#1
Hey all you wonderful people out there.

I'm new here, so hi. I've been playing piano for 12 years, guitar for about two and a half years now, and electric guitar for about a year, so I'm not much more than a beginner. I am taking jazz/blues/classical guitar lessons at our local university, though. I guess that's something. Anyway.

I've been playing electric guitar for almost a year now, and I think its time to buy my own amp (I've been borrowing a Roland Cube 30 from my church). I play mostly christian worship music, but I also play a bit of jazz, blues, and punk/classic/alternative rock. My guitar is an Ibanez AF75 TDG archtop. I also have a MXR M69 Prime Distortion, and an Ibanez AW7 Autowah.

Now for my question.

I am very limited on funds (being a 16-year-old Canadian in South Africa doesn't help) so my first impulse is second hand gear. In my area I've found a Rolland Cube 40XL, Fender Mustang I, and a Marshall Valvestate 50 for pretty sweet prices. I'm wondering, what do you more experienced guitarists think? Are any of these amps any good? Or should I just ditch them all and find something different?

Since I have a couple pedals already, I'm leaning towards the Marshall valve state 50 because it has an FX loop (and its got a tube in it, which is a plus)... But from what I've heard, Fenders have really nice clean tones, which is essential for my Jazz playing... and even though I'm not fond of Rolland, using the 30 cube has made it grow on me (and those built-in effects are pretty sweet). On top of that, for all three of these amps, I've heard as much about how bad they are as how good they are. So you can see my dilemma.

I'm just looking for general amp help. I'm sure this happens every other day, so sorry if I'm a nuisance. I'm just a guitar n00b who doesn't know much... yet. Any help is appreciated!
#2
SA in the house, yo

Yeah, it's easiest to go used here, I've bought quite a lot of solid used stuff lately new gear is quite pricey with the weak rand and whatnot. Which city are you in, btw? And what price bracket you looking at? The markets can be quite different.

If you absolutely had to choose between those three, the Mustang will be the one with the most versatility in terms of how many sounds you can get out of it. I haven't tinkered much with the Valvestate, but I have heard my friend gig with one once and I thought it sounded pretty good. The Cubes are decent; I've held onto my 60 like 7 years down the line after buying far more expensive gear. I've yet to come across an unreliable one.
I've also seen some Vox amps float around from time to time, and I quite like those too. I always get mixed up between the VR and VTs though so maybe someone else can say a word about that. I'm inclined to lean towards the Marshall just because I think it will outlast the other two, or if you see one of dem Voxs. I'm the kind of guy who will tell you to try everything and get what sounds good to you anyway
#3
For what it's worth, I'd pick the Fender from that lot, though I've quite a lot of bias as someone who primarily plays blues. However, the notion that Fender amps have nice clean tones is mostly attributed to its tube amps. My experience with the Mustang never quite met my standards for clean tones.

I'm not of much help to people on tight budgets and/or are looking at solid-state amps, but I can say there's a good bit of division amongst jazz guitarists when it comes to gear (some of whom actually prefer solid-state) which can be attributed to how diverse the jazz genre is, so you'd have to be a bit more specific. Most common Fender tube amps or a Vox AC will cover most of that ground, and if you throw an OD pedal in there, you could get a convincing punk/classic/alt. rock sound (I prefer having multiple channels for those purposes). These are proper tube amps, and can be had at great prices in the US, but I don't know about the market in South Africa, I have to believe it isn't great judging by the Wikipedia list of guitarists from South Africa. I imagine it isn't as ubiquitous of a hobby as it is here.
#4
@UnmagicMushroom

I'm in the Amanzimtoti/Durban area. My price range right now is about R3000 and maybe higher if I save like heck.

If I do get the Marshall, I'll have to take care of the tube, right? I read a thread last night on tubes and stuff, and most of it went over my head. I got the fact that the tubes need to warm up... but biasing them went in one ear and out the other (it was late, so I was a bit groggy). Will I have to do all that stuff if the tube is only in the preamp?
#5
The Marshall Valvestate is a hybrid amp - so it has a tube in the pre-amp and a solid state power amp. They are not known for sounding very good.

FWIW I had a Marshall AVT50 from 2000 which is similar to the Valvestate amps and I have never had to replace the tube in it in 14 years! - Maybe I've been lucky but I only use it as a backup now as I upgraded to a Vox AC15 about a year ago. If the Valvestate is anything like my AVT50 then the cleans were OK but I didn't like the distortion channel.

Out of the 3 you listed I think the Roland would probably be the best bet.

