Best Small Gigging Amp No Budget Limit

Mowgli

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On the guitar front, I think you can do fine with a 339. It’s not ideal, but it’ll get the job done. As far as single coil guitars go, 90’s country was more Strat than Tele to my recollection. And most of the guys playing teles we’re playing the “Plus” models with Lace Sensors. Most of the late 80’s to mid 90’s country scene was all the gear that people these days will tell you there’s no way you can get a good country sound out of. Lol. Guys in that scene largely were embracing the new gear and not trying to go backwards.

And yeah, soooo many Strats. And not vintage models.

Some posit that that was largely due to the death of the LA and related rock scene and the migration of loads of those players over to the country side of the fence. But that’s the gear that was happening at that time. Lots of Lace and EMG pickups, and SD stacks. So the 339 with low output humbuckers is not necessarily way out of line for the sounds of that era.

Big Tele guys that I remember were Heath Wright (Ricochet) and Jimmy Olander (Diamond Rio) with their crazy benders, and of course Marty always. Alan Jackson’s guy was a Tele dude. Charlie Crow with Brooks and Dunn was T-style, but it was a neck-thru Carvin and very modern IIRC.
I agree with your amp observations and recommendations. I would add, why spend more $$$ when the better options cost less??? If you’re playing bars and clubs why subject expensive equipment to an accidental drink spill? It will fill you with regret if someone disrespects your stuff but it ruin your month if your vintage Vibrolux is vomited upon.

Most ears at bars and clubs aren’t sophisticated; they are tuned to conversations with friends and potential hook ups 90% of the time. As long as the overall sound is pleasing the band and their amps are doing their job well.

I recall seeing Junior Brown live in the 90s with his double neck Tele-like guitar and Fender amp. About 1/3 of the crowd like me were quiet when he played. The rest were talking, drinking and smoking. And that was atypical! We obsess over a lot of things that rarely matter… but we still obsess.

I recall seeing Paul Yandell, the rhythm guitarist for Chet Atkins, on a country TV show playing a Stratocaster plugged into a small rack which was feeding a Music Man RD-50. IIRC, that was in the’90s.

Also there was a popular Country TV show back around that time on CMT where Mark O’Conner was the music director, American Music Workshop??? I recall the house guitarist (Brent Mason?) playing a Strat.

A popular meme back in the ’80s & ’90s was that you needed a Strat to “cut thru” some of the popular synths of the day like the ubiquitous Yamaha DX-7.

FWIW, Crossover music of rock, pop and country was pushed by a lot of record companies and seemed to be everywhere from the ‘70s through the early 2000s after Glen Campbell hit #1 on the rock, pop & country charts with Rhinestone Cowboy. Crossover hits were the goals of the record companies back then! They were money makers.
 

orbiterred

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So many great replies, thanks all.

I should clarify a little, size/portability is a huge factor to me, and i'm not necessarily trying to nail a "country" tone as i am a nice, big tone. The sweet spot between portability and a big tone is where I want to end up.

The always princeton either seemed too pokey or too subdued, it feels like i can never get it to sit quite right with the rest of the band, i'm definitely going back to the stock speaker as a bare minimum. The vox didn't seem to have as much of a problem sitting in and i think it's mainly due to the 12" speaker as much as anything.

The gigs we're doing are soft-seater $30-40 a seat so there is definitely a bit more $$ and proper sound involved than your average bar gig which is why i'm exploring the options to really kick it up a notch... a tone king imperial mkII would make a nice tax write-off :D

The Dr. Z Z-28 seems like a cool option as well, really has me intrigued and I love a master volume.

The Tone King Imperial is kinda crazy to have that much money tied up in an amp but i bet it sounds fantastic.

There is a tweed covered FSR princeton with a 12" cannabis rex at the local music store that I'm going to give a go. Also possibly a fawn FSR princeton with a 12" greenback that I could try.

Would love to try a quilter but the local store doesn't carry them... still might look at buying one on Reverb.

Some great stuff in this thread i'm gonna go back over it as well!
 

redchapterjubilee

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Nov 15, 2017
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AVLNC
Ok, hear me out. Since budget is not an issue I’m gonna say a super reverb and a guy.

this guy will act as the transport for the amp, turn it up in the parts of the songs I need it loud, stand in front of it with a plexi baffle if it’s too loud, and then to turn it down for the clean parts of songs. Must have long hair and bang head slowly and majestically while the band plays.
 

Guitharley

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So many great replies, thanks all.

I should clarify a little, size/portability is a huge factor to me, and i'm not necessarily trying to nail a "country" tone as i am a nice, big tone. The sweet spot between portability and a big tone is where I want to end up.
There ya go...I don't know if the new Allen amp guys are putting any product out yet..But I drove to Kentucky a couple years ago to bring a new Sweet Spot home and its killer.
Before I bought I read and read and read and never a negative word did I read regarding David Allen amps
 

stantheman

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Roland Blues Cube 30 HOT.
Might just be the ULTIMATE EVOLUTION
of Fenders' 5E3 Deluxe.
With Reverb & Attenuation too.
Clean - Pedal friendly.

BUT - not a cheapo.
Roland is King.
 

