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Old January 22nd, 2009, 05:09 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Best Blues Tube amp for home use?

Hi I'm a newbie here. Someone over the Acoustic Guitar Forum suggested I go here with this question, so here goes:

I am looking for a high-quality amp for use at home. I've tried several amps and I love the warm fender sound and really liked the Blues DeVille 410 reissue. Great tone, and great for blues. Really responds to pick attack well. I am looking for a warm sound which can be clean and driven to growl when you dig in. Although I really like the Blues DeVille 410, it needs to work at bedroom volume. Also, I don’t want issues with it (like microphonics or other problems), so the Mexican-made Fender is out after hearing lots of complaints from fellow players.

I play lots of blues and I love the Clapton blues tone (especially the Bassman sound he gets, although when I tried the Bassman next to the Blues DeVille, the bassman wasn’t as responsive to my playing). Another favorite tone can be found on SRV’s ‘The Sky is Crying’ in his version of Little Wing on that album.

I am looking for a warm, 3D, detailed, hi-fi tube sound that is clean and full when played softly but starts to growl when you dig in. It also needs to be full range with lots of detail in both low and high end (so nothing too midrangy, dark and weak)

I use the volume and tone controls of my guitars to shape my tone (a USA Strat with custom pickups and Taylor Walnut Custom Solid body with ¾ humbuckers) and to go from clean to overdriven sound. For solos I have a T-REX Tonebug overdrive. For Reverb I have their Room Mate All-Tube Reverb.

I really really like this recording of the Carr Mercury: http://www.carramps.com/audio/mercury/merc1.mp3. Great detail and wonderful clean tone, one of the best recorded amp sounds I've ever heard.

Just like guitars, there are so many great builders out there and the Carr Mercury is very close to my ideal amp: variable wattage, great all tube tone, boutique quality build and parts. Just a no-compromise amp. I'd love to hear suggestions in this direction (other brands) or maybe just that the Carr is the ticket! However, I worry that the Carr Mercury sounds great mic’ed up, but will sound small and boxy in a room (because it is small and boxy )

I am really allergic to anything too midrange-y. I don’t want that small 50s practice-amp-sound coming from the cab. It has to fill a small room nicely.

So, a very impossible question I think, but I hope you can help me! Thank you very much for all your time. I'd love to hear your opinion on the Mercury or any suggestions that you may have.

Yours Sincerely,

Joost Assink
The Netherlands.

www.youtube.com/jazzinc

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Old January 22nd, 2009, 05:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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This is the boxy sound I'm afraid of. Hard to say if it's the pickup the micing or the amp:
http://www.indoorstorm.com/ml/ACR006.html
it's the first of the media clips that bothers me the most
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 05:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
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What is wrong with MIM Fender amps? I can vouch for mine. I have the Blues Jr. I recommend this amp. Not only is it great at bedroom volume, I feel, but it is more than capable to play gigs with. Plenty loud and can be plenty quiet. You might even want to go smaller and go to the Pro Junior. I have also heard great things about the Peavey Classic 20 and 30. These can be found on ebay. Another option to consider would be the little Epiphone amps, valve junior. I have not played one, but have heard that the little 5 watt head is amazing. I haven't heard much about the combo. The Fender Blues Jr. or Pro Jr. get my vote.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 06:55 PM   #4 (permalink)
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there are so many choices and I dont know anything however i would suggest you look at Swart
If you are willing to pay $2000 for a Carr, have a look at the Swarts, though i do like the 8, 2, 1/2, 1/10 watt of the Carr.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 07:23 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The sound you are describing definitely sounds like a "big amp tone". There is no substitute for multiple speakers and big transformers pushing a lot of air when it comes to big full 3D cleans. Especially if you are looking to replicate the tone on Stevie's recording of Little Wing. When the wife is home and trying to watch tv in the next room even 5watts can be too much. When no one is home and I want big full 3d tone I pull the old 1960 Fender Concert out of the closest and play it on around 3 or 4. It's enough volume to sound big but not loud enough to kill my ears or make the neighbors call the cops. My choice if could only have one amp would be to buy a tweed super clone from one of the various builders online and just throw some pedals in front of it when I wanted dirty sounds or reverb.
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 12:24 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm not digging those Indoor Storm clips either. Carr's clip sounds pretty good, but it's also not pushing the distortion very much.

While a Champ is about the right volume level, that single-ended distortion can get muddy in a hurry. Too bad they don't make more small push-pull amps! (Joost, are you handy with a soldering iron? )

- Scott
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 08:41 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joost Assink View Post
This is the boxy sound I'm afraid of. Hard to say if it's the pickup the micing or the amp:
http://www.indoorstorm.com/ml/ACR006.html
it's the first of the media clips that bothers me the most
you're right – probably another guitar, another player?

I think plugin' in a tellycaster will give you more fullrange sound on any amp.
the sample on the carr homepage sounds much better, that's a single coil guitar (like telly or strat) at least and the player has a much more dynamic touch.

the carr amp looks nice but 2 grands is a bit pricey, is'nt it?
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 08:54 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by The O.K. View Post
The Fender Blues Jr. or Pro Jr. get my vote.
I have a blues junior also and I love it. It is a decent tool for recordings, practice, rehearsals and the small gig. Anyway, I still haven't figured out how to dial in the controls to get rid of that slightly transy feeling I get on my bridge pickup with this amp (I tend to use the middle position with it more than I do with other amps) I would say it does 95% of what a small amp can do. But I have the impression Joost is willing to go that steep road for the last 5%.
The more I really listen to amps (frankly, I didn't care that much until I got involved in TDPRI), the more I feel like shelling out the money for a "100%-er" and my vison of a sound seems to meet Joost's quite well.
Then on the other hand I still play a lot of house amps, so maybe I should look for a pedal or something that does the trick of subtile for me. Haven't found any yet or I am just to stupid to set them up right.

