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What's a good amp with "punch" for Rhodes sound?


petros

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I would like to an audio engineer to explain why some folks like a guitar amp for a Rhodes. For my thinking, a well designed amp has plenty of headroom and is basically colorless. I would think we could leave the amplifier out of the discussion (?).

 

I would assume that the 'punch' being referred to is in how the pre-amp deals with the incoming signal. (I am also aware that a tube amp, when overdriven, produces a 'softer' and more desirable/listenable distortion and some folks like that. I would argue that a preamp could accomplish the same and that effect could appear at any listening level and not when the amp is being overdriven.)

 

I would think an after market preamp (specifically for the Rhodes) would do the trick and the original poster would not have to buy a 'guitar' amp when an all purpose sound system would work as well (and which he already owns).

 

Is my thinking wrong in this situation?

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Guitar amps stress frequencies we often call "twang". PA speakers are much more neutral. A Rhodes (a real one) needs that twang to kick. If you already have a sound system, a preamp like POD or better (VanZea, which one was it?) will do the trick.

Petros, what I don't get now is that you want to use a guitar amp for the P120's Rhodes sample. Always keep in mind that, if you need a piano sample, that sample will suck poop on a guitar amp. Are you using your P120 for Rhodes only?

http://www.bobwijnen.nl

 

Hipness is not a state of mind, it's a fact of life.

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Just like Superbobus I use a good powered monitor for amplification. But I also use a V-Amp (like a POD) for that tube sound, my Rhodes has a MajorKey preamp installed so for me there's no noise problem. I recently bought the Vintage Suitcase preamp from SpeakEasy and it shapes the sound even better. Like Superbobus stated: a Rhodes needs to be amplified in a non-neutral way, which isn't always the case when using samples.

 

Grtz,

Jeroen

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Spoke to some amp engineers and got this:

 

"Tube preamps give you great warmth and the ability to have that wonderfully warm overdriven distortion sound. Tube outputs give you that 'punch' and that fantastic 'air' that is associated with so many guitar sounds. What that boils down to is a lots of headroom in the gain department. I think of it as instantaneous gain capabilities as opposed to RMS. That is why a 50 what tube amp seems to have so much going for it.

 

To answer your question, I would say the tube power amp output is what you are looking for."

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"What are the differences between tube amps and solid-state amps? Which should I buy?

This is a question that gets asked in various forms quite regularly. The short answer is that each seems to have their advantages and disadvantages, in terms of portability, reliability and sound. As with any piece of musical equipment, the ideal thing is to try several amps of each type and decide for yourself which camp you belong to, but comments on both sides of the issue have been summarized here to help guide you in your own testing.

 

First, a little history: early jazz guitarists necessarily used tubes (or "valves" as our members in the UK like to say) to amplify the signals from their guitars' pickups. They had no choice since transistors had not been invented.

 

One of the first guitarists to use amplification, Charlie Christian, used an EH-150 (EH, for "Electric Hawaiian") Gibson amplifier for much of the 1930's. The EH-150 featured 6 tubes, produced 15 watts and drove a 10-inch speaker. As a side note: the $150 price included an ES-150 guitar! Christian also used an EH-185 Gibson amp that used 7 tubes to produce 18 watts into a 12 inch speaker that could be separated from the amplifier section.

 

Tube amplifier design hit its zenith in the 1960s with the more powerful amplifiers developed by Fender, Marshall, Ampeg and others. Fender's Twin Reverb and the Deluxe Reverb models found particular favor with jazz guitarists because of those amps' ability to produce a clean "classic jazz tone", at high volume, without significant audible distortion.

 

When transistors first came into popular use in the late 1950's, most viewed them as a means to "miniaturize" existing electronic products. Probably the ubiquitous recollection of witnesses to the popular advent of solid-state technology was a battery-powered AM radio that could be held in one hand. Few recall the sound quality, probably because AM radio still doesn't sound all that good, due to shortcomings of its signal broadcast format.

 

Soon, guitar amplifier manufacturers developed solid-state designs to take advantage of the ability to produce high power, in a compact and light package. Unfortunately, those early solid-state designs did more to harm than good to the reputation of transistors as musical amplification devices. Without exception, the first designs produced a hard-edged tone, at almost any sound level. When input or output levels were pushed to any degree the tone became downright nasty. This contrasted with tube design's natural tendency to distort by producing pleasant sounding even-order harmonics.

 

Fortunately for solid-state proponents, several developers kept working on designs that met the demands of their niche constituents; steel guitar players, bass players and accordion players. Jimmy Webb and Jim Evans produced 200+ watt solid-state amplifiers aimed at steel guitar players and Walter Woods produced small, seven-pound amps that produced 100 to 1,200 watts, to meet the demands of bass players. An accordion player that needed a small, light combo that could produce the full range of his instrument founded Polytone. Roland made solid-state amps for electric keyboards. Lately, a company named Acoustic Image has developed a 5 pound, 300 watt "Class D" solid-state amp, aimed at upright bass players, but the amp quickly being adopted by jazz guitarists.