Durvoid

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Milwaukee
Fat Jimmy makes some highly regarded amps with lots of tonal options. He has his takes on a Princeton Reverb (Jimmy Jr), Deluxe Reverbs (Custom 20, Gigmaster 20 & 30), and a Tweed Deluxe, Bassman and Pro models. You can find some demos with country guitar slinger Johnny Hiland on the interweb. Unfortunately, I have not been able to play any of these, but have been coveting them for a few years now. Some of these incorporate Blackface, Brown and Tweed sounds; seems like these were well designed for gigging musicians who require some versatility. If you are not familiar with this company, I would suggest you check them out.
 

jackal

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mojave desert
Evans Custom Amps do it all. For heavy distortion it needs a dirt pedal, but the best clean sound and a great pedal platform.
 

pinkytele

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This is what I use for gigs. ZT Lunchbox Reverb (6.5" combo, 100W SS) usually through this old Bandmaster cab I put Greenbacks in. The amp is loud enough on its own and stays clean at volumes well beyond what you'd need at a club, but I like running an ext speaker just to disperse the sound and for a bit more bottom. I have used it without an ext speaker plenty of times though and it absolutely does the job. The ZT is $500. Weighs 10 lbs.
 

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Robert H.

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I play either an older Gibson CS 336 or Suhr Tele through a Roland Cube Stage with an R&B band. Two channels, attenuator, excellent tones. No more tubes out the house for me. Less than the Fender Tonemaster series and it goes head to head with them.
 

sbmessing

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I'm very tempted to give the quilter route a try... I played one once and was quite blown away. I'm still such a sucker for tubes though it's hard to convince myself. When everything is working... they're magical... it's the "everything working" that seems to be the problem.


I've heard that about the AC's something about em just feels cheap. The '65 just doesn't have the meat, I've also got a veteran speaker in it right now which probably isn't helping matters. It just doesn't sing the way I want, feels small. I felt that way with the stock speaker too... i've thought about going to a gold or something but I just feel like the 10" isn't gonna give me what i want in general.

I'm def into portability for these, and I don't need screaming loud stage volume, being able to get up to the edge of breakup without pissing off the rest of the band is high on my list. We're a 7 piece, with fiddle, keys, acoustic guitar, there is a lot of other **** going on.
I have a 78 Princeton Reverb and a Mesa Fillmore 50. I put a Celestion G10 Gold into the Princeton and it really changed the amp fr the better. Its a much more efficient speaker and won't get all flubby. It can now hang pretty well with the Fillmore.
 

tfarny

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I have an Allen Accomplice Jr in a 112 combo cabinet smaller than a BF Deluxe, with a larger OT and 6L6s to make a solid 40 watts with a beautiful full bass response - I don't like farty little amps that can't play a low note properly. For Fender style amps I have never heard anything its equal in sound and versatility (the Raw control gets you into really chimey and then tweedy territory as needed), and it is an easy one hand carry, between a princeton and a deluxe in weight, even with a big magnet Weber speaker. The only effect is perfect, ideal spring reverb.
 

Blue Bill

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Sorry, I didn't read every post, so this may be redundant: How about a Tonemaster DR? Or even a TM-TR? They check all the boxes you laid out, except for size maybe. They sound great, have multiple power settings, and you can carry one with your pinky, (I tried and it's true).
 

TommyGunz

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Currently in a 90's country tribute style band, not super happy with my rig.

I've been using a stock princeton 65 reissue for years with a gibson 339 and various drives etc... (currently a protein for the past year or so).

I also had my buddies AC15c1 out for a couple nights and I think I liked it better than the princeton but wasn't really over the moon with it in general either. Was going into the top boost channel.

I am also fully aware that a telecaster is probably a better choice for this style of music, but i really dig my 339 :p

I'm pretty out of the loop on gear for the past while. Just wondering what's the hot **** these days really? If you were gonna drop a wack of money and trick out a killer small watt gigging rig, what would you get?
I have a 183 Non-HRM Skyliner Dumble clone running into a 2x12 cab with WGS ET65 and Veteran 30. Not a small setup, but that speaker combo is amazing. I'd recommend for you a 6v6 Dumble style clone in the 102 circuit style. Shimmery cleans and killer drive if you need it. Checkout a Ceriatone Overtone 20 Lunchbox. Compact, has ample clean headroom and a nice overdrive. Otherwise, you already have a great rig for what you're doing. Not really sure what to recommend since you didn't specify what you don't like about it.
 

Scoutbag

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NH
Go with a Katana 50 and don't look back, $200 does everything, if you spill beer on it who cares, no tube worries & for no extra charge you will be the target of the katana haters out there who can't understand how you sound so great!
Take Mama away for the weekend with the 3K I just save you....
Merry Christmas
 

Kmanshaman

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Carr Super Bee. Point to point wiring, a switch to go from 10 W to practice room levels, another selection switch for 64, 68, 72 style amps. lightweight enough to carry round. I bought it a few months ago and couldn’t be more happy. I was going to get the new Princeton hand wired amp, but this was a much better choice. I use it with my Strat, 335, and Les Paul. All good.
 

donnyrocker

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Go with a Katana 50 and don't look back, $200 does everything, if you spill beer on it who cares, no tube worries & for no extra charge you will be the target of the katana haters out there who can't understand how you sound so great!
Take Mama away for the weekend with the 3K I just save you....
Merry Christmas

The 100w 112 combo is just a little more versatile and for just a little more money (I got a Mk I for $200 used).
 

Sharp

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Oct 28, 2014
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Ontario
Somebody said this earlier; maybe El84/EL34 tubes are what you need. I have a HR deluxe that never quite “supported” my playing. Hard to describe but it never worked for me. It replaced my twin. My other guitar player in my band loves it.

I bought a Crate club 15 (EL84), and the skys opened up. I use it for all small club gigs. I then bought a Traynor yba1 (EL34), awesome as well.

I used the Crate and a LP special when I played guitar in a buddy’s country/folk band and it worked perfectly.
 




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