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Tube Amp Sound - Mountain Lion Growling Through Glass Packs

Discussion in 'Recording' started by wsiler, Jan 26, 2006.

  1. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member

    Hello All,

    I am looking for a new tube amp in the $500 range and I would love to hear about your experience with different amps. I am looking the "the sound". For me, that sound is as the title describes. Throaty growling tube overdrive. The problem? Low budget.

    To those who will tell me "only your ears can tell", I plan on making the trip to my local Guitar Center over the weekend to do some ciritcal listening. It just happens to be a long drive for me so getting opinions may save me some time. I would love to hear what others think of amps that are out there. Consider it just giving me the cliff notes so I have some candidates to look for specifically. 8)

    Also, if you have a great tube amp and stomp box combo let me know that too. I will be using my Boss SD-1 and a Turbo Rat for my supplemental distortion and overdrive needs.

    I think I will be looking at Vox, Traynor, and Fender. Will see though...

    Guitar is a '89 Fender American Standard Strat with Silver Lace Sensor pickups.

  2. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Of those 3 brands that you listed:
    Vox is fairly limited, and not exactly known as "throaty". Made in China.
    Traynor. A friend of mine has the YCV40 (?).40 watts and a 12".Sings like a bird.Well-built by Canooks.
    Fender. Many models to choose from. The DeVille series is popular. Good blues tone you can push with the RAT. Competently made in Mejico.
    Big problem with all 3...more than $500.00!
    You can certainly check them out at the GC store. Then shop for a used one on,say, e-Bay.
    Also check out Davedog's raving about the Goldtone amp (Gibson) on this forum. That should also be at GC to test-drive...
  3. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member

    Excellent info. Thank you!
    The Traynor's I am looking at (online) are the...

    Traynor Custom Valve 20 (YCV20WR) - Less than $500

    and the...

    Traynor Custom Valve 40 (YCV40) - Just over at $530.

    Until I get my guitar connected and give a good go round I won't know for sure but on paper (or on screen I guess) the Traynor looks to be a great value and has lots of positive reviews.

    Fender I was thinking Hot Rod Deluxe.

  4. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member

    Any other recommendations anyone?

    If you have a great tube amp under (or around) $500 that can growl, let me know!

  5. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member

    I played a Fender Hot Rod Deville($699), a 59 Bassman($???), and a Mesa Boogie F-30 112 Combo. The boogie is definitely not under $500. It comes in at $950 or so. If is worth it for the 6 tubes (4 12aX7 and 2 EL84) and the amazing tone this thing could pull out with tweaking. No Traynor was present to test. I will have to find one to test on. Didn't play the Vox I saw around there but what I have seen on Harmony and here suggests less desirable than other brands.

    I liked the Mesa Boogie for the most part but it seems a little too much on the distortion side. It really rips on channel two with contour. I think the Hot Rod Deville may be more to my liking. The more I think about it the more I feeling it may be teh amp I am looking for.

    Think I will try it out with a Boss SD-1 tomorrow and see if the tone checks up like I like.

  6. Vaylence

    Vaylence Guest

    I believe it is kind of the way around here to suggest, saving for what you really want. This time next year you may be in the 1000+ range and in that case you can start looking at some serious heads. We are talking stuff you will use the rest of your life.

    I bought my dual rec this way, and even though I cashed out 1200 on ebay I have never regreted it.

    If you jump in now and spend the 500, in a year you may say to yourself, man this really just isnt cutting it, and your eyes gleam over when you dream about your "X" amp, but think "man I could never afford that", you will kick yourself.

    if your not in a big ol time crunch look into putting the money in a CD at your el banko so the cash not just sitting there in your checking account begging to be spent.

    hope this could be a serious option for you, other wise I am afraid that you are going to end up compromising your sound. Big throaty tube distortion for less than 500, could be rough.
  7. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member


    There is wisdom in that reply. I figure that at the minimum I will get out of this at $1000 so I am going to wait it out until I can really spend some time testing out amps and saving dough. I still want to play the Traynor and see how it sounds at $700. Listened to a Bad Cat (mp3 on their site) and that thing sounds amazing. There is one on eBay now as matter of fact. I just cannot drop $1600 today. Anyone remember being single and having cash? - LOL - Being "daddy" gets expensive - :) - Awesome though.

