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Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by stantheman, Oct 15, 2019.
more like starting from 0.1W please
It never fails.
Any company releases any product, and a thousand guys take to the internet to ***** about how it would have been better if it was XYZ but it isn't so it's a sh***y inferior scam for morons and hipsters doomed to clutter up the recesses of Craigslist.
Any company releases a piece of modern technology designed to improve on aspects of existing technology and a thousand guys take to the internet to dismiss it as soulless and inauthentic and cynical marketing for morons and hipsters doomed to clutter up the recesses of Craigslist.
I'm exactly the target market for Tonemasters. I'm 40 years old with enough disposable income to be indifferent if a product I buy now is worth 80% less in five years. That's the case with most products, guys. If I only bought stuff that held value I'd have to walk to work.
I don't however have enough disposable income that I can afford to be an uptight cork-sniffer about authenticity. Yeah, it would be nice to play nothing but mint-condish vintage but I'm not paying £5,000 for a 22-watt combo and an extra 10% annually in maintenance. If you can afford that then have at it but I've got drugs to buy.
I love stuff that has a credible vintage aesthetic. I love reissues and relics and all that kind of stuff (yeah, I LOVE relics, Im guessing that's going to annoy a few of the naysayers on this thread). If someone makes a new thing that looks like an old thing but without the problems of the old thing I'm all over it. I'm not trying to fool anyone, I just think retro stuff is nice but I don't want the expense or trouble of actual vintage.
I play mostly in my house and I want good sound at conversation levels. Up to now the only option there has been modelling, but I don't want to sit at my computer with Amplitube to play and I don't want to buy either a cheap does-everything digital combo or a pro-level profiling rig. Both of those things have functionality I'll never use and neither look or feel right to me.
The Tonemasters are lightweight, authentic-looking amps that go real loud and real quiet and have DI options for home recording. They have exactly the functionality I'm looking for, and if you know anything about this kind of tech you'll know that this isn't a high price to pay for it, and nor is it likely to fail. And from what I've seen the sound is basically nailed.
If your sine qua non of amps is a 90lbs box full of military gadgets from the 1940s, then more power to you, but this product isn't aimed at you. You haven't "seen through" any marketing, you just don't get the appeal. I'm sure you have a barn full of historic tweed that modelling can never get close to, but the reality is that they're not making any more of those, at least not for £800 with a 12-month warranty.
I would also love for Fender to put out more of these things, with a personal preference for a 68 silverface deluxe reverb. Interested to see what comes out at NAMM.
More specifically on the subject of the obsolescence and/or reliability of this kind of technology:
I was a soundguy for a few years, and the bands my venue put on were mostly of the young garage band stripe, with a few older and sometimes even touring bands if we could get them (my town's not really a hotspot). I mixed hundreds of shows with usually three bands per show. I've lost count of how many guitar amps I've seen in operation.
So which ones failed the most? Well, anecdotally very few amps failed on me, maybe two or three dozen, which is testament to the manufacturing quality of mid-priced audio electronics. But the amps that did fail? Without exception, it was the all-valve platforms. From memory the most common casualty was Mesa Dual/Triple Recs, followed by Marshall JCM2000s (unfairly skewed by how many guys were rocking TSLs ans DSLs at the time), then Orange and then the rest. Never saw many Fenders but then it was a predominantly metal show.
I have literally never had a piece of digital gear fail on my stage. Honestly my belief is that valve gear will as a rule fail more often because cycles of heating and cooling on top of frequent movement are about the worst kind of stress you can inflict on a system, whereas digital kit is generally lightweight (so less prone to transport damage) and remains at low temperature during operation.
Which sounded better? Okay, so you have to allow that this was before Fractal and Kemper and Helix, so the average digital sound wasn't great, but I will say this: for every guy with a low-wattage boutique head, a real Klon and tone for days, I mixed five whose "all valve" rig was something like an Evil Twin and a Metal Zone, and maybe five more whose putatively awesome rig's sweet spot was so loud we had to move the stage barriers back twenty feet. One guy, I'm not kidding, turned up with Marshall '59 Superlead and wanted to run it at breakup. The club held maybe 400 people.
Any soundguy or gigging guitar player will tell you that "won't break" and "sounds great at any volume" are two of the top five things they want from an amp. I'd argue that the other three ought to be "easy to carry", "takes pedals well" and "looks good". That being the case, the next amp I buy is extremely likely to be a Tone Master Deluxe Reverb, unless NAMM shows us something else worth waiting for.
