Super Champ X2 Club--Tubes with Benefits!!

Discussion in 'Amp Owners Clubs' started by Stratelcaster, Mar 7, 2012.

  1. StormJH1

    StormJH1 Tele-Holic

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    Just played it again, and despite my personal preferences, I do see why people would like Channel 1. Several of the Channel 2 voices have compression or added gain - the "squish" effect is actually fairly extreme. Channel 1 feels more organic and responsive. That being said I do happen to prefer the fuller tones of many of the Channel 2 amps, though changing the speaker may cause me to revisit the whole analysis all over!
     
  2. lothar34

    lothar34 Tele-Meister

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    I got some great tones with my X2 & a Weber Sig 10 Alnico in a 110 last weekend. Today I got my Dumble clone, which is KILLER, but truth be told, the recordings I was able to capture w/ the X2 sound better . Also wanted to mention that I am using a Soul Food OD now and it plays very nicely with the X2 on all voices. Very transparent pedal & with the 'twin' their are some very nice SRV sounds that dial in quick & easy. My Bad Monkey didn't work at all with chan 1- literally... It barely changed the tone, as if the OD circuit was being bypassed, but works fine on chan 2.
     
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  3. lothar34

    lothar34 Tele-Meister

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    I went in to FUSE & removed most of those gainy factory preset fx & saved a little delay & reverb in their place. What's cool about Fuse is that even if you aren't a mega tweaker (I'm not), you can take some time (in my case several hours) make 16 presets you love, save them & never have to hook up to Fuse again.

    I thought I would use FUSE more for shared presets, but the site was really slow to load and most of the shared patches sounded nothing like their description. Maybe that's changed now- it's been well over a year and I was using it with a Mustang at the time.
     
  4. timmer114

    timmer114 Tele-Holic

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    I still love my X2, I have had it now for a good while. Since they first came out actually.

    I changed out the tubes to Tung Sol reissues, but actually preferred and went back to the stock tubes. I swapped the speaker with a well broken in Jensen CQ10 which does wonders for the tweed and blackface models. This is the one amp I own that I don't think I could ever part with. Anytime someone hears the amp they compliment it's sound. they are shocked at how huge this thing can sound for its size :)
     
  5. Coach56

    Coach56 One of the Boys

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    I keep watching CL for a used head, then I could run that into my 2x12 and use the combo for the "stereo" side of some of my effects. But of course they never sell cheap, cheap.

    -H
     
  6. lothar34

    lothar34 Tele-Meister

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    Not sure what you consider 'cheap cheap' but I got a fair deal on my head from the Bay for $200 delivered.
     
  7. StormJH1

    StormJH1 Tele-Holic

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    FUSE is a good tool, and I'm glad it's there, but I was just a little intimidated by it. Not in the sense that it was too "complicated" or "time consuming", but that I just felt like messing with the amp settings would lose my point of reference with the amp, and that I wasn't going to make anything better than Fender's judgment to ship those 16 amps as the default.

    Now, with the effects, I may be more tempted to change some of those, but realistically I just leave it on one of the reverb settings, or maybe flip it to a delay if I'm plugging straight in. Otherwise, I prefer pedal effects to the limited interface on the dashboard.

    I'm about two weeks in, and my appreciation for the amp is only growing. (Probably helps that the speaker is breaking in). I'm actually deciding to stick with the stock speaker (for money reasons, partially, as well) and enjoying being back on a reasonable sized amp that I can push harder, as opposed to playing a large amp at way too low of a volume. I certainly don't need it any louder, especially on Channel 1. I do find that I have the Volume about two ticks higher on many of the Channel 2 voices, though some of those are the ones that have compression.
     
  8. Coach56

    Coach56 One of the Boys

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    One of the best part of Fuse is the ability to reset everything back to factory specs. So even if you totally mung it up, no big deal, hit reset and start again.

    The very first thing I did was reset my amp when I got it, just so I knew how to do it, lol.

    -Harry
     
  9. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    I'm not so sure about that last statement. Let me explain.

    We know the audio signal always runs through the DSP chip, yes. But the word "modeling", used the way you used it, lumps together two or three completely different types of digital signal processing. And that can lead to the wrong conclusion.

    The first kind is using DSP to generate EQ curves (voicing and tone controls). In this sort of application, the DSP chip doesn't attempt to emulate tubes in any way - it doesn't try to add any harmonics to the signal the way tubes do. Instead, it duplicates the effects of passive components like capacitors and resistors. This kind of DSP, done halfway decently, is completely sonically transparent - it sounds exactly like the pots and caps it replaces. There is no "digital sound" to be heard, only changes in EQ.

