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Major brand or boutique guitar amp. #2987562
04/30/19 08:47 PM
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Are you better of buying a name brand amp or a boutique amp. I am pretty sure that Fender and Marshall will be around for a long time, not sure what happens to the boutique amps when the owner dies. Does the company and my warranty die with him.


Jenny S.
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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987563
04/30/19 08:55 PM
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That question needs to be asked and answered by the boutique amp builder surfergirl.

I have an Egnater Tweaker 15 watt head (they make them in a 1-12 combo as well) and a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe 1-12 combo amp.

I bought many brand name brand amps, I have had Marshall's, Classic Fenders, Mesa Boogies ,Seymour Duncan amps, Music Man amps, Peaveys, and my favorites are the two mentioned above.


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987564
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Are you thinking tubes or solid state? If solid state, are you thinking a "modeling" amp? What about budget? How much do you want to spend? Boutique amps can get really pricey.


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: Fred_C] #2987587
05/01/19 12:45 AM
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Yeah...

Budget?
Tonal target?
Modeling or using pedals?
Home practice, gigging, or what?
Portability?

Last edited by Dannyalcatraz; 05/01/19 12:46 AM.

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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: Dannyalcatraz] #2987596
05/01/19 01:39 AM
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My next amp will be a Mark five 35 112 combo. The one I want is $2138., I have it, just not sure I am ready to spend it yet. I want to be very sure of my choice first. It was a lot easier when I was spending my mothers and grandfathers money. I will pull the trigger eventually, just have to cash in some of my CDs.
Tone: I need an amp to cover a lot of different styles, we do rock, blues and country.
Pedals: Boss CS3, MXR Micro amp, Ibanez TS9, EHX Satisfaction fuzz, MXR Carbon delay.
I will use it for practice and gigging(I hope).
The weight is 44lbs, so it is portable.

Last edited by surfergirl; 05/01/19 01:43 AM.

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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987611
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Im pretty much a Mesa Boogie man. Since 91. I have some vintage Fenders , a old VHT and a Katana 100 and some Peaveys I use for pedal steel. But the Boogies are my go to guitar amps.


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: CEB] #2987636
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I think DBM( who's the only one to address your query) had it right. You need to contact the boutique amp maker and ask him that directly. AND hope you get an honest reply.

But I do know some people, who concerning other products, who were left stranded when they bought an item made by somebody other than a long established manufacturer and it had operation/quality issues. And others who had no problem at all.
Whitefang


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987640
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Originally Posted By: surfergirl
Are you better of buying a name brand amp or a boutique amp. I am pretty sure that Fender and Marshall will be around for a long time, not sure what happens to the boutique amps when the owner dies. Does the company and my warranty die with him.

In truth the term "boutique amp" has more to do w/the size of the company than anything else.
Many long time manufacturers (Fender, etc) have passed through all sorts of stages re their quality control & even real ownership.
As far as continuity (company ownership, warranty support, etc) all those things are variable depending on the biz structure of the enterprise.

I think the best way to get a fix on dependability is to look to what you consider to be accurate opinions from sources you respect & to have awareness of some dependable tech support...which could vary from the orig producer to some local shops & repair techs who might handle any probs that occur.

The aspect of cost-effectiveness of the orig purchase is always gonna be determined by what yer accountant suggests. grin

Another aspect touched on by you, SG, & some commenters like Fred & DannyA, is the overall uses you plan to make of the gear (trad amp + FX or more modern digital/computer-based approaches) but those aspects are becoming less distinctly diff than they were even a few yrs ago & may even be sorta illusionary in that you can combine aspects of sound processing.

You really just need to test drive the amp to hear whether it provides the range you desire.
Maybe take someone w/whom yer comfortable & whose knowledge of gear you trust along.
It's convenient in the modern world to buy things online etc but I've never bought a gtr or anything else musical that I didn't actually play the particular item beforehand.
If you have a relationship w/a shop they'll oft even let you take gear out so you can test it more extensively & in diff particular environments.


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: d / halfnote] #2987669
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@ Surfer Girl, It sounds like you have your amp picked out and just want to be sure it's a good choice before spending the money. I would run your information on the amp selected and your question about boutique vs brand name by our forum expert. On the list of forums, you'll find the Feel Free to Ask Myles thread. He always gives great advice and is very knowledgeable...


