#1
Hello

I walked into a guitar shop and came across this old Randal Commander Amplifier Head, had two channels, and the latter the website of the shop listed it as RG-90A, and it is a solid state Amp
So due to my curiosity I asked the shopkeeper to help me try that Amp, he plugged it into an Orange Cabinet.

And he asked me what do I like to Play, I said stonner-rock, so he gave me an SG guitar and said I've picked up the right amplifier.
I played through that Amp it felt nice and powerful. Had Reverb and Tremello built into it.
It had a nice "warm" and "dark" sound.
Iv'e got following doubts, everytime I come across any Tube Vs SolidState discussion, people always mention "SolidState technology has come a long way since the early days", and now this Amp that I tried is from 70's so is it supposed to be relatively lower quality than the modern day SolidState amps ?

My knowledge in electronics (especially Guitar Amplifiers ) is very insignificant, it will be great if someone can elaborate on this.

This Amp is priced around 1900 SEK ( 200 Euros) is it a good deal ?
#2
€200 is pretty low price for any head. And you liked it and that's the main point. I would buy an amp that I really liked for €200. For some genres solid state tone is what you want. Again, if you like it, buy it. Why would our opinions make it better or worse (unless you don't know your tone)? If that's the tone in your head, go and buy it. But if you know that the tone could be better, try some other amps. I wouldn't buy it just because it's cheap.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Oct 11, 2013,
#3
Quote by leenux5030
Hello

I walked into a guitar shop and came across this old Randal Commander Amplifier Head, had two channels, and the latter the website of the shop listed it as RG-90A, and it is a solid state Amp
So due to my curiosity I asked the shopkeeper to help me try that Amp, he plugged it into an Orange Cabinet.

And he asked me what do I like to Play, I said stonner-rock, so he gave me an SG guitar and said I've picked up the right amplifier.
I played through that Amp it felt nice and powerful. Had Reverb and Tremello built into it.
It had a nice "warm" and "dark" sound.
Iv'e got following doubts, everytime I come across any Tube Vs SolidState discussion, people always mention "SolidState technology has come a long way since the early days", and now this Amp that I tried is from 70's so is it supposed to be relatively lower quality than the modern day SolidState amps ?

My knowledge in electronics (especially Guitar Amplifiers ) is very insignificant, it will be great if someone can elaborate on this.

This Amp is priced around 1900 SEK ( 200 Euros) is it a good deal ?



When people say "solid states have come a long way" they are usually talking about modelers that mimic tube behaviour. Really, I consider modelers a class of their own separate from normal SS amps and tubes. When I talk about SS amps I mean the ones that do their own thing and embrace the "solid stateness", the good and bad. Old Randalls are exactly those, including the RG100ES Dimebag used.

There is a certain grittyness in well made solid states and I think it would work well for Stoner and the likes. If you already have a tube amp you might get similar effect with certain distortion pedals like Proco Rat. Thick, gritty and in certain settings even fuzzy which is great for Stoner.

A well made solid state is great amp. There are certain downsides inherent to solid state tech (they tend to get worse the louder they get unlike tubes which just get better. Thats why you see solid states with huge watts, they need all the clean headroom they can get) but high gain is not of them if its well done and not just a simple fizzy poor metal distortion pedal built in a head. That said I have never heard of Randall Commander so I dont know how good it is, but if you liked the sound throw away your SS prejudice and get it.

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Last edited by MaaZeus at Oct 11, 2013,
#4
Quote by leenux5030


And he asked me what do I like to Play, I said stonner-rock, so he gave me an SG guitar and said I've picked up the right amplifier.


I can't help you much with that amp but be warned that no matter what style you said you played, the salesman would have given you the exact same answer. You could have told him you liked easy listening jazz and he still would have recommended it.