    The second kind of DSP in these amps is creating audio effects: tremolo, reverb, delay, and whatnot. Once again, the DSP does not attempt to generate any new harmonics like a tube does - instead it tries to emulate either sound bouncing around in a large acoustic space or between two distant parallel walls. This sort of DSP certainly can be heard - that's the whole point - but doesn't add any harshness, because it's not trying to simulate overdriven vacuum tubes, and does not attempt to add harmonic distortion to the sound.

    We know for certain that these two kinds of DSP most definitely DO occur in the clean channel of the SCXD and SCX2. That's how the tone controls, volume and gain controls, voicing, and digital effects are implemented in these amps. But remember, these two types of DSP do not add harmonics or harshness - there is no attempt to duplicate tube sound here. Therefore there is no reason for the clean channel to have any digital harshness in its sound, nor are we hearing any.

    The third kind of DSP is the one we usually think of when speaking of modelling guitar amps. This kind attempts to duplicate the harmonic distortion generated by overdriven vacuum tubes. And that's where the controversy starts: some people think this type of DSP is the bees knees, others find it harsh and hard to listen to for long.

    We have no doubt that this third type of (harmonic distortion generating) DSP is in use on Channel 2 - that's where all those driven tones come from.

    But there is no evidence that Channel 1 uses this third type of DSP at all. We're not hearing overdriven sounds or digital harshness here. Instead, it sounds like a clean tube amp. And when turned up loud enough, it starts to have a distinct but subtle "tubey" sound - still very clean, but with a tiny shimmer of subtle harmonic distortion sprinkled on top.

    Since we don't have access to the actual DSP code (firmware) Fender is using, strictly speaking we can't be 100% sure that there is in fact no attempt to add digitally generated harmonic distortion to the clean channel. But none of the people who are sensitive to harsh digitally generated distortion are hearing it - so either there isn't any there to hear, or it's at such a low level that it doesn't sound harsh to anybody.

    (There actually is a way to be 100% sure - but it involves having some electronic measuring equipment that I don't have. Simply put a high quality low distortion sine wave signal from an audio signal generator into the amps input, set it on channel 1, and measure the THD (total harmonic distortion) at the line out signal. That would immediately tell us if the DSP is adding any intentional harmonic distortion to the clean channel or not.)

    Even lacking that absolute empirical evidence from a THD measurement, there is one more major piece of evidence that says there is no DSP-generated harmonic distortion on channel 1: nobody hears tubey tone out of the line-out signal on the clean channel. That signal runs through the same digital signal processing as the rest of channel 1, so if the DSP was responsible for the "tubey" sound, it would also show up at the line-out jack. But it doesn't - on channel 1, the line-out signal is cold and thin, and sounds 100% solid state. (That's how I found out it actually WAS 100% solid state - dissatisfied with the sound, I studied the SCXD schematic, and found no tubes between input and line-out.)

    So: the line out sounds solid-state. The speaker signal, however, sounds tubey. There is no DSP between the line-out and speaker, only vacuum tubes.

    The only logical conclusion is that the "tubey" sound some of us hear on channel 1 when it's turned up is coming from the actual vacuum tubes, not the DSP. Sure, the DSP is implementing EQ, voicing, and effects - but it's not adding any harmonic distortion.

    The same can't be said for channel 2. Most (all?) of those voices do use DSP to generate large amounts of harmonic distortion. And to some of us, that particular type of DSP comes with unpleasant amounts of harshness. (The harshness tells us that the DSP is generating larger amounts of higher order harmonics than the tubes it is attempting to emulate do, so it sounds harsher than the actual tubes.)

    So I don't agree with StormJH1 that channel 1 and channel 2 are modelled exactly the same way. Nor do I think everyone who says they prefer channel 1 is simply deluded. I think they're hearing exactly what they say they're hearing, which is the sound of a clean tube guitar amp with no additional harmonic distortion added by digital signal processing.

    -Gnobuddy
     
  10. MrSea

    MrSea Tele-Meister

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    I have been playing through a SCX2 for several months now and your finding is congruent with what I am experiencing. Channel 1 produces a crystal clear clarity that I find myself using most often when playing along with music at a higher volume. The modeled voices in channel 2 seem to lack that clarity, particularly when playing in a setting with a louder background (this is true, even when using the Twin setting which should technically be the cleanest of all the voices). In addition to this, I find a further lack of clarity in channel 2 when I add additional effects from pedals. Channel one seems to respond much better with effects on my pedal board.
     
