Since people ask here the same question on a regular basis, "What amp should I buy?" or "Any amp suggestions?" or one of its infinite variants, I though it might be neat to compile a "Jemsite guide to amps" sort of a thing. I scribbled down quickly something off my memory, feel free to add to it. Maybe someone (Glen, myself, anyone?) could, after the 100+ posts
, compile & edit the text to be the first source of info for the player in search of a new amp. Then make it sticky or whatnot, I guess it might save some server space or something. Or just close it down and let it drift into oblivion.
The point is not to make some brand stand out, but to bring out the good qualities of any amp known to public. Your cup of tea may not be the one for the rest of us, so please try to be objective, so this project will not start to resemble something like Harmony Central at its worst.
Here we go then. Many manufacturers (like Budda, Cornford) and loads of info are still missing, so like said, go on and add your knowledge. Maybe a reference list of distinct amp tones on recordings might be useful as well.
The Jemsite guide to guitar amps
This article of reference was put together by jemsite members in order to help you to choose the very amp for you and your needs. It is by no means endorsed by any company, but based on the subjective experiences and opinions of individuals involved in guitar playing.
If you are in search of a new amp and wish to get some suggestions, please refer to this article and the manufacturers' web sites, and then please do a site search before posting a new thread. Thank you and happy hunting!
Flextone, POD Pro XT, Vetta
- Versatile, non-tube amps with efx. Should give enough gain without an OD pedal (depending of the model of course) for metal stuff as well. Models include Fender, Marshall, Soldano, Boogie and Matchless amps. Some people don't like modelling amps because of their "lack of response and feel". Line6 products have found their way into many recording studios, homes and stages around the world, and were a huge factor in the breakthrough of modelling amps during the last few years.
JCM 800, JCM 900, DSL, TSL, JMP, 1959, Mode Four
- Marshall has defined the "industry standard" rock sound, the British tone, over its 40 years of history. Their sound is saturated and not so mid-heavy. Marshall users include Zakk Wylde, Slash, Scott Ian, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai, and many others.
- Marshalls do not have the "highest gain around", but seem to excel at "cruch"-type tones. Many players use high-output pickups and an OD pedal to kick the amp to fierce distortion. For heavy rock and metal tones, the JCM 800 is the weapon of choice of many. Arguably the best ones are the 50 & 100w single channel heads from the early '80s. Although lacking in controls and multiple channels, they deliver the thing they're built for: rock tone. Vai's Passion and Warfare was recorded mostly with modified JCM800s. The 1987 Jubilee Series is also worth checking out: They're one of Jim Marshalls favourites, Slash's amp of choice, and Steve Morse has sang praises for the 2550 head, which he has used extensively for recording. JCM800s are still available for reasonable prices in the second hand market, as are the Jubilees. The JCM900s are used by many metal players.
- The most sought-after Marshalls are the vintage ones made in the '60s and '70s. They have been used by Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen to create legendary tones. The old ones are not high gain amps, and were ofter modified by skilful amp techs for more preamp gain. But as with all Marshalls, the tone gets very impressive at loud (most would say ridiculously loud) volumes; responsive, dynamic & huge. Only the 1959 Reissue is currently in production, and the prices for vintage amps are sky high. The JMP amp made in late '70s to 1983 can still be found at somewhat affordable prices, and is the poor man's ticket to vintage vibe without a second mortgage.
- The newer Marshalls like DSL (Dual Super Lead), TSL (triple-) and Mode Four offer more channels and versatility. Marshalls are ofter dissed for lacking a good clean sound, but these multi-channel amps also deliver those goods for the players who need best of the both worlds. DSL, TSL and Mode Four also deliver very high gain sounds suitable for soaring leads and metal music.