    The silver lining is there though. Just borrowed an amp from my B-I-L that he doesn't use. It is a late 70's Peavey Classic VTX Series. Uses solid state in the Pre and two 6L6GC tubes in the power. Oddly enough it is not bad for a transistor pre stage. Been sitting here dialing in sound with my Boss SD-1 (early 90's model) and DOD Stereo Chorus. Sounds beautiful. Also doing a little Turbo Rat and Chorus. Guitar is a strat with lace sensors. I am getting quite good sound by working the amp and stomp box settings. So at least for now I am satisfied.... Until I can get my personal "mecca" amp.

    Funny thing is he went and got a Marshall because he could not get a tone he liked (I had to dial it in for him). He is going to lose it when he hears this. Not totally the tube saturation I am looking for but it is still very nice.
    My only question now is whether to change the tubes. I know he ran it hard everytime he got a chance but when I tapped the tubes, I did not get any microphonics. I can get a couple og J/J 6L6GC for $30 though so it is tempting just to see how much it alters the sound. Not sure it will since it is tubes in output stage only??

    Now I just need a Keely Compressor and I will be styling with the stomp boxes. Probably going to have the Rat and Boss modded too. I would really love to get a ocuple of Voodoo Labs pedals (Chorus and Sparkle Drive). Ah, the wait...

    Thanks for the advice!

  8. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I used to sell those Peaveys when they were NEW!! The frontend sounded like crap if you tried to overdrive that ratty transistor preamp. But if you keep the "Pre" gain down, and then crank the "Post" gain control, not bad at all. Then you get the distortion from a pedal, like the RAT.
    As far as the power tubes are concerned, are they the factory-issued Sylvanias? Just curious. To answer your question, YES. Keep the tubes in good "fresh" condition. If you don't you will KILL the output transformer, which is not a real quality component in the first place. Hard use will eat them up. And BTW, it's usually the preamp tubes (you ain't got) that go microphonic in the first place. Power tubes have their own funky quirks as they go bad, and they're not as obvious. Pop for a good set and get'em biased. Enjoy!
  9. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member


    Thanks for the reply!

    I would totally concur with your assessment of the OD. I have the pre down at 2 and the post pretty low actually too just to get a good cleanish sound. I don't have the footswitch unfortunately. As far as I know, these are the original tubes. How does one get tubes biased? I have owned two tube amps and never thought to get to know them until now.

  10. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    The amp needs to be taken to a reputable tech who is familiar with that process. It's not rocket science, but you do have to know what you're doing. I believe that resistors will have to be changed out, don't recall specifically. Those amps were a "poor man's Musicman" amp, in that they had the solid-state front end. The footswitching permits you to "A/B" the 2 channels, or run them together, or run one into the other ("Automix"). Running one into the other made it sound like a swarm of killer bees! The Peavey version of "overdrive" back then was pretty bad. Buzzy, fuzzy, and scuzzy! Stick to it clean...
  11. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Maybe I am late to the thread but I got some suggestions - all secondhand apart from the Cornford Hurricane which retails £400 here. 18w and its lovely.

    Lesser-known reputable tube amps are the way to go here - Clark, Matamp, ENGL, Rivera Clubster or M/S series, Dr Z, THD? All of which will be available to the clever bear for about $500 secondhand I think.

    What about the JCM800? Ampeg Lee Jackson? You're gonna have to hear them but there is a wealth out there.

    Hopefully if you've already decided to stick with what you got, this is useful to others.
  12. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member

    Actually I sold my Ampeg Lee Jackson 1/2 stack last year. It was just too much amp for what I do now. Thanks for the suggestions! I will try to check them out as well before I make a purchase.

  13. jarrydn

    jarrydn Guest

    Back onto the subject of the hybrid peavey amps, I have a Peavey Mace (transistor pre, tube power...six 6L6's!!!), which I managed to score for a meager $400AUD, and it sounds absolutely heavenly clean, or distorted (with my ever trusty metalzone).
  14. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    The Mace, eh? I just saw one of those at my local geetar shop for $375.00USD. Lynyrd Skynyrd used those amps onstage for outrageous volume. I sold a ton of those amps-the Classic, the Deuce, and the Mace-during the late 70s. My hometown is the their hometown and the redneck rockers here ate those amps up like candy! All those amps were basically knock-offs of the original Musicman amps.
    I think for what Wsiler is wanting, a pair of 6L6s is plenty. It doesn't sound to me like a big Dual Rec or a JCM800 is his style. I recently sold a JCM800 from my studio because players wanted a warmer tone, with less "edge", but I cater more to blues and jazz than grunge rock these days.
  15. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member