I'd recommend holding back and saving for a while longer, keep an eye on the used market and something better might come along that you'd be much happier with.
#6
Cube is your best choice there. Don't be fooled by "hybrid" tube amps - they don't sound anything like an actual all -tube amp - it's a gimmick. I speak from experience. I grew up playing on a Marshall valvestate half-stack and a tubeworks "hybrid" amp - both sounded terrible compared to a real tube amp.

The Cube is a great digital amp. When you're ready to spend some real money, then get a good tube amp. But in the lower price ranges, digital amps are a better bet.
#7
Quote by chrismendiola
However, the notion that Fender amps have nice clean tones is mostly attributed to its tube amps. My experience with the Mustang never quite met my standards for clean tones.


Part of the reason Fenders have a reputation for clean tones comes from the differences in the tone stack between them and, for example, a Marshall. Because electric guitar magnetic pickups are so mids-heavy, almost all guitar amps have incorporated a dip in the mids in their design to compensate. To oversimplify, Fenders have a dip in the low mids, which gives them a brighter sound overall. Marshalls have a dip in the upper mids, which allows the lower mids to seem to be emphasized.
#9
Quote by jeremy.ckwiens
So I just found a VOX VT80+ at a decent price. What are the pros and cons of this amp?


Pros:
It's a pretty decent modeling amp
Better than the other ones you listed

Cons:
Still won't sound as good as tubes

I'd get the VT80+ out of all the ones you've listed.
#10
Quote by paul.housley.7
Pros:
It's a pretty decent modeling amp
Better than the other ones you listed

Cons:
Still won't sound as good as tubes

I'd get the VT80+ out of all the ones you've listed.


??? But this amp is a tube amp, isn't it?
#11
It's a hybrid. Only part of the preamp is tube, the rest is solid state.


For what you're doing, though, that isn't terribly a bad thing. The most reknown jazz amp out there today is fully solid state, so that could work to your aid. However, with a budget of about $400 that you're setting (that's what I assume the used VT80+ goes for being a $900 new amp), you could easily have amps that would sound better for blues and jazz, while still being fully tube.

Save up a little and you could buy yourself a Fender Blues Jr, a used Traynor YCV50 Blue, or a multitude of other mid-range tube amps, provided you could get them shipped for a decent cost.

Which part of SA are you in? Maybe we could help you scour through the local Craigslist.
#12
+1 for the vt80! Imo the Valvetronix series is the best of the modeling amps, though there's not much difference between 'em all. If you play metal, you may wanna go with the Valvestate, or a Peavey Vyper, but the vt has a lot of good tones in it. They're great for the price too.
#13
Quote by JustRooster


Which part of SA are you in? Maybe we could help you scour through the local Craigslist.


I'm in the Amanzimtoti/Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal area (Amanzimtoti is the town I live in, Durban is the closest big city, and Zwa Zulu Natal is the province). I've been looking on Gumtree, a SA Ebay pretty much, and that's where I found these amps.

Looks like its down to the Roland Cube 40XL (going for R2 900/$270 US, pre-owned) and the Vox VT80+ (going for R4 500/$415 US, also pre-owned), unless someone can find other great deals in the area? I'm still searching. You can't be under-researched when it comes to things like this.
#14
I'll give you a longer explanation.

Tube amps sound wicked good when you turn them up loud. Tubes distort in ways that are pleasing to the ear.
Transistors mostly do the same job as tubes in the sense that they amplify the signal, but they don't react in the same way. Transistors can sound pretty bad if you push them into distortion.

Clever engineers have found ways to design transistor circuits that emulate the sound of tube distortion and other clever engineers have decided to use a tube or two in a solid state circuit. that works, but solid state circuits run at much lower voltages than tube circuits, so the tubes are working, but they're not working the same way that they work in a tube amp.

I think you'll find that hybrid amps such as the Vox VT80+ will have a range of sounds that fall somewhere in between solid state and tube amplification. There are solid state amps that can sound more tube-like than a hybrid. There's also a few hybrids that have tube power sections. The tube version of the Peavey Vypyr and the Fender Superchamp XD for example. Those sound better to my ears than solid state but they still don't sound quite as good as a real tube amp.

If you've been playing through a Roland Cube then you're most likely going to like to get another cube or the Vox. The VT80+ is a decent hybrid and it should be reasonably good for what you like to play.

Some guys seem very happy with solid state. I myself bow at the altar of the tube, but I'm designing a hybrid setup for myself to play on because I like the convenience of amp models more than I like the pure aural bliss of a tube amp. If I had unlimited space and money I'd be buying up every tube amp I could get my hands on, but because I play for myself late at night in a small home and have no plans to be a performer, a hybrid makes the most sense for me.

