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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Just need a clean amp, how hard can it be?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by omlove, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. omlove

    omlove TDPRI Member

    Dec 1, 2017
    new york
    A loooong time lurker on the forum and this is my very first post. I learned a ton on this forum so first and foremost I should thank everyone for educating me. I never post because every question I had can be found using google search + tdpri... until now.

    I have played steel string and classical my entire life and I'm in my mid 30s. Although it's just a hobby but after decades of learning I think I'm a decent player. Weirdly enough I just came to electric guitar world this year. (But also learned a tremendous amount in less than a year on this forum, as mentioned) I educated myself by buying used strat and tele and epiphone les paul and disassemble them to bare bone. And learning schematics of 5f1, 5e3 and such.

    Long story short, I have graduated from obsessing with gears - I sold all my vintage Martins and Gibsons as I realized me is the source of the creation of music, not the gears. But in the meanwhile, I do need at least one guitar and one amp to play and to be inspired.

    My problem is the amp. (I have an awesome '50s classic series black strat which is my "blackie" and only electric guitar at this moment. Guess which album started my guitar learning? Unplugged 1992 by EC...)

    I started with the Fender Champion 20. I though that was good as I was a newbie in electric guitar world but soon found out tube amps sound so much more soulful and warmer. So I bought a Super Champ X2, which has power tubes with DSP preamp and can be found for 200 bucks on CL. I liked the sound, especially the clean tone, but damn! The low F# G G# rattles like hell when the volume is past 5. I tried everything, EVERYTHING, but still cannot fix the rattling. So I thought maybe I'll just buy a good (expensive) one and call it a day. I got a Princeton Reverb Reissue... no, my story did not end there. It rattles on low E string like hell.

    I realized that combo tube amps are subject to rattling because tubes were constantly blown by the sound waves coming from the speaker. Eurotubes has pretty good explanation on their website: faq.htm#x::359.:32What:39s:32that:32rattle:32noise

    But I still cannot believe. I went to search and lo and behold, there are tons of tons of posts talking about PRRI rattling and fixing and clearly, me thinking "buying a good one and let's call it a day" is just the beginning. I went to my local Sam Ash, which has a nice amp room, and every 65 or 68 PRRI "farts" on the low E string. That was a eye opening moment for me.

    I just need an amp that sounds decent and works well, in my apartment. No gig, not professional, just hobbyist. For the record, my Super Champ X2 gets my neighbor knocking on 7 but safe on 6 and below. So that's a standard established for loudness.

    So I did some research, and went back to my dear Sam Ash. I tested Fender Mustang GT, Boss Katana and Roland Blues Cube. They are not tube amps, and no rattling or whatsoever. I like the Fender clean sound, I like the 5E3 slightly crunch sound. But FENDER mustang gets none of that. Weird. It's a Fender but there's nothing that I liked. Boss Katana is cool but very bright and those "voices" sound just like 1 voice with another 3 more gain stages. Blues Cube is the best sounding without a doubt and although I never owned a 5E3, I think it is modelled after a 5E3, with additional feature of reverb. But it's very very very loud. They only have the 60W version which is 700 bucks and somewhat on the sterile side of the tone, not the warmer, glassy, springy Fender clean if you know what I'm talking about.

    I meant to keep this post short but I guess I just couldn't. I need just one decent sounding amp to use for my apartment, be it tube or SSD or whatever. Super Champ X2 on 7 was pretty loud in my mind so I thought maybe tube is the solution. But all the rattling drove me nuts. Now it seems the Blues Cube is the best I can get but I am just wondering if there's anything I'm missing out and if there's any advice I can get from TDPRI?

    Greatly appreciate your advice and knowledge.

  2. ce24

    ce24 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 26, 2008
    The Mustang iii will do 5e3. I owned the mustang and I have a 5e3......I was able to AB back and forth and I got extremely close.......giggable close....... That may not be what you want but I do know the mustang can do a lot. From your post it would seem to be too loud anyway. Have you considered an amp with headphones out?
    Good luck

    Oh and welcome!
    Sollipsist likes this.
  3. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    Does it have to be a combo?. How about getting a decent speaker cabinet and head unit to suit?. If you liked the X2 ( do you still have it?, you can run that as a head ), how about the head unit version of that and a cab.
    That now opens two cans of worms about what to go for :)
  4. Clash Telecaster

    Clash Telecaster Tele-Meister

    Nov 30, 2017
    New York
    When anybody is looking for a clean amp, the answer is the Roland Jazz Chorus. It's like if you are looking for a sport that uses a baseball, the answer would be baseball. Clean amp...Jazz Chorus. Inseparable.

    They make a smallish one now. The JC 40. Runs about $500. It would be exactly what you need. Home player, clean sound, portable, no worry of tubes.