That being said if you already have a cab, you like the sound and you can afford it(220 pounds is pretty cheap!) then by all means go for it! At 120 watts you won't have to push it too much to follow a drummer
#5
This is always a loaded issue and here' my two cents:

Some of the older solid state amps are some of the best amps ever made- period. From the late 70 the mid 80s or so, analog solid state technology for amplifiers was at a peak in terms of quality of sound and dependability. At that time, this was the "new" thing and companies were dumping research and development funds into making very-high quality solid state amps because that's where everyone thought the industry was going and they wanted to be the leaders (and patent owners). Better quality, reliability over tube amps that were prone to break-down by comparison all appealed to the logical gigging musician- one would think.

By the late 80s though, the expectation of solid state amps to rule the market just didn't happen. There were some great amps but they were expensive and though the sound quality was great in many cases, the expense just didn't make them practical to keep producing since people weren't buying them in as large numbers as similarly-priced tube amps.

Tube amps still had that distortion that solid states just couldn't replicate closely and consistently enough. Solid states often out-classed tubes for cleans but for folks who wanted that distortion- nothing but tubes would satisfy.

So, companies stopped putting lots of money into developing their solid state amps and decided they would become the inexpensive amps for the low-end, lower-budget players- cheaper to produce and more user-friendly for newbies. By this time too, so many good distortion pedals had become available that companies further didn't bother to develop the solid state distortion on the amp because they knew people would use pedals anyway. Why put $$$ into on-board distortion nobody is going to use? About the closest I've ever heard on-board solid state distortion get to full-blow tube stack distortion is the Marshall MOFSET Lead 100. Brilliant! But by the time this monster came along the winds had already shifted. Now, solid state amps are more about endless features and effects and gadgetry over quality of tone. Most of them do everything OK but nothing great. They are better in the sense that they can do more STUFF but they can't do the important things better than any of the high-quality solid state amps from the 70's and 80's.

But most people write off ALL solid state amps which is a mistake for them but what that means for you though, is that there are some KILLER solid state amps from the late 70's to mid 80's floating around in the used market for super cheap. Get them for their brilliant ballsy cleans and if you like the on-board distortion, great- but don't expect that characteristic tube distortion sound. Love it for what it is. Fantastic cleans, then get your various dirt pedals for distortion which you were going to use anyway on your modeling amp .

I have a few of the best solid state amps from this era and I'm collecting more while they are cheap. I have a Gibson Lab Series L5, Yammaha G100 II, Marshall MOFSET Lead 100 and yes, a Randall Commander (orange stripe) head which is just great and I got it for under $150 delivered! I run it through a 2x12 loaded with Swamp Thangs and it is unbelievable!

There are a few others from this era as well such as the Roland JC-120, Sunn Beta Lead, some of the Polytone stuff I hear is good. But yeah, they were all reaching for the brass ring around this time.

Lots of power in these and tons of clean head room. Go to pedals for dirt and you've got a serious rig for little money and don't have to mess with the ongoing expenses or reliability concerns of tubes.

Great tube amps are very nice indeed but you really have to crank them in most cases to get the quality sound that you buy them for and the good ones are very expensive and require more maintenance. If money is no issue then they are great, but for value, I don't think you can beat these older solid state amps.
#6
@ ChewyNasalPrize

Thanks.

I can actually count the number of times I have used the Amp distortion, I just want a Amp with a very good clean channel, and lot's of head room. I have 3 different variety of distortion pedals on my pedal board. which give me more flexibility to do different things on the fly.
Also I use a lot of pedals like Reverb, Delays, looper and Phaser, the overall mix sometimes gets so much saturated with feedback that everything is lost.
I am guessing that more head room will sort of solve this issue ?
So does more Watts on amplifier also indicate more headroom ?
#7
@ lennux

Well, the Commander is very clean and has plenty of head room so you made a good choice if that was your objective. Turn master volume all the way up and use your channel volume as your "volume". You will pretty much stay clean up to volumes that should be plenty loud for any situation. Do the opposite for gain. I've found it can produce some pleasing gain tones, just not "tube" gain tones. But yeah, pedals are the way to go.

