Should I spend more than $1k on an amp?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Shinrock, Nov 28, 2020.

  1. Shinrock

    Shinrock TDPRI Member

    Jul 6, 2020
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Age-old question: how much should I spend on a tube amp? Here's what I need it to do:

    I play regular gigs in both cover and original bands. I have to cover almost every genre of rock and country music (sans death metal). I play with both acoustic and electric drummers, loud and soft hitters. Gigs range from tiny dive bar stages to large outdoor venues, but guitars are always run through the PA.

    I have yet to play a show where I was able to run a 15-watt tube amp all the way open without being asked to turn down (even when playing clean). I honestly don't think I'll ever need more than 30-40 watts of power. I prefer amp distortion if I can get it, but I have plenty of pedals for tone shaping if I need versatility.

    Having said all that, many highly-regarded and readily-available amps fall under the $1,000 (U.S.) price tag (either new or used): Vox AC30, Hot Rod Deluxe or DRRI, Marshall DSL40, Blackstar HT40, Orange TH30, etc. Knowing my amp will have to remain reliable under standard gig abuse, is there really a reason to spend for me to spend more than a grand on an amp?

    *Tried and own a solid state option. Gun to my head: tubes are just more fun.
  2. Sotakoira Musti

    Sotakoira Musti Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 14, 2019
    Helsinki, Finland
    Oh yes. More expensive, the better player you are. Just kidding :D

    It depends what do you want to play. If/when not doom metal, then you can’t go wrong with AC30 and those are way below 1k$.

    And second hand amps are as cheap as a bar of soap.
  3. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Mar 3, 2003
    It's the most important factor in the electric guitar "sound" equation so yes, definitely yes.
  4. Tim S

    Tim S Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

    Oct 27, 2008
    Upstate NY
    If you can afford it, then yes. The one place you don’t want to skimp is your amp (and speaker(s)).
  5. corliss1

    corliss1 Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Sep 13, 2008
    Lansing, MI
    Electric guitar is half an instrument. I think people that spend $6K on those custom shop guitars and then run them through a Hot Rod amp are nuts :D
  6. RadioFM74

    RadioFM74 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 10, 2015
    Italy and Switzerland
    For your needs, and if you like the sound, I'd get a used Deluxe reverb and then make the best use of the pedalboard to switch across genres. Done! You can probably find an unloved silver face for within your price. I say this not because I think that DRRIs sound worse, but because a handwired amp is a lot easier for maintenance.

    If a Vibrolux reverb comes your way and fits the price requirement, that's another great options. 2x10" is a little more crisp, and you get a little more headroom. The few MIM "Custom '68" Vibrolux reverb amps I tried had wonderful sound. And, again, you may find an old silverface in the rough for not a lot more than your 1000$ threshold

    A Hot Rod Deluxe would also likely fit your bill. I never really liked how they sound, but that's me.

    Have no experience with Vox.

    I think you can get a perfect amp for your application, used, for less than 1000$

    Of course, I agree with those that say that the amp is the most important piece of equipment for your sound, so if you prefer an amp that costs more, yes it's totally worth spending that little extra money.

    PS: keep an eye out also for old Fender head and cabs. Bandmaster, Bassman, Tremolux… they all sound great, and except for the Tremolux they lasted into the silver face era and can be found for about the price you're talking about. I did get me a 64 Tremolux (without the original cab) for a little more than 1000€.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
  7. bftfender

    bftfender Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA
    most of mine with patience & good trading came in 450-750 range. best deal ever was 60's Fender Deluxe reverb i found for 450, had to put speaker & traded it for the Mesa triple tonal upgrade ever,,
    telemnemonics likes this.
  8. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Lubbock, TX
    Ime, a good guitar that is well set up through a great amp is a much better rig that a high dollar guitar through a so-so amp. If you find a high dollar amp that fits your needs and ears, the. I say you need it.
  9. Whatizitman

    Whatizitman Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 18, 2018
    If I were a gigging pro, reliability would be a major concern for me, if not the main concern. If I can’t get bullet proof for a reasonable price, then easily repairable is my choice. If that’s still too out of my budget, then I’m not above cheap and easily replaceable amps. Those are everywhere. I can reconcile my desire to reduce landfill by buying used.

    That said, I think there are plenty of sub $1000 amps that will at least check one of those boxes.

    I’m not a gigging pro, so my line of thinking is different. I’m more likely to stay below $1000 as a rule, as there is no ROI, and I’m not relying on a working amp for pay.

    But in both circumstances, I’m still likely to avoid boutique or custom amps. I prefer production amps. Less surprises.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
    DuckDodgers and uriah1 like this.
  10. teletimetx

    teletimetx Doctor of Teleocity

    Jul 25, 2011
    Frontrangia CO
    For the applications you are describing, you apparently already have equipment, so you “shouldn’t” do anything.

