Analog Solid State Amps With Great OD / Dirty Channels

t-minus9

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Yeah, being a circuit geek, and seeing what's going on with the L5 (via the schematic), I can understand why the OD with that amp would sound so good.

The Aion L5 pedal also no doubt has the advantage of being usable with power amps that weigh considerably less than the original L5 amp does!
Had an 1979 L5 with two EVMs, a 12s and a 12L for six years. Sold it to get a Marshall and regretted it literally the next day. The new owner wouldn’t think about selling it back to me.
It was a monster to carry around, but sounded great. Recently, I got the aion L5 kit, but for lack of the EVMs, it just doesn’t sound the same. I have since switched to not selling anything anymore. Once bitten, twice shy
 

11 Gauge

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@11 Gauge - I suspect it's the other way around. I'd say the manufacturer is a bit cagey - mostly because guitar players get hung up on tech TBH - but from what they say I'd guess it's the other way around? Mostly analog but DSP provides the power/transformer/speaker stuff and dynamics.

Seems clearer on the Katana and current Cubes where they have multiple models and huge volume in combos that are under 35lb.
Well, I think I heard someone say that at least some of the Roland/Boss stuff shares the same DSP/processing, so I always assumed that to be the actual preamp stuff itself. So with something like a Katana, you access it via a connection to your computer, if you want to do a deeper dive into reconfiguring things. I also know that there's the 'sneaky amps' stuff with the Katanas, which is further proof of processor sharing amongst various Boss/Roland products.

...Then the Blues Cubes have those tone capsules, which I'd suspect is like a complete processor reconfiguration, that eliminates the need to hook up a Blues Cube to a computer. And, Roland/Boss has done all the hard work WRT tediously reconfiguring things.

But IMO, DSP for output transformer emulation, speaker response etc. - that requires IR responses. And that basically means you want a power amp that literally has zero nonlinear characteristics of its own, to include the actual speaker that you hook up to it.

I'm not so sure that the Katana power amp is 'very nonlinear', but I get the feeling that the Blues Cubes might be somewhat nonlinear, or perhaps very nonlinear.

As much as Roland tries to hide the specs, does anyone know the specifics of the power amp used in the Blues Cubes? If it's similar to what you have with either a Fender Tonemaster or Kemper power amp, then we would know that there were zero analog power amp tricks being done.
 

MilwMark

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Well, I think I heard someone say that at least some of the Roland/Boss stuff shares the same DSP/processing, so I always assumed that to be the actual preamp stuff itself. So with something like a Katana, you access it via a connection to your computer, if you want to do a deeper dive into reconfiguring things. I also know that there's the 'sneaky amps' stuff with the Katanas, which is further proof of processor sharing amongst various Boss/Roland products.

...Then the Blues Cubes have those tone capsules, which I'd suspect is like a complete processor reconfiguration, that eliminates the need to hook up a Blues Cube to a computer. And, Roland/Boss has done all the hard work WRT tediously reconfiguring things.

But IMO, DSP for output transformer emulation, speaker response etc. - that requires IR responses. And that basically means you want a power amp that literally has zero nonlinear characteristics of its own, to include the actual speaker that you hook up to it.

I'm not so sure that the Katana power amp is 'very nonlinear', but I get the feeling that the Blues Cubes might be somewhat nonlinear, or perhaps very nonlinear.

As much as Roland tries to hide the specs, does anyone know the specifics of the power amp used in the Blues Cubes? If it's similar to what you have with either a Fender Tonemaster or Kemper power amp, then we would know that there were zero analog power amp tricks being done.

