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January 26, 2009

Valve Shootout

I think I'm coming to a conclusion about which valve combo to get... and that's even without managing to sit down with any of them for a test drive!!!!

After discounting the Mesa Boogie Lone Star Special (sigh) my shortlist of amps included such toys as the Epiphone Valve Junior and the Blackstar HT-5. I briefly allowed myself to consider the Orange Tiny Terror but a) 15W is way OTT for my needs and b) you should have seen Tim's face the last time I brought home an Orange (ORANGE!) amp. He gave me the look of 'either it goes, or I do'. Fortunately, at the time we were renting a place with a semi-finished basement, so the little eyesore could be hidden away so as not to offend his furniture-matching sensibilities!

Nevertheless, having been the recipient of 'the look' once, I figure that an important consideration when selecting an amp is that it has to be as low-impact as possible.

Now, all my opinions about the amps I've considered have been purely based on internet research, so...

Whilst the Epiphone was initially a very attractive proposition, when it comes down to it I'm not 100% certain that it's versatile enough for my needs (or at least for my desires). It sports a bewildering array of knobs and features... input jack... a volume control... a power on/off switch...

...but whilst the simplicity of the thing appeals to me, I'm not sure I can live with the fact that I might have to push it really hard to get some decent overdrive.

Having said that, when it was £75, that wouldn't have mattered. Now that the price of the combo has gone up to £125 it's much less appealing. Having said that, you could add a few pedals in there to get 'the sound'... but adding pedals is the opposite of what I want to do. I currently only own one pedal, a Vox Wah... and I don't use that much right now. I'm lazy. I want to plug in and play, not faff around with cables.

I can't help but think that karma is leading me towards the Blackstar HT-5 combo. Despite the recent price hike from £250 up to £300 it still seems remarkably good value on the bangs for bucks scale and you can dial up any tone you want at any volume. No, that's not 'pure valve' logic as it uses some new-fangled 'push-pull' electrickery, whatever that is, but those muso's who've tried the amps say that they sound absolutely fan-bloody-tasic.

At the end of last week I found myself in an eBay auction for a Blackstar, trying to snap up a deal. I did not win the auction as it nearly reached the price of a new one! These things are that hot right now. I have one of the shops on Denmark Street calling me when their next shipment comes in.

Needless to say there are nay-sayers as well as supporters. Some have said that on high-gain settings, when you're palm-muting in a certain way, the amp makes a 'farting sound'. Not everyone gets the farting sound from the amp... possibly it's the guitarists' version of pointing at the dog and saying 'he did it'!?! Who knows.

I'd really like to try one of these puppies out either to confirm that it's the right choice or to rule it out. The biggest problem is that they're selling like hot cakes so actually seeing one in the flesh is nigh-on impossible.

...on the 'karma' front, I wonder whether it's significant that the funds raised by selling my old amp plus a bit of practice kit would just cover the Epi... Hmmm!?!


Col said...

I can't overdrive my epi as it is just too loud. I really do think that I could play the halfmoon with it. But clean, it has a lovely warm tone. If you want to crunch it up you need to plug in a box of some description. I use my Pod. Job done. I can dial up hundreds of sounds and they all have that 'real' becasue it is a valve 'valve tone' at easy listening Tim friendly volumes. The trade off is the price. But you are loaded so if I was you I'd be trying out the Blackstar pronto. Just make sure that you can turn it down! Then you can write me a 1000 word review with pictures?

Kenski said...

Oh, 'loaded' must be a relative term!!!! It's funny (not really!) but the 'credit crunch' is starting to really affect us in bizarre, unforseen ways. Our wings are being clipped in many ways.

But yes, £300, offset by the £130 I just got by selling crap on eBay is still in the 'affordable' bracket :-)

The Mesa would have been 'affordable' thanks to 0% credit, but... that may have just be me kidding myself!!!

1000 words??? Do they all have to be different or can I repeat myself????

Furtheron said...

I've demoed a Blackstar - when I was buying my PRS... did I mention I'd bought a PRS... :-)

Answer... buy it!

Bloody brilliant. You can turn it down the master vol seemed effective, the trick is the contour thing - ISF (?!?!) it shapes the tone controls, hard left is USA (Mesa) like tones, hard right is more UK (Marshall).

Also they have an emulated out - you can even buy the head and use it as a preamp some how somebody told me - I think that's dumb though as essentially you can get that in one of the Blackstar pedals any how.

Trust me it was bloody brilliant. They also do the little mini stack which is £100 more but looks so cute... (God I sound like my 13 year old daughter now!)

So Mid Air Music in Chatham - or 01634 846886 - the web site says they are in stock now!

Mention that I sent you along - they'll remember me I bought a PRS there... Did I mention I bought a PRS recently :-)

Kenski said...

Did you buy a PRS, G? I seem to remember you mentioning it!

Actually, I found a local place (okay, just off Ox St) which claim to have 2 combos in stock and they're newly delivered, so hopefully not from the first batch, which allegedly had a few issues, subsequently corrected...

Plan to go down and take a look today... possibly at lunch!

Anyone reading this. If you run down to... this shop that I'm not going to mention the name of... and snap these up before I get there...


Only kidding...

[no, I'm not!]

I've only been without an amp for a couple of days and already I'm feeling the itch...