Analog Solid State Amps With Great OD / Dirty Channels

ruger9

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Probably my only criticism is that I don't feel like the overdriven tones really come through on a video (any video, not just this one), but it's not really a criticism per se - that's where the leap of faith is required to actually get the amp (or OD pedal, or whatever), and hear how it sounds in the room, and in the flesh. I certainly hear enough evidence that things are sort of going in the right direction, for sure.

...If I just would have held to my conclusions from the other BC videos/demos I've seen (where they go through the various Tone Capsules in realtime), I probably wouldn't have ever seriously considered getting one. But this video is considerably more compelling and convincing.
Well, as to the OD tones, keep in mind: stock, they come without a tone capsule, and the amp is supposedly voiced like a tweed Bassman. IDK how accurate it is, but I prefer the amp with the Ultimate Blues tone capsule, which is supposed to be a BF Super Reverb on the clean channel, and a Marshall Super Lead on the dirty channel. I LOVE the dirty channel. I seriously love it. And that's high praise coming from someone who used to play Marshalls, and currently owns a Bad Cat Hot Cat and a Fender Supersonic 22 (which also has a great dirty channel).

The Tone Capsule adds $$ to the price, of course, but I have zero regrets: light, loud, sounds GREAT (especially OD tones) at any volume. Like I said, 2 years with my band, and I have no desire to replace it, or even to bring my Hot Cat or Supersonic to rehearsal/gig.
 

11 Gauge

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Bluguitar Amp1 Mercury Edition.

This amp deserves to be in the great SS od channel discussion!! To my ears, it's definitely the best SS amp that nails plexi tones. The clean channel is also great. It's in a pedal format, lightweight, and 100watt SS power.

Check this video for tones.

Finally got around to checking out that video. It does indeed sound pretty impressive. I had no idea that it has the gain range that it does, either. I thought these were like a 2 channel thing, with a BF clean, paired with a plexi OD. Not that I'd probably use the modern setting much, but it's impressive that there's basically 3 channels, plus the boost feature.

It's actually kind of eerie how close they got the EQ to the actual tube amps. This is possibly the first time I've heard a 100% analog device (with a bonafide SS power amp, class D no less) get the voicing like that.

I bet the Bluguitar amps would probably be even more appealing if they were made in a traditional head or combo format. But since I'm pretty much a head/cab kinda guy, the pedal format will actually work for me.
 

NoTeleBob

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Based on the verbiage that I've read, it looks like Roland uses a hybrid analog and DSP approach both in the preamp and the power amp.

Given how both Roland and Boss have been developing many of their products for a few years now, this has become their proven and vetted method, IMO - carefully combining analog and DSP, thereby leveraging the advantages of both.

Also IMO - the weight of these amps kind of potentially gives away this hybrid construction, because analog SS only would require much more circuitry, both for all of the signal path stuff, as well as all of the 'discrete switching', too.

I'm surprised that more owners haven't pulled the chassis to see just what kind of processors are on the PCB. If the number of processors is greater than zero, then it doesn't matter what Roland/Boss says. But as many owners of these amps have said, they don't care how Roland/Boss did it - the important part is how the amps sound, regardless of whatever tech was leveraged.

The other thing that's slightly weird or funny is that Roland seems to prefer that people think that it's all analog. Since it's SS one way or the other, I don't think the average user would care that much.

Interesting point... the weight. I did notice that the Kantana seems to use slightly thinner panels, but I think it's just above half the weight of my comparable SS amps. They do also have a fairly small magneted speaker.

Just for kicks, when I get a chance I am going to pull the chassis and see what I might see. My gut is telling me it's mostly DSP and they don't have a very large transformer in there. Oh, and my ears tell me there's a lot of DSP in the output. But, it could be an flat response analog amp power section and the sound is all the DSP preamp. I'll see what I might see.
 

NoTeleBob

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By "riding the volume knob" I assume you basically mean getting feedback sustain from amp volume?

I bet 90% of dirt pedal repeat buying is just trying to get volume based sounds without the volume.

To me, the sustaining electric guitar is a complete closed loop where speaker drives strings drives pickup drives amp driving speaker.

Clean sounds dont need that closed loop but any dirty sustaining sound below feedback volume is just always going to be a compromise.
Thats my finding anyhow.

Thats also why players so often tend to get buzzy fizzy SS pedal sustain (at below feedback volume, meaning clipping and compression simulate volume based feedback) and feel they got cranked tube amp sound.
Thats the cranked tube amp experience but to me not the sound.

