Shopping for a new AMP: Vintage, Boutique or Modeler?

WilburBufferson

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Oct 11, 2009
Posts
2,259
Location
Hogtown
How did I get here? First of all, let me say that this new amp will be used primarily for home recording and playing. I have a Blues Jr. IV that I adore, but when I want to record, I have to unplug the speaker and reach inside the amp to connect a cable to my Torpedo Captor X (8 ohms). It sounds good but the setup is a hassle. Recording with a microphone is out of the question as I live in an apartment. Space is also an issue. Let me also say at this point that I don't want to do the amp PC/plugin thing (they never sound right to me).

For reference, amps I have liked in the past: Blues Jr. IV with a Creamback, 65 Princeton Reverb Reissue, 68 Vibrolux Reverb, Brown Vibroverb Reissue (from the 90s) -- all clean Fender amps. I use pedals for OD and gain sounds.

This got me looking at lunchbox amps, keeping in mind that I am limited to 8 ohms with the Torpedo. Then I started watching videos of a YouTube channel of an amp tech (Psionic Audio). He shows that a lot of the current Fender amps have inherent problems (cheap parts, circuit boards, dumb decisions) that limit the amp's potential, not to mention potential servicing. I won't go on about that part of it, and I've never been a "vintage is better" kind of person, but I am now considering getting something that is better built AND sounds good.

That being said, I have my Blues Junior, so I have also been considering (cheap) modelling amps with the XLR out to simplify the recording process (e.g., Fender Mustang, Katana, etc), but feel this is a bit of a contradiction in light of what I said above. If I went this route, I wouldn't necessarily need a combo.

Does anyone have any guidance? Been down this road?
 

loopfinding

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Jun 19, 2011
Posts
5,023
Location
europe endless
i've seen some of that dude's videos.

really the biggest problem with modern pcb amps is mounting the tube sockets or high heat components to the boards. stress and heat problems can be a real nuisance/cause permanent damage to the board.

but honestly you should be pretty straight with any pcb amp like a fender RI where the tube sockets and other high stress/heat components are not on the board. i've never really had any board failures on the ones i have owned. the single sided PCBs on some or panel daughterboards can be a pain over the tag/turretboard style for techs, because sometimes you have to excavate the whole thing to change something, but that's not really your problem as an end user.

just search for "[amp name] guts" and look for yourself. if you really insist on the old tag/turretboard style, there are makers like lil dawg, allen, etc. that are not too crazy expensive.
 
Last edited:

Bluego1

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Aug 3, 2018
Posts
2,411
Location
Spokane, Washington
How did I get here? First of all, let me say that this new amp will be used primarily for home recording and playing. I have a Blues Jr. IV that I adore, but when I want to record, I have to unplug the speaker and reach inside the amp to connect a cable to my Torpedo Captor X (8 ohms). It sounds good but the setup is a hassle. Recording with a microphone is out of the question as I live in an apartment. Space is also an issue. Let me also say at this point that I don't want to do the amp PC/plugin thing (they never sound right to me).

For reference, amps I have liked in the past: Blues Jr. IV with a Creamback, 65 Princeton Reverb Reissue, 68 Vibrolux Reverb, Brown Vibroverb Reissue (from the 90s) -- all clean Fender amps. I use pedals for OD and gain sounds.

This got me looking at lunchbox amps, keeping in mind that I am limited to 8 ohms with the Torpedo. Then I started watching videos of a YouTube channel of an amp tech (Psionic Audio). He shows that a lot of the current Fender amps have inherent problems (cheap parts, circuit boards, dumb decisions) that limit the amp's potential, not to mention potential servicing. I won't go on about that part of it, and I've never been a "vintage is better" kind of person, but I am now considering getting something that is better built AND sounds good.

That being said, I have my Blues Junior, so I have also been considering (cheap) modelling amps with the XLR out to simplify the recording process (e.g., Fender Mustang, Katana, etc), but feel this is a bit of a contradiction in light of what I said above. If I went this route, I wouldn't necessarily need a combo.

Does anyone have any guidance? Been down this road?
Maybe check out this VHT head. Probably don’t need xlr out for home.
 

Blrfl

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
May 3, 2018
Posts
1,961
Location
Northern Virginia
I have a Blues Jr. IV that I adore, but when I want to record, I have to unplug the speaker and reach inside the amp to connect a cable to my Torpedo Captor X (8 ohms). It sounds good but the setup is a hassle.