I also think Marshall need to get cracking on a Bluesbreaker version of these pronto.
By the way I'm not trying to troll here. I totally get why these amps put some people off. I respect that opinion and I'm not trying to change your minds. I only mean to say that people are sometimes too quick to equate "not my thing" with "no good". Some people are just not and won't ever be into digital emulations, no matter how close they get. To those people I say, the stores are still stacked high with valve amps.
I'm betting anything that a Super Reverb or Tweed Bassman Tonemaster won't have the mustard sonically. Both of those amps have alot of transition between clean and gainy and nice harmonics. And the tube spring reverb is a big factor on the Super Reverb.
So first you have to define "the mustard". What are we talking, here? Volume? Dynamics? Breakup?
Then you need to define what they won't have "the mustard" for. Club gigs? Arena tours? Bedroom practice? Studio sessions?
Thirdly we need to know on what basis you'd make such a wager. What informs your prediction? Do you have insider knowledge? Some kind of industry expertise? Personal experience? Are you an amp manufacturer yourself?
If you're going to write off a product that doesn't even exist yet, despite reports that existing products in this category are outperforming expectations, it would be helpful to have some kind of context.
My prediction comes from personal experience of owning and using tube amps, solid state amps, modeler amps, and modeling software over about 25 years.
Supers and Bassmans (the old ones) have very rich harmonics, clarity, cut, a wide range of transition in their breakup, good character in their breakup, and a good dynamic feel.
So you're already requalifying your statement to include only "the old ones". Which old ones? Just the 50s and 60s ones? I mean an amp from 1997 could reasonably be described as "old", so what's the age bracket here? Also does this apply to all old Supers and Bassmans or just some, as I have on extremely good authority that the tonal characteristics of pre-CBS amplifiers could vary wildly between examples?
I'd add that the Deluxe Reverb and the 65 Twin could both be described as having "very rich harmonics, clarity, cut, a wide range of transition in their breakup, good character in their breakup, and a good dynamic feel" and yet Fender seem to have nailed the TM models there, so what's special about the Super and the Bassman?
I've also been using all that stuff for thirty years man, and the evidence tells me that lately it's become possible to emulate the sound and response of valve amplification if not identically then at least well enough that seasoned professionals are unable to distinguish between the two in blind tests. Kempers, Helixes, Fractals and so on have all repeatedly fooled blindfolded industry leaders. I mean, I can see why you'd want to think that your favourite amps are so tonally complex as to be emulation-proof, but the evidence doesn't bear it out.
Apart from anything, instead of being the snarky guy who on the strength of having owned a Pod and a Blues Junior declares the largest amplifier manufacturer on the planet incapable of making a reasonable emulation of their own gear, wouldn't you rather be the guy who wishes them luck and hopes for a pleasant surprise?
I don't know, man. It's almost as if some people are willing them to not succeed.
I would get uptight if they decided to replace the tube line with the ss stuff-but such is not the case. I see this sort of thing with motorcycles, guns and other hobbies- where traditionalists get uptight at new tech or visions for the future. To me anything that broadens the selection and may get more people involved is the most important point. If it takes a 20lb twin for someone to be able to play one- thats one more person in the fold.
A lacquered tweed Bassman that weighs under 40 lbs vs. 53 lbs would be a welcome addition to the Tone Master line.
As far as all that stuff about "harmonics, clarity, cut, transition between clean and breakup" the Tone Masters nail all of that. The reverb is the equal of any spring reverb I'ver ever played on a vintage Fender tube amp and I've played a heck of a lot of them for a very long time. There's on special trick to capturing the Super Reverb sound as has been done with the Twin and Deluxe. You basically have the front end like the Twin but without the middle on the Normal channel and with a dual 6L6 power section with a GZ34 rectifier instead of solid state. Develop a neodymium 10" Jensen, Oxford or CTS clone and you're there. I don't see a huge technical challenge there. To be honest I think it is a greater challenge to find a really pristine vintage example of the real deal Super Reverb that sounds vintage. I've owned about 4 of them and played about a dozen more over the last 30 years and none of them were quite right compared to what they sounded like fresh off the floor in 1965.
why spend that kind of money on a new amp?
just work out more and it'll also improve other parts of your life and you may live longer.
