#1
I'm looking to upgrade from my modeling amp (valvetronix--have not used any overdrive pedals in the past) and would like to go for a stack. I play with a band and we're starting to gig fairly frequently (couple of times per month). I've been looking at a ton of different amps (have yet to play them yet--just started looking) and there's something that I'm a bit confused about: what are the advantages of a single channel amp, why would a player opt to choose that style versus a multi channel, and how do overdrive pedals come into play when deciding between the two?

One of the major reasons people say "go for tube amps!" is because of the "natural" or "warm" overdrive that is produced when you crank them. However, some advice I've been given, especially when considering a single-channel amp, is "find an amp that you get a great clean tone with and then use pedals to get your overdrive sound." What's the point in getting a tube amp with a nice warm overdrive sound if you're just going to rely on your overdrive pedal to get your tone? Is there a huge difference in tone if you're running a Tubescreamer through a Vox versus a Mesa? How much do the pedals colour the sound (versus the amp itself)?

If the amp has only a single channel, is there any convenient way to go straight from clean to overdrive other than buying an overdrive pedal? I'm used to my modelling amp, and I use a footswitch to go from my overdrive to my clean. Is this at all possible with single channel amps?

For example, two of the amps I've looked at are the Mesa Dual Rectifier and the Suhr Badger 35 (http://www.suhr.com/#!badger/ciz0). The Mesa is obviously a multichannel, whereas the Suhr only appears to have a single channel. I really like some of the tones (both clean and overdriven) that I've heard from the Suhr, but since it's only a single channel I'm unsure if I'd be able to effectively use both sounds, especially in a live setting. The Mesa on the other hand has 3 different channels, and I can find a tone for each channel and (I assume) easily switch between them using a pedal. Another example of a single channel amp in a similar price range would be the Soldano 50W Avenger... would there be an easy way to use this amp for getting both clean and overdrive sounds, or is that simply not what it's used for?

I'm really curious about this and am fairly new to the subject, and I haven't really seen a whole lot about it (searched the forums and looked at the "which amp to buy" guide). Are some people firmly in one camp versus the other when it comes to multi-channel versus single? Do single channel users always use overdrive pedals to switch between clean and dirty? Do multi channel users prefer to set their clean and dirty sounds on the amp and switch between them, or do they also like to use pedals?

Just hoping to get educated on the subject. Thanks for the input!
#2
I apologize in advance because I didn't read your entire post, but from my own experiences...

It depends on what you are relying on your amp to do. If you have a clean amp (fender for example) then you have a great platform for pedals with no ability to switch between the channels via footswitch. So for that your OD sound is coming straight from pedals, you can crank the clean amps so they start to breakup but it's not the same as a high gain. If you have a single channel gain amp (one of the jcm800 models) you have the ability to crank the thing and get the natural OD tone, but no cleans.

Enter the multichannel amps, they can switch between two (or more) channels, you set one to be clean, one to be driven, and you can obviously still use pedals. use a tubescreamer to tighten up the gain from the amp.

I'm not sure if I answered any questions you were actually asking, as far as what you should do it's all player preference. I myself stick to clean amps and use pedals but that's because I'm not going for the gain tones that are made from those amps. You have to understand what it is your going for and make the correct decisions in amp purchasing.

Check out the single channel JCM800, i'm sure others will chime in with other amps too
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Quote by CaptainAmerican
I would recommend the marshal MG100

Very versatile and quality sound. It should treat you well
Last edited by gerraguitar at Jan 15, 2013,
#3
That's ok, I know it was a long post! Thanks for the input. So you mentioned that the JCM800 is a single channel gain amp and that you'd use it to get nice OD tones. Is it considered less versatile for a live setting then, maybe used only if you absolutely didn't need cleans?
#4
there is a dual channel jcm800 as well but the single channel is favored a bit more, they're both great though. and yeah what i've done myself when using high gain amps (which isn't often since i don't currently have one) is set the gain low so it's a bit of a crunch and then use a pedal or even two to just give it more. it's like picking ice cream, which flavors do you like. there's no right or wrong, but for something like a live setting if you wanted clean then you'd have to rely on some boxes to get you some dirt
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Quote by CaptainAmerican
I would recommend the marshal MG100

Very versatile and quality sound. It should treat you well
#5
Not necessarily. This is why a lot of pros use mutli amp setups. The problem with a lot of multi channel amps is either the drive or clean channel just end up sucking. I think it's difficult to get great drive tones out of pedals, at least heavy drive. Besides, you can always roll back on the guitar volume to get a little cleaner. It'll be a little darker and it won't be like chicken pickin, but I prefer that clean to straight clean amps a lot of the time.
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#6
Budget? Examples of tones you'd like to have (bands). And new and or used? With that info, people can give you better ideas/advice.
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#7
That was a very long post with a lot of questions, so I'm only going to answer the things I know something about.