  11. Coach56

    Coach56 One of the Boys

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    Gnobuddy,

    Thanks for that, so I am not mad, well at least in this context!

    I have a question and a comment.

    Question: What is the actual purpose of the 12AX7 tube in the circuit. And what effect does it have on the tone. Some have commented that by changing it out they perceive a difference in tone.

    Comment: To the poster who talked about hearing digital clipping on Channel 1. The fact is any digital circuit, be it an EQ sim or an amp sim, will give harsh digital clipping if pushed too hard. So even Channel 1, while it does have a lot more headroom and, at least on my amp, takes pedals much better, it will give a digital clip if you hit it too hard.

    Thoughts?
     
  12. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    Coach, I don't think our ears are lying about channel 1, but I can't guarantee either my sanity, or yours, I'm sorry to say!

    I've never seen a schematic for the SCX2 - Fender doesn't seem to have published one. However, they did publish a schematic for the SCXD. In a nutshell, the tube section of the SCXD is almost identical to the power amp part of a (tube) Princeton. That 12AX7 plays the same two roles it does in a Princeton - one of the two triodes in it acts as a cathodyne phase-splitter driving the two 6V6 output tubes, and the other one is a gain stage placed immediately before the phase-splitter.

    Some people call this a driver stage, some call it a preamp stage - but whatever you choose to call it, it is exactly the same, electrically, as the ubiquitous Fender 12AX7 preamp gain stage: 100 kilo ohm plate load, 1.5 kilo ohm cathode resistor, everything is exactly the same.

    Therefore it also sounds exactly like any other Fender preamp stage if you drive it with the same amount of signal strength. Swapping it out will also have exactly the same effect as swapping out the same tube in a Princeton.

    Like any preamp stage, you have to drive it fairly hard before you get any noticeable amount of 2nd harmonic distortion (that lovely "tubey" sound). Since there are no gain or volume controls after this tube, the amp gets pretty loud at this point. I think this is why the SCXD/ SCX2 clean channel sounds its best only when the amp is turned up to pretty high volume. Of course the output tubes (6V6) will also be contributing some distortion at that amount of drive.

    -Gnobuddy
     
  13. StormJH1

    StormJH1 Tele-Holic

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    @Gnobuddy - I found that to be a very interesting read and thank you for that further explanation. However, I find myself on the side of the argument I don't want to be on...normally, I'm the guy on other forums defending the X2 against people who deride it as a modeling amp. To which I tell them that it is absolutely a tube amp, but just has happens to have DSP/modeling features in front of it. This is different from Vox Valvetronix, for example, which only uses a tube in one of the stages, and uses it in a bizarre, backwards kind of way (that I don't understand well enough to explain).

    My "problem" with Channel 1, at least initially, is that it is harder to use at lower volumes. Or to put it more accurately, you can use it at lower volumes, but it can only really be one thing, which is a fully clean, chimey tone with not much low end.

    But you guys are absolutely right that the amp is louder and more dynamic on Channel 1 compared to the Channel 2 settings. I've heard some people say that the speaker voicing is meant primarily for Channel 1, and that the problem gets better with a Ragin' Cajun, etc. That may be, but that's not a concern of mine for now.

    Channel 1 is absolutely great if you want pure Fender cleans, and if you intend to use a pedalboard. As much as I love my pedals, I'm happy enough to run straight into the X2, especially since there are Fender clean and overdriven tones on Channel 2 that I can't really get with any pedal setup I've had before. But Channel 1 is a much better overall tonal platform for different guitars and effects, and especially if you have a humbucker-equipped guitar, that seems to work better on the clean channel as well, due to higher output.
     
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  14. Coach56

    Coach56 One of the Boys

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    I guess I should have prefaced my post with a little more info. I tend to play a bit louder then average, one of the advantages of owning a house with a basement! And I also play thru two 12" hemp cone speakers, one with an AlNiCo magnet the other ceramic.

    I think your summation of the one channel is spot on thou, it does sound like a basic Fender Blackface amp, you need to get the volume pumping before it "wakes up".

    Best,
    -Harry
     
  15. udoering

    udoering Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    This is a little off the actual topic, but I wanted to tell You about an experience I made. I have the Superchamp head with the associated cab. While the MIM Tele and the Cabronita sounded good with it, the Tele Deluxe with the N3s had an unpleasant peak in the higher mids.