I prefer Fender amps like my Hot Rod Deluxe which is a 112 combo that weighs in at about 45lbs. But I also use a Roland SS amp Cube Street EX4 more these days at 22lbs and it is set up for both guitar and mic. The older pre-PC board Fenders go for $1,500 to $2,500 used and are very similar to a point to point hard wired boutique amp. I prefer the newer cheaper models like my HRD that run about $400 used even though they use a PC board along with tubes.

Good luck and I hope whatever you choose works out great for you! cool


Take care, Larryz
Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987680
05/01/19 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted By: surfergirl
My next amp will be a Mark five 35 112 combo.


I have had three Mesa Boogies in the past; a Mark 2 C+ head with seperate 1-12 cab, a Mark 4 1-12 combo, and a Strategy 400 power amp with a Quad Preamp with 4 1-12 cabs on stands. All of them excellent amps. I can say that I would buy a Mark 5 head if I was gigging out.

However I can get everything I need from a clean amp and some pedals in front of the amp. In fact I prefer that to any Mesa or any other expensive amp.

I set my clean amps to the best tone for my taste, and then effect that amp with digital reverb and overdrive pedals.

The beauty of the Mark 5 is it combines all of those features inside the amp. And the 35 watt model will be sufficient for any room in Hawaii except for a very large venue (and it could be miked up for that).

Mesa Engineering will be around long enough to fulfill their warantee duties, that is a pretty stable company. I have been to their factory several times in Petaluma Ca. It is a big deal.


dbm
If it sounds good, it is good !!
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=143231&content=music
Harvey Cedars is my stage name on Soundclick
Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: desertbluesman] #2987689
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A simple tube amp circuit (the best kind, in my opinion, and experience) can be fixed by any knowledgable tech. All companies have their stuff together these days, regardless of their size, because angry customers can post things and destroy business!!!

Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: desertbluesman] #2987702
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If it's the amp you really want, and you have enough online research showing that it should be pretty reliable, then go for it, no matter who makes it. My main amp is a Genz Benz Black Pearl. I had played it and wanted it for quite some time. I bought it after Fender had bought out & shut down Genz Benz, so I knew there was not likely going to be support; but it's the amp I wanted at a price I liked. Warranty wasn't an issue. That said, in my previous experience with Genz Benz, Jeff Genzler stands behind his products and would probably assist as best he could if I needed to contact him.

Wishing you much joy with the new purchase when it happens.


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: Danzilla] #2987707
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Originally Posted By: Danzilla
If it's the amp you really want, and you have enough online research showing that it should be pretty reliable, then go for it, no matter who makes it. My main amp is a Genz Benz Black Pearl. I had played it and wanted it for quite some time. I bought it after Fender had bought out & shut down Genz Benz, so I knew there was not likely going to be support; but it's the amp I wanted at a price I liked. Warranty wasn't an issue. That said, in my previous experience with Genz Benz, Jeff Genzler stands behind his products and would probably assist as best he could if I needed to contact him.

Wishing you much joy with the new purchase when it happens.


I had an eye out for a Black Pearl after playing a gig through one... but I ended up with an AC30... I liked the BPearl because I thought it was Genz's take on the AC30.

I've also always kind of wanted one of the first Matchless Lightning 15s, the ones that almost look homemade, that were an AC15 inspired thing, and seem to be made in heaven to play a Telecaster through...

Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: p90jr] #2987718
05/01/19 03:00 PM
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Thanks for all the response, I will take every thing into consideration. One of the problems I have is I do not have access to a lot of amps to try. The stores are mostly small, with a basic selection. My father will pick it up for me and he does play some. I may even be able to talk him into buying it for me.


Jenny S.
Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987721
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smile

My personal take on boutique amps is this: your mainstream amps are popular for a reason. Theyíre priced like they are for a reason.

Boutique amps may or may not actually be better...but theyíre usually cooler. wink Even if they actually ARE objectively better, you have to ask whether 1) that improvement is big enough that you and/or your audience can actually tell the difference and 2) whether that improvement is worth the price the builders is asking.

The question is whether you want to PAY for that coolness factor and the possible improvement in sound.

The warranty issue is always going to be fact-dependent, for ANY manufacturer of ANY consumer good. If a manufacturer goes under, that usually means the warranty is no good anymore unless another company decides to honor that warranty for some reason. The most common reason why a company would honor another companyís warranty is if they actually bought that company out.

But even with small companies, you sometimes see that happen, if there was a personal relationship between the defunct business and the people honoring the warranty. You might see it happen if there were a mentor/mentee dynamic going on, or if the person honoring the warranty used to own the bankrupt company.

As for trying things out...