As far as I can tell there aren't different camps of people fighting the cause for multi-channel or single-channel amps. I have owned both and, although my multi-channel amp was a Marshall MG30DFX, I wouldn't say that I firmly believe in one or another. I don't think I really have a preference.

In terms of where I get my overdrive from, I use a combination of the volume control on my guitar, the volume on my (single-channel) amp and some pedals modelled in a line 6 podXTL. I also have a fat switch on my amp and the ability to switch the single coils on my strat into acting together as hum buckers if I need an extra boost. I don't play live, so being able to switch super quickly isn't a priority. I also don't believe that you always need so many tones available at all times. Sure, it's nice to get a bit more drive on a solo, but that doesn't mean you need a whole other channel.

In terms of why one might choose to get their overdrive from a pedal rather than another channel on the amp, it's all about versatility and the basic tone of the amp. I've only heard a few amps with truly spectacular clean tones, and any one of those can achieve good overdrive with a pedal of your choice (and there are plenty of overdrive pedals to choose from).

If you watch the Clapton video below you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. At the start of the solo (5:08) he rolls back the volume. At this point the main non-guitar sources of his tone are the amp and what sounds like a fuzz or overdrive pedal. As the solo goes on Clapton slowly creeps up the volume until the end where it's a pretty classic Clapton solo sound. At no point do you see him stomp on anything, switch anything, or adjust anything other than the volume of his guitar and the dynamics of his playing, yet he gets a lot of variety in his sound. Look at where his right hand is around 6:20. He has his pinky curled around the volume pot ready to crank it up a bit. By 6:43 he's at full and the tone has completely changed. Clapton's an absolute master at this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10qLYy6hiFQ

For contrast, check out the Eric Johnson video below. Eric Johnson is well known for his crazy setup which includes two A/B boxes. Although he employs some of the same tactics as Clapton, the sounds he wants for different sections (even different sections of a single solo) varies so much that the only solution he can contemplate is not simply switching between different channels, but completely different amps! This is a rather pricey way to achieve variety in your live tone though. I'll try and find a video of him talking through his setup so you can see what I'm talking about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL8aeeSTthQ

So what I'm trying to say is that the choice between a multi-channel amp and a single-channel amp is NOT AT ALL a choice between variety and good clean tones. You can achieve different sorts of variety in both scenarios. What it comes down to (oh here it comes, the stereotypical cop-out at the end of every piece of guitar advice ever) is your personal preference. What sort of variety suits your playing best?

I feel a bit bad ending this post in that way, but it's true.

Hope this helps.
#8
Re: jjbarnes: Actually that was one of the things I was wondering, do pros usually pick a single amp and then use pedals/whatever to achieve their sound, or do they have multiple amps that they can switch between easily while playing live? I'm pretty ignorant about that kind of stuff.

Re: DarthV: For the amps I'm looking at, my budget is up to $2000 for the head (but doesn't need to be that expensive).

The range of tones that I'd like to be able to get live can be found here: http://fadechromatic.bandcamp.com
The range would be from clean (intro to track 4 "waiting for the edge"--in a live setting my tone is a bit dirtier than on the album, but you get the idea) to dirty (intro to track 2 "disguise")
#9
unplugged89, thanks for the awesome reply. The Clapton video really showed how versatile your tone can be using just the volume knob. I've been playing live for years but I've always been a bit scared to really use the volume knob to its fullest potential (always have it at max, tone knob too). After reading some discussions on this stuff, the Eric Johnson setup may be a "perfect world" kind of thing (if that's what you need) but obviously requires a huge budget!

In my previous post I linked to my website, where I have 2 tracks that use completely different tones (one very dirty, one clean). Obviously that's studio stuff, but that's generally what I'm trying to approximate on stage and am looking to find the best way to do that, and wondering if I should be limiting myself to looking at multi-channel amps.
#10
It's up to you the choice of a single vs multi channel amp. If you need supercleans followed by high gain go with the Mesa. What you can do with a sc amp is set it to get a nice crunch, if that is your main sound, and then clean it with your guitar volume or a pedal (antiboost) or beef it up with ODs

Watch this video about Paul Gilbert's rig. He play with a sc amp (marshall vintage modern). Hope it helps

http://youtu.be/AFE2YKMjs2U?t=5m25s

(5min onward)
#11
Quote by squier_4_life
...what are the advantages of a single channel amp, why would a player opt to choose that style versus a multi channel, and how do overdrive pedals come into play when deciding between the two?


