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#1
I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a new amp to replace my Laney VC30 and was wondering what’s out there that hits all my requirements:
  1. A small-ish head, about 20-30 watts. All tube, no trickery.  I have the Laney 112 extension cab from the VC range which I intend to use so no immediate need for a new cab to go with the new head.
  2. At least two separate footswitchable channels with separate volume controls. Preferably both with separate gain settings as well * 
  3. No overriding master volume.  I have a clean boost (TC Spark Mini) in my loop which in my experience doesn’t work when an overriding master volume is there.
  4. A decent effects loop. I like the parallel effects loop on my VC30 as it doesn’t impact the unaffected tone at all. The effects loop on my Jet City is OK, but not great. I also have a Marshall TSL601 though, and that has an absolutely awful effects loop which primarily serves to suck out my tone.

* I never play 100% clean so I actually like the set up on my Jet City that I use as back up, which has a crunch & distortion channel that I use for primary tone, with my pedals providing a solo boost.  That's the opposite of how I use my VC30, with the pedals providing the primary tone and the amp's drive channel providing the solo boost most of the time.  If I buy a new amp, I'd like it to become the basis for my tone as is currently the case with my Jet City backup amp.

I’ve done a bit of initial research and come up with a couple of potential options:
  • Peavey ValveKing or Classic mini head: Both look good, but neither has a gain control for the clean channel. I’ve also heard rumours that they have some solid state technology getting in the way.
  • Egnator Tweaker: Looks good & seems to do everything I need, but again I've read reviews that imply it may not be fully tube.  The reviews I've read also don't convince me it's got the best of tones either.
  • Engl Ironball, Gigmaster & Rockmaster: All look good but have the master volume I want to avoid.

Any further info & opinion on these would be good (especially relating to what I've heard about some possibly not being genuinely all tube), and other suggestions are obviously welcomed.

Now for the standard info:
  • Location?   UK
  • Combo or head/cab?   Head.
  • Budget?   Preferably around £500, but spending more for the right amp isn’t an issue.
  • Used/New?   New.
  • Other kit?   See sig for full details, but basically Gibsons through a couple of drive pedals into the amp, then a multi FX (for modulation & delay only) and a clean boost in the loop.
  • Gigging?   Yes, regularly. I have a separate set up for home practice so no requirement to work well at lower volumes.
  • Style?   Mostly rock. We cover all sorts from the past 50+ years, including The Cult, Beatles, Motorhead, Chuck Berry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Status Quo, Thin Lizzy, Nirvana, Free and so many more this list could very quickly become boring. 
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#2
i'm sure you're aware of this since you already have one, lol, but the jet cities tick everythign you want apart from the decent loop. if they're not too modern-sounding, and if you consider them to be twin channel since they're more like single channel with an extra footswitchable gain stage (but with independent gain and volume controls). in fact, some of the newer ones might actually have a better loop but i haven't tried them...

some of those engls aren't all-tube, at least as far as i can tell. the ironball might be, but the other two have suspiciously few tubes for the amount of gain they can get (from vids, I haven't tried them) considering they're push-pull and so need a tube for the PI as well. also peavey has been up to some solid state shenanigans with its mini versions too (the 6505), but I'm not sure if they've been doing that with the mini valve king and classic 30. (Also, I'm sure you're aware, but on the older-style VK the boost was solid state.)
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
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#3
Dave_Mc I have actually considered just getting a second Jet City Head so I have a back up!  The one I've got has never let me down, although it's only really been used when my Laney has blown a tube so I haven't worked it too hard.  Aside from the loop not being great it definitely ticks all the right boxes.

I knew the Valvekings had some solid state in there, didn't know what it was though.  If it is just the boost, I may decide I can live with it but would prefer to have two driven channels.  I'd never heard that about the Engls though, interested to see if anyone else weighs in with some info on that one.
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#5
We have amp heads in several colors and outputs to fill the bill...

#7
Quote by ExDementia
dspellman What the fu.....

This!  I have no idea what I'm looking at, but if that's an amp I'm impressed....
Quote by Ippon
The Soldano Hot Rod 25 kinda fits the bill, except for the price. 

The best I've seen in the US is $1200, used.