Really, to me I must play at that volume to maintain my muting technique. I dont see how you can practice at bedroom or headphone volume then have tight muting chops when plugged into a feedback level amp that really sings without compression of a bunch of diodes clipping.
Of course stage volumes are down but you can get feedback sustain from a 5w Champ if you stand near the speaker.
Sometimes I want buzz grind fizz and rasp.
But what cranked tube amps do thats hard to replicate with SS and at modest OSHA volumes is the cleaner sustain.

By "riding the volume knob"... I meant that those long notes that never end. They come from Carlos slowly increasing the volume at the same rate that it is concurrently fading away. So the note doesn't decline until it's really, really out of gas. Listen to Black Magic Woman by Santana for a great example. Hard to do, BTW. The rate of knob roll is the key and trying to jump from playing to the knob and catch it just right is tricky, for sure.

As for feedback, like in holding the guitar near the amp until you get screaming loud high-pitched feedback, no, that's not what I was referring to. But I'm not clear if that's what you are referring to either :)
 

telemnemonics

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By "riding the volume knob"... I meant that those long notes that never end. They come from Carlos slowly increasing the volume at the same rate that it is concurrently fading away. So the note doesn't decline until it's really, really out of gas. Listen to Black Magic Woman by Santana for a great example. Hard to do, BTW. The rate of knob roll is the key and trying to jump from playing to the knob and catch it just right is tricky, for sure.

As for feedback, like in holding the guitar near the amp until you get screaming loud high-pitched feedback, no, that's not what I was referring to. But I'm not clear if that's what you are referring to either :)
Oh no not squeal, I mean controlled feedback of selected notes.
I had not noticed Carlos gradually rolling up volume on a sustained note but may have to look again.

Feedback is a good 1/4 of my style, where I will use a barely audible attack and let the volume build from feedback, or pick asvfew notes as possible and rely on volume driving the strings.
Of course the other strings Im not playing want a piece of the action so muting them silent is a lot of work!
 

chris m.

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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.
Seems like the additional components and labor would be fairly marginal to add the equivalent of a Jekyll/Hyde pedal into an SS amp.
 

11 Gauge

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Just for kicks, when I get a chance I am going to pull the [Katana] chassis and see what I might see. My gut is telling me it's mostly DSP and they don't have a very large transformer in there. Oh, and my ears tell me there's a lot of DSP in the output. But, it could be an flat response analog amp power section and the sound is all the DSP preamp. I'll see what I might see.
This thread has pics of the PCB in a Katana head: https://www.vguitarforums.com/smf/index.php?topic=19475.0

According to the thread, it contains the following DSP chip(s):

"DSP - Roland ESC2 (Same as GT-100, GP-10, Roland System 1m, etc)"

1477642076-1725500177-IMG-1363.jpg


"Since 2010 , Roland/Boss has employed ECROS system on chip solutions from ESOL Solutions
(Roland GR-D, GR-S,GP-10, GT-100, GT-001, SY-300, System One, Aira Synths, etc)"

"these are the chips labeled "Roland ESC2"...

processing1.JPG


...and have a pedigree of association with Texas Instrument's Davinci ARM 9 System on Chip (SOC) processor"


And here's the specs on the power amp (not class D):

"Katana Class AB power Amp IC
Used in all Katanas"

http://www.st.com/en/audio-ics/tda7293.html

TDA7293.png


...So the power amp in the Katana looks like just a straight-up analog SS type of thing, used for hi-fi/home stereo/powered speakers/etc.
 

The Angle

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The Blues Cubes need a chip at the very least to digitize the signal they send out via USB for direct recording in a computer. The question is whether the sound we hear from the speaker is digitized anywhere along its path from the input jack. The answer seems to be almost certainly yes - it's hard to imagine how it couldn't be - but I've never seen proof positive, and certainly not from Roland.
 

chris m.

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Finally got around to checking out that video. It does indeed sound pretty impressive. I had no idea that it has the gain range that it does, either. I thought these were like a 2 channel thing, with a BF clean, paired with a plexi OD. Not that I'd probably use the modern setting much, but it's impressive that there's basically 3 channels, plus the boost feature.

It's actually kind of eerie how close they got the EQ to the actual tube amps. This is possibly the first time I've heard a 100% analog device (with a bonafide SS power amp, class D no less) get the voicing like that.

I bet the Bluguitar amps would probably be even more appealing if they were made in a traditional head or combo format. But since I'm pretty much a head/cab kinda guy, the pedal format will actually work for me.
I bought and now gig with the Bluguitar amp. It’s fantastic!
 

