New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!

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drphoto

New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« on: 15 Oct 2017, 10:43 pm »
I've been wanting a low watt all tube amp for a long time. Stumbled across a Blackstar HT-5R for $275 on the 'bay (which is a little more than half of street cost of new) so pulled the trigger. While I've never heard or played one they get a ton of great reviews online. It's a 5 watt unit, all tube (no modeling) complete w/ FX loop, emulated out, ext cab out, and reverb

Wanted low power so can drive power tube into OD at lower volumes. I like the sound of power tube distortion better that just a ton of gain, at least for some stuff. (think AC/DC, that's more of a power tube OD sound that high gain, at least to my ears)

I've been playing a Roland Cube 30 for years. It was fine to learn with, but I hated the OD sounds and the FX level could not be adjusted. Plus it just sounded 'digital' as it's a modeling amp. Modeling has come a long way but this thing is at least 8 years old. And since I've recently been asked to join a band, decided it was time to upgrade

Anyway, can post some thoughts on sound when it arrives if anyone cares.

SteveFord

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Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #1 on: 16 Oct 2017, 12:13 am »
Yeah, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
I have a Marshall 100W half stack collecting dust as it's just way too loud for my neighborhood.
Maybe when I retire I can get a place with some space to make some racket in.

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #2 on: 16 Oct 2017, 01:12 am »
Marshal makes a great 5 watt combo too. & mini stack I think.

When I was doing live sound, we had almost no stage volume, because I wanted everything out of PA. In fact my best sounding band had electronic drums. I loved that control from FoH. I had one band where I was always in a fight with the drummer who wanted to bang away with logs for sticks. I was like 'dammit, this is a wedding band, not an arena show"

I think 5-20 watts is all you need for anything inc live, if you have a PA.

BTW: in case you don't know, Blackstar is run by former Marshall guys. I'm more a Fender man myself, but this could be fun. I like playing me some Rage Against the Machine, and my own stuff requires a little bit of blusey dirt. I did see one at local store. It's a pretty little thing. Quite heavy for size....guess because of transformers.

I started out in music in the 80's as a lighting designer. Back then, everyone had to have a wall of Marshall cabs. (whether hooked up or not)

I could post some sound clips, but you might want to just check youtube, as there a are much better players out there than me. Rob Chapman at Andertons Music thinks this is best mass market low power amp on the market. (But take that w/ grain of salt, as he is dealer and maybe gets a better percentage on these)

Tone Depth

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Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #3 on: 16 Oct 2017, 02:50 am »
I've got a question:  When you OD a power tube, do you mic it at the speaker, or do you send the signal from the amp output directly to the soundboard? I'm wondering which method gives a higher quality signal.  Thanks!

I've been wanting a low watt all tube amp for a long time. Stumbled across a Blackstar HT-5R for $275 on the 'bay (which is a little more than half of street cost of new) so pulled the trigger. While I've never heard or played one they get a ton of great reviews online. It's a 5 watt unit, all tube (no modeling) complete w/ FX loop, emulated out, ext cab out, and reverb

Wanted low power so can drive power tube into OD at lower volumes. I like the sound of power tube distortion better that just a ton of gain, at least for some stuff. (think AC/DC, that's more of a power tube OD sound that high gain, at least to my ears)

I've been playing a Roland Cube 30 for years. It was fine to learn with, but I hated the OD sounds and the FX level could not be adjusted. Plus it just sounded 'digital' as it's a modeling amp. Modeling has come a long way but this thing is at least 8 years old. And since I've recently been asked to join a band, decided it was time to upgrade

Anyway, can post some thoughts on sound when it arrives if anyone cares.

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #4 on: 16 Oct 2017, 03:18 am »
Tone, I've done both. When bands use guitar amps, we mike. But last gig w/ the sim rig we ran direct. Always run bass direct.

It will be interesting to try this Blackstar amp both ways, especially as it has a 4x12 emulated out. (as well as 1x12) when I do first gig as a player.

Even though I've done live sound mixing for 10 years, I'm no expert. I was originally hired by a guy who knew of my interest in audio and thought I might have 'good' ears. Honestly, when it comes to the tech side, I barely get by.

Maybe the good ears is enough as I've had many people come up during shows and say we were one of the best sounding bands they'd heard.
 
My #1 rule, especially when I started and was really lost, was 'don't drill hole in people's ears" So I ran a lot quieter and with far less treble than most.

As I got better, I learned that the key to a good mix is to find an eq that lets every instrument 'sit' in it's own space. The fundamental sounds of. bass and drums need to be in a different range for clarity. Me? I like the kick to anchor the bottom and the bass guitar to 'ride' over the top. Other people might invert that. Vocals and guitars cannot have too much bottom end. Vocal even need low mid cut in order to stand out. I hear too many people 'pushing' the vocal out in the mix, making them louder. But what they really need to do to make them clearer & stand out is eq.

