I'm in the market for some new tone. I'm thinking of looking into a rack system for easy transport and space saving as well as being able to have a separate preamp and power amp.

I want the preamp separate for really low volume jamming.

For now I just plan on running it into the effects loop return until i can get a power amp.

Can anyone suggest any preamp that could get me decent higher gain metal tones (like symphony X) as well as decent cleans (Pat Metheny and other jazzy stuff) and most of all nice shred and fusion tone (Shawn Lane, Steve Vai, Satch and stuff like that).

I currently have 600 USD but that's somewhat flexible if I see something I like.

So... can anyone suggest any good preamps that meet what I'm looking for?

Thanks for any help.

edit - i was looking at the both the engl 530 and the pod x3 pro, anyone have any knowledge of them? youtube sound clips are never reliable.

Also if anyone could suggest a small combo that does the same well that would also be helpful.

an unsaturated fattylolcid.
Last edited by arizonagt at Aug 29, 2008,
For preamps, I find most of them to be VERY processed sounding. A lot of guys like that POD XT unit. For recording I think it's pretty decent.

Live, Michael (From Symphony X) uses both the Engl Fireball and Powerball models. Recent photographs that have been made available at Symphony X Official Website show Michael also using other amplifiers from brands such as Marshall and Madison. He has also been known to use a Mesa Triaxis and Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier for recording.

In terms of effects, Michael pairs his various amplifiers with a TC Electronics G System and a Boss NS2 Noisegate.

If you're playing live, get a good tube amp (save your $$'s) I've been playing for 35 years, I don't know that I've ever seen a live band using anything other than tube amps. Mesa Lone-Star and Mesa Roadster II have been some of the more recent rigs I've seen guys with (besides the older marshall's). A few old Fenders are still in use. Most of these amps are hot-rodded in some way or another (as are most of mine).
I've had good luck with Mesa Boogie products, Rect-O-Verb is a great combo. I also use one of the new Fender Pro-Tube Series Twin amps (2x12's)
If you're playing dropped 'C' tunings, get a tube amp with good dynamics so you can get the percussive chunky sound. Good tubes & speakers can make a cheap amp sound pretty decent. Cheap tubes and crappy speakers can make the best amp sound like a dog!
OK, I like tube amps, they just sound so much better. Some of those over-processed sounds (like in the POD XT) just don't do it for me. Like I said, ok for recording, horrible to manage in a live situation (volume levels when switching channels, room dynamics, too thin or boomy at a given gig). I've tried them, owned them etc. believe me, unless you're a master at changing each one of your programs in these units, they are hard to manage in a live situation.
Good Luck .... no matter what, don't settle ... get the tone you want even if you have to save a little longer! You won't regret it (Please do not allow yourself to keep losing money upgrading! Unless you're rich and can afford to do that!).
Last edited by scottb630 at Aug 29, 2008,
Mesa Quad would be sick. Probably over your price range, but if you can get more money, that'd definitely be something I'd take over any of the others listed so far.

Triaxis is also awesome, but even more than the Quad.

I've heard good things about Rocktron as well, the Prophecy and others. I know a few people who love the Engl and few who, not so much.

Whatever poweramp you buy, I'd suggest a Mesa or VHT though for sure. Mesa poweramps are great and can be found pretty cheap.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.

You can get used Rocktron chameleons for like 200$ and less, and ADA MP-1 for around 250$, both are pretty good. Rockton Voodu Valve are tube preamps and go for around 700$ new. To me, getting a quality preamp at 200-300 is a real steal. It's no Triaxis, but still good quality
i'm pretty interested in the ada mp1 and the ENGL 530, can anyone comment on either of them? the most important thing for me really is a decent fusion tone.

and thanks for all of the suggestions thus far.

Edit - and i'm not going to end up playing live. all of this is just good old bedroom jamming fun .

and as for the ENGL i did like the tone from this clip quite a bit. and i like the headphones output idea for practicing late at night.

are there any other ways to possibly use headphones with a rack preamp? maybe run them into the effects loop of a combo with a headphone out?

an unsaturated fattylolcid.
Last edited by arizonagt at Aug 29, 2008,
Marshall JMP-1 great preamp
My Gear
-Gibson Les Paul Studio
-Ibanez "lawsuit" Les Paul
-Ibanez S470
-PRS SE Custom

Marshall TSL100
Marshall 1960a cab

Dunlop 535q wah
Visual Sound Liquid Chorus

I don't know about the tones of an Endl530-it will do metal but I don't know if it can get real smooth tones for fusion. However the absolute best way to use a preamp into headphones is tube pre into a POD XT (MODELING OFF) with just the cab simulators and effects on and you can hear your tube pre into ALL of the cab models and save the effects for each one and it will sound great into phones or direct. you just dial the POD to "NO AMP" and find your cab and effects etc. but your input is of course from your tube pre. NOW you have real tube harmonics instead of a digital model.Can sound great with the right preamp.You MUST turn the OUTPUT LEVEL of the pre real low, almost as low as the guitar would be without it,because the POD input wants to see a very low level signal. This works with Hughes and Kettner Tubeman (exc. for FEnder cleans And Fusion/Marshall tone.) And it works with tonebone pedals and probably Very Well with the Damage Control womanizer etc. I'm wondering myself if the Engl 530 can be re-tubed to be voiced for lower gain, EJ, Gilmour, Clapton type tones as well as Fender cleans . There's a review of Engl530 online,you'll find it on GOOGLE. By the way, after you use the above technique you'll realize that the best part of modelers is the cab sims and the effects NOT the modeling.
Last edited by robertkoa at May 31, 2009,