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Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty? 
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Simethicone
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Post Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Requirements: must be loud enough to sound decent at "rock drummer" volume. Should have a good clean-to-crunchy channel. A Rawk Distortion channel is purely optional. (Things I still have for dirt if necessary- somewhat modded SD-1, HM-2, Pod XT (more likely to use this as an effect unit). Also, I've heard there's a cheap OCD clone floating around out there.)

Scrimping and saving for a "good" amp is not an option and merely prolongs the suffering. Solid state is totally acceptable. What's out there that sounds not-so-bad?

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Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:56 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Jet City?
Peavey VTM?

Actually, how cheap is cheap here?

And what sort of wattage/soundlevel are you looking for?

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Fri Jan 03, 2014 8:40 am
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Volume-wise, something that'll stay cleanish at drummer levels, so louder than an AC15 or Deluxe. Probably at least 30 watts tube, more for S/S.

That's starting to approach "good amp" money (indeed, I'd go so far as to say those are good amps, if not gearsnob-swanky). No, we're talking punkrawk ghettocheap-as-cheap-can-be here. We're talking used, of course, and say I could scrape up $300 without hating myself too badly if I could find something respectable. Four is pushing it. Cheaper is better and a lot more likely as this town is a gear wasteland.

Like, old Peaveys? Those Vox valvestate-modling jobbers? Solid-state Marshalls and Fenders? Crate V-series? Other things? I am not looking for respectable, only "produces sound" and "doesn't sound that bad clean-ish-breaking-up-a-little". This is solely utilitarian so I can play live in a band again. I have no money and need gear, and am not going to have money for a while, what with the school thing. (Though I will have loans for living expenses; I have heard stories of HCAFers blowing student loan money on nice rigs, but I'm a little too old and responsible for that.)

This is a little new to me as I've been using "nice" gear for a good long while. I have to go back to poor college student gear. I miss the "having a proper band" thing though.

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Fri Jan 03, 2014 9:30 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Like i said, Peavey VTM is a fine choice. The 60 and 120 are both basically modified marshall sorts of circuits. I haven't looked for one in a bit, but they used to go for 200-300 all day long.

The Crate V-series can be awesome actually, especially if you can find one of the older Vintage Club ones. The 20, 30, and 50 are all good. The newer v-whatevers are supposed to be okay too. Most of what i have seen of those though, is folks on amp-building forums modding them into different circuits. For your voiced aim, they could do the trick. A trip to a local GC to try one out might sort that out.

In solid state, you probably wouldn't want to go for anything less than 100 watts. Ampeg 140C or Crate GX130C are decent enough. Famous for the metal records they were recorded onto, but pretty solid clean channels too, definitely a solid pedal base. And nice gain channels too, as far as SS goes. The Randall RG series is another good one to look out for in this category.

The Peavey Transtubes are decent too. I have an older 100w transtube head. Through a good cab it is actually pretty solid. The clean channel gets kind of rock and roll when dimed.

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Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:54 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Noted. :nods: What about some of the newer Peavey stuff? I see Valvekings and Windsors going fairly cheap. Being full of t00bs, I'm less initially skeptical of them sonically- anything I should be aware of? I've honestly found Peavey stuff in general to be decent sounding.

I remember those older Crate Vintage Clubs were supposed to be hidden gem/sleeper Nice Amps, now that I think about it. I do believe I've even played one once, years ago, and remember it being pretty good.

Can the gain channels on the Ampeg and Crate SS stuff do things that don't sound like Suffocation records as well?

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Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:12 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Snaxocaster wrote:
Can the gain channels on the Ampeg and Crate SS stuff do things that don't sound like Suffocation records as well?


I want to say yes? But i seem to recall liking the crunch of the clean channel better for my own porpoises that were not bad-metal-related. :red:

Another solid choice in SS might be something like the Crate G-212. Heavy as hell 2x12, properly awful gain channel, but the clean channel has a master and a really excellent amount and flavor of light-to-medium dirt. I still have the one my parents bought me back in the day as my very first amp, and i still am pretty sure that i could use it without problem to play shows, write, and record with if something happened where i didn't have my homemade/tube amps. Actually, it is kind of sad, but after i built my first amps, a marshall 18 watt circuit, and then a classic fender blackface style one, i actually preferred the sound of the olde crate SS. That is actually why i even built the second amp anyhow. It was the feeling that this was not a right way to be that led me to try a whole pile more of circuits before i discovered that it was the Vox flavor that i was looking for. The G-212 doesn't sound like a Vox, but there is something very useful about the way that the clean channel breaks up that reminds me of some aspect of what i like about the vox/matchless/etc amp circuits. I would be surprised if they sold for much more than 150 these days. And would not be surprised to see one sub-100 at all. Definitely loud enough to hang with drums, too. My high school punk rock amp.

