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Old October 31st, 2013, 10:32 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Which Tube amp for hollow body guitar

Hi, so I'm in the market (again) for another low wattage tube amp. to be honest, it's for a friend of mine that i'm helping out as he's a newbie to all things tube; He owns an aria pro 2 dual humbucker hollow body guitar and currently owns a Fender Frontman 212R 100W solid state amp which is WAY too loud for his needs and so is trying to sell it. also, he's looking for that organic tubey sound, after hearing what my bugera V5 sounds like (replaced stock tubes with Electro-Harmonix 12AX7 & JJ EL84).

Thing is, I find that my Highway one Texas tele sounds much better than his Aria through the Bugera. I know the bugera is generally dark sounding, so that would go someway to explaining the dull sound using the aria, (although my tele sounds good no matter what amp I've plugged it into, tube or solid state.)

Seems like with the aria & bugera, the only pickup that sounds any way decent is the bridge pickup, as it's obviously brighter. I have an old east german sound city 30W solid state amp that the aria sounds decent through, especially on the neck pickup; kind of warm and jazzy. Anyway, not wanting to ramble, I'm basically looking for a ~ 5W tube amp that will suit the hollow body type guitar and preferably an amp that will suit both hollow body humbucker guitar and single coil solid body guitar (a versatile tube amp?)

I've been looking around online and these are the amps that have caught my eye:

Vox AC4 Blue
http://www.thomann.de/ie/vox_ac4_blue.htm

Laney Cub10
http://www.thomann.de/ie/laney_cub10.htm

Fender Excelsior Amplifier
http://www.waltons.ie/Product/View.aspx?id=30861&cid=36

Laney Cub 12R
http://www.thomann.de/ie/laney_cub12r.htm

Laney Cub12
http://www.thomann.de/ie/laney_cub12.htm

VHT Special 6 Ultra 6W
http://www.thomann.de/ie/vht_special_6_combo_ultra.htm

VHT Special 6
http://www.thomann.de/ie/vht_special...920c36a773884d

I haven't had an oppurtunity yet to try any of them and there's no shops in Ireland that stock any of them, except the Fender Excelsior which stocked by Waltons in Dublin. I live in Limerick :(
The VOX seems like it might work, as it has both bass and treble controls; also, I like that celestion sound.

Anyhoo, any suggestions? Anyone tried any of the above with a hollow body guitar?
Budget would be up to ~ 300 max
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Old October 31st, 2013, 11:41 AM   #2 (permalink)
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If he is a noob to all of this, he may want to consider his right hand placement. There as a great impact on the sound that comes out of the amp with regards to the right hand attack. If the bugera is too dark, try playing a little closer to the bridge. Tweed fenders are mid heavy and bass flubby. Mine (with a 15" jensen no less) loves every guitar I throw at it--teles, casinos, full size archtops with flatwounds...

The excelsior is a very cool little amp, but it is also very un-fendery--meaning not very bright and stiff. If he didn't like the bugera, I'm not sure he'll like that one, but again learning playing dynamics is important in the equation.

When I get a new guitar it takes a couple of weeks of playing it everyday to learn its own voice and how to attack it with both the left hand and the right hand. And every guitar I own requires a little bit different playing techniques.

I would suggest getting an amp that fits the bill--meaning one that he likes....and learn to coax the sound in his head out of it. While amps do have their own voice, they don't have "the sound." The player does.

Excelsiors are cool and should be considered. Pro Jr. Blues Jr. Superchamp if he wants more "standard Fender territory" Mustang for cheaper...however I caution new players from modeling amps...a lot end up doing more knob twistin' than playin'. What about a pathfinder 15r...lots of love here for them.
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Old October 31st, 2013, 11:47 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'd say pick one that has the capability to sound the brightest. Since the Aria is tending to sound dark (less treble), you need that control to be able to tweak that brighter. Some have more control of overall tone than others. Meaning three tone knobs versus single one.

I play my Strats and ES335 Semi hollow body through my 1977 Princeton Reverb. I have a bright speaker in it so it sounds awesome with both gits.

You could look at an amp, but then look at brighter speakers?
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Old October 31st, 2013, 01:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
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[QUOTE=Excelsiors are cool and should be considered. Pro Jr. Blues Jr. Superchamp if he wants more "standard Fender territory" Mustang for cheaper...however I caution new players from modeling amps...a lot end up doing more knob twistin' than playin'. What about a pathfinder 15r...lots of love here for them.[/QUOTE]

From what I've seen regarding Excelsiors online, they seem like nice amps, but seem to be a one trick pony with very limited control over EQ/Tone and that's what he needs, versatility for tone, as I'll also probably use the amp with my tele. So far, the VOX AC 4 Blue seems to tick all boxes: control over clean / distortion with gain & volume, plus bass & treble, plus there's that certain VOX sound that I (and my mate) find very apealling. It's just a pity I / he can't actually try one out, like nearly all the other amps I've listed :(
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Old October 31st, 2013, 01:40 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'd say pick one that has the capability to sound the brightest. Since the Aria is tending to sound dark (less treble), you need that control to be able to tweak that brighter. Some have more control of overall tone than others. Meaning three tone knobs versus single one.

