head, Sewell Wampus Cat (used as a head). All 6L6. Two at 35 watts, one at 50. Two tube rectified. All fixed bias. (The Sewell was modded to have this option.)

No matter how I swap tubes, the differences are so obvious. Both the Allen and the Sewell amps I find fascinating. Clearly based on existing design (two flavors of tweed pro for the Sewell, BFVR for the Allen), yet they have distinct personalities. To me it's not technical, but personal. Doug Sewell and David Allen have good ears and excellent ideas. Their means might be mysterious to me, but their results are pretty clear. MD


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