I hope that helps.
#16
I'll have to go with the Vox VT80+ and if you can get that, the Marshall (I know I will catch hell for that one)

Both of those sound decent and are fully gigable, the Vox sounding a bit better and with greater versatility.

If you can order from www.thomann.de and it isn't that much more, the Jet city JCA 2212 combo would be a great choice. Or the JCA 5112 1x12 combo.
#17
Valvestates are MY personal favorite Marshalls. That's my opinion, ask anyone else and they'll say they suck. Chuck Schuldiner used them and some other death/black metal artists as well. Out of those I'd recommend the Fender.
#18
Quote by dylandempsey6
Valvestates are MY personal favorite Marshalls. That's my opinion, ask anyone else and they'll say they suck. Chuck Schuldiner used them and some other death/black metal artists as well. Out of those I'd recommend the Fender.

You've obviously never played a good Marshall
#19
So I'm thinking, get the Rolland or the Vox, and use it for a good long while. Since they're modelling amps, I'll be exposed to a lot of different sounds, which develops my "sound" until I know what I want in an amp. Then I can better judge what I really want in a high-quality amp. Over this time I'd also be learning what effects I like, so I could start building a pedalboard Good plan or bad plan?
#21
Quote by jeremy.ckwiens
??? But this amp is a tube amp, isn't it?


Generally speaking a true tube amp is all tubes for the main signal path but many have some SS stuff in the effects loop.
VT Series and VT+ are not Hybrids in the traditional sense like amps from MusicMan were. I owned an RD50 in the 80's which was true hybrid with TL074 FET ICs in the front with Tubes for the power amp. Another scheme is Tube pre-amp and solid state power amp.
The VOX VT use a solid state input that get's digitized into data and through a DSP and software is morhped into different amp sounds with/without effects. Then it goes into a 12AX7 acting as a small power amp, then through a transformer type circuit to a solid state power amp. So technically speaking it can be classed as a hybrid but it's more of a modelling amp because there's DSP & Software that primarily does the task.

I own a VT30 so I was very familiar with their design details before I bought the amp. I liked the VR series as well sounding pretty good and loud for 1/2 the price on an AC15. I had heard the VT+ series was not as nice as the VT's but can't confirm that.

OP a lot of love for the Mustangs out there but a Mustang 1 is a bedroom/home recording amp period. Way too puny for any real live work unless you're busking on a street corner by yourself.

I'm also not a big fan of today's modern Cube amps. I used a Cube amp in the 80's though and it was a totally different animal. Rolands quintessential Jazz amp is JC120 but it's serious money.
Last edited by KenG at Oct 31, 2014,
#22
Quote by jeremy.ckwiens
So I'm thinking, get the Rolland or the Vox, and use it for a good long while. Since they're modelling amps, I'll be exposed to a lot of different sounds, which develops my "sound" until I know what I want in an amp. Then I can better judge what I really want in a high-quality amp. Over this time I'd also be learning what effects I like, so I could start building a pedalboard Good plan or bad plan?

Yes, that's a good idea. And IMO that's the whole point of buying a decent modeler as your first amp - it gives you a good idea of how different kind of effects and amps will sound like and helps you a lot with finding your own tone.

Don't get fooled by tubes. Just because it has a tube in it doesn't make it good or bad. Tubes don't magically improve your tone. It is true that most amps professional guitarists use are tube amps. But that doesn't mean all tube amps are great, just like not all solid state amps are crap.

The tube in hybrid amps is mostly just a gimmick. It is there to attract people because people think tube = magic. There's no magic. If a hybrid sounds good, it is not because of the tube. Valvestate, Valvetronix, Tube Fusion and the like are all mostly solid state. There's only one tube in them. It may do something to the tone but if you like the tone of the amp, I'm sure it is not just because of the tube.

My point is, don't listen with your eyes. Use your ears. It doesn't matter if there is a tube in the amp. What matters is if it sounds good or not.
#23
Thanks a bunch, you guys. I'm a whole lot smarter now with amps. Sadly, I didn't have enough cash to buy an amp... I spent most of it on a new pickup for my Fender Newporter acoustic (a VERY much needed upgrade). I didn't end up having enough cash total anyway. I spent the rest on a (second-hand) Boss DD-3 and an Ibanez TS9 (brand new). I'll definitely be more open to transistor amps now, since I'm getting REALLY nice sounds from this Roland Cube 30 and my pedals (TS9, MXR M69, and DD-3). Thanks again for all the wisdom shared. I'll definitely be back when I actualy have some serious cash to spend on a nice amp.