Thatís ALWAYS best, but it isnít always an option. I live in the Dallas area, one of the USAís biggest population centers. Despite this, itís hard to find amps (or really any musical gear) made by anyone besides the big-name companies. You really have to know your stores to find anything unusual, and that means driving all over the 4 counties and couple dozen cities that make up our Metroplex.

And thatís going to be the situation anywhere that isnít one of the major music cities. Austin is a few hours away from where I live, and is a fraction of Dallasís size, but the variety of gear there is dumbfounding. Iíve got buddies in LA who are essentially living in the gear version of a candy store.

So you have to decide whether you feel comfortable risking your money on purchasing gear you canít easily try based on recommendations, reviews, video demos and the clear choices of your favorite artists. (Personally, I do.)

Last edited by Dannyalcatraz; 05/01/19 03:40 PM.

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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: Dannyalcatraz] #2987733
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"Scale" of manufacturing also determines price range, along with price of parts (again based on scale of how much you buy/how much each piece of the thing costs) and cost of labor.

My buddies here make Komet amps, which are pricey, but every component is custom made in the U.S. specifically for the amps, and they are assembled and hand-wired one at a time by a single person, start to finish. They are overbuilt... the idea is that you could tour and gig the hell out of them without them falling apart on you. So, the argument is that you pay the $3500+ up front and other than changing tubes never have to pay for any servicing or repairs... for life for most people. They also sound fantastic.

Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987784
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Originally Posted By: surfergirl
Thanks for all the response, I will take every thing into consideration. One of the problems I have is I do not have access to a lot of amps to try. The stores are mostly small, with a basic selection. My father will pick it up for me and he does play some. I may even be able to talk him into buying it for me.

i suspect you may have...but are you sure yer looking at the full range of shops available to you or just those most well known ?


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: d / halfnote] #2987791
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Looks like Sweetwater has them for $2,049.00 and free shipping.

This discussion brings up another side question: "what constitutes boutique?" I wouldn't have considered Mesa to be boutique - they're pretty good size and have been around since 1969. Certainly not as big as Marshall or Fender, but I certainly wouldn't be worried about them going out of business any time soon.


Dan

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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: J. Dan] #2987795
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d: There only 2 good size stores and 3 smaller ones. Mostly they carry amps $200 to $500 range, a few under $1000 fenders. Effects. This is my store, one of the big ones.
www.easymusiccenter.com

J.Dan. The one I am looking is blue bronco with tan grill, I guess they charge more for different colors. I plan to have it for a long time, so an extra hundred for one I like the looks of is worth it. The free shipping doesn't include Hi. I have things shipped to my father in Long Beach and he ships them by USPS which is cheaper.


Jenny S.
Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987814
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There's boutique and then there's boutique. I am the proud owner of an amp made as an experiment by a Serbian tech who lives here in KC. He gave it to me, and it works pretty great, so I can't complain if it doesn't have a warranty. I know that if it breaks down, he'll fix it, so I'm pretty set with it. That's Boutique with a capital BOO!
I also own a Quilter Power Block 300. This is the whole other end of the spectrum, which is to say, not even boutique. I got it brand new, so it had a warranty, but it's outlived it. So, now if it breaks down, fixing it is on me. I'm not particularly worried about it. I don't work it too hard, so I figure it's gonna be okay.
Considering that most warranties these days don't really last that long anyway, I wouldn't worry too much about the company closing down before it runs out.


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987815
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Originally Posted By: surfergirl
d: There only 2 good size stores and 3 smaller ones. Mostly they carry amps $200 to $500 range, a few under $1000 fenders. Effects. This is my store, one of the big ones.
www.easymusiccenter.com

I've found that smaller stores are often better (since they both need & tend to provide closer customer relations) but even larger stores might provide extended options for testing gear, even allowing at home testing.
That & finding some reliable electronics techs are tools all players should develop.


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: d / halfnote] #2987914
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Be careful with major brand amps. More and more are built out of SMT parts (surface mount technology). Warranty repairs are primarily board swaps. Once they're out of warranty and/or the model is discontinued, spare boards will be hard if not impossible to come by. Repair of SMT components will be difficult as very few amp techs have the tools for that kind of work, and the cost of repair will exceed the value of the amp. These products are pretty much landfill fodder once they stop working. Their low cost and high quantity make them marketable to students.

Boutique amps are not made from SMT and will be serviceable for years to come.

Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987921
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Originally Posted By: surfergirl
d: There only 2 good size stores and 3 smaller ones. Mostly they carry amps $200 to $500 range, a few under $1000 fenders. Effects. This is my store, one of the big ones.
www.easymusiccenter.com

J.Dan. The one I am looking is blue bronco with tan grill, I guess they charge more for different colors. I plan to have it for a long time, so an extra hundred for one I like the looks of is worth it. The free shipping doesn't include Hi. I have things shipped to my father in Long Beach and he ships them by USPS which is cheaper.


There is a MK V 35 watt head and matching 112 cab at the shop in Blue Bronco and tan grille cloth. It looks sharp. ...... Now if the shop would just finish my Esquire before tomorrow. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Last edited by CEB; 05/02/19 06:00 PM.

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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: The Real MC] #2987938
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Originally Posted By: The Real MC
Be careful with major brand amps. More and more are built out of SMT parts (surface mount technology). Warranty repairs are primarily board swaps. Once they're out of warranty and/or the model is discontinued, spare boards will be hard if not impossible to come by. Repair of SMT components will be difficult as very few amp techs have the tools for that kind of work, and the cost of repair will exceed the value of the amp. These products are pretty much landfill fodder once they stop working. Their low cost and high quantity make them marketable to students.

Boutique amps are not made from SMT and will be serviceable for years to come.

That's a new subject for me & my brief Wiki-read's not really informative...other than the idea that it may apply more to miniaturization.
Any tips on knowing who uses it or, was I wonder, this is used more in smaller amps or peds ?


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: d / halfnote] #2987952
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Me too. confused


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: surfergirl] #2987963
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While I'm not an expert in the guitar amp world when it comes to who uses which technology, I DO know a thing or two about it from my EE background and manufacturing at my dynjob in an unrelated industry.

SMT has certain advantages over through-hole technology. Generally it's less expensive, more efficient, easier to mass produce accurately - this means less power hungry, smaller, lighter weight, and less manufacturing varience - which USUALLY means better reliability and quality control, depending on the manufacturer. But it is extremely difficult to repair, which is why company for a decade and a half will just replace a circuit board rather than attempt board level repairs. It's the new throw-away, disposable model. Not bad unless you can't get a board replacement. Our bass player just ran into this, the pots of his bass were soldered to the preamp board. The pots with the exact footprint and pin layout were no longer available. You can buy a whole preamp replacement with pots and switches that fits the bass, but it's not the same.

So overall I would say there are pros and cons. The tooling cost to set up some of these SMT boards dictates that it tends to be higher volume manufactures....high upfront capital expenditure, but low unit price.


Dan

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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: J. Dan] #2987976
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Might or might not help, but I've managed well to avoid some difficulties in a variety of problems life throws at you by relying on one(of many) maxim:

When in doubt, Don't! wink
Whitefang


I started out with NOTHING...and I still have most of it left!
Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: J. Dan] #2988042
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no longer lexington, Kenfunky,...
Originally Posted By: J. Dan
While I'm not an expert in the guitar amp world when it comes to who uses which technology, I DO know a thing or two about it from my EE background and manufacturing at my dynjob in an unrelated industry.

SMT has certain advantages over through-hole technology. Generally it's less expensive, more efficient, easier to mass produce accurately - this means less power hungry, smaller, lighter weight, and less manufacturing varience - which USUALLY means better reliability and quality control, depending on the manufacturer. But it is extremely difficult to repair, which is why company for a decade and a half will just replace a circuit board rather than attempt board level repairs. It's the new throw-away, disposable model. Not bad unless you can't get a board replacement. Our bass player just ran into this, the pots of his bass were soldered to the preamp board. The pots with the exact footprint and pin layout were no longer available. You can buy a whole preamp replacement with pots and switches that fits the bass, but it's not the same.

So overall I would say there are pros and cons. The tooling cost to set up some of these SMT boards dictates that it tends to be higher volume manufactures....high upfront capital expenditure, but low unit price.


I've no way to directly know otherwise from what you say but what I read (the Wikipedia page) also suggests that the difficulty of handling the smaller parts (& perhaps other reasons) there are also sometimes quality control issues not discovered til consumers get units.