    Less than 2% of your audience will hear any appreciable difference between amp A or amp B.

    But what do you want out of playing? Just something that works or something that puts a big old grin on your face?

    my advice is to take your time and find the big old grin. At 1k, plenty of options out there and some good recommendations above.
  11. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    No. We rationalize all kinds of things. There is no objective “tone” reason to spend >$1000 on an amp.

    Any of those you listed will sound great. If tube were a must, the HRD IV is a remarkable amp and value fit for any stage.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
  12. 41144

    41144 Friend of Leo's

    Sep 5, 2017
    If you can find an AC30, especially with with AlNiCo Blues, for under $1000 = One of the great work-horse amps of all time.
    I'd imagine that'd be used in the US, certainly would be here, so obviously depends on the condition it's in too.

    Alt. try out an Orange Rocker 32, might just get one new for $1000(US) - 2x10 - but great tones and loud as hell.

    Also, I have had Blackstar HT mkIs (still got the 5 but the 20s long gone now) .... could only ever get on with the clean channel and hated how quickly the Gain became unusable. ie level 1-2 OK, level 3 really heavy/distorted, level4+ ... just noise.
  13. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Gold Supporter

    Feb 12, 2011
    Durability for day in and day out .
    Drri is one but there are a few mentioned. You can bump up speaker for more or less grind too and nos tubes for More long life.
  14. jonnyfez

    jonnyfez Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Nov 14, 2003
    Kittery, Maine
    JoeTX likes this.
  15. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 11, 2006
    Near Athens GA USA
    So, what you really need is a Peavey Bandit?

    I was noticing some of the Supro amps are being heavily discounted right now in "Black Friday" sales. They might be worth a look.

    Other than that, look for used deals. People buy tube amps in the $1000 to $1500 range for "that tone" in their bedroom then their neighbors call the cops. After that, they go up for sale cheap.
    borducks, Lizzard, Jjmatashi and 2 others like this.
  16. arlum

    arlum Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

    Jun 7, 2018
    O'Fallon, MO
    A great guitar through an average amp will sound a little above average. An average guitar through a great amp will sound great.
  17. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Rivera Chubster 40.

    You can buy a used one in mint condition for $800 to $1000 and it will do everything you ask.

    22 years ago I had set a limit of $500 for a new amp. After I had played everything there was to play, I kept going back to the Rivera Chubster 40.
    At the time, it $1200 new. Waaaaaaay over budget. But then I thought about it for a few minutes. Over the years I had bought and sold so many amps, taking a loss on each one every time I bought something new. The Rivera sounds so good, I knew I'd keep it for along time and stop the endless cycle of buying and selling but never really getting what I wanted.

    22 years later, the amp soldiers on through hundreds of gigs and studio sessions, and hasn't given me any problems. I can't say enough about how much I like this amp.

    It sounds so good in the studio that two different studios I recorded at actually bought them to have on hand when they saw how easy it was to dial up awesome tones on the spot.
  18. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Feb 6, 2018
    Wilmington, DE
    There are many excellent amps that fall in the $500-$1000 range, especially used. Many already mentioned above - Deluxe Reverb, etc. Used vintage hand-wired Fender amps can be sometimes found used at the upper end of that price range. I personally have no experience with high-end boutique amps, to know how much "better" they may be than mass-produced amps. But I see enough concerts on person and in TV to know that not everyone is playing a Dr. Z or Matchless, and a lot of pro player seem to get by just fine with the same amps that any of us could buy at guitar Center. Deluxe Reverbs, Hot Rods, AC30s, etc etc are on a lot of pro stages. Also, the more pedals you use, the less you are relying on the inherent sound of the amp. If it was me, I would probably invest in top-notch speakers, and put them in one of the common Fender amps. Final comment: Rivera amps are noted for their indestructible build quality. I had a small Rivera once and it was great (but ended up trading it for a 5e3...). If you see a used Rivera, you might want to check it out.
    Ellismando likes this.
  19. glenlivet

    glenlivet Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 7, 2018
    If you never crank a 15 watt, I'd stick with something around that same size. Lots of options out there....pick a good amp for "your sound" don't worry about the name. AC30 seems like overkill.
    Spend good money on your tube amp.....but save a couple hundred to get yourself a decent used SS backup / practice amp. If your gigging regularly, you need to have a backup amp.
  20. Tuneup

    Tuneup Tele-Holic

    Jan 6, 2019
    Go SS (yes I saw you tried SS, how long ago and what amp?), playing live no ones going to notice, and these days you can get so many tones out of an SS amp it;'s ridiculous.

    They are cheaper, lighter, and you don't feel as bad when someone spills a beer in it.
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