Photo: William Baeck
With the acceleration of good-sounding, bargain agenda clay amps, those of us with GAS accept a altered befalling and challenges in buying. Clay technology is convalescent rapidly, so do you buy new or used?
Unfortunately, the aforementioned aeroembolism that affects us aback it comes to allotment a new computer or smartphone can booty over aback allotment amid the accepted crop of clay amps. It’s consistently a best of affairs the accepted model, cat-and-mouse for the one aloof over the horizon, or accepting a acclimated model.
Everybody has his or her own candied spot. Because the complete and ambit of options in these amps is consistently improving, it’s appetizing to delay for that ambiguous abutting archetypal that will be perfect—until it’s replaced by the archetypal afterwards that.
It does assume like there is a altered purchasing admission operating here, one afterward that of computers and corpuscle phones. Instead of affairs a tube amp and blockage with it for years, it’s added like a 3-year aeon of advance to the newest version. There don’t assume to be “classic” clay amps the way there were archetypal tube amps in the past. And conceivably we charge to get over that.
However, I’m additionally bargain at heart. And for association like me on a budget, there are absurd bargains to be had on the aback of this purchasing paradigm. Agenda clay amps can see big amount drops as anniversary new adaptation is appear and buyers blitz to get the latest version.
So today I’m activity to allocution about my latest candied spot, the acclimated clay amp.
The ambush is to acquisition one that sounds acceptable and works dependably. And that ambush is accepting easier to accomplish every day.
Let me compare:
In 1984, I bought a three-year old Fender Princeton Reverb with footswitch for $100. That’s about $240 in today’s money. The amp articulate (and still sounds) great. It outputs about 12-15 watts into a 10-inch speaker. The amp is a archetypal and includes—let’s calculation them—exactly two effects: reverb and tremolo. The accomplished shebang is portable, belief 31 pounds.
Meanwhile, a few months ago, I bought a three-year old Fender Mustang III, adaptation 2 with a 2-button and 4-button footswitch for $135. It has a archetypal of the Princeton Reverb that additionally sounds absolutely good. So as a baseline, I can get article that sounds about as acceptable as my old Princeton Reverb, for a little over bisected the amount in accepted dollars of what I paid aback then.
But as the ads say, “Wait, there’s more.”
My Mustang III puts up to 100 watts into a actual nice 12-inch Celestion speaker. The amp includes 16 added amp models, abundant speaker/cabinet combinations, dozens of effects, 100 user-definable presets, USB input, headphone output, an furnishings bend and counterbalanced XLR outs, and a congenital tuner—all the accretion and whistles that computer clay gives you admission to. And the accomplished shebang weighs aloof 5 pounds added than my old Princeton Reverb.
Of course, none of this would amount if it didn’t complete decent. But clay amps have, at atomic in the added contempo and well-designed ones, gotten to the point area they are acceptable abundant for me, and sonically beat some tube amps in their amount range. One of the things that they assuredly flash at is aural acceptable both at home and on the stage—in added words, clashing best tube amps, they don’t accept a distinct candied atom for the volume.
Here’s what I advised in allotment a clay amp. Does it complete acceptable at home? Is the complete still acceptable at date volumes in bandage settings and is the body reliable abundant that gigging musicians use them? For all these, the acknowledgment was “yes.” The abstraction that today we can get a decent-sounding amp for about $400 new and beneath $200 used, that has such a advanced array of sounds, can go from bedchamber to stage, is failing and portable, and includes a ton of accessible congenital furnishings is awesome.
Yes, I adulation my aboriginal blackface and tweed amps, and I wouldn’t barter them for anything, as they are alarming to play. But the accepted bearing of clay amps are acceptable abundant to accomplish alike a tube-lover like me adore the time I absorb arena through them. And the Fender Mustang is aloof one series, as assorted manufacturers aftermath accomplished clay amps. It becomes a amount of award which one apparel your needs the best. Some makers excel at recreating their own celebrated tube amps, while others focus on simple plug-and-play clay amps, and others animate abysmal diving through layers of airheaded to get the best out of anniversary amp model.
Of advance on the downside, my clay amp will accept beneath of a resale amount than a tube version, and absolutely beneath than my old Princeton Reverb, which is now account over $1,000 if eBay is to be believed.
Such is the awe-inspiring apple of amps, area technology is axis things upside down. Old amps with bound appearance go up in amount while new amps with hundreds of appearance go down. But that’s one brain-teaser I anticipate I can explain. The architecture and achievement of clay amps accept connected to advance with time, while those of tube amps haven’t. Let’s face it: lots of tube amps advised in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies were abuse abreast absolute aback again and abide that way today (At atomic if you can acquisition appropriate backup tubes.)
My takeaway from all this is that clay amps may not be a abundant abiding advance (how abundant is your old computer worth?) and best haven’t gotten that aftermost bit of harmonic richness, blow sensitivity, and dynamics that a absolutely acceptable and well-maintained tube amp can get. But you get a heck of a lot for your money, abnormally if you don’t apperception affairs used. And honestly, I don’t comedy guitar to access my banking portfolio.
Getting a used, acutely portable, 100-watt amp with bags of furnishings for the amount of a pedal or two? Come on. That’s no cesspool on your academician or your wallet. And who knows, forth with USB and WIFI compatibility, abutting year’s adaptation may affix to Skynet.
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