I play my Strats and ES335 Semi hollow body through my 1977 Princeton Reverb. I have a bright speaker in it so it sounds awesome with both gits.

You could look at an amp, but then look at brighter speakers?
Yeah, I actually got a Jensen c8r (4 ohms) replacement speaker for my Bugera. It's not installed yet as I don't have soldering equipment and can't solder. Might get an amp repair guy to do it. I'm sure it would be a cheap simple job. I'm hoping this will brighten up the overall sound of the amp.

However, my mate is not interested at all in forking out for a replacement speaker, so it's going to remain the stock speaker. I think any amp with a celestion speaker is generally going to be fairly bright though right?
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Old November 1st, 2013, 07:26 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I like my VHT Special 6 combo with my Epi Dot. Lots of tonal range and works great with my strats and teles as well. In the boost mode with tone up, the Dot can get plenty bright. For more muted jazz tones, the normal mode with the tone down works great. Haven't played the other amps on your list.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 08:19 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I like my VHT Special 6 combo with my Epi Dot. Lots of tonal range and works great with my strats and teles as well. In the boost mode with tone up, the Dot can get plenty bright. For more muted jazz tones, the normal mode with the tone down works great. Haven't played the other amps on your list.
Yeah, I've been checking out that amp online, along with the VHT Special 6 Ultra. In the Special 6, what's the purpose of the Hi power / Low power switch?
Is the low power some kind of wattage attenuator? Similarly, what exactly is the differenct between the Lo and Hi inputs? Can they used in combination to get more varied volume / tone results?

The Special 6 Ultra seems to throw even more options into the mix with the addition of a "Depth" and "Ultra" dial. I wonder are these 2 additions a bit gimmicky and unecessary? If they add real beneficial significance to finding more precisely desired tones for a wider range of guitar types, then I'd be tempted, but without being to actually try one, I'm left to forming a judgement based on youtube videos and the quality of microphones people use to make those videos.

It can become quite hard to make a decision when theres so many contributing factors. I guess thats why when I feel like I'm becoming bombarded by all the tech talk and specs, I find myself looking for sanctuary in simplicity; i.e.: the likes of the VOX AC4 Blue. I think why this is currently top of my list in my mind is largely down to this video I saw of it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lanmpAGXYnw
the hollow body guitar sounds really sweet on the clean tones, and that is the sound arena in which my mate will mostly be playing his hollow body guitar; and I can't argue with that lovely crunch it is capable of providing. Anyhoo, the search goes on, but I definitely have a favourite which hasn't been nudged off top spot yet.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 11:44 AM   #8 (permalink)
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The Excelsior is cheap and cheerful. Adding a tone control and a footswitch jack for the trem takes all of about thirty minutes.

I often play my Gretsch G5120 with GFS single coils or my Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin II thru my Excelsior and it's very satisfying. Of course there is the small matter of feedback which can be a bonus or a negative. Back in the day we stuffed gym socks in our guitars to cut down on the feedback. One guy I knew worked in a factory that made ladies' undergarments and he had his guitar stuffed with bras and panties.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 02:18 PM   #9 (permalink)
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The Excelsior is cheap and cheerful. Adding a tone control and a footswitch jack for the trem takes all of about thirty minutes.

I often play my Gretsch G5120 with GFS single coils or my Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin II thru my Excelsior and it's very satisfying. Of course there is the small matter of feedback which can be a bonus or a negative. Back in the day we stuffed gym socks in our guitars to cut down on the feedback. One guy I knew worked in a factory that made ladies' undergarments and he had his guitar stuffed with bras and panties.
Hmmm... yeah I must try out the Excelsior next time i'm in Dublin. 279.50 seems decent for a tube amp with a "15 speaker and from the vids I've seen/heard of it, seems like a sweet sounding amp. Showed it to my mate and he liked the aesthetic / sound of it, but wasn't too impressed with the whole tremolo thing and the fact that the only tone control is either bright or dark. PLUS you can't get breakup without turning it way up I would imagine, as their's no gain knob?, which he can't necessarily do too often. He's not looking to mod whatever amp he gets. Neither him or me are too savy with electronics. so for that amp, it's just a matter of not enough boxes being ticked.

