#1
Hi Everyone,

Longtime guitar player from Denver: I play mostly heavy metal rhythm with some soloing here and there. I just use my gear for recording in the bedroom, no gigging; I was a former studio/live sound engineer, now I do web development but I try to keep my music hobby alive.

Favorite bands to play are Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, old-school Metallica, Ozzy, and Iced Earth. I normally play standard tuning; maybe a 1/2 step down or drop-D once in a rare while but no seven-string stuff.

Guitars:

-Warmoth stratocaster with Seymour Duncan Hot Rails in the bridge, Fender Vintage Noiseless in the middle, Lindy Fralin Vintage Hot Strat in the neck

-ESP EC-1000 with Bare Knuckle Aftermath in the bridge, Bare Knuckle Rebel Yell in the neck

I currently have an Orange Dark Terror that I plug into a Eminence Cannabis Rex 8-ohm speaker inside of a custom-made pine enclosure for my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe 1X12 combo. The Fender amp section itself I rarely use anymore except when recording cleans; I usually just plug the speaker into the back of the Orange Dark Terror and riff away.

As much as I love the Dark Terror, frankly it sounds a bit hairy and fuzzy at higher gains. This isn't really a problem when playing Iron Maiden stuff with my strat, but when I want to play some American metal like Metallica's Blackened, Holier Than Thou or Iced Earth stuff, the fuzzy sound doesn't really do it for me. It has that same problem when I play the ESP through it as well. I'd like to have that nice full-bodied "chunk" without the British fuzz, so I'm in the market for another lunchbox all-tube head.

I don't care about the clean channel since I have my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe that takes care of that when I want to play/record a clean sound, so I'm just after a balls-out metal head with the primary requirement that it has a full, non-fuzzy chunk for playing heavy metal rhythm, for bedroom use and recording. In other words, I'd like to get an all-tube head that gives me what the Orange DT doesn't.

Budget: around $2,000, so that leaves out Iced Earth's amp maker, Larry. Sad. So very sad, as I think John Schaffer has the perfect rhythm tone. Does Larry even make a lunchbox head? Nevermind, I shouldn't tease myself.

New or Used: I don't mind used, although I highly doubt there's any used heads on the market of what I'm about to list.


The contenders:

Soldano Hot Rod 25: We all know the SLO-100 is great but I couldn't use something like that for the bedroom as it's a 100-watt head, and I couldn't open up the head enough to get its tone without my condo neighbors calling the cops after killing me. Mike Soldano has said this Hot Rod 25 is sort of like a mini-SLO! Hmmm.......tempting, although it's very, very expensive.


Bogner Atma: Bogner's lunchbox head. I'm not too sure about this one....all the demos I've seen on YouTube just play this at lower gain stages, or when they play higher gain it's soloing. I have no idea what this would sound like chugging away on a busy metal rhythm riff with a Les-Paul like guitar. Bogner hasn't claimed this to be a mini-Uberschall like Soldano has said their Hot Rod 25 is like a mini-SLO, so that's not very reassuring either. Bogner doesn't seem to be after modern metal players with this head....a shame since their Uberschall is too high-wattage for what I'd be using it for.


Friedman Pink Taco: Nick Johnston uses Friedman amps......they sound like a high-end custom Marshall to me. Mark Day on YouTube has demo'ed a high-gain Ratt riff on this and it sounded pretty good, but would this sound different enough from my Orange DT, as they're both after a British sound?


Engl Gigmaster 15: This seems like a very strong contender. High gain head but more Mesa-Boogie like in sound. There's some killer YouTube videos on this one. Hmm...


Blackstar HT-5: I've heard mixed reviews on Blackstar. What worries me is that they're so cheap. I don't mind spending money on a good head, so I'm not sure this would be an upgrade from what I have, even if it may have a different sound.


Mesa-Boogie Mini Rectifier: This seems like a no-brainer with what I'm after, but I've heard a LOT of negative reviews on this one. Any personal experience with this?