I honestly don't know much about the valvekings and windsors at all. I feel like i have filed them away into some corner of my brain where i would tend to avoid them, though i don't know how they wound up there, at all. :idk:

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Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:32 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Granted I could probably find a use for the metal channel on occasion, but likely more as an effect than anything. Or for the occasional weedly-solo, as I am wont to solo in a weedly fashion on occasion. :snax:

Re: the olde Crate G-212 and Being Of A Voxiness, 's why I mentioned those Vox modeling things with the t00b in the front end- not for the modeling, but because the voicing might be a decent platform. It's a flavor I'm fond of, and not the most common thing out there.

Re: the newer Peaveys, having a portion of my brain, which is presumably still contained within my skull?, stuffed with large amplifiers sounds rather uncomfortable. I'm not surprised you avoid it. :shock: I did see a Windsor half-stack for $399 BIN on the 'bay earlier, though, which is rather impressively cheap for a 100-watt tube head and cab in pristine shape.

What I'll eventually wind up getting, I've no idea at this point, but it's good to know what's out there.

On things to avoide, my memory tells me the old Marshall Valvestates did not sound very good, the gain channels especially. And I had a VS100R head for a brief while. Something-or-other wasn't working right on it though, so I took it back to the store in exchange for a then-just-released Marshall AVT50H head, which I remember sounding much better. I even have a couple recordings of it around somewhere, still.

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Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:46 am
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Valvekings sound like cock, IMO. I have heard good stuff about the Windsors, though. YMMV.

I would try to get a VTM, myself. Or maybe a Classic 30 or 50?

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Sat Jan 04, 2014 7:06 am
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Magnitogorsk
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Broseidon wrote:
Or maybe a Classic 30 or 50?


Ah, yes! Both fantastic maps, IMO. And at this point they can't be too expensive, can they?

If it was the old days i would suggest a sovtek or an ampeg v2, but the word on those is way out now. I myself should have bought one of each when they were $200-300. :fistshake:

The Crate G-212's voxiness, is definitely something vibe-like that i personally get from the way the thing works. I don't know if anyone else would pick that up from it. But i do think that the clean channel would be a serviceable tool for more folks than just me. Mainly, i would expect them to be available for extremely cheap these days. And for extremely cheap, it is something i could definitely work with myself.

I do rather dislike the Valvestates. I did not find their crunch or distortion to be decent or serviceable. It seemed to me that there was something fucked up going on in the voicing of the amp or something that made it seem squashed or scooped or something... off. Come to think of it, i think this might also be something of why i seem to recall making a mental note to avoid the Valveking. Really, whatever you can try out for yourself, will help you see what kind of thing you will be able to work with.

I would say that the main thing is that if you get a head, you get a decent cab. Most of the cabs that these cheaper amps would have shipped with, are very often not worth any price at all. A particle board 4x12 will sound slightly better with four decent speakers in it, but even still, it is a universe of difference between even that and just a bone stock JCM800 4x. That is where it can get tricky to stay under budget. But just the same, random stuff pops up on craigslist all the time and you might find someone (or someone's parents) with a cheap head and a decent cab who wants to dump both for cheap. :idk:

Also, random things like the cab from the crate vintage club combos, actually sound pretty decent, even with the stock crate "specially designed" speakers. Sometimes, expected trash can actually work pretty well.

The main thing to look out for is weird voicings on some of this shit. Cheap speakers generally means small magnets, and small magnets seem not to be able to move very much very quickly. The low and AND high end suffer, and weirdly boxy mids and a general squawkiness will be some of the signs. Shit will just sound weird. Think of how good guitar sounds sound when you play through things. If it seems weird, it may BE weird, and no microphone placement will fix it.

If you have to go back and forth between normal amps/cabs that you can't afford while trying things out, so as not to let your ears get too accustomed to the weirdness of some of the cheapo cabs, you probably should. To me, it is mostly a frequency thing. Some shit just sounds wrong, and it is hard to pinpoint. But playing it back to back with like a JCM or something, will make what sounds wrong much easier to pinpoint and avoid.

Try out as much of the crap as possible in your local storeplace, and get an idea of what really, maybe would or wouldn't do what you want it to. :idk:

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Sat Jan 04, 2014 9:01 am
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Simethicone
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
I've seen used Classic 30s fall in the "acceptable" price range on the 'bay. If I could find one locally, even better. I'd be content with one. And noted on the Valvekings. "Cock" is not a tone I'm looking for. :lol: The Windsors are s'posed to be an 800 thing, IIRC? The one VTM I've seen locally was going for far too much; I supsect someone heard the Soundgarden connection and rolled with it.

Anyone played a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe in the recent past? I had one as a loaner probably... eleven/twelve years ago for times when I didn't feel like carting a halfstack around, but I remember it being wonky sounding- harsh cleans, ugly, muddy gain... But, I was playing metal at the time, and likely as not with EMGs, too. So my recollections are clouded a bit.

