It's come to my attention recently that people tend to spend money blindly on things, just because they assume it will be great, based on the price it costs. Over the years, I've consistently proven this wrong for my own needs, but many others seem to still be governed by a notion that seems to be hardwired in all of us from a young age.
The more expensive something is, the better it is.
From a guitarist's standpoint, I've owned A LOT of guitar amps. Everything from the measly Vox AD30VT to the Diezel Herbert and Soldano SLO. While many of these expensive amps do sound great - They certainly don't sound like $4000.
For years - the Diezel Herbert had been the amp that I aspired to own. I heard a guy blasting one at Guitar Center before closing one day and the sound coming out of it just blew me away. I'd never heard anything like it, so of course, I went home and researched it, only to find out it had a price tag of $4600. Yikes! Years later, I finally got one... And to be honest, I was pretty disappointed.
Don't get me wrong, that amp sounded HUGE... But it was also scooped in the mids and very low end heavy. It lacked the sizzle I've come to love and the clarity I thirst for. Most of all, the amp was either a buzzy mess at whisper volumes, or a raging beast at concert volumes. The 180W power amp didn't leave a lot of room for in-between volume settings. Eventually, I sold the amp, and to be honest, I don't miss it - It's a cool amp, but it's not for me, even though I believed it would be the last amp I'd ever own.
That's not the first time that's happened, though. Originally, I wanted a Marshall JCM800. Great amps, still probably one of my favorites, actually, but completely wrong for the sound I was going for at the time. I thought it'd have more gain, and while it could get there with a boost, that added a lot of noise, and I hate noise suppressors.
Before the Diezel, I had a Soldano SLO and before that a Framus Cobra. The Soldano was a pretty cool amp, but from all the reviews I've read about it, I expected it to be the most insanely clear amp I've ever heard. Not so much. Give me a Hot Rod 50 or Avenger over one of those amps any day. Not impressed, especially at the price tag. The Framus was a different story, I LOVED that amp at first, but there was a period of time where I couldn't play guitar for a few weeks after owning it, and as soon as I plugged into it again, I just could not stand it. Very low mid heavy with a lot of fizz up top. No matter what I did to that amp, I just couldn't get the clarity I wanted... That being said, the matching 4x12 was awesome, and I kept it for quite a while.
After the Diezel, I decided I'd try my hand at modeling, and bought myself a Fractal Axe-FX II. Since I'd been spending most of my music time recording at that point, it seemed like a very convenient unit to own.
Wow, was I ever wrong.
Don't get me wrong; the Axe-FX had some great tones in it, and especially some phenomenal effects. Until I got the Axe-FX, I really never used effects, but having everything in one unit, made it more convenient for me, as I hate dealing with multiple MIDI setups or tons of pedals. The real downfall of the unit was the fact that it was insanely complicated to use. NONE of the stock tones were any good, and I was spending more times navigating through the menus, twisting knobs and pressing buttons, than I was actually playing guitar and making music. For 7 months, I struggled with that thing trying to get a high gain tone out of it that I loved, didn't have the characteristic hollow Axe-FX tone, and most of all... Sounded realistic. I could get very convincing tones in the low gain and mid gain spectrum, but why people revere those units for high gain is beyond me, I just wasn't not digging it, whether I was listening to it through my studio monitors, PA FRFR monitors or with a power amp through a guitar cab. For recording, I was favoring the TSE X50 plugin and Catharsis impulses over anything the Axe-FX was giving me... And both of these are free.
After the Axe-FX, I decided to give modeling one more shot, and I'm glad I did. The Kemper Profiling Amp not only cost significantly less than the Axe-FX II did, but it also sounds indistinguishable from the real amp. Best of all - It's simple to use, as it is setup very familiarly to a real amp. Sure, you can go in and edit things to your heart's content, like the Axe-FX, but you don't need to. It sounds great right out of the box. I'm not even kidding when I say that after 10 minutes of using it, I was satisfied with my purchase. Sure, the routing features aren't as extensive as the Axe-FX, and their aren't as many effects, but I don't need the routing features, and I don't need all the weird effects. I need purely awesome amp tones that are easy to setup, and thus save me time in the studio, not make me spend more time on tones.
Moreover, the real amp I've kept amidst my entire amp buying, selling and trading, through nearly 100 different amps, is my trusty bias-modded Peavey 5150. What a phenomenal amp. Turn it on and it just sounds good, no need for compressors in the loop, a boost out front or any of that jazz. Plug straight in and it gives you one of the most roaring high gain tones you've ever heard.
Are there better amps out there? Sure! I've owned several that, if they were priced the same as my 5150, or slightly higher, I'd take them over it... But we don't live in a perfect world. I paid $500 for my Peavey, and every single amp I'd choose over it is about $1000 more. Do they sound 3 times as good? Hell no! Maybe 5-10% better, and I can make that 5-10% up with a few EQ adjustments on my DAW.
So what's my point? If it sounds good, it is good. Make a decision with your ears, not by the price tag!
What do you guys think? Thoughts on the matter? Anyone have similar experiences?
Until next time!