What sucks is that there's no way (even in Denver) that I'd be able to audition all these in person, especially Bogner and Soldano. So if you guys have any experience with any of these amps and have an opinion on them, I'd love to hear them. Thanks so much!
Last edited by mustard salad at Nov 4, 2014,
#2
I would also consider a Mesa Mark V 25. You probably don't want a super modern amp for a couple of those bands so I would leave out the Mini Recto, Blackstar, and Engl. Have you tried turning the gain down and the volume up on your Dark Terror? You'll get a lot more chunk that way. A lot of the amps you're considering will do one thing and not the others. The best you can do is find something that you feel compliments you and the tone you like. The bands you mentioned all have very different tones and one amp probably won't capture them all. But then again, if you're just recording in your bedroom, you can just get a used Axe-FX if you're willing to spend that much.
#3
I just looked a vid of the Mark V 25. Very cool, thanks for the recommendation!

Quote by JELIFISH19
You probably don't want a super modern amp for a couple of those bands so I would leave out the Mini Recto, Blackstar, and Engl.


I probably should have made this clear: I'm not trying emulate the tone of those bands. I play those bands' songs because they're super fun to play and I grew up listening to them, but I'm not set on getting their tones. In fact if we're talking about tone, I love Iced Earth's cover of Number of the Beast, since it was a chance to hear how that song sounds with a more modern distortion.

Quote by JELIFISH19
Have you tried turning the gain down and the volume up on your Dark Terror? You'll get a lot more chunk that way.

I have. I never put that gain knob past 2 o'clock; my ridiculously high output pickups tend to take care of the rest. The Orange does do chunk, but again that British "fuzz" is still there.

Quote by JELIFISH19
if you're just recording in your bedroom, you can just get a used Axe-FX if you're willing to spend that much.

Nah, I'm sticking to miking a cab. I went to a recording engineering school, worked several hours in numerous recording studios and built up mike techniques, and I want to still use those skills, especially with my Shure SM57 and high-end Neve mic pre I have inside my acoustically-treated space. The challenge of finding that right speaker placement and Neve compressor settings is part of the fun for me.
#4
boost the orange. throw a timmy in front and see how you like it. i have a dual terror and an OD on the fat channel really opens it up.
#6
Quote by Offworld92
May be a bit obvious and I may have missed something, but: EVH 5150 III 50W?


Oh wow, I didn't know there was a lunchbox version of the 5150. I always assumed he just had the original super high-watt head. Thanks, I'll have to consider this as well.
#7
^ not really lunchbox but half as big as the big one.

I'd throw in an ENGL fireball suggestion in there.
Quote by mustard salad
We all know the SLO-100 is great but I couldn't use something like that for the bedroom as it's a 100-watt head
Now, now offense, but this here is bs.

A small amp won't sound better than a big amp at low volumes only because it's smaller, and if the small one sounds better at low volumes than it will sound better at any volume level (up to the point where you overdrive the power section and you distort your signal).

Also amps big seem to sound good at high volumes and worse at low volumes because humans like everything louder (up to a point, where it starts to hurt your ears).
So there's nothing like "using the full potential" of an amp or such, and a small amp at low volumes will not sound like a big amp at high volumes.
Quote by mustard salad
Mike Soldano has said this Hot Rod 25 is sort of like a mini-SLO!
Well yes and no...

The pre's should be the same, but the power section (which plays a fair bit in getting that SLO sound) is another thing.

If you want an SLO sound, I'd say you'd be better off with a Jet City JCA100HDM and $300 worth of mods if budget was a concern.
If it wasn't then you might as well get a hot rod and mod that one.

Or since you don't care much about the cleans you could get an avenger.
#10
Quote by Spambot_2

Now, now offense, but this here is bs.

A small amp won't sound better than a big amp at low volumes only because it's smaller, and if the small one sounds better at low volumes than it will sound better at any volume level (up to the point where you overdrive the power section and you distort your signal).

Also amps big seem to sound good at high volumes and worse at low volumes because humans like everything louder (up to a point, where it starts to hurt your ears).
So there's nothing like "using the full potential" of an amp or such, and a small amp at low volumes will not sound like a big amp at high volumes.


