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Low Power Tube Amps


LPCustom

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Many of us play only at home although some of us also record in studios or have a home studio.

 

The post by PBBPaul got me interested in tube amps again. My recent purchase of several 5 watt tube amps (Mini Z, Epiphone Valve Junior and a Crate V8 [soon to be a V58]) also makes me wonder who else on this forum is interested in these little amps and what types of uses you have for them.

 

I am looking for two things from mine. One is to be able to crank it up for a really good tube sound but not have it too loud. Second, I want to be able to record from the preamp section with or without effects.

 

I know some want just a simple amp with no adornments. Some want a little control over the amp other than pure volume. So, what uses do you guys want to put these little amps to, what features do you want in them and why those features?

Born on the Bayou

 

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I like a simple setup. I bought the Vox Brian May model, and it is quite good for only $150. I got the Reverend Goblin, which is a lot more flexible. Either/or, both sound good and suit my needs. Had I bought the Goblin first, I would not have got the Vox. Neither sounds as good as the THD UniValve, but that is 18 watts (though it has a built in power soak), while the Vox is 10, and the Goblin can be switched to 5 watts (which is where I keep it.)

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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For small amps, I have a Reverend Goblin and a Reverend Kingsnake 20/60. Honestly, I'm not overly impressed with the Goblin. I really like the reverb that both of these units have. The overdrive on the Kingsnake is sweet & rich, where the Goblin is a bit weak. Typically I play through both simultaneously with a Chandler Tube Driver in front of them & it sounds really nice.

It's not simple to be simple.

-H. Matisse

 

Ross Precision Guitars

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Originally posted by LPCustom:

Originally posted by Ricochet:

5W isn't really a small amp. Crank it up and it's LOUD!

Very true :D , but compared to a JCM800 2203, it's "small". ;)

 

I haven't seen a commercially available 1 watt amp for sale anywhere lately.

http://zvexamps.com/amp_view.html

Here ya go :cool:

The story of life is quicker then the blink of an eye, the story of love is hello, goodbye.
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Originally posted by LPCustom:

Originally posted by Ricochet:

5W isn't really a small amp. Crank it up and it's LOUD!

Very true :D , but compared to a JCM800 2203, it's "small". ;)

 

I haven't seen a commercially available 1 watt amp for sale anywhere lately.

Yeah, the 100W amp will sound just a hair more than twice as loud as the 5W amp, with equally efficient speakers.

 

We need more good sounding <1W amps.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."
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A friend who used to post here more often (Teahead) has a Z. Vex Nano, and likes it quite a bit. He's used it into a cab with a pair of rare old vintage "grey" or "silver" Vox/Celestions, so it had a definite oportunity to sound its best!

 

He was also surprised at just how loud that little tiny amp could be.

 

Now, I don't have what I'd consider a true low-powered tube-amp right now, but I do appreciate them; I used to have a "silverface" Fender Champ that had a good crisp clean tone and monstrous overdrive and distortion when I hit it with a serious "clean-boost"; that little thing roared!

 

One thing with little, low-watt tube-amps with small speakers, as well: if you close-mic one, it sounds huge, due to (A) the proximity-effect enhancing lows and presence, and (B) the ratio of size between the speaker and the mic's diaphragm.

 

I think that a key thing with higher wattage tube-amps with stout power-supplies is a bolder dynamic response and tighter bass, yielding a more robust and crisp feel and sound. A lower-watt amp with a power-supply that really has to work to keep up with the demand of cranking it will be more compressed sounding. Percussiveness vs. Voweliness, if you will, moreso than sheer volume differences.

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Originally posted by synthetic:

The Z-Vex amp head is 1/2W. It's supposed to be a fun amp.

 

http://zvexamps.com/amp_view.html

Oh my god, that is just, like, SO CUTE! ;) (sorry, the teenage girls just got home from school & they're screaming outside my window right now)

 

I dig the handpainted look to it. How much do they run?

It's not simple to be simple.

-H. Matisse

 

Ross Precision Guitars

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Originally posted by DC Ross:

Originally posted by synthetic:

The Z-Vex amp head is 1/2W. It's supposed to be a fun amp.

 

http://zvexamps.com/amp_view.html

Oh my god, that is just, like, SO CUTE! ;) (sorry, the teenage girls just got home from school & they're screaming outside my window right now)

 

I dig the handpainted look to it. How much do they run?

From the price for one I saw on eBay, they run well over $400, probably close to $500. It's a cool little amp but from reading in the forums, it won't do a good "Fendery" clean sound because of the low power.

 

I did notice in the forums that they were talking about ways to reduce the volume. Zack suggested putting a 10 to 20 ohm pot inline on the speaker output to reduce the volume between the amp and the speaker.

Born on the Bayou

 

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I really enjoy small wattage amps. To me, a 100 watt amp has a little more "shoulder" in the sound, more of a "feel" difference than a "sound" difference. Kind of like in football the different between arm tackling and getting your shoulder in to tackle someone. However, I've never really felt that this "feel" comes accross once you mic it. Yes, a low wattage amp can sound just as big as a 100w when you mic it right.
Yum, Yum! Eat em up!
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Check out the 1/2 watt Gilmore Jr. designed by Gary Gerhart that you can buy from Guytronix . I play one, I love it and it costs $250. And if you think 1/2 watt of guitar is "cute" put your head next to a 4 x 12 being fed by a cranked Gilmore Jr. for a couple of seconds and reconsider your opinion.

 

It's a kit, it's not hard to build and it has really fine tone.

 

Cheers,

 

Alan Tomlinson

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These 1/2 watt amps look and sound interesting, but pricing one out, with an appropriate speaker cabinet, is gonna put it in the same or higher range than a Mini Z or other fine small 5W amp. Certainly an item for one who wants to die with the most toys, but the practicality is questionable.
Never a DUH! moment! Well, almost never. OK, OK! Sometimes never!
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Originally posted by Vince C.:

No one's mentioned attenuators?