    They make a Jazz Chorus 22 (runs about $250), but the 40 I feel would be the better deal. Bigger sound, no doubt. I have the Jazz Chorus 77...way too much for me. The 40 is perfect for home use.
  5. Jakedog

    Jakedog Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Mar 26, 2003
    The North Coast
    Roland JC for cleans is pretty unbeatable.

    I've been seriously digging my early 2000's Marshall AVT50. I found it by accident. It was literally a fluke. Last thing in the world I was looking for.

    The clean channel is mega sweet. Loud enough to gig with, still sounds good at home levels. Separate gain and volume let you have from squeaky clean to light crunch a la Stones, or early AC DC. It's a seriously fun little amp. Usually sells used for $150-$200. I paid $150 for mine, and it's probably my favorite amp I've had in recent years. I'm having such a blast with it.

    Good luck.
  6. AnAxeNamedBeverly

    AnAxeNamedBeverly Tele-Meister

    Jan 6, 2017
    I agree these are good choices, I've never seen a JC-22 for $250 though, I think they are still $400 new and I never see used ones.
  7. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    I'm not sure what you mean by 'rattling'. If you mean unpleasant breakup or fartiness that's usually a byproduct of not understanding how all amps but particularly tube Fenders behave.

    Most amps, tube or otherwise, have equalisation controls for optimising sound. They have these so you can adjust the amp for different guitars/pickups and usages.

    There is a rule which particularly applies to vintage-type Fenders with bass-mid controls; as volume goes up, mid and bass particularly must come down. On the PR mids are preset to about '6' with a resistor in the tone circuit. Leo didn't like distortion, even though many of the classic designs excell at it. He like country clean-clean-clean and while he made amps to sell to pros, they were also built to a price, which meant sometimes things like output transformers were maybe a tad on the 'only just' side. The Princeton is a student amp with the pro features of reverb and tremolo. A step up from the Champ.

    While Spinal Tap with everything on 10 is fun it's not aurally nice, usually. Princeton/Reverb was originally intended to be a practice amp (hence the name, and the dinky Champ power supply).

    It just so happens to be a great bluesy/punchy small venue, performance and studio amp, having great tone at low volume. But with a 10" speaker esp of lower efficiency there isn't a lot of clean/bass to be had. Bass notes are the hardest to push out - my bass player uses 400-500 watts; he is usually on '5' with his controls set in the middle position, for big round clean notes.

    What that means is the dinky power and output of the PR won't support much bass at high volume. If you go 6+ vol, you have to back bass off to 3-4-5. And be careful how you dig in to prevent farting.

    There is a sweet spot where you can get cool bluesy drive and a little breakup and push it with pedals for gigging volume, provided your bandmates have some sensitivity in how they play. Loud drummer - nup.

    If that turns out not to be enough volume you need a Deluxe Reverb. Or Vibrolux. Or Twin. All these amps are somewhat the same. As volume increases mid and bass must go lower or you risk harshness or farts.

    Treble and volume control interaction in the Fender-Marshall-Vox tonestack (and all the amps which are derived) also controls mid and bass sensitivity - so if you go high on it, you can have farting at high treble settings, even with your lower frequencies wound back.

    This one's a good general setup guide - I actually do this with my guitar vol and tone around 7-8 so I have 'a bit more' without touching the amp. While everyone has their own 'secret sauce' to get their sound, most people adjust volume and treble to the right bite and then season with mids/bass. Then tweak vol/tone as required. You will find this then lets you add pedals, volume etc while adjusting on the fly with your guitar controls. It also helps over-reverbing - another trap that can increase unpleasantness.

    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
    jimytheassassin and SolidSteak like this.
  8. Clash Telecaster

    Clash Telecaster Tele-Meister

    Nov 30, 2017
    New York
    Yeah, I see the online stores have the JC 22 priced now at $399. But you ALWAYS can get 15 to 20% off (just ask for it), so that brings the price down to around $330.

    Still a decent deal. I paid $300 for my itty bitty VOX AC4. My toaster is actually bigger and louder than that thing...and it didn't cost 300 friggin' dollars!
    AnAxeNamedBeverly likes this.
  9. alnicopu

    alnicopu Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2009
    The city
    I got Muchxs to build me his version of a corrected Princeton Reverb. He added a mid pot (and a few of his other circuit tweeks) that takes the low end flub right out. With the mid at “0”, its as clean as a Twin Reverb, all the way up. Dial in the mids and when you get past the stock PR setting, it turns into a roaring beast sans the low end flub. Highly recommend you get with him on modding what you have or sell all of em and get one of his that will probably replace them all.
  10. omlove

    omlove TDPRI Member

    Dec 1, 2017
    new york
    I am right now ampless:) Sold them all. I did intend to go for the head+cab setup until I stumbled onto this guy's thread while researching PRRI rattling:

    I still don't get it. I understand tubes hanging from the chassis can be affected by the sound wave coming from the back of the speaker, hence the rattling. But with speaker out of the cab? The amp is essentially a head. That flubby sound is maybe the nature of the speaker's low end? But he claims that when he plugs his PRRI into his friend's silverface PR speaker, it still has that rattling.
  11. omlove

    omlove TDPRI Member

    Dec 1, 2017
    new york
    I realized this thread may open a can of worms for me:) I don't think that's a bad thing though. I actually thought of commissioning a boutique amp. From simple web search, there are quite a few out there and many 5E3 or AA1164 builders out there. I'm in New York City. If there are builders nearby, I'd definitely visit them. But it seems most of the well-known ones are far far way. My attitude right now is to close the case rather than open more possibilities...
  12. omlove

    omlove TDPRI Member

    Dec 1, 2017
    new york

    Thanks and that's very detailed explanation.