I'm just speaking from experience man. One time I jammed at a another guitarist's house and he had a Peavey 5150. The master volume was so incredibly sensitive that I couldn't open up the power tubes more than a teeny tiny bit, because it's such a high-wattage amp. What's nice about the lunchbox amps, like my Orange DT, is that I can dial the gain to where I want (between 1 and 2 o'clock usually) and open the volume knob to about 9 o'clock...if it's late at night I can switch it to 7 watts and open up the volume even more.

If I had a 100-watt head, there's no way I could open the volume knob to even just one tick without the loudness getting way out of control, before the power tubes have had a chance to open up. It was sort of a problem even with my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, where I could barely touch the volume knob to get the power tubes going, and that thing's only 40 watts. How would a 100-watt head even be usable? I couldn't breathe on the volume knob without my face melting off, right? And the power tubes still wouldn't be opened like I could do on a 15 or 25 watt head, right? Do I have this wrong?
#11
^ Honestly that's more of an issue of shitty design on the 5150 and the HRD. The volume knobs are very sensitive, yes - But you can change out the pot values to make them scale more linearly, or in the case of the 5150 you can put a level control in the FX loop, which gives you total linear control over the post gain. For instance an EQ with a level control in the FX loop, and turning the level on the pedal down like 50% below unity will make that whole unusable 7 o'clock - 9 o'clock range on the Post Gain usable.

Another way to think about what Spambot_2 is trying to say is that amps don't necessarily sound better because their power tubes are "opened up", as much as amps just plain sound better louder, regardless of what amp it is. The 5150 has a pretty damn clean power section - it doesn't notably / isn't really designed to improve tonally from having a cranked power section - it just sounds better louder because it's doing what it does at a louder volume, which is more pleasing to hear. Tame the Post Gain control, and you can get that tone at TV / talking volumes too.

I have owned a 5150 212 and a 6505 head.
#12
Quote by mustard salad
I'm just speaking from experience man. One time I jammed at a another guitarist's house and he had a Peavey 5150. The master volume was so incredibly sensitive that I couldn't open up the power tubes more than a teeny tiny bit, because it's such a high-wattage amp. What's nice about the lunchbox amps, like my Orange DT, is that I can dial the gain to where I want (between 1 and 2 o'clock usually) and open the volume knob to about 9 o'clock...if it's late at night I can switch it to 7 watts and open up the volume even more.



Does the 5150 have preamp volume knobs? My amp does sound better with the power amp turned up, but in the basement I have to dial down the preamp volume quite a bit so I don't blow out my hearing.


Another way to think about what Spambot_2 is trying to say is that amps don't necessarily sound better because their power tubes are "opened up", as much as amps just plain sound better louder, regardless of what amp it is.


But some amps do. There is definite power tube distortion going on in some amps when you get them cranked up.
#14
With a $2000 budget, your options are wide open for both new and used gear! Personally, I'd spend some serious time in music stores and audition as many amps as possible. Everybody has a bias for certain tones/feature set/price points but you need to go for what pleases/works for you.

#15
Quote by Jeffh40
Does the 5150 have preamp volume knobs?
Thay would be the "rhythm pre gain" and "lead pre gain" knobs on the far right of the front panel, left of the inputs.
Quote by Jeffh40
My amp does sound better with the power amp turned up, but in the basement I have to dial down the preamp volume quite a bit so I don't blow out my hearing.
Why don't you turn the pre gain up and the master volume down instead?
Quote by Jeffh40
But some amps do. There is definite power tube distortion going on in some amps when you get them cranked up.
The opening up of the tubes you're talking about is half what I described (stuff sounding better louder) and half self convincement 'cause you read some stuff somewhere.
Amps don't sound better because you're using more of their relative power.
It is this simple.

Power tubes distortion is another thing, and yeah that does happen when you turn the master volume up enough and in that case only.

Thing is, for playing the genre you play you don't really want much of that, if anything.
That's the reason why they make amps so big - so you don't incur in power tube distortion.

And you're likely to go deaf before hearing power tube distortion coming from a HRD.
#16
Quote by Ippon
Personally, I'd spend some serious time in music stores and audition as many amps as possible. Everybody has a bias for certain tones/feature set/price points but you need to go for what pleases/works for you.