Separately, I wonder why the ease of switching out the small boards might not be an advantage in making repairs......... idk


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Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: picker] #2988054
05/03/19 02:06 PM
05/03/19 02:06 PM
Joined: Nov 2007
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Originally Posted By: picker
There's boutique and then there's boutique. I am the proud owner of an amp made as an experiment by a Serbian tech who lives here in KC. He gave it to me, and it works pretty great, so I can't complain if it doesn't have a warranty. I know that if it breaks down, he'll fix it, so I'm pretty set with it. That's Boutique with a capital BOO!
I also own a Quilter Power Block 300. This is the whole other end of the spectrum, which is to say, not even boutique. I got it brand new, so it had a warranty, but it's outlived it. So, now if it breaks down, fixing it is on me. I'm not particularly worried about it. I don't work it too hard, so I figure it's gonna be okay.
Considering that most warranties these days don't really last that long anyway, I wouldn't worry too much about the company closing down before it runs out.


Yes, it has become a marketing/gear snob buzz word that has lost all meaning, really...

Mesa and PRS were "boutique" operations when they were one guy doing all of the work in a garage, by hand, but they are major companies making assembly-line mass-produced products at this point. The term doesn't apply.

I played a gig last month in Birmingham, AL... when I walked out before the set to turn my amps on stand-by there was a guy rubber-necking all of the gear onstage... me being a jerk I instantly thought "oh, great... he's going to corner us for 'cork-sniffer' talk, later..." and he did.

My pedal board was:
Boss tuner
Janglebox compressor
MXR noise gate
(early hand painted) Greer Ghetto Stomp OD
Lovepedal Eternity Burst OD
Lovepedal JMP OD
Crowther Hotcake OD (I like different ODs, okay!!!)
Lizard Leg Flying Dragon Clean Boost
EHX Memory Boy delay/chorus
T. Rex Tonebug Reverb
Boss Tremelo predal

into the Supros.

He wanted to know why I used "Boutique amps" but didn't have any "boutique pedals?"

The Supros are PCB, some parts made in Asia, assembled by Pigtronix in NY. I don't consider them boutique amps...

The Janglebox, Lovepedal, T-Rex (hand built in Denmark, supposedly... I bought it because it was good and $30), Crowther, Greer and super especially the Lizard Leg, handmade in a garage by a guy in my town, are "Boutique pedals." When I told him that he said "no, I mean like Klon or Earthquaker... I've never heard of the ones you have." He then was confused when I said I had a pedestrian Klon KTR and some Earthquaker pedals but didn't need them for that act/gig, and that I reconfigure things for every act I play with...

But the "Boutique" thing is reminding me "Micro-Breweries!" What makes a micro-brewery? Is it the size of the brewery or who owns it? A guy sued Budweiser after his Shocktop Beer tattoo was laughed at by a bartender who informed him it was a Budweiser subsidiary... he claimed it was false advertising, but it is a separate smaller brewery where it is made... and he's an idiot for wrapping his personal identity around a product so much, geezzz....

Re: Major brand or boutique guitar amp. [Re: J. Dan] #2988056
05/03/19 02:17 PM
05/03/19 02:17 PM
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 3,367
p90jr Offline
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Originally Posted By: J. Dan
While I'm not an expert in the guitar amp world when it comes to who uses which technology, I DO know a thing or two about it from my EE background and manufacturing at my dynjob in an unrelated industry.

SMT has certain advantages over through-hole technology. Generally it's less expensive, more efficient, easier to mass produce accurately - this means less power hungry, smaller, lighter weight, and less manufacturing varience - which USUALLY means better reliability and quality control, depending on the manufacturer. But it is extremely difficult to repair, which is why company for a decade and a half will just replace a circuit board rather than attempt board level repairs. It's the new throw-away, disposable model. Not bad unless you can't get a board replacement. Our bass player just ran into this, the pots of his bass were soldered to the preamp board. The pots with the exact footprint and pin layout were no longer available. You can buy a whole preamp replacement with pots and switches that fits the bass, but it's not the same.

So overall I would say there are pros and cons. The tooling cost to set up some of these SMT boards dictates that it tends to be higher volume manufactures....high upfront capital expenditure, but low unit price.


I think this is a bit of a panic people have about PCB and SMT amps...

there were troublesome examples that weren't designed well. People love the Fender Deluxe/Hot Rod Deluxe/ DeVille etc., but mounting the input jacks on the PCB was a bad idea, because there tends to be some tugging on the cable, inevitably, and that's a common point of failure with those amps. Though I think they may have changed that eventually. Cheap to fix, just inconvenient if it happens to you on a gig...

I've come across people giving the advice that "any PCB amps you buy will only work for 5 years before it's worthless..." Okay, that cuts out... every amp below $3,000? Beyond the fact that people are using PCB amps now that are 3 decades old and working just fine...

Also, some people make claims about tone... and those people sound silly to me, usually because they are overly proud of running through some or other pedal that is made with... PCBs.

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