Single channel amps tend to be purpose built with a specific sound in mind, and they tend to do that sound very VERY well. Some are meant to be cranked for a nice creamy overdrive that cleans up when you roll back your volume, others are meant to stay completely clean. But let's use a Fender Twin as an example. For the most part it's always going to sound like a Twin. Put a dirt pedal in front and it's going to sound like a Twin with a dirt pedal on it. Sure, you could use some kind of odd extreme pedals to change the sound drastically, but generally no matter what guitar or what FXs you use it's still going to sound like a Twin.

So you'd pick a single channel amp if you didn't need a huge amount of of tonal variety. Just one really good core tone with varying degrees of dirt and FX.

Tonally single channel amps also tend to lean towards lower gain sounds. Blues, Classic rock, Country. Indie, Pop

"find an amp that you get a great clean tone with and then use pedals to get your overdrive sound."


I hate this advice almost as much as I hate when people tell a person not to get a 100 watt amp because you can never crank it and 20 watts is all you need. It's a load of crap.

It doesn't really take the individuals needs into consideration. For some, a clean amp as a pedal platform is all they need, but for others a multichannel amp is far more practical.

What's the point in getting a tube amp with a nice warm overdrive sound if you're just going to rely on your overdrive pedal to get your tone? Is there a huge difference in tone if you're running a Tubescreamer through a Vox versus a Mesa? How much do the pedals colour the sound (versus the amp itself)?


Well in the case of the Vox you'd simply use it to either boost or add dirt. In the case of the Mesa it would really depend how you use it. On the clean channel you might add a tubescreamer to the clean channel to give yourself a slightly dirtier clean tone. Many people will also add a TS to their dirty channels as a boost to tighten up the bottom end, add mids and a little extra compression. It doesn't drastically change the sound of the Amp. A Mesa is still going to sound like a Mesa, a Vox will sound like a Vox etc..

If the amp has only a single channel, is there any convenient way to go straight from clean to overdrive other than buying an overdrive pedal? I'm used to my modelling amp, and I use a footswitch to go from my overdrive to my clean. Is this at all possible with single channel amps?


Depends on the amp. But if you've got the amp dialed in to be overdriven then the quickest way to go from overdrive to clean is to simply roll back your guitars volume or play softer.

Anyway, the big question you have to ask yourself is "what do I need?" Do you need a lot of tonal variety? Or do you just need one really good sound?
#12
a few things: as shown, the volume control can have a huge effect on your tone

secondly, there are a few amps that got the whole multi channel thing down, but a lot of them don't. One of my favourites for having cleans, crunch and gain all down is the 5150 III 50W ($1000 new) (or the 100W - $1800 new - but I can't make use of more than 50W realistically).

But a good dirt box can do wonders too. My main setup is a modded Jet City 50W Combo with a gorgeous clean channel and a killer gain channel, but I run a dirt box (I actually have 5 completely different dirt boxes and use one that suits my mood) set at a good level to beef up the tone and push the amp a bit more, so I get in effect 4 different channels: clean and chimey, beefy with edge, natural amp's crunchy distortion, lovely searing lead tone. And then get further variation on that by rolling my volume control up and down.

On reflection, it might be worth a look at the higher end counter part for my amp actually, the Soldano Lucky 13 50W, but you're gonna clip that $2000 budget going new, used is a good option though if you can find one. You can get the 2x12" combo easily as GC/MF stock it but it's heavy and not as easy to transport as a half stack. Also expensive.
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#14
Yeah, a lot of pros do use multiple amps. But then some use lots of pedals, some use few. Dave Grohl goes guitar->rat->vox. It really just depends on what you need and what you want to sound like.
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#15
Quote by unplugged89
Clapton's an absolute master at this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10qLYy6hiFQ


he's not a master at that weird dance he was doing at 6:37


seriously, though, good post, agreed. EDIT; aside from the bit about pedals- i agree if you mainly need cleans, but if you mainly need dirt (at least, the kind of dirt that tends to be got from amps) then I'd just get a dirty amp and put up with the cleans.
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