Makes sense that they'd fit the bill as Jet City are based on Soldano's, but a quick google shows it as £1,800 in the UK.  I don't mind spending more than my target budget, but not that much more!
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#8
Quote by GaryBillington
Dave_Mc I have actually considered just getting a second Jet City Head so I have a back up!  The one I've got has never let me down, although it's only really been used when my Laney has blown a tube so I haven't worked it too hard.  Aside from the loop not being great it definitely ticks all the right boxes.

I knew the Valvekings had some solid state in there, didn't know what it was though.  If it is just the boost, I may decide I can live with it but would prefer to have two driven channels.  I'd never heard that about the Engls though, interested to see if anyone else weighs in with some info on that one.


on the original valveking, as far as i'm aware it was just the boost which was SS- not sure if the new mini ones are the same or not (certainly the mini 6505 is different from the bigger ones in that it has some solid state guff in there). and yeah the fact you can switch the boost off is one of the reasons why we're not too hard on the (original) valveking in that respect- i could live with that, too.

and yeah as i said i think there might be some models of jet cities where the loop has been improved (the martin kidd one maybe? don't quote me on that). i'm guessing they have a different circuit too, though, so will sound a bit different.
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
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Last edited by Dave_Mc at Aug 11, 2017,
#9
Quote by GaryBillington
This!  I have no idea what I'm looking at, but if that's an amp I'm impressed....

Makes sense that they'd fit the bill as Jet City are based on Soldano's, but a quick google shows it as £1,800 in the UK.  I don't mind spending more than my target budget, but not that much more!

Used prices there as sad.  I got the used SLO100s for less than that.

Have you auditioned a SLO yet.  Controls are so straightforward and something that a pro like you would appreciate more than a hack like me.
#10
Quote by Ippon
Used prices there as sad.  I got the used SLO100s for less than that.

Have you auditioned a SLO yet.  Controls are so straightforward and something that a pro like you would appreciate more than a hack like me.

SLO100?
https://www.soundsgreatmusic.com/products/soldano-slo-100-head?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=googlepla&variant=774829259&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIlsP3lZDQ1QIVZr7tCh22oA1iEAYYASABEgLUSvD_BwE

£4199 is WAAAYYYYYYYY over budget!
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#11
Quote by GaryBillington

No, I got my used SLO100s for less than  £1,800 for the new Hot Rod 25s there.  
#12
Really look into the ENGLs. The lower/mid wattage amps aren't mentioned much here. A Powerball II should do most of what you want but is over budget.

If the budget was more I'd say a Mesa Mark V:25
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Amps:
Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Roadster 212
Laney IronHeart IRT-Studio
Peavey Vypyr 30
Peavey ReValver Amp Sims
TOOOO many T.C. Electronic Pedals. . .
#13
Ippon Still want to go new.  And although I don't mind going a bit over budget, that's too far over budget.

metalmingee The lower watt Engls are certainly looking like a good option, but the Powerball is definitely a bit much.  The biggest problem with Engl is finding somewhere to try one.

Even though I don't mind going a bit over the £500 budget, I definitely want to keep the cost in the 100s, not the 1,000s.
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#14
Hopefully this doesn't count as an unnecessary bump...

The more I search, the more my desire to avoid a master volume control gets in my way.  As noted in the OP, my experience is that a master volume control overrides anything which I use to boost the volume, meaning they have no impact to the final output level.  This is based on my Marshall TSL602.

Both my Laney & my Jet City only have channel specific volume controls which work fine with my setup, which includes a few different levels of boost.  I have a compressor that gives a slight boost on any lead I play behind the singer's vocals (with both amps), a TS style pedal that I use as a lead boost with the Jet City crunch channel, and a TC Spark that I use as a clean boost in the effects loop of both amps when distorted.

Given that I'm very limited in local guitar shops to take my kit to & try these things out, and none of my local shops stock anything I'm considering I'm hoping for a bit of extra advice here.

Am I right about my assumption that a master volume control overrides boost pedals, or is my Marshall (which I'm not really a fan of anyway) a bad example?

If other people have different experiences with master volumes and can provide examples, I'd much appreciate it as it would give me loads more options to look at.
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#15
1. Your marshal is a really bad example of so many things.
2. Very few amps have global master volumes so you aren't really going to run into one by accident. Most channel switching amps will have channel specific master volumes like your jet city and laney. Since you are in Europe I'd check out victory amps. They have put out some decent stuff recently.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
#16
Quote by AcousticMirror
1. Your marshal is a really bad example of so many things.
2. Very few amps have global master volumes so you aren't really going to run into one by accident. Most channel switching amps will have channel specific master volumes like your jet city and laney. Since you are in Europe I'd check out victory amps. They have put out some decent stuff recently.