    By "rattling", I mean literally something is vibrating like the window or the floor sympathetically and it's quite an annoying sound. This is new to me as I play acoustic guitar mostly - you can't make the windows vibrate however hard you play.

    Funny experience, when I was searching for tube amp demos on Youtube, I thought I heard the same rattling I heard from my amp. It turned out that my computer volume was a bit louder than usual and the lamp next to me was making the sound. When I put my headphone on, the audio is totally different.

    In my case of the Super Champ X2, the rattling sound comes from the amp not the lamp:) I can firmly push the 6V6 into the socket to suppress the rattling sound but when my hands are off, it just went off crazy. One way to describe the sound is on the clean channel, when volume is 6 it reaches the maximum volume; when volume is 7 or 8 or 9, the speaker is so loose that it actually lost volume. It produces a sound similar to how you blow air through closed lips. Another word to describe this would be "fuzzy", instead of "controlled" or "tight". I sure never heard of this sound on any record and I wouldn't think this is normal "overdrive". But people have been using Fender tube amps for decades in studios. I'm still learning...
  13. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    That's farting out. It's not a fault of the speaker. It is a characteristic of the amp.

    The user is asking more of the amp than it can deliver. Too much treb-mid-bass. People might say Fender is 'at fault' for selling an amp like that. The reality is - that's how they all are. My 78 was the same. You learn to set the amp and guitar up to play around it. This amp is a 1964 design refined out of a 1950's design. People want them (like that, the holy grail). You can modify them to produce louder tones/more headroom - but then you have a Deluxe Reverb!

    I"d suggest any small amp will do the same thing, to a greater or lesser degree. Vox, Mesa, Marshall.

    Turn a AC15 up, or a Mesa 5:25 or 10:25 anything - or a Tweed Deluxe. The reason why many of the amps will do this is they use a particular type of preamp stage called a cathodyne-type. The Princeton Reverb uses one as the Phase Inverter, which it inherited from the earlier Brown Princeton and in turn Tweed Deluxe. Turn up all these amps - blat! Hit the front end with too much drive - blat!

    There are tweaks that can be done. Mostly they involve firming up the power supply and output stage.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
    jimytheassassin likes this.
  14. hopdybob

    hopdybob Tele-Holic

    May 28, 2008
    if you want clean, try a fender frontman ss amp, get a decent multieffect and you are ready to go. if it is to late for the neighbors, you plug the headphone in the multi and no one will know ;-)
  15. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    Can I suggest an experiment?

    Put your amp back together.

    Tilt it up towards you. Set your guitar vol and tone on 8-9. Put the amp on 5 volume, 6 treb, 4 bass, 4 reverb.

    Try playing with a soft touch on the frets, and a gentler picking action.

    A common issue acoustic flatpickers converting to electric have is a hammerclaw grip on the fretboard and a hard-hitting picking style, because that's how you hit acoustics. The lower action, lighter strings of an electric guitar don't need such a hard hit - digging in will lead to distortion, in itself a useful thing on the higher strings, but not so good on the bass strings.

    To get 'more' out of the amp, Fender biases them cold which tends to allow earlier distortion. Groove Tubes aren't the best either. JJs biased a bit hotter are better. You have a good speaker. 3db in efficiency doubles perceived volume.
    jimytheassassin and nojazzhere like this.
  16. omlove

    omlove TDPRI Member

    Dec 1, 2017
    new york

    Thanks a lot Dacious. I realize the culprit may very well be the Fender design itself (or any vox or mesa as you mentioned.) When volume is past 4 on the few PRRIs that I tried, they establish the same "farting out". I couldn't test the ones at the store but at home I can firmly press the 6V6 into its socket to suppress some of the annoying noise. Therefore I thought it was because of the power tube being blown away by the speaker. Another thought I have is if that's the design, then PRRI is only usable for instance in studio setting with volume under 4 or 5? Anything above is asking the amp for too much and one should step up to a deluxe or a twin? It seems a lot of waste to have an amp but can never use 6-10 on the volume.
  17. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Telefied Ad Free Member

    Try a (used) Roland Cube. They are lots of them on the used market, they are built like tanks and they do an approximation to the JC clean tone, in addition to other settings.
  18. popthree

    popthree Poster Extraordinaire

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