I'm way out of my league. Here's the clearest statement I've found from them - though I confess I have no idea what it means :lol:: "In the Blues Cube, the preamp section uses a high-impedance FET input and a differential transmission method to preserve the pure guitar signal as it travels throughout the circuit. The power amp section consists of a discrete solid-state amp, driven by a high-impedance circuit to interact with the speaker characteristics, another essential part of great guitar tone. This amp-speaker interaction is fine-tuned with DSP for very precise adjustment." from https://www.roland.com/uk/promos/tu...6.1244553131.1656614665-1391082678.1656614665

They also address it here. https://www.roland.com/uk/promos/AV...ube-guitar-amp-is-the-one-for-you/?lang=en-GB: "The final result was Tube Logic – a marriage of solid-state analog technology and DSP that goes way beyond modelling, and enables the creation of amplifiers that exhibit the precise behaviour and tone of a vintage tube amplifier using modern, reliable, lightweight technology."

And from the second link, on Tone Capsules specifically: "A Tone Capsule is an integrated DSP device that, when plugged into the amplifier, reconfigures its internal architecture completely to enable a new set of circuit interactions in the Blues Cube. This essentially means that by changing the Tone Capsule, the Blues Cube amp can shed its Tweed –inspired tone and assume an entire new personality."

Sorry, didn't mean to derail. I honestly don't really know which of those components does what. I exclusively use Jazz Chorus amps live and at home either a Katana head or a MicroCube. I've always assumed the latter two are digital and am fine with that.
 
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zekester

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I have a Fender Deluxe 112 Plus, 94 watts, which is decent. You've got to tweak the EQ on the clean channel to get an acceptable sound with pedals. A friend has a Fender Princeton Chorus (2, 10s) that had one of the finest sounding, creamy distorted sounds when used with my ZOOM G7.1ut. I liked it more than my Fender Deluxe 112 Plus.
 

Bradman

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Carlsbro Super Stingray combo from about 1975. Very loud (120W) into a pair of 12" and has a nice "SUZZ" channel option, a combination of Sustain and Fuzz. This and the Reverb and Vibrato all controlled by footswitches. A nice unit.
And it takes pedals well too.
 

ruger9

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I can tell you this: the Roland Cubes are ALOT closer sounding AND FEELING/REACTING to "real" tube amps, than any digital modeler I have ever tried. Including the Vox stuff. I have not tried the Fender Tonemaster stuff, only because I am so happy with my Blues Cube Artist (I use the Ultimate Blues tone capsule with it,)

It's so good, I have zero issues leaving my Bad Cat at home and using the Roland for all rehearsals and gigs. I could never do that with other digital-SS-whatever amps I have owned over the years.
 

Thorne

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Laney Linebacker. I had both the 30w Combo and the 100w Head, and both had epic lead/dist channels.
I’ve owned two Linebacker PL100R heads over the years. Paired with the matching cabs they’re perfect for that 80s hard rock/metal sound. Having the pull-boost on both channels, together with the facility to blend the two channels made them pretty versatile. The spring reverb isn’t bad either.
 

Thorne

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VOX Pathfinder and Marshall Lead 12.
Both excellent and complementary.
I had a Marshall Lead 12 mini stack for many years. Great looking little amp, but I could only get the metal sound I wanted by running a Boss Turbo Overdrive into it, with the boost switched on! 🤘
 

Long Tom Cash

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I've posted that before myself. SS distortion isn't exactly a mystery. But most SS amp makers all seem to to toss in a couple clipping diodes and maybe a transistor to overdrive the pre-amp and then call it a day. Mostly it gives you ratty, crude, and often barely usable distortion.
Of the schematics that I've looked at most just throw in a minimal hard clipping section with fixed gain or some have variable gain and volume but it's still based on a hard clipping design as NoTeleBob and 11 Guage mention. I changed my Vox Pathfinder 10 from hard clipping to soft clipping and the OD sounds much better though I would probably still use a pedal just for more control over my tone. I replaced 1 cap, 3 resistors, relocated the two red led's, and added 1 new resistor and 2 new diodes -- no more fizzy buzz.
I think that good SS distortion actually is a mystery, at least to many amp makers. Bad SS distortion is exactly as you say - like a singlular big preamplification stage into a pair of shunted, hard clippers, with minimal EQ shaping afterwards, and then straight onto a power amp that's more akin to what you'd find in a PA.