If that's your only complaint, mount a 1/4" switched jack on the rear panel that diverts the speaker output to whatever is plugged in. When you want to use your Captor, plug into that jack. No fuss, no muss.
 

bgmacaw

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Feb 11, 2006
Posts
9,945
Location
Near Athens GA USA
You have a Blues Jr that you can play in an apartment setting without your neighbors complaining? Congrats!

What I suggest you look at are new pedal based amp modeling units. This would be devices like the Strymon Iridium or Boss IR-200. Also, it looks like Two Notes is entering this area too with their ReVolt.
 

KC

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Mar 16, 2003
Posts
4,938
Location
Missoula, Montana
Who says you can't solve problems by throwing money at them? Get a Fractal FM3 and your dreams sounds are at your fingertips. Every possible amp, cab and effect are there for the sampling. I impulse-bought one at the start of the Great Interruption and it's been amazing, recording tool, practice tool, audio interface all in one.
 

klasaine

Poster Extraordinaire
Silver Supporter
Joined
Nov 28, 2006
Posts
9,996
Location
Los Angeles, Ca
If it's a tube amp you want but need it to be easy to hook up your Captor, then buy an all tube amp 'head'. That's what I use with my Captor X.
Depending on your budget, you can get any style of amp in a head only format. Even with real spring reverb.

The Vox mini amps are great ... https://voxamps.com/product/mv50-ac/
Hotone also makes decent minis ... https://www.hotoneaudio.com/products/nano-legacy
These are relatively cheap, especially used.
Or, go high end. My preference into my Captor for clean Fender tone is a Morgan ...

Having said all that, and being the tube snob that I am (and have been for 40+ years), I also now use a lot of amp modeling software. It has gotten demonstrably better over even just the last 5 years.

There's also this, which is brand new, and pretty unbelievable ... https://www.uaudio.com/guitar-pedals/dream-65-reverb-amplifier.html
 
Last edited:

cousinpaul

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jun 19, 2009
Posts
4,075
Location
Nashville TN
Get a used Quilter 101 and a cab. Output goes from zero to 100 watts, great with pedals, doesn't need to be cranked to sound good, etc... I mic mine with a SM57 and monitor via phones from my interface. It can all be done at TV or conversation levels without expensive add-ons. I've played the Cub combo but not the new Super Blocks. There does seem to be a fair amount of love for them here.
 

WilburBufferson

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Oct 11, 2009
Posts
2,259
Location
Hogtown
Who says you can't solve problems by throwing money at them? Get a Fractal FM3 and your dreams sounds are at your fingertips. Every possible amp, cab and effect are there for the sampling. I impulse-bought one at the start of the Great Interruption and it's been amazing, recording tool, practice tool, audio interface all in one.

I've heard nothing but good things about the AXE and Fractal stuff. Jeez, my torpedo Captor X was $800 CAD so this isn't THAT far off and it seems as though the world is your oyster....
 

Dacious

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Mar 16, 2003
Posts
10,617
Location
Godzone
Mesa Mk V 5:25 head or combo. Can mute speaker output and has a DI. Made for what you're doing, because while it's a jack of all trades that can do Tweed, Bassmans, Voxy, Blackface and classic Mesa tones it is too fiddly to use live with the limited two button footswitch. With the pull boost mids, all tube including reverb and multiple modes it's a Swiss army knife invaluable for quality tube tone. A dozen modes easily.

You don't even need a speaker.
 

InstantCoffeeBlue

Tele-Holic
Joined
Feb 20, 2012
Posts
717
Age
36
Location
Milwaukee, WI
Does anyone have any guidance? Been down this road?

Like you alluded to yourself, there are a lot of contradictions and conflicting needs here. Sometimes you can't have your cake and eat it too in one amp. Vintage amps generally don't have good-sounding line outs (or line outs at all) and certainly not the sophisticated IR modeling even "cheap" amps like the Mustang have. If you're using it for home, whatever build quality issues you may have heard about are going to be moot because it's not like you're going to be loading the thing into the back of a leaf-sprung van over and over again and repeatedly picking it up and putting it down and plugging and unplugging and stressing the inputs and occasionally having some drunk guy trying to get close enough to yell "HEY MAN, PLAY FREE BIRD" "HEY MAN, DO YOU KNOW THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA???" like you couldn't hear him the first 20 times trip over your damn cable and knock the amp over setting off an epic crash of spring reverb cacophony, etc. If you want a vintage amp, get a vintage amp but don't do it because you've let YouTubers convince you a PCB amp won't hold up to home use. Why not look at the Tonemaster series? All the classic looks but with zero maintenance, power scaling and cabinet modeling.

