Hello my friends in guitar land. The most frequent question I receive from my fellow guitar players is how do I get my own sound. First, I would like to say that in my opinion a signature sound comes from your hands not from your gear. And also from a picture you have in your mind of what you want your “voice” to convey. But the idea that certain equipment will help reproduce the sound you have worked so long and hard to achieve is relevant. So I will give you an idea of what I think is a good set-up for certain types of music and specific roles being played in a musical setting. Please remember that I humbly submit these opinions in good fun and are based on over 30+ years of playing live and in the studio, as well a collecting guitars and amps during those years. I know there are plenty of guitar players out there who know a helluva lot more then I do about guitaring.
One of the true major players in oddball amps, the Silvertone 1484 guitar amp is pretty well known. It’s so well know, that it may not actually qualify as an oddball amp. But it’s still from the great Nat Daniel, the man behind the awesome kings of Masonite and lipstick pickups and wallpaper-as-Tolex’ the Danelectro company, who designed and produced some of the greatest oddball amplifiers ever done.
Tradition is a powerful thing and change is hard to make. But, if you consider how tone controls affect an amp’s signal chain, investigate what a guitar and amp sound like with minimal tone controls (or none!) and then decide if you really need them, you might be surprised at your conclusion.
You’ve finally made your decision to slap down some of your scarce cash on a reissue or new model tube amp built in the Far East for a BIG name manufacturer. It seems like a great deal: the vintage amps of this model sell for thousands of dollars more, it looks like the real thing and the specs appear to be the same (same tubes, same power, same controls, etc.). And, it sounded pretty darn good in the store too.
Class A tube guitar amps. Everyone’s heard the term. It’s generally associated with higher-end amps in support of an amp maker’s claim that their product sounds “better”. I’ll leave the debate as to which is better to others. What I want to discuss is what Class A really means and, from the pet peeve perspective, to debunk many amp manufacturers’ claims that their products are Class A when clearly they’re not! You may be surprised at how many amp makers falsely claim Class A operation. So, let’s review, in practical terms, what Class A really is and learn a simple rule of thumb you can use to spot operating class BS!
And this month, I sing the praises of another obscure and beautiful amplifier, in this case a 1966 Lectrolab S 400. I’ve seen a few Lectrolabs over the years and they are all pretty cool amps. The 400 series seem to be (and this is based only on observation and scattered information. No one seems to know very much about these) all single-ended small amps with a single EL84 for output and one or two eight inch speakers. The 600 series are more in the 15-20 watt range with either two 6V6’s or two EL84’s (driving a twelve inch speaker), depending on the year. And the 800 series, which I’ve never seen in person, I haven’t been able to find much about, other than that they seem like later versions of the 600’s. The 900 series are El84-equiped heads (very rare).
In Dave Hunter’s great book, The Guitar Amp Handbook, he asks several respected boutique amplifier makers about any sleepers out there on the vintage market (i.e., any great sounding amps that aren’t going for the at-time obscene money that even a Silverface Fender is fetching on the market these days’ though many of them are, of course, fine amps.). Ken Fischer (of Trainwreck fame) talks about a couple of amps that he claims compare favorably to a Marshall 18 Watt Model & the Early Ampeg Reverberockets (AKA Reverbrockets to some), and the Harmony 415, made by Valco in the mid to late 1960’s.
So what did I buy? A late 1940’s Fidelity amp, of course. Haven’t heard of Fidelity? Me, neither. But it met the needs. It was very light an easy to carry. As for meeting my volume needs…it was VERY quiet. Dead quiet. As in, silent. So, that part needed some work. Sixty bucks. Not bad. Less than an assembly-line stomp box. It looked like a 50’s space heater in crap brown with tootsie roll brown and vanilla cream paint and chicken head knobs. Score, Daddio.
I hope you good folks have enjoyed my column so far. This column will be unlike the others as there will be not be so much technical “guitarspeak”. There will only be the truth as I know it, about being a gigging guitar player in the sometimes unfriendly world of clubs, bars and venues big and small.
Hello everyone. I hope you are all winging your way through guitar heaven. Guess what? It’s another list – this time I have listed what I believe to be the best guitar amplifiers for the money. Some may be pricey and not for everyone, but I still believe them to be a good deal.
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