Mark IIC+, Mark III, Mark IV, Dual & Triple Rectifiers, Caliber series, Nomad
- Mesa was started by Randall Smith as small amp shop which modifier small Fender combos for more gain. Soon the word spread, and with users like Carlos Santana Boogie became one of the big names in the industry. Other Boogie men include John Petrucci, Eric Johnson, Metallica, Jerry Cantrell, Andy Timmons, Cannibal Corpse, Helmet, Tool and almost every nu-metal band out there.
- Boogies deliver fierce gain and a good clean sound. They are versatile amps, and you can get plenty of tones by tweaking and using your guitar controls. Although Mesas are based on Fender designs, they have a distinctive voice of their own; a slightly darker, less fuzzy and more focused in the midrange than Marshalls, known widely as the "Califonia sound". Many players prefer Mesa especially for lead work.
- The Mark series is the first one by Mesa. Mark I and Mark II have more "vintagey" vibe, but Mark IIC+ is a great tool for rock, and is the weapon of choice of John Petrucci's. Too bad Mark IIC+ amps are very sought after and thus very expensive. Mark III has a reputation of a solid rock amp, and was used along the Caliber .50 amps by Metallica in the '80s. The Mark III's got three channels, but common eq, so getting the sounds you want requires some tweaking. Mark IV is a favourite of many, has knobs to spare and is very versatile amp, being able to cover anything from a jazz gig to a headbanging festival. Mark IV and Mark I reissue are still in production.
- The Rectifier series are at their best in heavy rock and metal music, and are mostly responsible for the nu-metal sound. Rectos deliver massive gain with good crunch, and enough power and definition to cut through any loud band. The clean channel of the Rectifier amps isn't that applauded, but if you go for a Recto you probably won't need it anyway.
- Nomad series amps have three channels with separate eqs, and are loved by many for their many options.
Carvin Legacy www.carvin.com
- The Legacy was designed after the needs of Steve Vai, and is his main amp. It's got a very pronounced midrange and is great for lead playing. With 100 watts of power, it won't get lost in the mix either. Some feel it hasn't got enough gain for heavy rock playing and decide to beef up things a bit with an OD pedal. The amp's got rave reviews all over the world, and is quite affordable as well.
Peavey 5150 www.peavey.com
- The Peavey 5150 was designed with Eddie Van Halen. The amp delivers loads of gain, and has been widely accepted among hard rock and metal players, such as Steve Morse, Carcass and Devin Townsend, as well as EVH himself of course. An upgrade of 5150, the 5150 II, has been released as well, but still many prefer the vibe of the original design.
R-series, M-series, Sedona etc.
- Rivera amps are designed by Paul Rivera, who designed amps for Fender, among others, before starting his own company. The idea of dual-channel Riveras is to have a Fender-like clean channel and a Marshall-like distortion channel. Riveras are known to be versatile and well made. They deliver anything from jazz to metal, thus becoming favourites of many studios players and performers. Users include Mike Keneally, David Torn, Head & Munky of Korn, Steve Lukather, Ani DiFranco and Chris Duarte.
Shiva, Ecstacy, Uberschall
- Bogner amps are designed by Reinholdt Bogner, who started out as an amp tech modifying Marshalls for big names on the West Coast. Bogners are known for their great tone, versatility and power (not to mention a discouraging price tag). The Bogner Ecstacy was Steve Vai's amp of choice for the Alien Love Secrets album, give it a listen and you'll get the idea. The Uberschall is designed for playing loud metal music with detuned or six string guitars. It delivers an insane growl and massive bottom end thump, and is considered the ultimate metal amp of all times by many hard-boiled headbangers.
- The Soldanos are children of Michael Soldano, and are great rock machines. The quality of these amps is very good, and they are used by various artists ranging from Nuno Bettencourt and Steve Vai to Mark Knopfler and Loud Reed.
- Solid British amps for the musician on budget (hey, that's almost all of us, right?
). Endorsers include Paul Gilbert, Tony Iommi and Mattias Eklundh. Especially their 15 and 30 watt, EL84-based combos have been reported to deliver serious tone for the buck.