Re: Low wattage tube amp for cleans?
Well, I just got back from trying three small tube amps:
Peavey Royal 8 / 5 watts/ 8" speaker / China / $200
Peavey JSx Mini Colossal/ 5 watts/ 8" speaker / USA / $500
Fender Champion 600/ 5 watts / 6" speaker/ China / $200
My review is below and all my comments are pretty subjective. I don't know much about the real technical details (like what tubes come in them), so these are just my impressions. Take them for what they're worth, LOL.
I was able to eliminate the Fender from my consideration. It sounds nice and it actually has the best sound at really low volumes ("really low" as in barely audible, like if you wanted to strum and carry on a low conversation as well). So, if your single most important quality in a small/practice amp was the noise factor, the Fender gives a nice, pure, tone sound at low volume. This is good because there's no headphone out. A college roommate situation, or if you lived on the other side of the wall from your grandma or unhappy neighbors.
The Royal 8 can get almost as low in volume and it has gain and tone controls that give the guitarist much more tonal variety. Not a whole lot more to say about that . . . a really nice clean tone, plus you can dirty it up a little bit with the gain. Unless you really need VERY low volume, or if you just gotta have that vintage Fender look, the Royal 8 is a much better, more versatile, louder amp at the same price.
I agree with you, jclogston, in that the Royal 8 is a good alternative to the Mini Colossal. And if price is a big factor, then, yeah, the Royal 8 is a better deal because it gives you a great sound at less than half the price.
Without regard to price, the Mini Colossal is head-and-shoulders above the other two, however. Clearly the best, almost in a separate class. Where to start?
Well, first volume. This thing is LOUD. I didn't take these amps into an auditorium and crank them up to their loudest setting, but the JSx was louder than the others at similar dial settings. The Mini Colossal has a power sponge dial that functions as a separate master volume knob, because it is infinitely variable. It's not like you have two or three distinct, discrete settings; you spin the knob and the volume changes. When you turn up the sponge all the way, it was piercingly loud in the store at about 2 on the dial. You can get it very low with the sponge, but I noticed some sound deterioration when I got really soft with the volume. That might be just my imagination, and I'm no audiophile. It just seems to me that if I isolated the effect of the sponge and turned it down, the tone wasn't as nice and defined as when it was higher. So returning to the Fender, it just seemed to get lower or higher when you turned the master volume (its only control), so in that regard only was it "better" than the JSx.
Tone: again, the winner. Great tone clean, and the tone knob can really give it a nice distortion. Play around with the sponge, volume, and tone, and you can find a spectrum of great blues/rock/metal sounds. If your desires exceed the tone knob's distortion capabilities, the amp has an effects loop to add a pedal. Built-in tremolo with speed and depth controls.
Features: Already mentioned the effects loop, tremolo, and continuously variable power sponge. Also has an XLR recording out, which I don't know how to use yet, but supposedly it sounds a lot like the true tone of the amp. Something else I didn't do with it but sound nice is that you can use it as a head to drive other speakers and it has selectable impedance (4, 8, or 16 ohms) so you can match the cab you send it to.
Finally, it's made in the USA, Mississippi to be exact. As I said in another thread, not my main consideration, but it means something to me to be able to support American industry.
Okay, that's about it. It will come down to price, because the Mini Colossal is my favorite. I still would like to try the Epiphone Valve Jr. and the Blackheart half stack. I might be able to demo the Epiphone at a local GC, but the Blackheart is selling really well everywhere AND it got bumped up fifty bucks to $300.
So unless their tones blow me away, I will probably go with the Mini Colossal if I can manage it in my budget. Otherwise, I'll get the Royal 8 and be happy.
Last edited by Hikey Mikey; 04-21-2008 at 06:18 PM.
Reason: removed an incomplete sentence