    A couple of weeks ago, I became part of a kind of band project, and I took the Engl with the Superchamp cab there. As the band project will be kept alive, I ordered the 1x10 Engl Gigmaster cab to make a change of cabs the next time we meet. In the meantime, I plugged the 110 Engl into the Superchamp head, and, you know, it´s a different animal now. Channel 1 has a clear, nice sound now with not to much mids and a lots of highs; it sounds much better now, much more the "classic tele sound".

    On the other hand, Channel 2 has lost; none of the models sound better than with the 1x12 Superchamp cab; on some I can hear a light fizzle which was not there previously, that means, I couldn´t hear it before.
     
  16. matt mcgriff

    matt mcgriff TDPRI Member

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    I've got an SCX2 head and cab (along with an Orange Micro Terror) sitting in the corner of my home office. We live in a condo right now, while our house is being finished so I can't really crank up my amps without risking my neighbors knocking on the door. So my Yamaha THR gets a lot of time at home. I've used the SCX2 head a few times playing out straight into a DI box and into the house. I could only hear it in the aviom so not sure exactly what it sounded like, but sounded good in my ears. I do look forward to cranking it up, running my Fender Mustang Floor through the clean channel.
     
  17. StormJH1

    StormJH1 Tele-Holic

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    Right, and part of the issue for me is that I rarely have the need to crank it, especially on that channel. But another way to look at it is that it's pretty darn useful to have a single amp with multiple Fender voicings - some of which work best at moderate volumes and some of which are best when the amp is cranked!
     
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  18. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    I'm glad, and thank you!
    Yeah, I agree. I think of my SCXD as pretty much the same thing as having a multiFX pedal permanently plugged into a small tube amp. Channel 1 amounts to turning off the amp models in the multiFX pedal, and using only the volume, tone, and effects.

    As you say, the second half of the SCXD/SCX2 is absolutely a traditional Fender tube guitar amp. You could take one of these amps back to a 1960's Fender tech, and he would instantly recognize and be familiar with the entire power amp section.

    The preamp is a completely different kettle of fish, since cheap DSP chips didn't exist and were still decades away in the 1960's!
    Back in 2010 the SCXD was my first tube amp, and plugging into the clean channel for the first time was a revelation for me. I'd been playing guitar for nearly 25 years at that point, and while I could get good tone out of my acoustic guitars, I had always had horrid electric guitar tone that I hated, no matter what I did. I thought the problem was me.

    The SCXD changed that. Five seconds after plugging in and switching to channel 1, I had the best electric guitar tone I'd ever had in my life up till that point. Wow! I actually wanted to hear myself play electric now, for the first time!

    But I didn't hear channel 1 at its best until some months later, when for the first time I turned the amp up loud - to maybe 6 on the volume dial. I was jamming with another guitar player and a drummer in his backyard at the time, and I was shocked at how much I liked the clean tone I was getting out of channel 1. I handed my guitar over to the drummer (who is a multi-instrumentalist and a good singer too), walked off a little distance, and listened to him play: yes, I wasn't imagining things, my guitar through the SCXD was producing a really lovely clean tone with the other guy playing it as well.

    Then I got home, and found that magic clean tone was nowhere to be found...not at any volume I could actually use at home. I'd encountered the same problem you just mentioned. Very disappointing!

    Fortunately, not long after that, a TDPRI user going by the username "jeober" posted his tips on using an L-pad to lower the speaker volume of the SCXD. I got an L-pad from Parts Express as quickly as I could, wired it up, dialled down the speaker volume low enough to acceptable in my tiny spare bedroom, and dialed up the volume on channel 1 to about 6.

    Voila, there it was: that lovely shimmering clean tone was back, and this time at home-friendly speaker volume!

    Over time I noticed that at low volume channel 1 sounded almost the same as an actual solid-state amp (I tested with my Acoustic AG30 amp). But as the volume knob goes higher, you get progressively more "tubeyness" to the sound. It's always a subtle thing, even at high volumes, but the difference between mediocre art and good art is always subtle, isn't it?

    I agree with you on these amps lack of low end, most likely because of the wimpy (read: cheap) output transformer. The L-pad gave me access to that shimmering tubey tone, but did nothing for the low end: bass is actually a bit weaker when driving the amp harder, probably because that same wimpy output transformer is saturating at the bass frequencies due to the higher drive level.