I have two twin reverbs, one's a reissue (2017) the other is a legit '65. both are subtlely different tonally. Less so when using an external cab though.
remarkably, my quad reverb is not so different - but it is more noticeable when using the same external cab.
I have played the deluxe and twin tone masters. I did not care for the deluxe, but the twin actually sounded pretty nice - but again, somewhat different to me - because I am used to my twins and those are quite close sounding, whereas the tone master to me was noticeably different - but not in a bad way!
So yes, I'd buy a tone master twin reverb. BUT
not at the profit gouging margins they are being sold at.
Solid state, yes. manufacturing costs reduction is massive.
E-waste is an issue which will become obvious in the future, but ignored by the purchasers of these amps.
I work in an industry where E-waste is a significant 'waste product' and the rate at which it is increasing is alarming to industry, who are taking steps to reduce it, but not at a rate which is reducing it overall.
When these units fail (and invariably they will, just like the cyber-twins of yore) the cost to repair, will be more than the cost of a new replacement. Solution? landfill.
but an all-valve TRRI will still be able to be repaired at a significantly reduced cost, and continue to reward... just like the original twins which are 55 years old...
Great marketing. Good sound. questionable profit gouging pricing and built-in obsolescence.
This is why I prefer to buy used amps, mod them to my liking and keep them out of landfill.
I thought all the hipsters complained that the Super Reverb was too bulky, in addition to being too heavy. If the Tone Master series takes care of the weight, will it be popular if still 4x10 and bulky?
Most complaints I hear from 4x10 owners is the weight not the bulk. most of them don't fit into the 'hipster' category either.
Most of them are middle-aged curmudgeons (like me) or older and lugging 45+kg of amp around is becoming tiresome and possibly contributing to back issues.
Most of us weren't raised in the era of OH&S / PPE, so typically being older (and ignorant of one's own health) some issues with heavy amps will occur naturally.
I lift heavy amps regularly, and learned to 'bend ze knees' long ago. but it still doesn't make them any lighter...
My take on the weight of the tone master twin when I picked it up was that it was noticeably lighter than a TRRI - by that I mean it's not "massive" but it is significant.
The deluxe to me felt very different and incredibly light compared to a DRRI. For me the deluxe felt like it had a more significant mass reduction.
I think a 4x10 won't be all that much lighter, simply due to physical size and having four 10" drivers.
But if they do make one, you can be sure it will sound like a 4x10super, or a 59 tweed bassman, depending on the version they market.. Fender have got their act together in that regard. The amps do sound good. No mistake.
but you can't please everyone, no doubt there will be someone out there who feels marginalised by the introduction of a different version of an amp they wouldn't have even considered, let alone played anyway, but they'll complain for the sake of it.
When you like old valve amps, you learn to live with their negatives. the bulk and the weight are secondary considerations, but it is a problem when you have to lug one and you have hurt your back, or your shoulder etc. 'recent injury' is THE most common reason I hear when guys want to get rid of their old amp.
I am very much in the same boat (except for the experience running sound!). I too would love to buy all vintage this-or-that, but I can't really justify the cost. However, if Fender puts out a TM Tweed Bassman or Tweed Twin, or if Marshall does something similar with a Blues Breaker, Plexi, or even a 1974x, I'm going to be very interested, very fast.
As for the line not "getting the mustard" of something older;
A) let's wait and see;
B) don't like it? don't buy it.
C) this is the internet - this wouldn't be fun without endless speculation and strong opinions!
Sent from my SM-G930P using Tapatalk
Unlike the cyber-twins of yore, this amp is in a cabinet and chassis that is analog (no pun intended) to the original. No idea how one of these would die, but if mine did I’d just order up the small parts kit from Mojotone and build a new hand-wired Twin for next to nothing.
But that assumes it would be irreparable - I don’t think this is accurate. The boards are modular, and could presumably be swapped out with new versions. There’s a conventional wisdom about amps failing, but I’m not so sure it translates to these models.
One more note regarding e-waste: I’m not so sure there’s much more waste compared to the reissues, which are all PCBs as well.
I keep hearing that complaint, but it's never backed up with anything other than more complaining.
Give us a number that can be verified: How much profit is Fender making on these things? What is the justification for calling that number too high?