...But you don't even have to be particularly science'y or math'y about it - lots of pedal users seem to have discovered that stacking individual dirt boxes, with the gain set conservatively on each, seems to yield OD/dirt that is much more musical and dynamic, not worlds apart from tube OD. There is no reason that a pair or trio of stacked pedals can't be reimagined as the dirty channel of an analog SS amp.

And I think the stacking thing is basically the big clue as to the basic template to use when designing a great dirty channel for an analog SS amp. Some of the more clever designers had to have stumbled on this years ago. Really the biggest blocker would be building an SS amp to the lowest price point possible, but there are probably some exceptions.

The Traynor Dynagain series from the 2000's claim to have multi gain stages and tube sounding. I obtained a used DG10 and a used DG15R to play around with. The DG10's OD's gain is fixed but doesn't sound fizzy and there is a large volume jump when switching in the OD, but even in the clean channel it does sound sort of tubey. The DG15R's OD is a separate channel with it's own gain and volume and sounds OK. I just wish it had a foot switch for channel selection. Both the DG10 and DG15R seem to be using soft clipping in their design.
 

coolrene

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I had a Marshall Lead 12 mini stack for many years. Great looking little amp, but I could only get the metal sound I wanted by running a Boss Turbo Overdrive into it, with the boost switched on! 🤘
Yeah: I’d say this amp is more meant for ‘70s rock. Metal=Dual rectifier or Diezel. The new Soldano mini is quite ok in a small format for Metal sounds…
 

Doodles

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I know of plenty of analog SS amps that either have great clean channels or make great pedal platforms. But when it comes to SS amps that make great dirty or overdriven sounds, I personally know of not as many.

In all honesty, probably the last SS amp I had, that was all analog, and had a great OD channel was my mid-80's Peavey Stereo Chorus 400. I think the secret to that amp was two independent channels in stereo with the gain and EQ of each set a bit differently, and the combination of them sounding bigger and fuller together. I really didn't need OD pedals with this particular amp, which was pretty much the exception to the rule.

I'm not necessarily talking about an analog SS amp that successfully apes the sound of any given overdriven tube amp - it just has to sound good when on the dirty channel, no more and no less.

So can we start a list of analog SS amps that have great OD/dirty channels? Be sure to elaborate on what makes any given one great for the task.
Blue Tone PRO 30M, classiest solid state amp out there when it was in production.
 
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11 Gauge

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I'm way out of my league. Here's the clearest statement I've found from them - though I confess I have no idea what it means :lol:: "In the Blues Cube, the preamp section uses a high-impedance FET input and a differential transmission method to preserve the pure guitar signal as it travels throughout the circuit. The power amp section consists of a discrete solid-state amp, driven by a high-impedance circuit to interact with the speaker characteristics, another essential part of great guitar tone. This amp-speaker interaction is fine-tuned with DSP for very precise adjustment." from https://www.roland.com/uk/promos/tu...6.1244553131.1656614665-1391082678.1656614665

They also address it here. https://www.roland.com/uk/promos/AV...ube-guitar-amp-is-the-one-for-you/?lang=en-GB: "The final result was Tube Logica marriage of solid-state analog technology and DSP that goes way beyond modelling, and enables the creation of amplifiers that exhibit the precise behaviour and tone of a vintage tube amplifier using modern, reliable, lightweight technology."

And from the second link, on Tone Capsules specifically: "A Tone Capsule is an integrated DSP device that, when plugged into the amplifier, reconfigures its internal architecture completely to enable a new set of circuit interactions in the Blues Cube. This essentially means that by changing the Tone Capsule, the Blues Cube amp can shed its Tweed –inspired tone and assume an entire new personality."