 

As for which is "best" for producing the "classic jazz tone" there remain two very vocal camps. Each seems to think it knows what's best and there's not a lot of movement between the camps. Periodically, flame wars break out (this being a rather mature and civil group, the term "flame" is perhaps not apropos) when the topic comes up. Some of the more common comments follow:

 

Tube Camp:

My one and only gigging amp is a Fender Deluxe Reverb. I love the way tubes ever so slightly compress your sound, when cranked up a little bit.

oh yeah, I loved my Princeton Reverb (65) with my Andersen...real Wes sounding.

I've used my Fender Pro Junior exclusively on probably 500 gigs in the 2 years I've owned it. I crave the dynamic response of tubes and this tiny amp has it plus a smooth, focused sound that really cuts through a band even with the darkest of tones and a little of that intangible tube 'burn'. What else do you want?!!

There's a certain "magic" with tube amps that many really enjoy. Although the Classic Jazz Tone is not heavily distorted, in fact a tube amp that's right on the cusp of distortion has additional tonal complexities and mid-range harmonic overtones that can be very attractive.

 

Some tube advocates will say that they like the slight compression that tubes add, while others will say almost the opposite, that they like the dynamics that tubes impart. Internally, both camps seem to argue about this attribute.

 

Whatever the case, there's no denying that there is some magic, when the mojo is working, that's hard to achieve by any other means.

 

Many, but not all, in the tube camp complain that solid-state guitar amps are too "hi-fi", or too dry, or lack character, etc.

 

Solid-state Camp

I've had an Evans AE200 8/6 for about four months which replaced my fender black faced deluxe. (Killed it dead, really)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to get a pretty good approximation of my standard jazz sound on the Vibro-King with the (Evans) AE200.

The MBII colors the sound much less, has more punch, and seems to respond faster (than his '65 Deluxe Reissue). It's so fast you don't even need to play all the notes sometimes :-)

Solid-state amps give you a more "accurate" less colored sound

This doesn't come easy for me.... knows I'm a die-hard 60s Fender twin aficionado, the clarity of the Evans, Polytone + Raezer Edge (ed. note: the latter is a make of cabinet), and Walter Woods, in my opinion is on par or superior to the best vintage tube amps of the late 50's/60's.

I'm just looking for an amp that faithfully reproduces my acoustic archtop's tone at a volume the audience will be able to hear. Coloration of any kind is not desirable.

So, to top it all off, for low weight, high power, and even, clean tone I prefer a Polytone.

Johnny (Smith) had an amp (solid-state) designed and built... It is an absolutely flat amp like the Clarus which has received so much attention here lately. Johnny also carried a Walter Woods as a backup amp.

Solid-state advocates like to be in control of their tone at all volumes. Jimmy Bruno and Clay Moore, two recording artists that post to rmmgj, have stated that they don't want tubes adding overtones and changing the dynamics of their playing. Like other advocates, they don't like to have to play in the "sweet spot" of their amps, instead, they want the amp to sound the same, whether it's at 2 or 11. Many of the converts from tubes to solid-state cite the reduced weight of their rigs being a big factor in their decision to switch from tubes.

 

Final Decision/Summary:

 

As with everything, there is no "best" only that which appeals to your ears. For those who do not like their sound "colored" by the amp and want a lightweight amp, solid-state amps are probably the best bet. For those who like some warmth and shape to their sounds and don't mind a heavy amp, tube amps would be a good place to start. As always: Take your guitar along and listen to as many amps as you can and, in the end, let your ears choose for you. "

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Yes, I am playing mostly the EP2 on my P120 because it sounds realistic, the Acoustic Grand 1 patch sounds hollow to me when I play live with my two Mackie SRM450, so I favor the EP2. The Mackies however do not give a lot of punch to EP2. My little Fender Princeton 1965 tube amp gives loads of punch.

I crave the dynamic response of those tubes for my P120 Rhodes sound.

I'll continue to use the Mackies for the Grand Piano 1 patch becuase the tube Fender is too too "clangy" for piano, just great for everything else.

 

Try it for yourself, play a Rhodes patch through a solid state keyboard amp then switch to an all tube Fender and accent some notes and hear what I am talking about. And it comes more so from the power amp tubes than from the preamp stage, unlike what a lot of tube preamp slasemen would have you beleiveing.