    You are exactly right moonbaby. I am of the mind that I can always get a heavier sound out of a good amp through the use of pedals and such. However, it is harder for me to get a more mellow bluesy tone like I want from an amp like a Marshall. An amp with a couple of lower wattage tubes will get me to the sound I want and a good clean channel and nice tone wil serve me well. What I write and play tends to be more blues and rock oriented. Grunge rock is not really my thing but I did have a love of metal back in the 90's...

    On the note of tubes. I sent an email over to support at Groove Tubes asking if I could change out my 6L6GC tubes with some of their "coke bottle" 6L6GC tubes. He more or less said I would have to re-engineer the ampt ot do that. Confused me big time at first. I think what he meant was they were the wrong tubes but since he failed to offer up which tubes are the correct ones from GT, I am left with big question marks.

    Do you know which specific tubes are a good replacement for the 6L6GC in these amps? I am looking for a great clean sound with nice warmth and tone.

  16. jarrydn

    jarrydn Guest

    I believe he may have been referring to the actual physical layout of the tubes in your amp ;). If your standard straight 6L6 tubes are bunched up close together, there's no way you'll be able to squeeze in the coke bottle style ones. To get the GTs to fit in, you'd have to remove the valve mounts from the chassis of your amp, then space them further apart. If you're hand with a soldering iron and power drill, and don't mind voiding your warranty, then maybe that's an option to persue?
  17. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member

    You know that makes total sense now. He just pointed me at his tube amp primer write up which taught me a lot about how tubes work but did not seem to really address what my issue was. I am nto too bad with a soldering iron but I cannot imagine tearing this thing up just for those tubes. With all the NOS and Russian and Chinese tubes out there, there has got to be a nice set that will work for this amp. I think my first move will be to buy a cheap tube tester and see how bad these puppies really are. That may save me a lot of time and effort. Of course the desire to tinker is pretty high though so I may just get some tubes even if these are OK. Since they are the originals from circa 1979 (at a guess) I would say replacement could not hurt anything.

  18. jarrydn

    jarrydn Guest

    Yeah, I'm still rocking some '79 tubes in my Mace...but there's 6 of them...waaaay to expensive for me to replace right now =). And anyway, I've only cranked it up once or twice since it's been in my hands...I normally just use it for practising and jamming, and it sounds fine. For near on 30 year old tubes, the old Electro Harmonix still have some life left in them yet! :D

    I can definitely reccomend that you look into Sovtek valves. I've got a Sovtek head, and the valves sound great. Those crazy Russians :)
  19. wsiler

    wsiler Active Member

    So you hail from Perth? I have a mate that has a farm around Lismore on the other side of the island. I was there in '99 and went to the Blues Festival (in Brisbane I believe?) and saw Robbin Trower amongst many others. You Aussies know how to throw one hell of a music festival! Everyone was mosh diving into a huge mud hole and I kept smelling some kind of funny smoke wafting through the crowd... But like our President of that era, I did not inhale. No really, I promise! 8)
    It was like what I imagine a mini-Woodstock would be! Always wished I had made it to the west side the continent though.

    Thanks for the tip! I will check out the Sovteks for sure!

  20. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Electro-Harmonix (Mike Matthews) did not get into the tube business until after the Iron Curtain fell 10 years later than '79. If your tubes have an E-H logo on them they are certainly NOT 30 years old. That's a good thing...
    As far as what tubes you should use, any decent 6L6GC from E-H, Sovtek,JJ (formerly Tesla...my current faves), and Svetlana are all good. Like I said before, the Peavey amps from that era used American Sylvanias (usually), and some RCA and GE as well. It was all about $$$ for Hartley Peavey...whoever gave him the deal at that moment got the business. And Sylvania was the quickest to want to dump tubes in place of transistors. And the reason that Groove Tubes said that the amp would have to be re-engineered could be that the wiring to the sockets was different. Some amps from Musicman, Carvin, and Traynor have had issues when using "newer" tube designs.....

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