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January 21, 2009

David & Goliath



So here it is... I'm edging towards the cliff...

I made the decision yesterday to get rid of my old Marshall Valvestate amp. I'm selling it 'as is', making sure the buyer understands that it's not in the best condition. It works 90% of the time, but the buyer should expect to have to get it repaired sooner rather than later.

Once it's gone I'll have no choice but to replace it. I've made the decision to go 'all valve'. I'm wanting that retro-mojo!

What I've not settled on is exactly what 'all valve' means in terms of price and output. I'm in two minds.

There's my 100% rational side which says that what I really should do is to start off with a small 5W jobby for home use and recording and rely on either using other people's amps at gigs or routing through a PA if one's available... at least for now. There are a few really highly rated 5W'ers out there which would be more than suitable for the job. Price range? Somewhere between £100-£300.

Then there's the completely overkill gluttonous side of me that says I should shoot for the moon, take advantage of a 0% credit deal (as I did to 'painlessly' get my Les Paul) and get one of the new wave of switchable boutique amps, like the Mesa Boogie Lone Star Special. With the LSS you can kick in a range of different valves, allowing you to drive anything from 5W to 30W and get similar tones at different volumes. All sounds great, doesn't it. You get wonderful tone, a classy badge on the front and the knowledge that you have an Aston Martin in your garage rather than a souped up Toyota.

But... would I ever drive that puppy at anything more than 5W? If I took it gigging, sure. Realistically though, would I ever want to lug something so heavy and valuable around. Would I dare risk it being damaged or stolen? Oh, I didn't mention the price tag, did I! For the 'free' credit option you're talking something around £1750, or £175 a month for 10 months.

But it would also be a 'future proof' investment. I'd probably be looking at keeping it until I pop my clogs...

Then there's the all important matter of physical size. Space is at a premium in London and switchable boutique amps tend to be bigger. Now, we're still only talking about a 1x12 combo, but even so. We could do with optimising the space in our flat...

I know what the right choice is... but is it the right choice?

8 comments:

Furtheron said...

OH my friend you are in that imponderable place all of us get to.

If I ever get off my arse and think of gigging I'll be in the same boat - only it'll be the Marshall 2x12 50w Combo rather than the Mesa for me... same issue though.

Kenski said...

Oh, don't start on 2x12s... the Mesa comes in that option, too... for a couple of hundred extra, of course (plus a few inches)

headbang8 said...

I know nothing about amplifiers, but I do know about the Y-Chromosome, and its effect on the human mind.

You are going to make the biggest, most expensive, most impractical choice, from any array of possible options.

Think about flat-screen TVs and power tools. I rest my case.

Kenski said...

I'm with you on flatscreens... power tools? I think my sister got all the Y on that one. You should have seen her salivate when my dad pulled out his latest Makita drill.

Still, she's a natural born Ikea shopper, if you know what I mean, which may explain things, somewhat.

I like the rationalisation, though! I'm a bloke so I should make the bloke-ly purchase...

MORE POWER!!!!

Col said...

Oh dear you're heading for a mistake her by all means you are Kenny my boy. You are letting your heart (and wallet) rule your head. Why do you think eBay is chock full of Marshall stacks? Simple really. Too many boys buy too many toys that a)take up waaaay too much living space, b)require so much power to get a decent sound that you'll have ASBO's coming out of your ears, and c)they figure that they might as well 'supersize' because it's bound to sound better. Uh huh. Wrong. Ask yourself a few questions and try to answer as honestly as you can. Why would you at this eqarly stage want to blow so much money on a 'boutique' amp? You're not yet a boutique player. Give it a while before investing that kind of 'boutique bread'. Going large at home requires a hot plate attenuator etc. so add another £400 to purchase price. My bloody Epi Blues Custom - all valve 15/30w switchable - is too loud even for the Halfmoon. When it's mic'd up I have to turn down, which is a drag because in order to get the sound I'd like I need to be driving the valves to get the 'tone'. I honestly think that the next time we play the Halfmoon I am going to take my 5w Epi Blues Junior and have it mic'd up because I reckon that it will sound great. Start out with what you need - sure I know that GAS is a compulsion - and not what you desire. There is no point buying a gigging amp when you don't actually play gigs. Besides, when you are ready for gigs you will love the upgrade. It'll feel right. It's a bit like buying an amazingly expensive fishing rod when all you ever do is sit and look at it. Now, am I sounding like you father here?

Bizarro Aunt Jackie said...

Mr. J likes Mesa Boogie that he has... but of course he likes Marshall Plexi stuff too... You need to talk to him when it comes to trying to get a thick and wonderful sound. He Rocks.

:)

Kenski said...

Hmmm... Yes, Dad :-) (@Col!)

Ordinarily I would agree with you about the volume, except that the point of the Mesa is that you can switch down to 5W and get that overdriven valve sound at low volumes.

I *know* what the right thing to do it, I honestly do... you know us guitar players, though, every time you need to buy a new piece of kit you become a spotty 17 year old again who wants his Dad to buy him a Porsche :-)

Kenski said...

And in case I wasn't clear, I know the right way to go is the cheaper 5W way :-) I mean, if a small amp, driven hard is good enough for Clapton/Allman to record with, it's good enough for me, eh?