I guess I've just got unlucky with the ones I've found then?  So far every option I've considered has that global master volume

I agree about the Marshall though, bought it on a whim a couple of years ago because it was going locally at a decent price.  Fortunately when I get around to selling it I should break even on it.
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#17
Well I think you are confusing terms here. A global master will control the volume balance between all the channels on the amp. Channel masters will control each specific channel separately like your jet city.

However you will not be able to get any distortion out of any amp without at least a master volume unless it is completely cranked.
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#18
I don't believe so, the Peavey Valveking and all the Engls I've looked at all have that global master volume.

The ideal scenario is the one I have with my Jet City:  2 channels, each with a dedicated gain control and a volume control.  The Victory Countess & Kraken both look like they fit the bill though, I'm going to try & find some videos etc of them when I get home tonight.
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#19
GaryBillington

Ya i'm not too familiar with the engls.

you should have some local dealers for victory as well.

You could also check out the new jet city. It's supposed to be pretty good and based on an old corn ford amp.
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#20
AcousticMirror Getting another Jet City will be my fallback option if I don't find anything else that fits the bill.  It's effects loop might be a bit weak, but aside from that the one I have ticks every other box.  The main reason I want to avoid them is so I have a bit of variety.
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#21
Quote by GaryBillington
AcousticMirror Getting another Jet City will be my fallback option if I don't find anything else that fits the bill.  It's effects loop might be a bit weak, but aside from that the one I have ticks every other box.  The main reason I want to avoid them is so I have a bit of variety.


The Earhart is an entirely different circuit from yours. Unless you have the Earhart. It's called the ameilia now.
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Last edited by AcousticMirror at Aug 14, 2017,
#22
I've owned the JCA50H and a ValveKing100 and the the Valveking wouldn't be an upgrade in terms of the metal tones it provides.  The loop was pretty good, but I'm more of a meat and potatoes type player who puts most things in front of the amp if I can.

The JCA is the best metal amp in your price range so I would just make do until you have more money.
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#23
evmac I wouldn't call most of what I play metal!  Certainly not by today's standards anyway, my band only do a couple of songs that probably count as metal (Black Sabbath & Motorhead)

AcousticMirror I have the JCA22H and the loop isn't great on it.  Think it's a line level loop (?) which doesn't get on well with a lot of pedals.  What do you know about the loops on the amp's you've mentioned?
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#24
Well the jca is based on the slo circuit and that circuit has the worst effects of all time. So anything other then that has to be better. The Amelia is based on an amp from an entirely different amp maker. So it will have a different loop.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
#25
^ LOL. But weren't the cornfords themselves fairly closely based on soldanos?
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#26
Got to admit, I'm a bit sceptical on that one.  

If I was running a budget amp company (which you have to consider Jet City to be a low budget company given their prices), I'd reuse as much as possible when releasing a new product.  Sure, I'd get the overall tone to be what I'm looking for, but something like the effects loop I'd use what I had to keep costs down.

Admittedly, that's just my logic, they may well have done more, but without being able to try one & find out I'm remaining sceptical.

I notice nobody has commented on the Egnater Tweaker I mentioned in the OP.  Any thoughts or knowledge on that one?
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#28
One of the few things I've read about it is that there may have been a dodgy batch put out a few years ago which gives it some mixed reliability reviews.  What issues has he had exactly?
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#29
The Egnator Tweaker 40 is a sweet little amp. Lots of solid tones to be found in it. The 88 is even better; absolutely amazing cleans and a really punchy and chunky crunch channel. The Tweakers very much shine in terms of a clean breakup tone, which sounds like the sort of thing you would be interested in.

I think they should be seriously considered.
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#30
GaryBillington

what...but they've always had at least 2 different circuits in production....
the pcb only has to be designed once...it's not like different amp circuits need completely different components.
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#31
Quote by AcousticMirror
GaryBillington

what...but they've always had at least 2 different circuits in production....
the pcb only has to be designed once...it's not like different amp circuits need completely different components.

Purely going by what I've read elsewhere, but it seems there was an initial batch made with faulty power transformers and an overheating issue.  I understand they redesigned the transformer (or possibly just switched supplier?) and upgraded the fan for cooling purposes.

Curious to know if those are the issues your mate had or if there's other reliability problems to be aware of.