Very true, but unfortunately I don't know where I'd be able to audition some of these brands, especially a Soldano. I've heard clips of their amps, I know Iced Earth's lead player likes to use them in the studio, but I don't want to buy something as $$$ as a Soldano "blind", but on the other hand I don't want to pass up considering one simply because I can't audition one locally. It's a conundrum....has anyone owned/played a Soldano personally?
#17
Quote by mustard salad
Very true, but unfortunately I don't know where I'd be able to audition some of these brands, especially a Soldano. I've heard clips of their amps, I know Iced Earth's lead player likes to use them in the studio, but I don't want to buy something as $$$ as a Soldano "blind", but on the other hand I don't want to pass up considering one simply because I can't audition one locally. It's a conundrum....has anyone owned/played a Soldano personally?


I own the Jet Cities (100HDM and the 22H)

The 100HDM apparently is exactly the same as the SLO100 with a few changes inside and can be modded very easily to SLO100 specs. They sound huge. I really like them more than the Peavey stuff people recommend for metal these days. I'm biased though, I own two of them.

Also you're lucky to get an SLO that cheap, they're like 3.5K across the pond
Last edited by Fisheth24 at Nov 5, 2014,
#18
Quote by mustard salad
Very true, but unfortunately I don't know where I'd be able to audition some of these brands, especially a Soldano. I've heard clips of their amps, I know Iced Earth's lead player likes to use them in the studio, but I don't want to buy something as $$$ as a Soldano "blind", but on the other hand I don't want to pass up considering one simply because I can't audition one locally. It's a conundrum....has anyone owned/played a Soldano personally?

You're in Denver, go to GC and use their loud room!

Check out the Soldano Hotrod 100 Plus ... sounds pretty awesome even at TV volumes. Check out GC Used, they have a nice return policy if it doesn't do it for you.

Add the Diezel Einstein, Bogner Shiva (with Reverb) and Ecstasy (maybe), MB Roadster, and Laney VH100R to your list.

Also, consider getting a Line 6 Pod, a lot of fun through a nice headset and you can snag one for $50.

$2000 is a sweet budget and should allow you to try 95% of what most bigbox stores carry.
#19
Quote by mustard salad
Very true, but unfortunately I don't know where I'd be able to audition some of these brands, especially a Soldano. I've heard clips of their amps, I know Iced Earth's lead player likes to use them in the studio, but
I don't want to buy something as $$$ as a Soldano "blind", but on the other hand I don't want to pass up considering one simply because I can't audition one locally. It's a conundrum....has anyone owned/played a Soldano personally?

Yes, you might like it.

#20
Quote by mustard salad
but on the other hand I don't want to pass up considering one simply because I can't audition one locally.
If you really want to buy something you could try explaining the situation to your local relatively big music store's manager (or some clerk or whoever you find appropriate) so maybe he can get some amps in store for you.
Quote by Fisheth24
The 100HDM apparently is exactly the same as the SLO100 with a few changes inside
It's actually a hot rod 100 with lower quality trannies, no choke and (I think) higher tolerance components.
Quote by Fisheth24
and can be modded very easily to SLO100 specs.
Though yeah, maybe not THAT easily but you can definitely do that if you want to TS.
Last edited by Spambot_2 at Nov 5, 2014,
#21
Thanks everyone. So it sounds like I need to really reconsider if having a lower-wattage head is really necessary for bedroom use, or if I'm just choking my tone by not considering higher-wattage heads. I'm going to try to audition what I can around here in Denver; for example, I do know there's a GC way down south that actually has a Friedman Pink Taco head, I might have to bring my guitar. Engl and Bogner might be tough; you guys might be surprised how little variance in amp maker brands music stores around here have.....I guess the economy is still hurting music stores.

Thanks for the suggestions, I will probably get on this this weekend.

On a side note, I'm seriously thinking about making a YouTube video called "how to make an amp demo video" and sarcastically do all the wrong things like talk half the time, use a crappy microphone, play the clean channel through a high-output pickup and complain about the clean channel, etc...
Last edited by mustard salad at Nov 5, 2014,