Sorry, didn't mean to derail. I honestly don't really know which of those components does what. I exclusively use Jazz Chorus amps live and at home either a Katana head or a MicroCube. I've always assumed the latter two are digital and am fine with that.
That pretty much confirms most of what I thought was happening:

- The power amp is indeed a very nonlinear design, with a high-Z output (and most likely low damping), just like a tube power amp

- The preamp is hybrid, is both analog SS and DSP

- The Tone Capsule is DSP reconfiguration pluggable hardware, so it primarily affects the preamp

...What is entirely unexpected to me is that they plainly say that the amp-speaker interaction is fine-tuned with DSP. IDK how that would even be done, aside from maybe guessing that there's some kind of A->D and D->A conversion happening within the analog global negative feedback circuitry. That in itself could potentially be sonically much better than just plain old analog negative feedback. Whatever they're doing, it's very smart!

No worries on the derail, because IMO the Blues Cubes simply would not sound as good as they do if Roland didn't include the analog SS parts of the design, to both the preamp and the power amp. They've just obviously done all the R&D to carefully marry together both analog and DSP.

Anyway, I'm a firm believer that there have to be some kind of tricks done to the design at the power amp, to get it to behave more like a tube power amp. I don't think tubes are a necessity, but the SS power amp needs to be high-Z out, with low damping. That's the key to getting the speaker to interact with the power amp in a nonlinear way.
 

NoTeleBob

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For years, I played a Peavey Bandit 65. I thought the distortion was decent, but the clean tone sucked.

That's interesting. People of always talked fondly of their Bandit 65. I've heard one cranked up and the distortion was good. I always figured the queen would be as good as my Peavey Studio Pro 112. But it doesn't sound like it is.
 

NoTeleBob

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I'm way out of my league. Here's the clearest statement I've found from them - though I confess I have no idea what it means :lol:: "In the Blues Cube, the preamp section uses a high-impedance FET input and a differential transmission method to preserve the pure guitar signal as it travels throughout the circuit. The power amp section consists of a discrete solid-state amp, driven by a high-impedance circuit to interact with the speaker characteristics, another essential part of great guitar tone. This amp-speaker interaction is fine-tuned with DSP for very precise adjustment." from https://www.roland.com/uk/promos/tu...6.1244553131.1656614665-1391082678.1656614665

They also address it here. https://www.roland.com/uk/promos/AV...ube-guitar-amp-is-the-one-for-you/?lang=en-GB: "The final result was Tube Logic – a marriage of solid-state analog technology and DSP that goes way beyond modelling, and enables the creation of amplifiers that exhibit the precise behaviour and tone of a vintage tube amplifier using modern, reliable, lightweight technology."

And from the second link, on Tone Capsules specifically: "A Tone Capsule is an integrated DSP device that, when plugged into the amplifier, reconfigures its internal architecture completely to enable a new set of circuit interactions in the Blues Cube. This essentially means that by changing the Tone Capsule, the Blues Cube amp can shed its Tweed –inspired tone and assume an entire new personality."

Sorry, didn't mean to derail. I honestly don't really know which of those components does what. I exclusively use Jazz Chorus amps live and at home either a Katana head or a MicroCube. I've always assumed the latter two are digital and am fine with that.

Having spent time in a technical field with "tech writers" talking to us and then writing up descriptions of what we'd built, I have to say that the Roland info sounds like much of the same. A mix of technical keywords and marketing buzzwords to describe something that the writer actually had zero understanding of. For example, the statement about "an integrated DSP device..." is mixing hardware and software concepts into one in a nasty way.

If Roland actually shared any technical details beyond this marketing babble, that would help answer the question. They don't seem to that I've seen.

BUT, the bottom line is how it sounds. If they get a good tube amp feel and sound, I don't care how they got there. Worth giving a Blues Cube a roll.

Does Blues cube integrate with Tone Studio to install these marketing babble"Tone Capsules"? Or do they have a different interface?
 




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