MSRP for a Twin Reverb in 1967 (couldn't find a 1965 price list) was $500 for the base model and $640 if you wanted one with a JBL speaker. Adjust those for inflation and you're at $3,900 and $5,000 in 2019 dollars. The reissue product goes out the door at $1,400 brand new, which would seem a pretty clear indication that those greedy bastards at Fender were really putting the screws to the customers back then.
No, not really. The cost of manufacturing everything, even 55-year-old technology like a Twin Reverb, has dropped a lot since then. The non-recurring expenses on the TR have long been recovered; the additional to make the TRRI comply with modern safety codes and design of the PC board probably have, too. The TMTR is a brand-new product with brand-new R&D costs. The real work in that product was the software, which has high costs for the first unit and negligible costs for the second and later units. As someone who makes software for a living, I can say with high confidence that people in my profession don't work free and the good ones don't work cheap.
Right, because no classic Fender has ever been dumped into a landfill. Nor were any of the amps that didn't become classics: Kalamazoos, Lafayettes, Hilgens, Concordias or Premiers.
That last one is significant for me because as we speak, I'm trying to decide the fate of a 1950s-vintage Premier 76 inherited from my father. 76es are difficult to unload when they're working and this one needs a full restoration because it hasn't been powered up since the disco era. I'm capable of doing the work to bring it back up to snuff but the premium on my time right now is large enough that I could probably buy a brand-new boutique amp for less money. I'll give you three guesses where the Premier is likely to end up.
I get what you're saying, but reality is entirely different. Right now, any board failure on a tone master will be covered by warranty, which is fine.
Twin reissues are pcb also - correct. Also easily repairable, but a real bastard to work on the chassis.
When a customer brings one of these in to me, I straight up offer them to convert to traditional eyelet board or a turret style epoxyglass board, with or without mods - it's a side-gig for me and It keeps me from loathing my day job.
I have a resource recovery agent who comes weekly to scavenge my e-waste and pays good money. However, unlike many, I usually remove important IC's and other common but-expensive components, fet's etc, which are good and this brings the cost of repair down for customers (who are musicians and not individually wealthy on the whole).
The warranty on used components is mine to honour and I have no issue with that. To date I have had zero failures of used replaced components since 97. Certainly I have had other issues and knock-on-effect related failures from previously repaired boards, but not issues caused by used replaced components.
For a lot of guys, I'm the 'last bastion' because other repairers in the area (who do it solely for a living) rely on warranty work and their charges don't deviate from what they charge the national agent. The cost is the same regardless.
Also, because warranty work is now 'blind monkey' work, the actual troubleshooting beyond basic power-in voltage test and looking for physical damage to jacks, switches and pots or valves occurs with the least effort. Not all service agents are like this - I feel I have to say that, but there are plenty of inexperienced personnel who do it for a living.
This is the reason I started doing repair jobs - because there were people miffed at some local warranty repairers who weren't "doing a proper job". I offered to fix one and then word of mouth and before I knew it... too much work beyond my day job.
Again, that's all fine and people have to make a living out of repair, but it does alienate some individuals - especially gigging musicians.
I've been on the receiving end of some of their complaints about other techs, and boy - I would not want to have my reputation soiled in such a manner... So I am clear and concise about what I do and how much it will cost. I also make a point of saying that telling me how you feel isn't necessary, when you're bringing a repair to me and not where you had it repaired previously.
But with repair, the kicker is in the detail on pcb's. Diagnosing a modular board and the effort vs time is where warranty repairs create the waste.
Warranty doesn't pay for time, it pays for a fix. Some are fixed-rate repairs... so if there are symptoms 'as described' on the monkey-list, part numbers are ordered, and wholesale swapped out, before a standard test and call the customer. Might save the agent some time, certainly saves the national agent it's money (extra profit).
'Some' parts are required to be returned. major assembly boards for certain models during a certain period post-model-introduction which fail during the warranty period are returned for FA. This is pretty much industry standard, as you would be aware.
But the sad reality is that all PCB-based amps with crowded boards or sad, tsop/fpga etc and covered in hot-snot were never designed to be repaired once they left manufacturing. even removing electrolytics on boards like this is a multiple hour job, where once it would have been less than 5 minutes. So it is no mystery why pcb's are a throwaway.
