It is WRONG to Love Cheap Little Solid-State Amps?

Good, cheap tone doesn't grow on...oh, never mind.

We all love tube amps. Yayy, tubes. Some of us love amp models. Yayy, models. And how about those cheap little solid-state amps?


Oh, come on! Am I really the only person who digs the barking attack and corrosive crunch of the subcompact tubeless combo? Will none step forward to sing the praises of those brave little badgers of the amp kingdom?

That’s more like it!

Anyway, I love these things. So many applications, and not just for plinky little intros before you slam on the überstacks. They’re great for layering over tube amps—the fast attack and brittle distortion can really sharpen the fangs of overdubbed riffs. And sometime they just sound satisfying all by themselves.

I needed to crank out a few primitive rock cues for a 15-second TV spot, and figured I’d use each one to feature a solid-state fave. Starting, of course, with the mighty Marshall MS2 Micro Amp. I’ve used these on a zillion sessions, sometimes even tastefully. I love pairing it with short, slappy delays—it creates this cool, surreal sense of space. All three guitars on this clip were played through this amp.

"Does this mic make me look short and fat?"

Micro Marshall

Not subtle. Not polished. Not even close to being in tune. What’s not to like?

Next up: The amp that lives under the workbench where I build pedals and tweak guitars. The 1×8, 15-watt Vox Pathfinder has a cool, quirky tone and a nice trem sound. The clean tones work great with aggressive fuzz pedals—they really bring out the “spit.” But the Pathfinder can also sound downright pretty, in a humble sort of way. The four guitar tracks here were all done through the Pathfinder.

Vox Pathfinder

FInally, just a taste of my newest amp, a ZT Lunchbox. It isn’t really in the same category as the other two amps—it’s more expensive, and is offers a much more realistic simulation of a traditional tube amp. Also, this tiny combo is rated at 200 watts, and drives big cabinets without breaking a sweat. Anyway, don’t take the deliberately trashy tones here as entirely represent ice of this impressive ampette.


Okay, fess up. Who else has a solid-state confession? It’s alright—you’re among friends.

70 comments to It is WRONG to Love Cheap Little Solid-State Amps?

  • thesupernaut

    One of my favorite distortions of all time is from one of the cheapest amps ever made, the fender frontman 15 g. Its too much gain and too loud for its own good to the point where if you turn it up past 4 the speaker starts to distort, but the gain channel on this little thing is amazing.

  • Have a little 8″ cheap Peavey modeling thing for apt. playing and didn’t have a chance to grab a usual amp. Played at mild practice volumes it was actually okay and had a nice clean sound (didn’t like the distortions). At gig volume it does fart terribly clean, but I was surprised at how good it sounded the other night.

  • Robert

    I have a marshall microstack for apartment playing when I’m too lazy to plug my guitar into the computer and it sounds alright I guess. If the speakers weren’t so muddy, I’d probably like it a lot more…

  • Keith

    I had an old JOhnson solid state amp, it really sounds great for putting a dirt in the cleans. Its a really clear tone as well which I like. Sometimes you just can’t beat the little amps 🙂

  • theo

    I use an Orange Micro Crush Pix with an overdrive pedal to play around with. I have them both loaded with a 9v battery so it’s a pretty portable setup. I have the micro crush in overdrive mode and the overdrive on at 12 o’clock (sort of like overdriving the solid state overdrive), and i like the sound quite a bit to be honest, it’s really loud with the additional overdrive and nicely compressed, it’s like hearing a high gain amplifier through a small radio, which is to be expected with the 4″ speaker. It sounds pretty bad on it’s own though.

  • Francis

    I have an Orange Micro crush, it’s got a tuner and sounded awesome on overdrive channel like you couldnt believe!

  • I’ve owned my fair share of solid state amps. I was never a really big fan of the Peaveys I owned but I owned one of those Marshall Micros and it was pretty sweet for just plugging in and jamming – it had kind of a trashy growl – which is cool depending on what you are doing.

