Other Amps

What is the State of Solid State Amps?

26

Haven't played through a Katana in person, so I can't comment. It was, however, the top selling amp on Reverb last year, and the negative comment above is the first I can recall. Given the price, and what you get for that money (whether or not you're an avid effector), I wouldn't buy a solid state amp now without trying one in person.

I know most of the other candidates which have been mentioned. The Quilters, from the 45-watt micros through the heads and combos, are to my ear The Standard. They seem to do everything well. But they're comparatively pricey, especially in comparison to the dominant Katana. If you don't mind spending Quilter money, I think the search is over.

BigJim mentions the Hotone Nano series. I have three of the little 5-watters (British Invasion voxbox, Purple Wind marshallike, and Mojo Diamond fenderite. They all do a remarkable job of capturing the tonal profiles they're after, and are louder than you think. And I have two of the Nano Floor Series, one which combines the Brit Invasion and Purple Wind, another combines the Mojo Diamond and their full-shred Boogie emulator. They're rated at 75 solid state watts, with reverb, easy switching between the voices, and...some other useful feature I can't recall. Effects loop, maybe? I really like them.

But with any of them (or a Quilter micro or head), you need a cabinet. Personally, I like going that way rather than a dedicated combo, because it's easy to mix and match for the occasion. I get all the variety without all the cabinetry. (I have a Cave Creek/Powdog cab with a Neodymium speaker which weighs in at 18 lbs.)

The little 5-watt Nanos are like party favors or Christmas ornaments, and not much more expensive (generally 75.00 - 100.00 used). The Nano floors, with the double-amp voicing...are more like 175.00 - 200.00 each. By comparison to a Katana, they're expensive for what you get.

So...the first thing to do is try a Katana. If you like it, done. If not, start shopping upward.

I'm very impressed with the Tone Masters. I've heard the Deluxe for many hours, in jam/gig conditions, with Fender tube amps to compare them to - and honestly liked the sound of the Tone Master better. It nails the intended identity, in that the difference between a DRRI (or a vintage DR) and the Tone Master is no more than the difference between two examples of either of the tube versions. Except it sounds like the most expertly maintained and tweaked tube DR I've heard.

But. Expensive by comparison with other options.

I've had a Tech21 Trademark 60 for years, and - before the Quilters - considered it the best SS amp I'd run across. It's tone and gain controls are unlike most other amps, and take some getting used to - but it does a fine job of sounding Fendery, or Voxy, or Marshally, or what have you. Not that it's trying to model or emulate - just that it gets in those tonal ballparks. And I love its dirt options. It's also very light, and real loud (and has the lousiest thin fragile this-sure-ain't-tolex black skin I've ever seen, so treat it with care). I still use mine, as I have no need for an amp which would justify selling it to get a Quilter.

Thing is, even used, the Trademark 60 probably costs as much as new Katana.

So there you are. From my knowledge of the state of that art, at the higher end it's a choice between a Quilter (if you want gobs of versatility) or a Tone Master (if you want Fender blackface period). At the affordable end of the scale, it's Katana. Various mini-head-and-separate-cab options fall between those endpoints.

As I said...before I spent money on an SS amp today, I'd have to eliminate the Katana before I considered other options.


Oh. Blues Cubes. I'm impressed by proxy by what guys whose ear I respect have said about at least the top of that line (but haven't heard the amps in person). They're pricier than the Katana. I suppose I'd audition one vs Quilter and Tone Master in that price range.

27

I picked up a Tone Master Deluxe Reverb a little over a month ago. I don't have any experience with the tube version of this amp, or with Fender blackface amps in general. Previous to this, my only amps were a Fender Blues Jr. and a little Vox Pathfinder 15R (solid state).

I really like the TMDR. When I plug into it now, I've stopped thinking about it as a digital amp or a solid state amp. It's just the amp I'm plugging into.

Being an apartment dweller, it fits my needs perfectly. I tend to keep it on the lowest attenuation setting (0.2W) and turn the volume anywhere between 6 and 10 to get amp overdrive. If I want a more clean tone, I move up to the next attenuation setting (0.5W) and turn the volume down to 2 or 3. I'd love to be able to open it up a bit more, but I have nowhere that would allow me to do that right now. I've read that people have gigged with it, and were very satisfied.

When I first got it, the reverb was quite dramatic. It would get uber-surfy when turned past 2. But they had a firmware upgrade that addressed that, and now it's more manageable. There was also an upgrade that removed the bright cap on the vibrato channel.

I dig it. It sounds great on its own, and it takes pedals well. I've tested out using the balanced XLR line out and IRs for recording, and it sounds good to me, although I have yet to go very far down that road.