So the cost of a replacement pub, versus a "retro-mod" tag/eyelet/turret board, with the all-new components on amps that can support this swap in a cost-effective manner (i.e. the "re-issues") is very little in the long run. the upfront cost is a few dollars more, and yes, you possibly could go and buy a boss katana instead, but most musicians I know do not want to do that, they just want their amp repaired. It can be difficult to explain, but when you show a customer the voodoo inside, they suddenly "get it".
So the e-waste thing is not totally avoidable, but if one tries to minimise it by offering warranted repairs as opposed to wholesale swap outs... it's fine, except for one thing...
The customer often says 'just replace it with a new board'. not being mindful of their process contributing to the overall problem. If you can show them a defective component on a pcb, and they understand the repair can be done, but they still want a new board.... well that is OK. I can repair the board and offer it as a reconditioned part at a reduced price, and often a quicker turnaround time.
The customer asks for new, then the customer gets new and pays for new. Sometimes explaining the issue of e-waste falls on deaf ears, so you just do what they ask. If you offer them an alternative which costs a few dollars and reduces their contribution to waste, very rarely do you get a negative reaction. Again, there is an effort over and above warranty in-n-out swaps, and you do have to be mindful of your time, but my personal feeling is everyone should do their best to minimise waste.
Still, I regularly encounter this sentiment that a reconditioned board is 'dirty' or no good to anyone and a new board is 'shiny' and perfect (if only people knew the truth).
There's a good margin on wholesale here about 760AUD inc. a bf twin is approx 1300inc
just a pic for a rough guide on price relationships between wholesale and retail, subject to change obviously.
neither do the hardware engineers, who, like yourself, I can attest 'I don't work cheap'. And neither do the QC/QA staff who are also sw/hw engineers, and typically with better cross-skills than either subset. Most of us spend upwards of 12 hours per day on average, at work, and physical design as well as manufacturing process is a huge cost. so yes, the beancounters are always looking for ways to save on the one-offs and reduce amortised costs on prod runs.
The sarcasm is noted, and no-one in their right mind would make a claim that historically nothing has ever been dumped. The difference is that people in decades past, and still up until quite recently REPAIRED equipment, because it was expensive (and repairable!) until manufacturers created built-in obsolescence. It's only the influence on current living generations- the blind follower, the disposable society, got-to-have-latest-newest ideology - non-thinker-herd mentality types. You know who I am describing - we all do.
Old amps are easy to repair and economical, even if you buy one now and overhaul it.
Yes, point made previously about the amortised costs of long prod runs applies to pcb's and the one-off costs of design, prototyping, testing are already discussed and realised.
Nonetheless, the costs for design of the tone master were not some astronomical figure - they were already evolved from the successive work on the cyber twin and the mustang gt modelling amps.
The biggest effort was in pcb redesign and efficiency for low unit cost. The fpga stuff was already there, minus some custom finesse for the tone master model.
Like all companies who manufacture and develop, leveraging on the existing proven IP, makes subsequent development and model evolution far more cost-neutral, and while initially it still takes a team of engineers to get a product to prototype stage and then out the door in volume, likewise the costs have already been heavily amortised through the previous model iterations.
There's nothing wrong with a tonemaster amp. no-one is really disputing the sound, or the build quality - at least for now, because they are brand new!
Given that it is far cheaper to own a tonemaster than a reissue, it has created a market segment for itself, and there will be many buyers taking that tonemaster badge off the bottom right hand corner - leaving others to wonder. Who can blame them - the amp has classic looks (and I wonder how much of that price is attributed to 'owning the look').
I prefer to look further down the road, to 10 years, after these have 'replaced' the reissue, and see how many require repair. If fenders historic track record is any indicator, then there will be more than enough business to see me continue well into retirement from my day job, should I wish.
There is one advantage that the modern amps have, which no valve amp can match, and that is power efficiency.
So, with that point raised, one could also argue the point that the lower power consumption is better for the environment also. Perhaps it also offsets the potential e-waste issue within a short operational timeframe through energy cost savings...
There's a thought. not a pretty one, but it's possibly validation of the point. Would be good to know how many hours of use it would take to offset the cost of a replacement board, versus an old eyelet board twin.
energy consumption vs longevity vs repair cost. ooh. I feel uncomfortable thinking about it. Pretty sure the answer is not clear cut, and historical data isn't available for a tonemaster.