I say all of this as someone who regularly gigs a Fender amp that's pushing 50. If the Blues Jr is too loud to mic at home and too much of a hassle with an attenuator, I'm not sure why a vintage Fender is in the mix unless you want to just look at it, which isn't the worst reason to be honest. Even a Champ is going to be too loud when cranked up unless you build an iso cabinet for it.
 
Last edited:

zhyla

Tele-Meister
Joined
Aug 30, 2013
Posts
214
Location
Northern Hemisphere
Then I started watching videos of a YouTube channel of an amp tech (Psionic Audio). He shows that a lot of the current Fender amps have inherent problems (cheap parts, circuit boards, dumb decisions) that limit the amp's potential, not to mention potential servicing.

Psionic's videos... man, you gotta take that guy with a huge grain of salt. He is really OCD and he has a heavy case of observation bias (nobody takes working amps to amp techs). Fender sells tons of amps and you rarely see them used not in working order. I see a ton of them on stage. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a Fender amp that sounds good especially given you're using it in a home setting. Do pay attention when you test drive, some models can hiss a bit.

I have watched quite a bit of his videos, there's something relaxing about watching someone obsess about tightening pots and re-wiring tube amps. But every single video, unless he's actually repairing a real failure, has the same flaw: he never shows any proof anything he did had any effect.

Does anyone have any guidance? Been down this road?

I think you should try out a ToneMaster. These have an XLR output for recording.

You should also look at an ampless option. The new UA Dream 65 (Deluxe Reverb modeler) sounds absolutely amazing. Strymon Iridium, Walrus ACS1, Joyo Preamp House are other options. Any of these into a recording interface will do the job.
 

Tim S

Tele-Afflicted
Gold Supporter
Joined
Oct 27, 2008
Posts
1,752
Location
Upstate NY
I have to say that I’m confused by this thread. There’s some great posts with good advice, but I guess the OP’s reasoning confuses me.

@WilburBufferson likes his Blues Junior IV. But he’s looking for another amp. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the reason doesn’t make sense to me. Unplugging the speaker and plugging in the Captor he already owns is too much of a hassle, so he wants a new amp.

If hooking up a Captor is too much of a hassle, how much work will it take to learn the ins & outs of a new modeling amp or Mesa Mark V:25? I don’t own a Katana or Mustang, but I do own a Spark 40 so I have an idea what a rabbit-hole modeling can be. I also own a Mark V:25 Combo and it is an outstanding amp, but it does take some time to learn how to dial in a Mark. I haven’t recorded with it, but it has the old Cab Clone interface which many people deride as sounding bad.

I have several of tbe Vox MV50 amps. They sound good plugged into a cab, but the headphone/line out doesn’t sound nearly as good. There are threads here about that.

To address the main complaint that spurred this new amp search, I think @Blrfl offered the best advice — install a switching jack as a speaker-out. Even paying a tech to install it would be cheaper than getting another amp for recording. There’s no learning curve or possible buyer’s remorse.

If you still want a different amp, that’s fine. But understand that recording with any amp that’s new to you brings its own set of uncertainties, learning curve and possibly new issues that will need to be addressed. If that’s more attractive to you than installing a speaker-out jack on your Blues Junior IV, then let the recording amp search continue. ;)
 

WilburBufferson

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Oct 11, 2009
Posts
2,259
Location
Hogtown
Thank you for your suggestions, reflections, and pointing out my inconsistent reasoning (not being sarcastic). It is all very helpful.

The Psionic-inspired comment about amp quality was more of a statement about how I've changed my mind about production quality. I never knew (but should have suspected) that current production amps are built to maximize the bottom line. You get what you pay for, hopefully most of the time. I guess what I am saying is that, for my next amp, I will ante up for that quality and reliability, whether it is vintage or from a smaller builder. Although the point about not subjecting an amp to gigging/travel abuse goes a long way too.