I had a pro junior and liked it, but I would say it's the most boxy and midrangy box out there. Sounds good with a telly when cranked anyway, but I'm afraid that''s not what Joost is looking for.
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 10:38 AM   #9 (permalink)
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The Carr is anything but boxy. Loud as hell too!

Pricey is a matter of opinion, but if you buy a Carr you have an amp that your grandkids will probably still be playing.

I haven't heard the Raleigh yet, but it's a smaller, lower wattage option too.

(Note, I don't even own a Carr, but I've played through a bunch myself and heard many others gigging them since they are a local company.)

I'll second the Swart amp as another option.

Then again blues is about the player, not the amp so any amp can be a blues amp. An old Silvertone would be really authentic actually!
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 10:39 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Try asking your question also on gitaarnet.nl - I think there are some boutique amp builders in NL who hang out there. Then you can maybe try out a couple of amps, and talk to the builder(s) in person. Unless of course you'd like to travel to North Carolina and try out the Carr amp at Steve's place here in Pittsboro Good luck.


Here's one: http://www.cmwamps.com/
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 10:41 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I heard Marble (NL) does nice amps. at least they are highly regarded around here (german wholeseller near). I never played one so far, but a friend of mine has one.
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 10:53 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I have nothing at all against Carr amps. (Jorma uses a Slant 6 and it sounds great.)

But just out of curiosity, am I the only one who finds it odd that someone (unless they're made of money) feels the need for a $2000 boutique amp for "home use?"
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 10:59 AM   #13 (permalink)
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But just out of curiosity, am I the only one who finds it odd that someone (unless they're made of money) feels the need for a $2000 boutique amp for "home use?"
nope!
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 11:34 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I use a Blues Jr. for home stuff, and even at band rehearsals. Sounds good at low volume and has a good tonal palatte, enough to cover a lot of blues bases. YMMV, but I love mine. BTW, I exchanged the (very good) stock speaker for a C. Rex. Nice and warm and rounded.
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 02:11 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Another Blues Jr. player here (some tube swaps and a Weber Blue Dog speaker). I use it at as my practice amp, and I record from it. I can get really nice tones out of it at bedroomish volumes (a relative concept, since I get asked to turn it down quite a bit). When I tried playing it in my church band though (and therefore kicked up the volume) I noticed that "boxiness" that has been discussed before. So now I use a DRRI for band stuff, but am very happy with the Blues Jr. at home. But, if you're willing to spend the extra money, there are better amps. The Blues Jr. is a great deal though IMO.
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 02:22 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I have nothing at all against Carr amps. (Jorma uses a Slant 6 and it sounds great.)

But just out of curiosity, am I the only one who finds it odd that someone (unless they're made of money) feels the need for a $2000 boutique amp for "home use?"

actually as much as i like by boutique amp when i play i actually get the most out of at home where i can experiment with what the amp has to offer rather than compete with bar noise, the rest of the band and the fact i have a tune to remember.

take a look a small Dr z (maybe too midrangey) or a Victoria Regal...very versatile 5-35 wts depending on tubes but from what some folks say it can get dark. I should kniow more about that when i get home from work as the UPS tracking says mine should be hitting my front porch this afternoon.
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 04:39 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Hey Teleftcaster,

What does it mean when you refer to a "boxy" sound? I've been thinking about the Blues Jr. as well and play mostly in at home and in a church band.
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 05:00 PM   #18 (permalink)
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"transy feeling I get on my bridge pickup with this amp"

Transy??
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 05:15 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Hey Teleftcaster,

What does it mean when you refer to a "boxy" sound? I've been thinking about the Blues Jr. as well and play mostly in at home and in a church band.
I think of boxy as focused, directional, lacking in bass definition, and more focused on a midrange type sound. The Blue's Juniors cabinet is almost too small for its 12" speaker.

In layman's terms I've heard it said, "cup your hands around your mouth and talk, thats boxy".

While the Blues Jr. is a respectable tube amp. I would say it definitely does not fit the bill for the original poster. He said the last thing he wanted is boxy. Good or bad when I think boxy the stock Blues Jr. is one of the first amp's that comes to mind.

If you have no other tube amp to compare it to you might get so used to the sound that you never notice the "boxiness". I have an Ampeg Jet that I dearly love but due to its small cabinet it is just as boxy as the Blues Jr. If I play it almost exclusively I never notice that it sounds boxy it just has good small amp tone. If I get out the Fender Concert with its 4 10" speakers and play it for a few hours and then switch over to the Jet it is immediately apparent how boxy the Jet is.

Usually how "boxy" an amp sounds has a lot to do with cabinet size. Put the blues junior in a larger cabinet or run it with an extension cab and the sound "opens up" quite a bit. You've never experienced a tweed champ until you run it through an extension cab.
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Old January 23rd, 2009, 05:56 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Yes, the B.J. does have a small cabinet for its big sound, or the big sound that it can potentially produce. I have heard the BillM mods can remedy some of this. Another option would be to get an extension cab (which is what I am thinking). But, again, this is for home, practice setting. The Blues Jr. is perfect because it can get loud. Personally, I cannot see spending 2 grand on an amp that you will only practice with, come to think of it, I cannot imagine spending $2000 on an amp period! But that is me. You could probably get yourself a Blues Jr. and a cab for about $500. You might even be able to afford a speaker upgrade. But again, we are talking about home use. The Blues Jr. is more than enough. You might even want to go smaller. I would also recommend the Pignose G40V. It is a $300 amp, with a lot of volume, and great tone, but I think can be used in the house for practice.
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