If you want to hear an stellar live sound mix check out Pink's "Live from LA" vid on Youtube. A showcase before her next tour (Truth About Love) Even with crappy internet compression you can hear how good this FoH guy is. Every instrument and vocal just 'sits' in the mix.And he (or she) does some great FX application. I think I'm pretty good, but when I listen to this, I'm like wow, I'm just scratching the surface.

Sorry for long winded response. But I love this stuff.

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #5 on: 16 Oct 2017, 03:28 am »
On mikeing a guitar cab. All of us at the local level use Shure Sm-57's. Maybe the big shots use something else. And mike is offset from dust cap.I dunno 1/2 way toward edge?

I think emulated out could be really interesting. Look forward to trying. (and yes that is a direct signal to PA)

dB Cooper

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #6 on: 16 Oct 2017, 02:13 pm »

I think 5-20 watts is all you need for anything inc live, if you have a PA.


A small amp can function quite well as a monitor if it has a feed to go to the PA.

There are some Fender Champ clone kits out there that are good, some with the necessary output.

Bob2

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #7 on: 16 Oct 2017, 04:14 pm »
I have a Champ SE.
It's a hybrid amp. At 25 watts it works quite well.
The clean channel has great tone.
I use a Shure mic for recording to my reel to reel.
 

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #8 on: 17 Oct 2017, 11:05 pm »
I got the amp today. While it's a step up from my Roland, I can't say that I'm blown away.There seems to be a bit of a brittle edge to the initial attack. Could just me, lots of people love these. But I probably should have gone w/ the Fender Superchamp my pro player buddy recommended. Or maybe I just need to become a better player.  :scratch:

Nice looking little bugger though, and 5 watts can blow your head off if you crank the master volume.

Oh....I texted my thoughts to my buddy (the guy who can really play) and he tried one of these and agrees with my impression. It's not gonna stay around for long. Good thing people seem to like, as may be easy to move.

Guess I wanted something different, but maybe it pays to stick with the tried and true.
« Last Edit: 18 Oct 2017, 01:20 am by drphoto »

dburna

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #9 on: 18 Oct 2017, 01:54 am »
Fender Princeton, man......but that may be outside your budget.  Sure sounds sweet, though.

-dB

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #10 on: 22 Oct 2017, 08:12 am »
Princeton.....ughnn......(said like Homer Simpson thinking of doughnuts) Yep classic lower power tube thing there.

And yes trying to do on the cheap.

The moral of the story, is don't listen to reviews or sound clips on the internet. I know, I know, you are all smarter than me and knew that.

Maybe take some advice from people you trust who know and then go try out for your self. I'm off to demo a VHT Special 6 head.

With regard to the Blackstar, I even tried to throw in an upgrade speaker, an Eminence RedCoat. Being a warmer voiced speaker, thought it could help. Seemed like the answer at first, but I could still hear the problem. There was is this really grating odd harmonic overtone. I just don't get the glowing reviews on this thing. It is truly nasty. And forget my bad playing, I can just pick an open string and hear how bad it sounds.

The VHT looks promising but gonna be a lot more skeptical of the promise of lush tone bliss from cheap amps now.

After this what this fail will end up costing, maybe should have gone for the Princeton from get go.... :cry:

However, I should add that this is all a matter of taste. I wanted a really smooth, lush sound with creamy on the edge of breakup to classic rock OD but  because this amp isn't that.....doesn't mean it inherently sucks. I messed around with a the Black Keys tune "Tighten up" and it did not bother me so much.
« Last Edit: 25 Oct 2017, 09:31 pm by drphoto »

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #11 on: 22 Nov 2017, 10:00 pm »
Tonight I pickup a real amp. A Mesa/Boogie Subway blues. 20 watt El-84 based 10" combo. I demoed it Monday, and this is the sound I wanted all along.Warm and smooth......but defined. Always wanted Mesa, but thought I couldn't afford. It is single channel but does have fx loop (w/ mix) and spring reverb. And handmade in California. At some point, I will add a Boss ME-80 pedal board. Some people sneer at multi fx pedal units, but you can't beat the cost and ease of setup.

I did also try the VHT 12/20 Special. Great sounding amp and ton of features, including continuously variable power down to one watt.Would have been really happy with that but store gave a better deal on the Mesa as they had it in stock longer.

A pro musician friend of mine who buys and sells a lot of gear is going to sell the Blackstar for me. He can do better than I would have on a trade.

So hopefully the lesson I learned, which is always demo before buying, is only gonna cost me $150 or so.

HAL

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Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #12 on: 22 Nov 2017, 10:41 pm »
Yeah, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
I have a Marshall 100W half stack collecting dust as it's just way too loud for my neighborhood.
Maybe when I retire I can get a place with some space to make some racket in.

SteveFord,
What model Marshall amp and stack? 

Going to bust out the Laney Supergroups and stacks in 2018 for a show if everything works out.

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #13 on: 23 Nov 2017, 05:13 am »
Got the Mesa, have been playing for couple of hours. THIS is what I expected from a valve amp. I sounds smooth, big and articulate. Plus it looks great. I like front panel controls. It is a bit sensitive to electronic noise. My space heaters cause it to buzz a bit.