I like playing through my BJ, but I have it hooked up in a different room. I want/need something convenient without too many options JUST for recording. I had a HX stomp but got rid of it because I hated the menu diving and the mouse clicking/tweaking. So, although tempted, the Fractal is out for the same reasons. Something small and simple that sounds good without options paralysis.

Based on your suggestions, I did a little research. The Walrus ACS1 is at the top of the pack at the moment, but I will wait for the Two Notes Revolt which should be released this week at NAMM? I like that both have headphone out jacks. It would be nice to play at night without having to sit in front of my computer. I've heard mixed things about the Iridium and there's a bunch of them for sale here on the used market which says a lot. I wouldn't want to be hemmed in with a single Fender amp sound (i.e., Dream 65, Tonemasters) which is why the W and TN options are appealing.

Still taking suggestions though... with gratitude!
 

ETMusic777

Tele-Meister
Joined
Apr 29, 2022
Posts
107
Age
42
Location
California
I'd go vintage Blackface Fender and a Fryette PS100 Powerstation. You want your tone, there is the vintage Fender. You want your line out, switchable impedence, incredibly good attenuation, effects loop etc, the Fryette has that. I went this way because these amps are going up in value, are generally easy to fix and maintain, and they will still be in use 60 years from now. As far as Quilter and emulators etc. I dont want "tube like" feel and tone, I want tube feel and tone.
 

loudboy

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
May 21, 2003
Posts
1,066
Location
Sedona, Arizona
Psionic's videos... man, you gotta take that guy with a huge grain of salt. He is really OCD and he has a heavy case of observation bias (nobody takes working amps to amp techs). Fender sells tons of amps and you rarely see them used not in working order. I see a ton of them on stage.
My tech said he's made thousands doing warranty repair of the input jacks on HR/DeVille/Deluxe amps. Not a question of if they'll fail, but when.
 

Tim S

Tele-Afflicted
Gold Supporter
Joined
Oct 27, 2008
Posts
1,752
Location
Upstate NY
My tech said he's made thousands doing warranty repair of the input jacks on HR/DeVille/Deluxe amps. Not a question of if they'll fail, but when.
Some here have suggested using a short instrument cable with a female end. Plug that in once and zip tie it to the amp’s handle and use that as the amp’s input instead. It would stop the wear-n-tear on the board-mounted jack (but not look too great)
 

Len058

Tele-Meister
Joined
Jan 31, 2021
Posts
395
Location
Netherlands
I don't want to do the amp PC/plugin thing (they never sound right to me).

I have also been considering (cheap) modelling amps with the XLR out to simplify the recording process (e.g., Fender Mustang, Katana, etc), but feel this is a bit of a contradiction in light of what I said above. If I went this route, I wouldn't necessarily need a combo.
If you want convenience, the Amp plugin/daw route is the best you can get. I really think you can get to a very acceptable tone, if you choose the right plugin and put in some effort.

I get it. You can't get the tone your used to, out of a plugin. But then you probably won't get it out of another amp. I think you should compare the sound you get from a good plugin to the fully treated recorded amp. So after compression, EQ and such. Maybe then, they're closer than you feel whilst recording.

I'm still struggling. I love my amps and to fiddle with mic's but I just can't do that at night. When I really compare an attenuated amp to a plugin, the plugin sometimes wins. If I do not attenuate they're close. But it's a work in progress. I haven't tried everything. I'm sure a big part of what I'm doing is not rational. If I would be rational about it, I'd go the plugin route for recording.
 

teletail

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Aug 25, 2019
Posts
3,664
Age
72
Location
West By God Virginia
I’d make a trek to a major music store, even if it’s inconvenient, and try out a bunch of amps with an open mind. Think about what you are looking to accomplish and forget about preconceptions. I’d forget about anything I saw on YouTube too; too easy to manipulate results. I’ve been underwhelmed many times when I play something in person that sounded great on YouTube.
 

Cyberi4n

Tele-Holic
Joined
Oct 28, 2020
Posts
991
Age
49
Location
Chester, Uk
If you like the Blues Jnr, are willing to spend money on an amp, and plugging/unplugging the Torpedo is a hassle, then you know the answer. Buy another Blues Junior. Keep the Torpedo permanently plugged in for recording, and keep the original Blues Junior just for jamming.....

No-brainer really
 




Top