head or combo?tube or not?
1-I know this sound weird but does a combo amp produce a nice distorion for leads as a head? I have a strange thought that heads are better for drive.
2-does a good solid state head (not a simple practice amp) make a good distortion/overdrive? does it have to be tube?is it satisfaying or at least can I gig with it?
I would go with a tube amp of some sort if at all possible, depending on funds. Tube amps almost always sound better, especially if you're looking at heads.
Tube heads tend to be the "flagship" models for their prospective brands, but there is usually a combo alternative that shares most if not all of the features and quality. Heads tend to be higher in wattage, which means (on a tube head) that you'll have better cleans at higher volumes before it starts to distort. Most heads are rated at 100 watts or more. However, 50 watt tube heads and combos can still get hellishly loud, they just might start distorting a little sooner if you push the volume.
And with tube combos, don't be fooled by their smaller size. A 50-60 watt 1 X 12 tube combo has enough volume to blow your head clean-off in most cases...
But bigger halfstack and fullstack rigs with a head mostly just disperse the sound better and have a bit more low end, due to bigger cabs and more speakers. They're only slightly louder when cranked.
1 - combo's generally have an open back design, which can rob some low end and possibly some attack. but open back cabs are generally louder (given the same speakers).
a head allows you to use closed back cabs, more directional/beamy, better low end (because of the 'infinite baffle') and they can get more percussive.
choice is your depending on needs
2 - most of the distortion you're used to hearing is a tube amp or tries to sound like a tube amp. it doesn't have to be tube, i use hybrids (music man) and solid states (old kustom and acoustic) but i tend to prefer tube amps for most applications.
I converted my two Fenders into heads so I can use my speakers with both. I use old JBLs and just don't have the money to put them in every combo; my heads share cabs. Also, a dedicated speaker cabinet gives a better sound than a combo cab, which is a kind of compromise due to its having to house speakers and amp both.
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