Yeah, the Sovteks and Ampeg V2s are no longer cheap. Shit, I remember finding blackface Fender Bandmasters for >$400 ten years ago or so. I should have picked those up then.

Re: the Marshall Valvestates, the gain channel voicing was... Odd. And not pleasantly so. It wasn't even cool in a fucked-up way. Its replacement, I remember sounding an awful lot like a Marshall; from what I'd read later on, apparently the AVT50 was the best of that lot sonically and was voiced differently than its larger brethren. It didn't hold up to the JCM 2000 or the JMP, but it did sound like a Marshall amp.

Speakers are definitely an issue. I can't even think of any good deals in the 4x12 world; stock Marshall 1960 beat-to-crap is, really, about it. I remember Peavey cabs being less-than-good. Actually, I do seem to remember the better (not Spider series) Line 6 4x12s being made of Actual Wood and having serviceable speakers in them? Really, I'd be happy with a decent combo, but it's a "what turns up" issue. A head/cab setup is probably something I'd have to score as a set.

Now, it also occurs to me that my ladyfriend's father has a rather pristine Musicman 65 2x12 combo in his attic just sitting there. I have no idea if it gets used, and I remember when we were over there for Xmas she'd mentioned it to his wife who had no idea if the thing even worked and we discussed it's probably a cheap fix if it doesn't. I could always send feelers out in that direction, but I know those are Worth Money, and while they're quite well off, I wouldn't want to make a lowball offer on the amp either.

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Sat Jan 04, 2014 6:30 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Those Music Man combos are supposed to be great, actually. IIRC, they are similar-ish to the valvestate concept, i.e. tube+SS, but in reverse, meaning SS in the pre and a tube power section. They are supposed to be pretty cool, loud, and fendery.

The Hot Rod Deluxes are in cabinets that are slightly too small, IMO. That has, IMO a lot to do with why they seem voiced wonky. The Devilles (especially the Blues Devilles) are better (but with very similar circuits, mostly just different power stages) and can actually sound pretty great. Very fender-style soundz. Blackface Bassman type circuits with random SS shit for reverb and fx loop, kind of like the Vox AC30CC angle on mixing the old w/ the relative new. They are not awful at all. Reliability seems to be a bit more of an issue over the long term though. I have had one of my friends in a pile of times for blown caps and shit like that(they use pretty cheap-ass caps and given that wall voltages are more likely to be 125v than the 115v that a lot of amp circuits are drawn up for, the (IIRC)450v caps in the power section are more often likely to be seeing 460-480v, which makes them far more likely to eat themselves sooner than later.)

Something like that will be the story of much of the cheapest amp segment. Peaveys are usually well-specc'ed and built, actually kind of across all of their lines that i have seen, from bandits, to 5150s. I have heard some folks say that the Music Mans needed a lot of fixing, but others saying that they were tanklike and never needed anything. Crates and Ampegs (basically been the same company for a while) are good usually on the older stuff, but the newer crate shit seems to be of mixed longevity/solidity. They are definitely now building them cheaply in a cheap way, from what i have seen of the more recent V-series.

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Sat Jan 04, 2014 6:52 pm
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Simethicone
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
That's something I've noticed about Peaveys- they're nothing if not really rugged. I've seen 1x12 Bandits (IIRC they're 85w?) go for under $100 in perfect working order. And if my memory serves me they don't actually sound bad either? (Didn't Robert Smith use a pair of them for a while?) Peavey in general seems very reliable and has like zero resale value or close to it, especially the SS stuff. I wouldn't be too shocked if I wound up with some of their gear based on the reliability angle.

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Sat Jan 04, 2014 8:30 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Some of the old old Bandits are awesome tube amps, IIRC. Most of them are kind of crudsoundy SS amps. I fucking love all of them.

Also keep peeled for amps that look like old peavey bandits. Some had different names and were tube. The Triumph was one of them, IIRC. I think another was the Rockmaster? Or something like that. Sonic Youth used/uses them. And the name is fantastic.

Randomly i was looking around and saw this thing which is relatively right down the street from you and looks IMO intriguing:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/vintage-univox- ... 35d03fe0bc

(even though i know, it is at the top of your range, and with no damn cab, so not really very useful to you.)

Shit, what do the fauxmarshall and ersatzbadcat Bugeras go for these days?

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Sat Jan 04, 2014 8:43 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
I swear I saw that on a local CL; Rochester, I think.

I do actually have an old Univox cab, 1x15. I think it was meant as a bass cab originally? It's missing the backboard- it was falling apart ages ago, and a friend of mine wired a length of 1/4" speaker cable straight to the speaker. It's been sitting in my parents' basement since forever, but it's still there and in no worse shape than the last time anything was ever plugged into it. I painted a Sisters Of Mercy head-and-star logo on it when I was like, 18 or so, and it served as a cool-looking table for a while.