11 Gauge

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I bought and now gig with the Bluguitar amp. It’s fantastic!
Totally relevant to the Bluguitar amp - I've recently been seriously considering getting either a Mesa or Orange amp of some type, something for higher gain sounds, probably in a lunchbox-sized format.

After hearing the Bluguitar video, I don't think I need the Mesa or Orange.

Even though I don't play higher gain stuff that often, I've never cared for 'cheap substitutes' to the sound - they always tend to sound like someone built a Boss Metal Zone pedal into the amp. Just because it's higher gain doesn't mean it has to be buzzy or 'freaky compressed and saturated' sounding.

Anyway - good to hear that you're actually gigging with it, because I'd hope to do the same thing!
 

chris m.

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Totally relevant to the Bluguitar amp - I've recently been seriously considering getting either a Mesa or Orange amp of some type, something for higher gain sounds, probably in a lunchbox-sized format.

After hearing the Bluguitar video, I don't think I need the Mesa or Orange.

Even though I don't play higher gain stuff that often, I've never cared for 'cheap substitutes' to the sound - they always tend to sound like someone built a Boss Metal Zone pedal into the amp. Just because it's higher gain doesn't mean it has to be buzzy or 'freaky compressed and saturated' sounding.

Anyway - good to hear that you're actually gigging with it, because I'd hope to do the same thing!
All you need is a long speaker cable so you can have it on the floor and run the cable to your cabinet. I use the 4-cable method, with dirt boxes and autowah in front and all time-based effects (delay, phase, chorus) through the effects loop.

I can't get the clean channel to sound super Fender clean, a.k.a. scooped, so I have a GE-7 on my pedalboard set to a slight smile. When I want pristine clean I just kick that on.

I mostly use two channels-- clean and vintage, and sometimes hit the boost for leads. The on board reverb is adequate for my use, but I'm not super picky about reverb. It really does sound excellent all by itself. I have a couple of dirt pedals on my board, but I barely touch them nowadays. I tried modelers and the Quilter Superblock US and neither of them were in the ballpark for my ears. This is a home run (to my ears, YMMV).

If I didn't have this I would definitely be looking at the Orange SuperCrush. However, that is a fairly hefty head. This thing sounds just as good (I think), delivers a ton of power, and fits in the pocket of a gig bag.
 

11 Gauge

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If I didn't have this I would definitely be looking at the Orange SuperCrush. However, that is a fairly hefty head. This thing sounds just as good (I think), delivers a ton of power, and fits in the pocket of a gig bag.
Agreed, and that's why I was actually looking at the lunchbox-sized Orange amps. I know that 15 watts is probably loud enough, but something like the Dual Terror probably makes more practical sense at 30 watts, but it's $400 more than the Super Crush.

If I never intended to move the amp around a lot, then the Super Crush probably makes the most sense. I really want something portable though.

For what the BluGuitar seems to provide - compact, sounds great, works well on a gig, has power to spare, and is $100 less than the Orange Dual Terror, it looks like it's tough to beat.
 

allesz

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Apart from vintage gear, choices are pretty limited: I had a look at Thomann yesterday and, apart from some cheap Harley Benton products, you are limited to Quilter, Orange and Roland Blues Cubes; all other amps have some sort of modeling preamps.

And it's FULL of tube combos and heads :)

And of course modeling amps....

The new boutique hype will soon start in the SS stomp box amp market: analog clones of L5s, Lead 30s... JC120s... In a 50 watt pedal format! Start saving ;-)
 

Patshep

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The quilter aviator cub I'm I tried last week sounded great clean and od
 

edvard

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9 pages and no mention of the Sunn Beta Lead? Y'all slackin'...



I hear some company named Hilbish makes a clone, but I've also read somewhere that it's actually a clone of the Beta Bass, which (despite the opinions of the internets) is a slightly different circuit. I've seen the original schematics of both, and the Beta Bass tone controls are shifted down into bass territory (as they should be) which makes the lead and bass amps different. There's also a handful of pedal makers that clone the preamp.

One caveat; in some of the video demos of the amp, when they crank it to 10, there's a blanket of 'splat' in the low end that I'm not taking kindly to. I'm guessing that it's the input op-amp being overdriven before the signal hits the CMOS gain stages. That's OK in small doses, but if I ever acquire one of these beasts, I'm putting away the dimes...

EDIT: In this video, the guy says the Hilbish is based on the Beta Bass:
 
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Blackmore Fan

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I think we're making this too hard. Find a SS amp that has a great "clean" channel and then run your pedals thru it. Most of the stock "dirty" channels sound like crap.
 




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