28

Zac Childs made a comparison of the Tonemaster and Deluxe Reverb on his AskZac channel. The YouTube link is here. Link

Sorry, I don't know how to embed the Youtube page.

I've got a Tech21 FlyRig and TriAC, both of which sound great direct into a PA. They are both very warm sounding. Sadly Tech21 doesn't have any guitar combo amps listed on their website at this time. I used to want their 2 x 12 Trademark 120 but never purchased one.

29

And oops.

I'm guilty again of not asking more questions about Andy's intended use for the amp - home, practice, gigging, recording etc - and, more importantly, whether you're looking for all your tone from the amp (in terms both of eq and overdrive/gain/dirt), or whether it's to be more of a clean pedal platform amp.

If the latter, it gets easy, particularly if you're happy with the drive and low-gain (but dirty) tones you get from your pedals (and/or they have enough knobs to tweak their EQ if needed).

ANY of these amps would make excellent clean pedal platforms. It's if you're looking to get your slightly overdriven-to-crunchy tones from the amp, rather than pedals, that the finer details of these amps' gain structures, driven tones, and "feel" start to matter more.

30

Thanks, Jimbodiddley, for the TMDR review!

31

All of the amps mentioned are pretty decent amps, but the one that did it for me was the Silverline series of modeling amps. To me the Sliverlines had more bottom and than the Katanas I tried out, and I preferred the amp models the Silverline, that are based upon different power tubes (6L6, EL84, EL34, 6V6, KT88, etc.), that when combined with the voicings for different gain levels (from 2 different types of clean [warm and bright], 2 different crunch settings, and 2 different overdrive settings), made the SIlverline 50, my amp of choice. I do agree with the comments about the Katana though - getting the multi-button footswitch makes it easier to access you preset tones with the Blackstar Sliverlines. Like the Katana, it has a USB port (and a supplied USB cable) for downloading different effects, and voicings for the amp, but my days of spending umpteen hours tweaking the "perfect tone" are over for me, so I'm not sure if I'll make much use of that feature, since I got tired of mega tone tweaking long time ago. Also, while the effects the amp has are nice, I've never been a huge fan of effects drenched guitar signals. Some chorus, or flange, and little bit of wah once in a blue moon and I'm good to go, and for those, I have some very nice outboard pedals I can hook up.

32

Herr Proteus, thanks for the comprehensive list of considerations . . .

Regarding usage: all of the above. It would be for home use, practice, and ( at some point) gigging. I'm more of a clean tone guy, but I do need a little break-up, preferably natural amp overdrive or from my Blues Driver. I really dont like gain/distortion channels on amps, as they usually sound like butt.

33

Blackstar, you say?

34

whenever i see that brand name i always think of "Black Star" by Radiohead and Bowie's swan-song release.

35

whenever i see that brand name i always think of "Black Star" by Radiohead and Bowie's swan-song release.

– macphisto

Bowie named the album after an amp in the studio while they were recording.

36

Bowie named the album after an amp in the studio while they were recording.

– Mr Tubs

Really?

38

Thanks Proteus and Jimbodiddley for the Tone Master Deluxe comments. You got me thinking about one. Jimbo, fwiw, I also have a Vox Pathfinder 15R amp. Good little grab and go amp loud beyond expectations. I would like to hear it in combination with either the 2x10 or 4x8 cabinets that were available. The worst comments about these cabinets seems to be that if you’re spending that much money you might as well get an AC 15.

39

I can add only 2 things:

I love LOVE LOVE my Roland Blues Cube Artist. I've had it about a year, it's awesome, it sounds and feels like a tube amp. While I bought it to use exclusively for my cover band (because it's got 2 channels, it's LIGHT, it sounds great, and key-it's master volume is AWESOME since it's a SS amp, it sounds GREAT at ANY volume), I can honestly say if the band ended, I'd still keep it- that's how much I like it. I think Roland has "cracked the code".

The second thing is not from personal experience, but I haven't read a bad review of the Fender Tonemasters yet- it's ALL RAVES. If I was in the market for a blackface amp (I'm not because I have a PRRI), I would be looking at them.

40

Thanks Proteus and Jimbodiddley for the Tone Master Deluxe comments. You got me thinking about one. Jimbo, fwiw, I also have a Vox Pathfinder 15R amp. Good little grab and go amp loud beyond expectations. I would like to hear it in combination with either the 2x10 or 4x8 cabinets that were available. The worst comments about these cabinets seems to be that if you’re spending that much money you might as well get an AC 15.

– Baba Joe

Yes, the Pathfinder 15R is exactly that – great to grab and go. Light, small. I used to bring to casual band rehearsals, when the drummer just played a snare with brushes. It's got reverb and tremolo. I find the gain is not the greatest, but good enough for those purposes.

