#1
So why are amps from Bad Cat, Dr Z, and Matchless very expensive? Is there something that makes them objectively better?

for example, a Vox AC4TV uses the same EL84 and 12AX7 component as the AC15 and Matchless Spitfire. Why are the price difference so steep?
#2
same reasons a Cadillac costs more than a chevy.

you have higher quality parts, better circuits, better transformer, different location of manufacturing, etc.
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#3
The parts may have the same spec, but higher quality. Super-expensive amps are often hand-wired, too, which is a time-consuming way of doing things. This drives the price up.

Some people say amps being hand-wired leads to better sound, too, but you have to take that with a grain of salt (I doubt you could tell a difference between a normal AC30 and a hand-wired one).
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#4
They may be the same tubes but what about the sockets? The expensive ones will have something good like Beldon, not some crappy Chinese knockoff. And that's just the sockets, the difference in quality of parts and workmanship applies throughout as you can imagine.
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#5
Quote by PsiGuy60
The parts may have the same spec, but higher quality. Super-expensive amps are often hand-wired, too, which is a time-consuming way of doing things. This drives the price up.

Some people say amps being hand-wired leads to better sound, too, but you have to take that with a grain of salt (I doubt you could tell a difference between a normal AC30 and a hand-wired one).


So would you say if I had an AC15, I could pretty much get the same range of tones that I could get from a Matchless Spitfire 15?

Would it be comparable to going from a Les Paul studio to Les paul standard, more expensive because of the wood material and finish but not huge difference in the tone?
#6
You're assigning too much importance to what tubes are in it. The circuit defines the tone, not the tubes. They're different amps. There's more to it than components and build quality, that's just one aspect. Different amps have different circuits, that's mainly what makes them sound different. The rest is just icing on the cake.
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#7
Quote by joshua_120795
So would you say if I had an AC15, I could pretty much get the same range of tones that I could get from a Matchless Spitfire 15?

Would it be comparable to going from a Les Paul studio to Les paul standard, more expensive because of the wood material and finish but not huge difference in the tone?

I think Matchless amps use different resistor/capacitor/potentiometer values to Vox amps, which would lead to a different tone. So not exactly. There's more to an amp than just "which tubes does it use" that decide tone - the internal circuitry has a much larger effect, not to mention speakers, output transformer etc.
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Last edited by PsiGuy60 at Sep 3, 2014,
#8
people will pay a lot of money for quality.

off the assembly line circuit board amps cost less to build than an amp that goes across two or three benches.

parts, labor costs etc. and by parts i don't mean just the chassis, the speaker(s), the capacitors and resistors etc. the tolex, the cabinet, the feet, the handle, the grill cloth, all of it.

tubes are probably the one thing that may be the same.
#9
Higher quality components and more time in R&D, so if you pay more money you get an amp that may not sound better to you, but it sounds "better" from a relatively technical point of view.

The 12ax7's in an SLO and in a VH4 will be the same 12ax7's in an epi valve jr. and a class 5 though.
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#10
would you get a good british crunch? yes. would it be the same no. and a lot of it is only felt by the player. sometimes the response, feel, etc just allows you to play and FEEL it differently.

considering i just dropped money on a carvin v3m, i can say it is WAY WAY better than my egnater which i am now selling. actually they are in the same price range. thats just an example of a different or better design.

but quite simply, the amp is probably about 80% of your tone. you should be spending more on your amp than anything else. your guitar is a tool. the amp is the sound. yes guitar plays a part, and like anything else we hold it, bond with it, so it becomes very personal. but really, if you play through a marshall....your going to sound like your playing through a marshall it doesnt matter what guitar.

same with effects. your tone flows through em. a majority of guitarists have 1 or more pedals that may be on all the time. they impact your tone a lot especially overdrives, distortions, or something like a flanger or octave effect. they are dramatic. many times, people use pedals for everything and just play a clean amp.

everything in the chain plays a role but the amp is the foundation of the tone. that, and the same reason people buy a rolex. cause they can. does anybody NEED a matchless? perhaps not. but they are awesome amps, and some can afford them.
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#11
Some expensive things are worth the money, some aren't. There are a million consumer products I could refer to to drive this point home, but is that really necessary?

Even if all the parts and circuits were the same, which they aren't in the cases you list, then there still would be room for increased costs based on labor. I could choose to assemble the amp in the quickest, easiest fashion or I could choose to assemble the amp in the manner that would produce the best results. The latter would take more time and as such would cost more.
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#12
If its a small company you could have to pay more due to there production capacity, parts and aditional labor costs.
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#13
-Marketing
-Components
-not being made in China

tend to be the main reasons. Monetarism sucks
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#14
Quote by Cathbard
You're assigning too much importance to what tubes are in it. The circuit defines the tone, not the tubes. They're different amps. There's more to it than components and build quality, that's just one aspect. Different amps have different circuits, that's mainly what makes them sound different. The rest is just icing on the cake.


+1

Quote by tubetime86
Some expensive things are worth the money, some aren't. There are a million consumer products I could refer to to drive this point home, but is that really necessary?

Even if all the parts and circuits were the same, which they aren't in the cases you list, then there still would be room for increased costs based on labor. I could choose to assemble the amp in the quickest, easiest fashion or I could choose to assemble the amp in the manner that would produce the best results. The latter would take more time and as such would cost more.


+1

There are several cases of boutique companies being chancers and actually selling stuff for very high prices which is not that well made. So you need to be careful- high prices don't guarantee quality.

