OK so I apologise in advance for what might appear on first inspection to be a rambling post but it is pertinent to the point, believe me!

I have been playing guitar for ~30 years nearly but in all honesty, I have learned very little (the perils of being self taught with little talent I suppose). Nobody ever taught me to play or how to set up an amp; I just plugged in and went. Now I have played some gigs to a few hundred people so I am not entirely ignorant but I am now at the stage of life where I want a decent set up in my music room (ie spare room in my house) to jam away as the mood takes me. Nothing fancy, just some budget amps. Having moved house recently, with some spare cash I treated myself to a Gibson Les Paul Standard and a Fender Strat American Standard ad I figured it was time I learned to make them sound as good as possible.

The question is; for years, I have just plugged into the clean channel of whatever amp I have been using and used various pedals to dirty the sound up but I am starting to think that is not such a good approach. I use a small Orange Crush and a Washburn South Side amp (I have a Boss chorus pedal that sounds crap unless I use both outputs to two amps). Both amps have push buttons to engage overdrive. I always thought this a little pointless; after all, I'm not going to stop halfway through a song and push the button to get overdrive right? But playing around the other day, I found a nice sound when I ran my Boss SD pedal with the gain turned down and my Tube Screamer together. So in effect, I was playing with the SD pedal on constantly, adding a teeny bit of grit and the TS-9 when I wanted full-bore mode. So now I am experimenting with running the amps with the overdrive button pushed in and using the pedals to add shade.

So what I want to know is what the recommended approach is? What do most people use? Am I doing it right? Basically, I want to get the most out of the guitars and my limited talent. Would I be better off buying a better amp with foot switchable channels? Is it 'best' (and I realise there may be no right or wrong answer here) to use the clean or overdrive channel on a small amp? Bear in mind this a bedroom type set up so ear bleeding volume is not a reality.

For those interested, the pedal board I am using is such:

Amp>Boss Chorus>TS-9>Boss SD-1>MXR Comp>Dunlop Wah>Guitar
The recommended approach is exactly what you've done: find what works for you, and do that.

Lots of people do what you do, which is called "stacking" overdrives. The tubescreamer in particular is a very popular pedal for stacking, since it's a midrange oriented pedal that doesn't tend to get flubby or screechy when driven hard.

You are definitely a candidate for a new amp. Whether you need a channel switcher or not is up to you, there's a fairly even split between people who use pedals on one channel and people who use channels and those who do both. Midrange modern amps tend to have footswitchable channels, so you might end up with one whether or not you plan to use the feature. There's certainly no harm in using pedals on one channel of a multiple channel amp, and you always have those extra features available for experimenting.

That might not have sounded helpful, but here's why: it doesn't matter that much. Go to a guitar store and play as many amps as you can, and start developing your taste/preference. There's certainly no consensus on the 'right' way to run amps and pedals, so just find one that sounds great to you and don't sweat the features too much. If there's something you really need, you'll probably notice it.

Also, don't rule out higher wattage amps. They can get louder, but their performance at low volumes is usually as good if not better than low volume amps. Power tube distortion only happens at ear-splitting volumes in almost any circumstance, regardless of the wattage of the amp. What you're getting from your pedals and amp is preamp distortion, which is pretty easy to get at nearly any volume, especially from more modern amp designs (the Master Volume control is the basic tool here, it lets you turn the amp's volume down after you get the preamp volume/distortion/overdrive where you want it).

So, start thinking about what kinds of sounds you like - artists or youtube videos as reference points are very useful. Once you have a general notion of what sort of flavors you like in your amps, we can help you with a list of amps to try out. There's also the modeling route, which can be very useful if you don't know what you want. Modeling amps attempt to replicate the sounds of other amps, so a decent one (and they are not all decent) can be a great "first real amp" because it will let you sample a huge range of tones to figure out what you prefer. They also tend to have a lot of built in effects, too, so you can experiment there as well for no additional cost.
im generally on the train of investing in a nice amp, which is probably about 80% of your tone. after that probably affects in terms of coloring your tone.

the guitar is probably the least. thats more affecting hoe you play, which of course talent is always number 1.

are you asking for 1 setup? or buying a new setup specifically for home use?

there are some tube amps that do very well in low sound settings. some tube amps are built as practice amps.

if you investing in something like AxeFX, not only will you have full tone at low volumes, but you can run a line out to a home PA / speaker sound system. same with a tube amp with a line out to a mixer. can get yourself a tiny desktop "harry homeowner" mixer and run headphones off of it, into a home sound system etc?

in terms of tamping volume for home use?

i would generally say buy a 1x12 cab and put a eminence FDM speaker it in, which attentuates to sound down by about 8 decibels....which is quite significant.

or buy one of these

these cab and weber attentuators can let you run a HUGE amp, with no mods, at home and when you want to play out just remove it from your rig, or with teh FDM speaker just jack it up to full volume. heck, the FDM speaker goes to like 101 SPL which is actually boosting louder than most 98 SPL speakers. so it can go high and low.

lots of ways. im generally in 3 camps:

1. seperate setups. buy a cheaper smaller practice amp specifically for home use, perhaps with a headphone jack.