    I also had an old pair of sound blasters that I would use, best crappy amp ever.

  • El Vic

    Smokey Amp, anyone? These things have been the secret weapon of soooo many session guys for, like, ever. The sound is nowhere near anything resembling “tasteful”, but put it in front (!) of the preamp of classic tube combo and prepare to melt into blown-out overdrive oblivion. Heck, these suckers can drive a 4×12 cab all by themselves… on a 9v battery!?!?!?

  • cnoteseven

    My Tech 21 Trademark 60 is almost 15 years old. It isn’t a boutique 18-watt tube amp, but it never fails. Weighs almost nothing. Sounds great. Best clean I’ve ever heard. Direct out for recording. $500 well spent.

    Funny story: The nameplate fell off the front about 10 years ago. Ever since then, guitar nerds at gigs stare at it and puzzle over the manufacturer. They always say the same thing. “Man, your amp sounds great. What kind of tubes are in there?” I don’t have the heart to tell them.

  • el reclusa

    El Vic- I remember Bruce Zinky coming into the little vintage shop I worked at with a prototype of the Smokey back in the day- apparently his wife has family around here, it was near the holidays- and my jaw dropping when he plugged it into a Marshall 1960 cab. We had an interesting conversation, he was talking about developing a tube compressor that would retail for $4500 (this was 12, 13 years ago?) and giving a wonderfully bizarre, convoluted explanation of why $4500 was the magic number…interesting cat, but he was a very nice guy.

    I have (and love, as long as the battery is fairly fresh) the slightly larger Marshall MS-4 micro FULL stack. Bought it for $24 on a whim last year ahead of a road trip that didn’t allow room enough for my Gibson GA5. I dig it! Fun to sing through, too.

    Sometimes, for some sounds, a little SS amp is tough to beat. SOme friends of mine have an AWESOME Cramps-ish garagey, surfy, psychobilly sleaze-twang band. I remember being excited when one of the guitarists turned up at a gig with a new Fender Deluxe…until they played. Not a bad amp at all, but for them, there was just something RIGHT about the Vox Pathfinder she’d been using for years. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so- the last few times I’ve seen them, she’s rocked the Vox, and the last time I was at their house, her Deluxe was getting dusty in a corner…

    • joe

      Zinky is one brilliant dude. He also created the Vibro-King and Tone Master, two great ’90s Fenders.

      There are a bunch of Smoky-style DIY projects . . . hmm . . .

  • Bear

    I love my Lunchbox and Pathfinder, and my Smokey (“Touch Me I’m Sick” rhythm tones in there) and Dano Honeytone can be fun. I’m a home player who has done plenty of time with tube rigs. I’m plenty happy with the tones I’m getting. I have a big old Boogie preamp that does well at getting controlled tube tones at home, but I rarely bother anymore.

  • Swen

    I was playing through my Marshall MS2 in a hotel room in Fairbanks, AK. The front desk called. “Whatever you’re doing in there. Stop it!”

  • I’m really happy someone posted a Blog about this. I always feel pressured into buying tube because where I work that’s the norm but I believe breaking away from it is also good too. My first real Amp was a Crate GFX120 Solid State it had two 12″ Speakers and DSP Effects I loved that amp. I’ve owned 2 Tube amps since I’ve been playing and I have to say that I would opt for either one of the designs just as long as they are within my budget. I think it really just comes down to the person and what they want to sound like and if their ideal is to sound like themselves then any amp can work for them. Thanks for the Post Joe! Sincerely Tubbs

  • Derick

    It’s not ‘wrong’ to love anything that sounds the way you need it to when you need it to. For instance, my #1 amp is a Crate V-18 with a 12at7, 12au7, 12ax7 preamp tube configuration. It sounds sweet and buttery and awesome. But Crate amps suck, right?

    Who plays their guitar with a violin bow? It’s not right, but it sounds cool so “GO FOR IT!”

    Music should ALWAYS be about what sounds good for you, not what is popular.