Seems like most people in the states are; must be taught in high school or something? Only mod would be tube replacements if necessary. Feedback wouldn't pose to much of a problem, so no need for a lingerie department inside the guitar :) although I'm sure it could make for one sexy guitar!
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Old November 1st, 2013, 02:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I have one of those Vox 4-watt combos, the one with the 8-inch speaker and the power shrinker switch, and I don't like it much for anything but living-room noodling. Not enough power to play with anybody else, and it breaks up too quickly for me. If you could find a secondhand Blues Junior, that's a lot more versatile amp: TMB tone controls, master volume, reverb & fat switch means you can dial in a lot of different sounds at a lot of different breakup levels and volume levels.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 02:44 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Old November 1st, 2013, 04:57 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I have one of those Vox 4-watt combos, the one with the 8-inch speaker and the power shrinker switch, and I don't like it much for anything but living-room noodling. Not enough power to play with anybody else, and it breaks up too quickly for me. If you could find a secondhand Blues Junior, that's a lot more versatile amp: TMB tone controls, master volume, reverb & fat switch means you can dial in a lot of different sounds at a lot of different breakup levels and volume levels.
Hmmm... Seems like a nice amp allright. A bit over budget unfortunately, and possibly too loud. The Vox Ac4 Blue actually has a 10" inch speaker, so it might be a bit louder than your 8" one. Anyway, he's not in a band. he basically wants a small practice amp that can be tucked beside a couch in the living room, so loud levels not really a necessity. If it was me getting another tube amp, i'd put the blues junior on my list of possibilities, but that's another story... Myself and himself both jam a lot and have another friend with an electronic drumkit, so again, if we jam with the drummer, he can control the drum volume. As it stands, my mate, as i mentioned before, already has a fender frontman 212r, so if we every did get to gigging, he could use that. he's currently trying to sell it online, but not much response so far, so it might be gathering dust in the corner for a while yet.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 05:08 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Twin Reverb sat a top a Dual Showman Cabinet. 6 of them in in series worked rather well.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 05:09 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Pro Jr.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 05:12 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Pro Jr.
Yep. My favorite amp to take out. I don't own a hollow body though.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 08:08 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Yeah, I've been checking out that amp online, along with the VHT Special 6 Ultra. In the Special 6, what's the purpose of the Hi power / Low power switch?
Is the low power some kind of wattage attenuator? Similarly, what exactly is the differenct between the Lo and Hi inputs? Can they used in combination to get more varied volume / tone results?

The Special 6 Ultra seems to throw even more options into the mix with the addition of a "Depth" and "Ultra" dial. I wonder are these 2 additions a bit gimmicky and unecessary? If they add real beneficial significance to finding more precisely desired tones for a wider range of guitar types, then I'd be tempted, but without being to actually try one, I'm left to forming a judgement based on youtube videos and the quality of microphones people use to make those videos.

It can become quite hard to make a decision when theres so many contributing factors. I guess thats why when I feel like I'm becoming bombarded by all the tech talk and specs, I find myself looking for sanctuary in simplicity; i.e.: the likes of the VOX AC4 Blue. I think why this is currently top of my list in my mind is largely down to this video I saw of it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lanmpAGXYnw
the hollow body guitar sounds really sweet on the clean tones, and that is the sound arena in which my mate will mostly be playing his hollow body guitar; and I can't argue with that lovely crunch it is capable of providing. Anyhoo, the search goes on, but I definitely have a favourite which hasn't been nudged off top spot yet.
Noticed that you have included VHT Special 6 Ultra on your list. I have both the head plus cab and combo. I have an ES-335 copy with Gibson 57 Classic Vintage and Gibson 57 Classic Plus humbuckers on it and they sound just plain good through my VHT amps. The dials you were worried of (Depth, Tone) are the real things. High power/Low power are simply pentode mode versus triode mode and standby in between. Watts knop is the attenuator. You can google VHT Special 6 Combo Ultra owners manual and pick up the one with PDF file. If You read the relatively short manual you'll get the big picture of the amp. The 12" ChromeBack speaker is acceptable when it has broken in. Both amps have served me well.

I also have a Pathfinder 15R that I like very much and maybe that explains the way my soul is drifting.
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Old November 2nd, 2013, 09:02 AM   #17 (permalink)
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You can google VHT Special 6 Combo Ultra owners manual and pick up the one with PDF file. If You read the relatively short manual you'll get the big picture of the amp. The 12" ChromeBack speaker is acceptable when it has broken in. Both amps have served me well.

I also have a Pathfinder 15R that I like very much and maybe that explains the way my soul is drifting.
Cheers Finnlander, I'll have a look at that manual
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Old November 2nd, 2013, 12:40 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Fender Excelsior, 'cause of the 15' speaker.
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Old November 2nd, 2013, 01:00 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Marshall Class5 is a perfect combo with my ES335.
5 Watt and enough tone shape pos.
Very loud btw!!!
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Old November 2nd, 2013, 01:08 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I have the VOX AC4 PL and love it...........it's a great lil amp that has plenty of volume for a bedroom/garage..........it has enough controls to beget great tone across various volumes while keeping the amp very simple yet effective.........

A bargain at $299 new.......


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