Once again....try before you buy. Don't believe me or any other crap your read or watch online. I always wanted a Mesa, and it does not disappoint. While not cheap, I think close to 'boutique' amp sound for less. Single channel amp. Clean until ear splitting volume. Fender chime, but a bit more warmth, guess due to El-84 power tubes. Put an OD pedal and compressor in from and it's classic rock heaven.

SteveFord

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Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #14 on: 23 Nov 2017, 09:41 am »
Hal,
JCM 2000 Dual Super Lead head, JCM 900 Lead 1960 angled 4x12.

HAL

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Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #15 on: 23 Nov 2017, 11:14 am »
Very cool. 

Got to hear one at Gibson USA when I went for a tour a few years ago.  That was a fun day!

Two friends have JCM800, 2203 and 2204, one with 1960 stack and the other with Kolbe 1x12's.   

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #16 on: 24 Nov 2017, 10:53 pm »
This Mesa is stunning. I was honestly about ready to give up, but now I'm loving playing. And if anyone has ever wondered about cheap guitar>expensive amp vs. exp. guitar>cheap amp.....It's cheap guitar & good amp all the way. I play a $150 Squire 51 everyday. But I also have an $1800 USA Strat. Neither sounded good on my cheap amps, the Roland Cube 30, an Epiphone Valve Std. or the shitty Blackstar. But the Squire sounds fantastic through the Mesa. I haven't even bothered to get out the Strat. To be fair.....the little Roland is a nice beginners amp. The clean channel is quite good. The distorted sounds.....not so much. The fx sounded ok, but there's no control over mix which makes them a bit useless.

The mesa sounds huge. Tons of clean headroom. Fenderish sparkle, but maybe a bit warmer thanks to El84 output tubes. Very articulate. You can hear everything clearly. Tone controls give very precise control of sound and the reverb is classic spring, not a digital sim. Their cheapest combo now is at least $1600. Of course they have a lot more features like at least 2 ch. My amp is one ch. & requires a pedal for distortion at any sane volume.

Actually the Mesa was not really that expensive. Only gave $345 for it. But I got lucky. I don't think a lot of people were looking for for this model, a Subway Blues that's been out of production for 20 years.

Next up pedals. Gonna get one of those Line6 stomp box moldelers for modulation and run into fx loop. and real pedals for boost and distortion into input. Already have a good compressor and a multi unit PS. Add an volume/wah petal and will be set.
« Last Edit: 25 Nov 2017, 03:39 pm by drphoto »

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #17 on: 9 Dec 2017, 06:43 am »
Ok after playing this new amp for a few weeks, I have an observation that may be relevant to other people. This thing makes me a better player. And no, not just because of a real pro quality amp do I suddenly sound better, I'm getting better because it is so much fun that I practice way more than I did before. The only way to play well is to practice. But having quality gear that works for your ear makes it a lot more fun. And not saying it has to be expensive. The Mesa was inexpensive, but only because it is an overlooked model in the lineup. Most Mesa shoppers are not looking for a single channel 20 wt. 10" combo. But inexpensive doesn't mean it is cheap. We're talking boutique level build.  The Blackstar was cheap. But it was expensive because I spent $300 on it, hate it and will take huge loss on sale.

I bought several pieces of audio gear over the years off recommendations and ended up liking them & keeping. I live in a small town where high end audio gear is virtually non existent. But musical instruments are everywhere. It is such a personal thing, you have to try first and get what suits you.

fredgarvin

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Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #18 on: 10 Dec 2017, 07:54 pm »
That's cool, I always liked the idea of the Subway Blues, but I prefer a 12". Unfortunately I've had to give up playing due to thumb problems but my favorite amp was the Palomino V16. Tone to die for and could get pretty loud. It could handle medium rooms with ease. Clean it sounded Voxy but with pedals I could get whatever I wanted. In big rooms I used a 50 watt Vox. It was close tone wise.

drphoto

Re: New valve guitar amp arrives tomorrow.....yea!
« Reply #19 on: 11 Dec 2017, 10:09 pm »
fred, I always thought you need a 12" speaker too, but this thing has plenty of low end. In fact, I've been working on a few cover tunes, like early zztop songs that focus on the low strings and find I have to roll off a lotta bottom end.

When I was running FoH sound for bands, I always cut the low end on guitars. Playing solo does need a bit more, but a 10 doesn't want for bass.

So, at the risk of repeating myself....here's my take away. 1) try before you buy. Get what feels good and sounds good to you. 2) Good equipment will not automatically make you a player.....but it will make it more fun and 3) cheap is cheap and in the end is costly, but inexpensive can be a bargain if it meets criteria # 1. 4) As a music lover, learning to play is both incredibly fun and frustrating at the same time. 5) related to 4.....as a music lover, you start to have an much greater appreciation for the art as you learn more about how it is made, and the skill it takes. Just learning music theory is very cool.