At the same time, the well-regarded (and by that I mean well-regarded by people who know what they're talking about- electronics types etc., not necessarily forum keyboard warriors who often have no clue what they're talking about (irony alert ) ) boutique stuff often does justify the extra price (at least in part- with any expensive product, diminishing returns often apply, but that still doesn't necessarily mean it's not worth the extra if that 5% increase in performance is absolutely necessary even if it costs double the money).
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#15
Boutique amps are a lot like boutique cars. Hand built, one-off production, high quality components, and very expensive. If only a Lotus or Ferrari will do, a boutique amp is probably in your future. If you drive a Toyota or Chevy, a good quality production amp from Vox, Marshall, Fender or Mesa will likely get it done.
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#16
Besides the components (tube sockets, tubes, resistors, caps, etc) being different quality, there's more to it than that. As Cathbard said, the circuit design plays a bigger part in how the amplifier will sound compared to just changing the tubes. Depending on how the manufacturer design the circuit, there can be countless variations in the circuit. And to beat the dead horse, labor costs also drive up the cost of boutique amplifiers.
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#18
Quote by Will Lane
Usually the higher cost, the higher quality.


Broadly true within reason. There are some insanely expensive amps out there that cost as much as a small house but an old Fender Deluxe Reverb or Super Reverb sounds just as good on most recordings by those that own both. (Larry Carlton, Robben Ford etc.)
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#19
^ Yeah I would say it's generally true, but once you get into the collector/investor price bracket it probably doesn't necessarily hold, plus even in the more normal price ranges there are enough exceptions that you need to keep your wits about you. Plus some brands are better value in some countries than others.

I guess... there's some correlation for sure, but not so much that you can just blindly buy on price, either.
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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.

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#20
Hey, Cath -- we've had parts of this "quality" discussion before. Maybe you or someone else could run up a guesstimate as to what the difference in a set of parts for a really good 100W amp would run compared to a set of "ordinary" parts.

I'm looking at kits from Ceriatone in the $600-700 range at the top end, with finished handwired amps in a head case running from $1000-1500, give or take. My take on the 8 or 10 of these that I've had time to sit down with, that they're excellent quality (and my comparison amp would be, for example, a Two Rock at around ten grand).

Objectively (and remember, the OP had that word in it), what's the difference?
#21
I believe it boils down to each part being made with better materials/craftsmanship as they get more expensive. When I was talking to Craig about building a custom 800 a long while back, he explained that for say 2 grand, I could build an absolutely killer head using pretty good parts. But if I wanted to up it to say, 3 grand, he could get a better OT, etc. and it would most certainly sound even better. Obviously that 2k build would still be damn good, it just gets even better (whether the extra grand is worth whatever increase in quality you get or not is up to you) when you invest even more into getting the best parts available within your budget


Thats probably not nearly specific enough though, soz
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#22
well, shit look at his brigands, he was selling them already loaded with NOS tubes (at least at one point of the other).

its a Geo Metro compared tp a Bentley, higher quality materials, better workmanship, better QC, better anything. i know i said that once, but everything adds up.
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#23
Yupppppp. Dude makes such amazing amps, the sadness I felt learning that CEC is no longer in business cannot be overstated
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#24
Quote by dspellman
Hey, Cath -- we've had parts of this "quality" discussion before. Maybe you or someone else could run up a guesstimate as to what the difference in a set of parts for a really good 100W amp would run compared to a set of "ordinary" parts.



Depends on how you want to operate. Here's what I do mostly now. I scan ebay for Russian military stuff. It comes in waves. I think they keep finding warehouses full of components that never got to the job and then dump 'em on ebay. They're a fraction of the price of equivalent quality components you'd normally buy. Especially capacitors. That old Russian military stuff is good, very good.
You'll get top end quality for the price of cheap Chinese knockoffs.


Edit: that's not what you asked was it? A couple of hundred bucks maybe - at retail price. Not enough to account for the price difference, no. That's not what you're paying for. Mostly they cost that much because people will pay that much. End of story.
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Last edited by Cathbard at Sep 4, 2014,
#25
Yeah sadly not every manufacturer is going to charge an acceptable and fair price for their amps, just like in any industry :/
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#26
And it gets even worse when so called "boutique builders" use cheap shit and charge through the nose for their amps. The components may not be the determining factor in price but if you're paying top dollar then you should be getting top notch components. You charge thousands and then cheap out on a hundred bucks worth of components? Just **** right off, smeghead.
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#27
Quote by Cathbard
And it gets even worse when so called "boutique builders" use cheap shit and charge through the nose for their amps. The components may not be the determining factor in price but if you're paying top dollar then you should be getting top notch components. You charge thousands and then cheap out on a hundred bucks worth of components? Just **** right off, smeghead.

Unfortunately, a lot of boutique amps cost more to make because they don't have the equipment and manpower to build them quickly and efficiently. When you consider the amount of time it takes to build an amp by hand and the cost of even cheap components, the cost of a boutique amps skyrockets. You often don't pay for components. I'm sure builders would like to use the best components, but there's a point where you don't get the returns you need to keep building amps for people. People don't buy the more expensive amps as much as they do less expensive amps. A few bills makes a big difference. They try to not to price their amps too high. They're already expensive and there are other options available.
#28
Sometimes, depends on how expensive we are talking. There comes a point where you're ripping people off if you cut corners. You may be overestimating how hard they are to build too.
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#29
^ +1

Quote by Cathbard
And it gets even worse when so called "boutique builders" use cheap shit and charge through the nose for their amps. The components may not be the determining factor in price but if you're paying top dollar then you should be getting top notch components. You charge thousands and then cheap out on a hundred bucks worth of components? Just **** right off, smeghead.


+1

There comes a point when the price is high enough that you shouldn't be cheaping out at all. That's not to say everything should be plated in platinum or anything like that, obviously, but you know what I mean.
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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.

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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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Et tu, br00tz?