You "could" also use an A/B switch pedal and plug in to both channels. Set channel 1 up clean and dial in distortion with an added smidge of volume on two and there you have your rhythm and lead channels! But again, unless you really dig the distortion- use pedals.

You touch on another voodoo-ish area with the tones you are getting from multiple pedals running together. Keep in mind that running multiple "rate-oriented" pedals may sound muddy or mushy because, for example, the rates of delay, loop, phase, etc. will likely be out of synch with each other and sound messy. Best IMHO to use one rate pedal at a time with other non-rate pedals like a delay with distortion or reverb.... or a tremolo with reverb... or a phaser with distortion, etc. Not that you *can't* get cool sounds running a phaser with a tremolo or delay (often times you can) but you need to be mindful of their settings to make sure they blend well together- like a slow rate on the phaser and faster on tremolo, etc.

Not sure where your feedback would be coming from unless you just have your gain (or gains) turned up too high on your distortion pedals and are too close and facing your amp speakers. Try adjusting the gain and/or facing away from the speakers... and be maybe 15 feet or so away from the speakers also- like how you might be at a live performance. Not sure more "head room" will make a meaningful difference here. It is more about adjusting gain settings and your guitar's position relative to the amp's speakers. Is your "feedback" a howling or squealing sound" Is it a "cool" sound or is it brash and nasty or murky? Some feedback tones are very awesome but unwanted feedback all the time is not. Start with moving away from the amp and then tweaking the gain knobs on your gain pedals. You could just be over-doing it with too many effects at too high intensity levels also. Less is more sometimes.

Also, the order of your pedals can make a big difference in tone. Sometimes just the order will make a pedal sound great or awful. Generally speaking, distortion pedals should come before "color" pedals (phaser, tremolo, chorus, delay, etc.). Don't know about the looper though. I'd be inclined to put it first in line and try that.

Generally, yes, more watts does equal more head-room- especially when it comes to solid state amps. More watts generally will also mean greater fullness and bass response at any volume. This is one reason why the Commander can pull such a big low-end response without getting muddy or mushy or farty. It also depends on the speakers a lot too. Good speakers can really bring out some amazing tones in an amp. Old or cheap speakers can make it sound thin and sterile.

One more note on your distortion pedals and pedals in general. Some pedals sound good with some amps and not-so-good with others (or at least not at the same settings). You kind of have to experiment a bit. Also, some distortion/overdrive pedals work great with tube amps but not solid state amps. I don't know first hand but I understand the Bad Monkey and Tube Screamer pedals were designed to work well with solid state amps. I don't own either. Many of the Boss pedals should work well too. I happen to be using Boss Power Stack which emulates a Marshally driven sound and set for lower gain like an old Plexi. It is not a "distortion" pedal per se, but a "modeler" pedal which basically allows me to create a drive or distortion channel for my clean amps rather than using their drive channels or gain. It works like a preamp. I have a Boss Dyna Drive in front of it set pretty clean for a bit of boost and a Boss Blues Driver for some really driven, distortion. These used in front of the Power Stack cause the Power stack to overdrive like the dirt channel on a Marshall would. The pedals on their own are pretty good but used in combination (Power Stack PLUS a distortion/OD pedal) and it is amazing the sound I can get out of that Commander. Just amazing. Is it a $2000 Marshall tube stack? No. Is it incredibly awesome for a $200 solid state rig that will blast killer tones at gig volumes? You bet your booties! Besides, nobody wants to steal my Commander.

This has been my personal solution to the SS amps with great clean channels but poor overdrive tones. But my point is, you have to be willing to try a few things, do some research and read reviews (especially with an eye for how the effect pedal works with solid state amps) and dine in moderation- too many flavors all at too high intensity doesn't often work most of the time.

Lastly, the guitar will make a difference too. Really "hot" pickups generally tend to not work as well with solid state amps. Single coils and moderate humbuckers seem to sound best in most cases. The nature of "hot" humbuckers is to drive tubes not chips.