I found mine in a Long & McQuade store for just a little over $100 iirc. It had a missing foot. I was trying out one of those Epiphone P90 Goldtops (which I should have bought), and plugged into the Pathfinder. I think I had the guitar on the neck pickup and the gain up pretty high, getting a "woman tone" thing, when I saw one of the store dudes approaching. I thought he was gonna tell me to turn it down, but instead he said "is that coming from that Vox amp?" I nodded. His eyebrows elevated, and he said something like "Wow, I didn't know it could that." I bought the amp and they fixed the foot for me.

41

I can add only 2 things:

I love LOVE LOVE my Roland Blues Cube Artist. I've had it about a year, it's awesome, it sounds and feels like a tube amp. While I bought it to use exclusively for my cover band (because it's got 2 channels, it's LIGHT, it sounds great, and key-it's master volume is AWESOME since it's a SS amp, it sounds GREAT at ANY volume), I can honestly say if the band ended, I'd still keep it- that's how much I like it. I think Roland has "cracked the code".

The second thing is not from personal experience, but I haven't read a bad review of the Fender Tonemasters yet- it's ALL RAVES. If I was in the market for a blackface amp (I'm not because I have a PRRI), I would be looking at them.

– ruger9

After I got the TMDR, I started seeing online reviews of the Roland Blues Cube. If I was in the market for another amp, I would take a serious look at those.

42

Looks like the Tonemaster is the gold standard at the moment . . .

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Looks like the Tonemaster is the gold standard at the moment . . .

– AndyJ

For FENDER BLACKFACE tone, yes.

The Rolands are voiced more tweed era. My Roland Blues Cube Artist is modeled after a 59 Bassman, then of course you've got the tone capsules to change the amp's voicing ... I have the "Ultimate Blues" tone capsule, which gives a Fender Super Reverb on the clean channel, and a Marshall Super Lead on the dirty channel.

And on some of the Rolands, the 2 channels are blendable. I'll admit they aren't cheap (at least the high end of the range like my artist), but they're worth every penny, speaking from a year's worth of experience using it in my band.

44

For FENDER BLACKFACE tone, yes.

The Rolands are voiced more tweed era. My Roland Blues Cube Artist is modeled after a 59 Bassman, then of course you've got the tone capsules to change the amp's voicing ... I have the "Ultimate Blues" tone capsule, which gives a Fender Super Reverb on the clean channel, and a Marshall Super Lead on the dirty channel.

And on some of the Rolands, the 2 channels are blendable. I'll admit they aren't cheap (at least the high end of the range like my artist), but they're worth every penny, speaking from a year's worth of experience using it in my band.

– ruger9

Thanks for that correction . . .

The Blues Cubes look to be a worthy consideration as well.

45

I know it's just me, but if I were looking for a new amp, and I'm not right now, there are just two reasons I would plump for something like a Katana -- light weight and, except for the Tonemasters which are not by any means cheap, the modest cost. But if I had a spare £1000-plus in the amp fund I'd pass on the Tonemaster Twin (great sound but I worry about getting these sort of things fixed) and go right out and buy a Boogie Mini-Rectifier head -- light, damn loud 20 Boogie tube watts and a clean tone I like. I've got all the effects I need on my board.

As things stand, my solid state collection is a Roland Cube for home practice and quiet band rehearsals, plus the old warhorse, a Peavey 160W Citation head. Heavy? Yep. Sound? OK at a pinch. Loud? You betcha.

46

Ahh yes, the Peaveys..... I've been VERY happy with my 2 Peavey steel guitar amps( an '80-ish Session 500 and '08-ish Nashville 112). If you lay in some compression they're not too shabby at all for six-string, and my '90s DataBass is just superb. Good, clean sound and lots of horsepower. But If I were going all six-string I'd stick with one of the Fender all tube amps.

47

I'm going to have to take a serious look at Ruger's Roland Blues Cube. Everything he likes, I like so I expect the same with this amp.

+1000 to Proteus' comment and description of the the Tech21 Trademark 60. I also have and the Trademark 30. The Trademark 60 is everything and more that Proteus described. I do think there was a rather large drop-off in tonal quality with the 30W model which I owned first.

It's a small company based in NYC but wish both models were not discontinued. I will say that there are certain Orange solid state amps that intrigue me and certainly would like to spend a few hours playing through them.

49

I have this Orange solid state. It sounds very good. The cleans are not Fender cleans but very pristine nevertheless. The Reverb is very convincing. It may be high wattage but since it’s solid state it isn’t too loud and sounds good at low or high volumes. I have a couple Fender tube amps if I need Fender tones.

50

Many people who usually play through tubes have been very impressed with Fender's Tone Master amps.

– Bob Howard

I’m one of them. I mean I’m impressed but don’t own one. Have demoed some.


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