 

How come?

 

It sounds to me like the perfect solution, you simply dial in the wattage you want and off you go.

 

What's wrong with them?

I have a Doctor Z Air Brake. I don't like the sound my amps create when I use it. I've tried it on my Mini Z, my Blues Junior and this Epiphone Valve Junior. The sound just sounds "choked". The highs and the lows both are attenuated too much for my taste. I just don't like the sound an attenuator gives.

Born on the Bayou

 

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Originally posted by Steevo:

I was reading some of the info at www.amptone.com and thought the AxeTrak looked like an interesting idea. Anyone ever tried the iso box/microphone idea for recording instead of using an attenuator?

I've been seriously considering building a speaker isolation box. Putting a combo in the box probably will cause problems with microphonic distortion in the preamp tube(s). So I think I wouldn't try that unless the combo was a solid state one. But I think putting a speaker cab in an isolation box would probably work pretty well.

Born on the Bayou

 

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Hey LP....what do you think of the Mini Z. I just watched a Brad Paisley DVD where he was doing an interview and doing some examples through it...it sounded great..although he can make anything sound great!

 

I have a Budda Superdrive 30...not a REALLY low powered amp but, I just love it!!

Jason Sadites

www.sadites.com

New CD 'WEVE' available now! Featuring performances by: Tony Levin, Kenny Aronoff, Marco Minnemann, Brett Garsed, Gregg and Matt Bissonette, Chad Wackerman and more!

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Originally posted by Vince C.:

No one's mentioned attenuators?

 

How come?

 

It sounds to me like the perfect solution, you simply dial in the wattage you want and off you go.

 

What's wrong with them?

I've tried using a Marshall Power Brake on my 100 Watt Fender Twin and I had a similar experience to LPCustom in that it altered the sound significantly. It was no longer clear, punchy and dynamically responsive, it became "browner" if you will...more distorted and compressed sounding. I don't have an old Twin, mine is only about 15 years old and already has a master volume on it. I can never push it (master vol.) higher than 1 at a gig and more like 0.3ish at home. I definitely need a smaller wattage amp as well for recording at home and live.

Laurie Morvan Band

www.lauriemorvan.com

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Hey Vince,

I plug my 100 watt Rivera Knucklehead through a THD HotPlate into a 1960 4x12. It's not supposed to alter the tone as much as others, but it still alters it noticibly. There are Bright and Deep switches that compensate for the loss of highs & lows. It's good for playing at home or a lower-volume gig, but I don't really like to record with it.

 

I like that you assemble that Gilmore Jr. It looks like a cool little box!

It's not simple to be simple.

-H. Matisse

 

Ross Precision Guitars

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Originally posted by Jay Sadites:

Hey LP....what do you think of the Mini Z. I just watched a Brad Paisley DVD where he was doing an interview and doing some examples through it...it sounded great..although he can make anything sound great!

 

I have a Budda Superdrive 30...not a REALLY low powered amp but, I just love it!!

The Mini Z is a very high quality amp. It sounds good at just about any volume level. Since it only has a volume control, you just play with whatever sound you get at the desired volume level.

 

At about 9 o'clock it's fairly smooth and creamy with a volume level you can talk over. At about noon it gets pretty punchy and is very responsive, too loud to talk over comfortably. It's also nice and crunchy at that setting. At 3 o'clock it's quite loud and sounds almost like the Marshall roar with a nice thick distortion. It's still quite musical even at 3 o'clock. At 5 o'clock it's raunchy and very loud (well for a smallish room).

 

I like it a lot. I'd like to record with it but it just has to get too loud to sound the way I want it for recording it at home.

 

That's why I'm considering building an isolator box.

 

I've tried the Air Brake on my JCM800 2203 and it does the same thing to it that it does to all the other amps I've tried. Maybe I need to look at the THD hotplate. You'd at least think Marshall would be able to create something that would sound better.

Born on the Bayou

 

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I found something interesting over on the LondonPower website this afternoon. It's a power scaler kit that lets you dial back the power internally. Supposedly doesn't affect the sound.

 

http://www.londonpower.com/kits/psk.htm

 

Anybody had any experience with this? Or know anything about it that doesn't come from the maker?

Born on the Bayou

 

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Iso boxes sound 'different'. Never cared for thre ones that I've tried. (shrug...)

 

The UniValve that a few of us here have, has a power attenuator built into it.

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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I wish I had known about the small watt option (or maybe more specifically, had believed in it) when I bought my (one and only to be) tube amp.

 

So ... I'm "stuck" with my '93 Randall Tube Pro ... It's got everything that I want (channel switching, power cut, circuit breaker, EL34 or 6L6 bias switch, prescence, all kinds of goodies) ... including so much headroom, and volume, that I filled up a (nearly, cubic volume-wise) empty warehouse, of 50ft x 125ft x 20ft high, with it at less than 50% volume :cool: And when I was done, I discovered that the power cut switch was kicked in :eek:

 

Seriously, the 5 watt option is probably what I should have. I am kinda' taken with the Fab Classic Master (just went to look at it); channel switching :cool: ... and a power cut switch :eek:

But ... $450 for a combo :(

 

In retrospect, and imho, the $350 I paid for my Tube Pro was a "steal"; I was considering $800 plus for a "good" 50w tube amp (probably used), but didn't have the money; I probably would have been better served (now that I know), and my wife less irritated, by a 5 watt tube amp. At the time, I might have been able to afford the $450. Live and (continue to) learn :cool:

 

PS Caeven, check your PM

Gotta' geetar... got the amp. There must be SOMEthing else I... "need".
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