There are so many variables that it is impossible to say definitively what's causing your issues or what to do to get a certain tone, etc. You've got a great clean amp to start with so that is really very important. From there, you must experiment, research and trust what your ears are telling you as much or more so than what reviews say.
Last edited by ChewyNasalPrize at Nov 20, 2013,
#8
@ lennux

It is an RG120ph.

120 watts RMS at 4 Ohms
75 at 8 Ohms

Also, I'd say this amp has the best on-board reverb and tremolo that can be had in any amp, old or new.

It is encouraging Randall has the owner's manual at their web site:

http://www2.randallamplifiers.com/images/stories/manuals/CommanderGuitar&BassAmps-OwnersManual.pdf

Though the manual is for the COMBO unit not the head, most of the documentation will apply to the head. Notable difference is you can run a 4 ohm cab off the head. The combo already has on board ohm load of 8 with loaded speakers. Add extension cab rated at 8 ohms for a total of 4 ohms of resistance and thus achieving blessed 120 watts RMS of awesome.


Is this like your amp?
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Last edited by ChewyNasalPrize at Nov 20, 2013,
#9
i am not a tube snob, but i only have two hybrids. an old ampeg 1x12" that is stunning, it has a single 12ax7 and from what i heard that the tube was at the front end of the gain structure (if that at all makes sense). $30.

i have a Music Man 130HD 2x12" mid 70's and it is one of the lesser that have a tube phase inverter. stellar cleans. it has a very natural tone and higher volumes, not as warm as a twin, but more 'sweet' than a JC120. puts it right where i want it. the cleans are awesome and 130 of tube headroom gets you forever.

the amp is just beautiful sounding and mint condition.

the preamp is SS, but it is very pedal friendly with OD's and effects. which isn't extremely common among SS amps.

i have owned two RG100ES' one needed recapped and at the time i wasn't up to knowledgeable to fix it. the other just wasn't getting used. it sounded pretty good overall thouogh.
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#10
Yeah, I think some of the early hybrids sound great also. I have a Peavey Classic VT w/SS preamp and two winged C 6L6s in the power section and I think it sounds awesome. I upgraded the stock speakers to WGS Vet 30 and Reaper though and that made a big difference too. Sweet cleans and overdrive is pretty good if you get it hot enough where the power tubes are giving it up.

I understand the early Marshall hybrids are good as well. The first few Valvestates seem to get really good comments and can be had really cheap. And the Marshall Artist 3203 and 4203 get love also but at a steeper price. The artist has tube power section but SS preamp.
#11
@ ChewyNasalPrize

Thanks, that was a good read, full of lot of important information.
And yepp the Amp head in the Image is exactly what I am referring to.

And the feedback, I was talking about was actually the feedback from delay pedal (number of repeats ).

Thanks a lot for all the information.
#12
i have some old 70's solid state amps and some new and vintage tube amps, i think some of those old solid states amps are awesome.
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#13
What you have came trough the shop is a rg-120h because it's a head, and it has master volume, and pull push treble control. The rg90a made just in combo. It doesn't have master volume and pull push treble control. The rg90a was made in two editons: whit one 15" speaker, and whit two 12" speakers. I'm think they are used emmineces but i'm not sure about it. Anyone knows more about them? I don't have too much info about it. I have a really nice one whit wooden cover. I really love it.
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#14
Quote by varszegimarcell
What you have came trough the shop is a rg-120h because it's a head, and it has master volume, and pull push treble control. The rg90a made just in combo. It doesn't have master volume and pull push treble control. The rg90a was made in two editons: whit one 15" speaker, and whit two 12" speakers. I'm think they are used emmineces but i'm not sure about it. Anyone knows more about them? I don't have too much info about it. I have a really nice one whit wooden cover. I really love it.

I have the same amp as yours with the 1x15- woodgrain stripe (not orange). Also no master volume or push/pull pots. On the back mine says model: rg90-1 , 120 watts. Can't find any manual or dating information on this incarnation of the Commander 1.
Sounds great with the reverb/tremolo. Lots of headroom.