T00DEEPBLUE I am seriously considering them  Much like the majority of the amps I'm considering, the biggest problem is getting to try them out first.
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#32
^ yeah i think heard some reliability complaints too, but i can't remember much more about it. I've never tried them myself.
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

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#33
Gary, this is more of a basic amp, but it sounds great and you would very likely be pleased. an orange th30h. also it has a loop.
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#34
bogner alchemist is a random thought. they never went over well but you would have to go used. cool amps though.
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#35
trashedlostfdup Thanks, had a look at those amps last night.  The Orange is interesting, but much like the Peavey's I've looked at it doesn't have a gain control on the clean channel.  The Bogner looks like it could potentially fit the bill, but really want to be able to buy new (I don't want to inherit somebody else's problems) also, a quick ebay search only found a couple of the 2x12 combo currently listed which I'd definitely prefer to avoid.

Any other thoughts from anyone?

At this point in time, the Tweaker is still looking like the favourite option due to it's independently controllable channels.
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#36
Quote by GaryBillington
but (I) really want to be able to buy new (I don't want to inherit somebody else's problems)

Who is to say that you won't inherit any problems from the manufacturer when you buy an amp new either?

I would suggest changing your mindset. There isn't really that much to go wrong with guitar amps so long as they're relatively modern (built within the last 15 years) are retubed when required and aren't totally shitkicked. If an amp was going to fail unexpectedly due to a defect, then after 5 or 10 years of use it probably would've done so already.
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#38
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Who is to say that you won't inherit any problems from the manufacturer when you buy an amp new either?

At least then I'd have a warranty to fall back on...

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
I would suggest changing your mindset. There isn't really that much to go wrong with guitar amps so long as they're relatively modern (built within the last 15 years) are retubed when required and aren't totally shitkicked. If an amp was going to fail unexpectedly due to a defect, then after 5 or 10 years of use it probably would've done so already.

I think the trouble with my Laney is that it is that sort of age - I bought it used around a decade ago, I don't know how old it actually is.  As well as being retubed more regularly than should be needed in the past couple of years (it's been blowing tubes within 2-3 months of changing them), it's had a couple of issues that needed professional repair (including replacing the tube sockets to try & resolve that problem, which was unsuccessful) and each time it's finding new ways to let me down.

Whether part of me was GASing for a change or not, that fact is I've lost faith in my amp and feel it's time to move on.
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#39
Quote by AcousticMirror
the 5150lbx is way better then the tweaker

The EVH?  I have seen it, and my only issue with it is the shared gain control - I'm concerned that by setting the gain as I'd like it for the blue channel, I'd be way above where I'd want to be for the red channel.  It's another one that nearly fits the bill, but not quite - if I find one near me I'll definitely be trying it.
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#40
Quote by AcousticMirror
the 5150lbx is way better then the tweaker

I don't think sort of bands Gary is interested in sounding like don't really call for a high gain amp like the EVH's. They do the brown sound thing pretty well. But when I think of the brown sound, I certainly don't think of bands like Lynard Skynard, Chuck Berry, Nirvana or The Beatles. Out of all the bands he's mentioned, the closest to having the Van Halen-style brown sound IMO is Motorhead. But even then, it isn't really the band I think of when I think of that sound.
Quote by GaryBillington
At least then I'd have a warranty to fall back on...

That's true enough I guess. But it also remains true that newer amps aren't necessarily at lesser risk of failure than used ones.

I can understand that you aren't willing to take the risk, but consider also that the discount in price of buying an amp used can help to cover repair costs of the amp goes wrong in the future.


I think the trouble with my Laney is that it is that sort of age - I bought it used around a decade ago, I don't know how old it actually is.  As well as being retubed more regularly than should be needed in the past couple of years (it's been blowing tubes within 2-3 months of changing them), it's had a couple of issues that needed professional repair (including replacing the tube sockets to try & resolve that problem, which was unsuccessful) and each time it's finding new ways to let me down.

Whether part of me was GASing for a change or not, that fact is I've lost faith in my amp and feel it's time to move on.

Just out of curiosity, how do you know it's the age of the amp which is causing the problems you're having?

Filter caps failing and leaking DC is a common mode of failure with prematurely blowing tubes in older amps, but normally an amp has to be a few of decades old before that begins to be a problem. It's very rare for that to happen on newer amps made in the last decade or so.
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