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Originally posted by petros:

Spoke to some amp engineers and got this:

 

[b I think of it as instantaneous gain capabilities as opposed to RMS.[/b]

The technical term for that is "slew rate". Its measured in volts/second. Frequency response figures are often quoted at less than full output and frequency response falls at full output if the slew rate is insufficient.
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I want all that gain and punch and a warm sound, but you also need very clean as opposed to what most guitar players want.

 

RMS stands for root mean square and it is the way you can get a comparable value for rating amp power. There is the other factor of how much instantaneous power you can get out of the amp before clipping. That is the punch. The RMS is the sustained power. There has to be a good article on this somewhere on the web.

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http://img2.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/48/487302.jpg

$499 Motion Sound

KT-80 100W Mono Keyboard Amp With Switchable Tube Channel

 

"It does double-duty with a hi-fidelity clean channel for transparent amplification of piano and synth, and a versatile 12AX7 real-tube channel to add warmth, color, and overdrive to organ and electric piano! A third input switches channels on demand from an optional foot pedal. The hi-fidelity channel has volume, bass, and treble controls and features a low-distortion pre-amp to power design. The tube channel has pre-gain EQ, contour, post-gain EQ, and bass and treble controls, allowing you to tweak the 12AX7 to perfection at all volumes. Other special features include an XLR mic input, XLR line out. Power section provides 100W to drive a 12" high-efficiency speaker paired with a 3.5" x 3.5" dynamic high-frequency horn. 15"H x 18" W x 12"D. 26 lbs."

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Also, when comparing continous output per channel or RMS, be aware that the wattage will be less at 8 ohms than at 4 ohms. In the old days, at least, some companies would make fantastic claims but they were really talking about the output at 2 ohms which, for most of us, is not realistic. Be sure to compare apples with apples.

 

As an aside, I really miss using my Carver 2.0t. It put out 465 wpc, RMS into 8 ohms and the amp only weighed 11 pounds (1/3 or so of a Crown amp in that same powerclass). I still find that amazing. I write to Carver about once a year asking them to bring that amp back. I still have it, but can not have the power supply converted for 230 VAC. (Anyone want to swap a 230 VAC version for a 115 VAC?)

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by petros:

Yes, I am playing mostly the EP2 on my P120 because it sounds realistic, the Acoustic Grand 1 patch sounds hollow to me when I play live with my two Mackie SRM450, so I favor the EP2. The Mackies however do not give a lot of punch to EP2. My little Fender Princeton 1965 tube amp gives loads of punch.

I crave the dynamic response of those tubes for my P120 Rhodes sound.

I'll continue to use the Mackies for the Grand Piano 1 patch becuase the tube Fender is too too "clangy" for piano, just great for everything else.

 

Try it for yourself, play a Rhodes patch through a solid state keyboard amp then switch to an all tube Fender and accent some notes and hear what I am talking about. And it comes more so from the power amp tubes than from the preamp stage, unlike what a lot of tube preamp slasemen would have you beleiveing.

Whoops, you don't like the Mackies for the EP2 and Piano 1 sounds hollow? Maybe the Mackies need some EQ then. I never had problems with the Rhodes on my (solid state) Craaft. It just has lots of punch, but I'll try that EP2 with a tube amp. There's nothing wrong with some experimenting.

http://www.bobwijnen.nl

 

Hipness is not a state of mind, it's a fact of life.

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Petros, you posted a picture of the KT-80 amp, but you didn't make a comment about it. Have you actually tried that amp? I also use a P120, and gig with a pair of JBL Eon G2 powered 10's. (The Mackie's sound nice to me, but I favour the JBL's because they're so much smaller and lighter, and still sound really good to me).

 

I tried the KT80 and found that the 'clean' channel had a muddy-sounding high end, compared to the JBL's. I found the tube channel to be just ok, but not worth the bother. Have you actually tried a KT80?

 

You've piqued my interest about using a tube guitar amp for the P120's Rhodes, I'm going to have to try that. I find the P120's Rhodes sound to be among the best digital emulations I've heard, and I've been sampling many many synths and digital pianos over the last ten years. I've played real Rhodes since 1973.

 

By the way, you mentioned you find the P120's piano sound "hollow". I find that odd, I really like the P120's piano sound. But anyway, I wonder if your perception might have something to do with the fact that the P120's piano sounds are stereo, whereas its Rhodes sound is mono. At least, that's my perception. When you play your P120's piano sound, are you using both outputs, one to each speaker, or are you using the "L+R" output only?

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Very interesting thread! I am going to try my keyboards through some tube amps (like I used to years ago) and see how they sound. My question is.........Does 'Amp Modeling' that is on some digital recording devices as well as solid state amps, try to digitally capture the punch that a tube amp produces or does it only capture a certain sound? Does it work or is it hype?

Kurzweil PC3, Hammond SK-1 + Ventilator, Korg Triton. 2 JBL Eon 510's.

 

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