2. buy some digital stuff. a line 6 POD on the cheaper (few hundred bucks) or something rwally high end like an axeFX or a Kemper profiling amp for multiple thousands. this is pro level gear for any player at any level, for those systems allow virtually limitless flexibility for all players in all scenarios and offer pro level quality sound....hence the price.

3. teh average dude who hops on the tube amp train like me and realizes there is no F-ing reason or way to turn a tube amp up loud in a home environment and needs to find alternative meathods.

i myself shove my setup in a closet and close the door. that helps. haha.

but in this case, some attentuator like i listed, the FDM speakers, attentuator, etc. your AMP makes a huge difference. some amps are able to be dialed in at lower volunes and sound good than others. some amps just go from 1-10 real quick, or darnit, just sound better loud.

my #4 and aside is that its always nice to buy stuff with flexibility. many tube amps have line outs. as i stated, you can run this to a home sound system.

for example, my carvin v3m has a line out. never used it, but if i need it i have this option available.
Carvin CT624
Walden G630ce Acoustic
Carvin V3M, Avatar 2x12 WGS Reaper, vet 30
(crybaby, Fairfield circuitry Comp, GFS tuner, Vick Audio 73 Ram's Head, Xotic AC booster, lovepedal trem, TC Flashback, PGS Trinity Reverb, Walrus Audio Aetos power)
Last edited by ikey_ at Aug 22, 2015,
Yep, figure out the two or three guitarists you would like your sound to be in the realm of first. That will narrow the field and eliminate a lot of unsuitable gear choices.

Next, figure out how you want to use it. My guitar tone is pretty consistent so I go for small, medium, and large amps rather than a bunch of different voices from USA, UK, DEU. I am in the minority here but I gig often and the smallest amp that will get it done is usually the one I choose. A mic will make it as big as it needs to be with enough clean headroom for Shea stadium if necessary. I prefer to keep my stage volume much lower these days.

Some players want a rainbow of different voices so digital modeling makes sense. For others, a two or three channel amp is the cats meow. Pick your poison.
"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
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Aug 22, 2015,
So what I want to know is what the recommended approach is? What do most people use? Am I doing it right? Basically, I want to get the most out of the guitars and my limited talent. Would I be better off buying a better amp with foot switchable channels? Is it 'best' (and I realise there may be no right or wrong answer here) to use the clean or overdrive channel on a small amp? Bear in mind this a bedroom type set up so ear bleeding volume is not a reality.

I am a bedroom player of guitars. My setup is a bunch o' guitars (that I swap out on whims), a bunch o' pedals (that I swap out on whims) and a single 40w Fender HRD Combo amp. I plug most of my stuff into the front, on the clean channel. I will be getting another combo amp in the future, for heavier tones.

No, I never crank that amp, because it would be too loud for my neighbors & pets to tolerate.


Years before I got my amp, I got a great set of headphones and a Korg Pandora Px4 portable digital modeler. I now own 2 of those, a Px5, and a Tascam GT-R1. Those, like their close cousins the Line 6 POD and Boss BR series, are killer practice devices. Small enough to stuff into a hardshell case, they're nonetheless packed with features like metronomes, tuners, amp & pedal modeling, recording, computer interface, etc. to make practice time more fun & productive.
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
I used to have a solid state Marshall and played through a clean channel and used pedals for my dirt, and a boost pedal for volume for solos.

Now I have a 40w Traynor tube amp that I still use my pedals, but got rid of the boost and use the amps OD for leads. I just recently got this amp so I'm in the process of grabbing a delay and reverb because my Marshall had built in.
If you're looking for bedroom tones and are considering modelling the ID TVP Series has a 15W model (I have the 60W model) that has a lot of different Tube emulations in it. Good reverb and the other effects aren't bad either but not as many to choose from as some other modellers. There's a controller/FS that's extra ($80) that you can add if you need on the fly control. Another option (but it's a lot more money) is the POD HD500X (i have the 500). It's just under $500 but to really enjoy it you need FRFR speakers either powered or an additional power amp. 100 effects, useable in just about any order and of course the foot controller is already built in Unlike the similar quality PODs).
Moving on.....