    However, I also found out by accident that lack of low end was actually a good thing when trying to make my guitar sit in a mix. As it turns out, it's quite routine for mix engineers to put guitars through a high-pass (that's the same as low-cut) filter to keep the guitar and bass parts from interfering and muddying each other up.
    To my ears, the best tone I can ever get out of my SCXD comes from the combination of a (humbucker equipped) thin body semi-hollow guitar, ES-335 style, and channel 1, with a small splash of reverb and delay. That combination sounds gorgeous to me.

    I do like the sound of a solid-body electric guitar through channel 1 as well, but to my ears no solid body guitar sounds as sweet as a semi-hollow one.

    Channel 2 was a completely different story. Craig Anderton's Youtube demos sounded great to me at first, but I never sounded as good as he does - he's a really good guitarist! And the longer I had the amp, the less I liked any of the channel 2 voices.

    That part is subjective, obviously. I have no quarrel with anyone who does like the channel 2 voices. But I'm not one of those people - I found myself permanently on channel 1, the only exceptions being when I needed to lay down a lead guitar part on one of my home recordings, and was forced to use a channel 2 voice. Buried in the mix and slathered with reverb to soften the harshness, I could accept the channel 2 voices. But there is nothing on channel 2 that I actually want to listen to.

    And that's the bottom line for me personally - DSP or not, modelled or not, my ears and brain do like the sound of channel 1. And my ears and brain do not like the sound of any of the channel 2 voices.

    In the end the SCXD led me to get one of the few small amps that's even more famous for good clean tone: a used Princeton Reverb (reissue). Since the SCXD is pretty much half a Princeton, you could say I went and got myself the other half of it. :D

    -Gnobuddy
     
  19. StormJH1

    StormJH1 Tele-Holic

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    Great stuff! I enjoyed reading about your different impressions of Channel 1 vs. 2, and your efforts to use the L-Pad to work it at lower volumes.

    It's an interesting thing about guitarists that you get the sense people are always trying to fatten up single coil guitars and brighten up humbuckers - almost like there's some EQ sweet spot in between, but it's the never ending valley trying to actually get there. Talking this out actually leaves me more at peace with the amp. I do tend to prefer bassier tones out of guitar when practicing at low volumes by myself, but the Channel 1 is a great pure tone if you're able to turn the guitar up. I hear and understand the shortcomings of Channel 2, but I can't say I would have even considered buying the amp nearly if those sounds weren't available in the amp.
     
  20. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks! I too enjoy hearing other people's viewpoints when we can all keep it civil, as is happening on this thread. :)
    Have you ever played a guitar with P-90 pickups through your SCX2? I have a hunch you might find the sound you're looking for with that combo.

    I have only one guitar with P-90 pickups, an Agile AD-2300 Wide ( http://www.rondomusic.com/ad2300natwide1.html ). That guitar brings out the strongest bass I've ever heard from my SCXD.

    P-90's are single coils, but they're not like Fender's single coils. They were originally designed by a company that made most of its reputation selling expensive jazz guitars - so they are single coils voiced to sound plummy and fat like a jazz guitar, not thin and stinging like, say, a Telecaster. Audible proof that "single coil" doesn't mean "thin and bright", just as the various "noiseless" Fender pickups show that "humbucking" doesn't mean dark and dull!

    When I bought my AD-2300 it cost only $260. The wood and hardware was excellent, but the nut slots were a little too shallow and the fretwork not quite as good as the more expensive Agiles (though better than any current Epiphone). It cost about $70 to have a good setup and minor fret polishing and levelling done, and the guitar is a superb player after that. The only negative thing I have to say about it is that thanks to the lighter body, it balances poorly - the neck wants to swivel down and point at the floor!

    Stock at Rondo Music comes and goes, and I don't think Kurt (owner) has the AD-2300's available right now, but I'm sure there are other affordable P-90 models out there that might be worth a try, though I've never seen any guitar that give you as much quality for the money as Kurt's Agile line.
    When I bought the amp I was really looking forward to having that versatility, too. Unfortunately my ears had other ideas, and I quickly found out that I just did not get along with Channel 2.

    I still have the same problem today with the Princeton: great clean tones, but that's it. No acceptable driven tones at all.

    I've tried a tonne of things to get good distorted tones at the bedroom-friendly volumes I need, and so far I'm still not there, though I've had some promising results with some inexpensive pedals. I got some good tones with the usual combination of fuzz/ delay/ reverb originally pioneered by David Gilmour.

    My latest attempts have been made with an Electro Harmonix Glove overdrive plugged into the Princeton Reverb. I like the Glove better than most "dirt" pedals I've tried.

    Here's a Glove demo. I recommend skipping the (very annoying!) first 12 seconds:



    -Gnobuddy
     
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