With that head and the cab, that might gain me some hipster cred. :lol:

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Sat Jan 04, 2014 9:02 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Bugera v22. No shit. I love this little map. I got one about 3-4 years ago. I use it at practice, I have done many gigs with it when I am not feeling like lugging the Bogner. 2 Channel, I use the dirty channel barely dirty, then hit it with OD/distortion to break it up. I paid $200 for mine, would do it again. I think new they are > $350, used easily $200.

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Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:06 am
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
How does it do with regard to cleans at higher volumes, though? I'd be concerned with a lower wattage amp like that, you wouldn't have a useable clean(ish) tone at "drummer volume".

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Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:45 pm
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
If not that one, then the V55 might do the trick? Used prices on those are higher, but seem like they might still be in range.

That said, snaxo, have you ever played a 22w amp with a drummer? Depending on circuit design, it is actually possible for a smaller amp to be quite cleanish at loud volumes. I don't personally know why anyone would want to, but i could actually probably get a cleanish sound out of my own amp even, even after all of the things i have done to it, to lower its breakup point with circuit messings-about.

Also, something like the fender deluxe reverb for instance is actually fairly clean, and i have seen surf rock bands play live with them with totally clean sounds.

The Matchless Spitfire, and actually even the Dr. Z Maz 18, are also widely used live, and not just for crunchy sounds. Actually, a lot of folks are surprised how clean those amps want to be. F'rinstance, lots of folks build the Spitfire, and end up re-building the things into Lightnings(more gain stages/lower volume breakup). And didn't our own mr. newholland spend a bit of time getting his Z to behave to his liking? I thought one of his issues was indeed its cleanliness? :idk:

That said, for OTT fuzzes and the like, the moar headroom the better, generally. But i think you should try out some smaller amps too to see just what they might get you, especially with the lowish budget. You might not be able to get enough clean from the wattage, sure, but you might also be surprised at what you find.

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Wed Jan 08, 2014 3:17 am
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
i'll indeed vouch for the z being loud 'nuf for drummer rock :D chris- yer memory is prodigious! i did indeed work on cleanliness-- but my main ish was getting that teeter tottery fulcrum point of clean enough/nice harmonic and tonal balance under gain/loud enough to play with drummer. to make it trickier.. sheesh.. i only have ONE tone knob.. :D but its amazing how much swing i actually have with gain on that sucker... i can have full out incendiary chuggzoRz, or a goodly pretty clean. it took a while to figure out exactly how to get it right though given the.. er.. lack of control :D

18-20 watters are definitely loud enough for drummers in my book- not 'fender twin clean and loud'--- but a good rock & roll dirtyclean. for monsieur eric.. may be a little too dirty given how much time based fx he uses.. and seems like a lot of the littler guys don't have loops in particular for that sorta bizness. that said.. those're compromises i'm willing to give in to- especially given that i personally don't, and the immediacy of an amp without STUFF in it is heinous addictive to me... but i can appreciate how they might be a little problematic to some pedal guys at really loud rock volumes.

but if you can live with a little dirt in your cleans... the benefits of a micro-circuit... i think far outweigh the compromises- and it'd put 15-20 watters in the running for rock drummer loud for sure! you just gotta know that the circuit and the transformers get really important-- and quite a few REAL cheapies sound kinda bad due to bad parts quality. i.e. the vox night train. :P beware.. that is a f'rinstance of a badly implemented version of this strategy...

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Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:00 am
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
Snaxocaster wrote:
How does it do with regard to cleans at higher volumes, though? I'd be concerned with a lower wattage amp like that, you wouldn't have a useable clean(ish) tone at "drummer volume".

I think it does a useable clean at drummer volume. I practiced last night with it, with have 2 guitar, bass, drums, and backing trax, 4 vocals, it was more than loud on the clean channel. Another guy I recommended it to bought one uses it for every gig, has no problem hanging.

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Wed Jan 08, 2014 11:50 am
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Post Re: Let's talk cheap guitarmaps: what's not so shitty?
To Chris: 15w, yes. 18-22, not that I recall. Unless a Mark IV on Tweed Power/Triode/Class A counts as >30w. Which it probably does. Sounded awesome, but I used exactly 0 clean tones like that, so I can't comment. I'll defer to youse guyse re: volumes. Dan was right re: the amount of 'verb and delay I'm prone to use though, which is my prime concern- I don't need crystalline cleans as I tend to have a touch of grit going anyhow.

Experiences with the AC30 tell me that's too loud- I think of it more like a 50 watter anyhow. I think Dan is right re: circuit design/transformers being critical here.

I appreciate all the help here. :isay: :huzzah:

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Wed Jan 08, 2014 6:27 pm
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