  • Chad

    I think there is more solid state stuff than people like to admit. Zappa used a Pignose. Brian May used the Deacy amp extensively. I was once lectured at a gig by another guitar player because I wasn’t using a tube amp. Really? Dogma is always restrictive, but especially repulsive in art.

  • Peter

    The old 3M Wollensak portable tape recorder switched to PA mode was kind of a miniamp, and my first guitar amp. Through headphones at full volume (but not wearing the headphones because that would be too loud) just setting them a few feet away… amazing distortion tones (I think these were the speakers distorting, not the amp) which eventually destroy the headphones.

    Parts of Blow By Blow were recorded through a Pignose. And like many players of a certain age, the Pignose was one of my amps. I don’t actually miss the long gone Pignose but I do miss the Wollensak.

    The tiny art deco version Zinky Smokey in translucent blue sparkle high impact plastic makes a wonderful desk accessory and has had a spot on my non-virtual desk for many years.

    • joe

      Cool examples, Peter — and guess what? The Wollensack was MY first amp too! I’d push the mic between the strings of my mom’s nylon-string guitar and just let it rattle around inside the body. At age 11 or so, I was disappointed — it didn’t sound like my image of what an electric guitar should sound like. But chances are I’d LOVE that tone today. 🙂

      • Peter

        “I’d push the mic between the strings of my mom’s nylon-string guitar and just let it rattle around inside the body.”

        I used to do that too. Great howling feedback. And as a thirteen year old I discovered that you could pull the tape away from the Wollensack’s erase head and make crude sound on sound recordings. A kazoo hard against the mic for the fake lead guitar parts with a Satisfaction type tone.

  • Cyle

    I still use my first amp, a Dean Markley K-50. I’ve always loved the tone and it sounds even better now with the Jensen Modtone speaker. The adjustible voice control on the back is kinda cool, too. 15 years in, it’s still a great amp.

  • Scott

    I own several tube amps and a few modeling amps and I don’t exclude either when recording – whatever works. One of my favorite discoveries a couple years ago was when I plugged my Martin acoustic w/ under saddle piezo into my Marshall MS-2 micro 1/2 stack. It is one of the most wonderful warm crunch sounds I have ever heard. Who would of thunk it? Don’t ever discount experimenting with these little solid state wonders – Cheers

  • Paul

    Loved the Fender Deluxe 112, the Roland JC77, the TM60…..I even did a gig one time going strat – arion chorus – Tech 21 triOD – PA. Got an itch for a Lunchbox…

    I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as a bad sound – just that the context is wrong, There’s a time and place for big, lush, 3-d valve cleans, and there’s plenty of space for solid state stuff, too. Often, ‘good tone’ (by which most guitarists mean a particular valve tone) is the wrong thing for a track. And headroom? Well, if you want it and valves, say helloooo to a Twin and accompanying lumbar problems.

  • Nuno Carmona

    «the mighty Marshall MS2 Micro Amp. I’ve used these on a zillion sessions, sometimes even tastefully.»


  • Ben Niven

    Joe, I just stumbled onto this article; what a coincidence. At least partly from reading your work through the ’90s in Guitar Player, I was inspired to dig my first amp back out of the closet–an early ’80s Peavey Audition 20–and try it out again through my phases of using cranked tube heads, rack gear, and finally a pair of small Valco combos. The Peav is really pretty versatile and reacts well to low input gain, cranked output gain, single-coils and a conservatively-set compression pedal in front. Great to read your work again and thanks for the inspiration!

  • Ken

    There is nothing wrong with solid state amps. I have a Peavey Audition 20 that I have had for years. It was dead when it given to me years ago.I cracked it open and changed the output chip and it has been rocking ever since. My main amp is a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe but once when it laid down on me, the little Peavey took its place onstage and when miked, it did the job well. I only missed the reverb. Not a thing wrong with a solid state amp. Great article and great blog.

    • joe

      Thanks for the kind words about the blog.

      I know what you mean about missing reverb with some combo amps. But I’ve got to say that some of the latest generation digital reverb stompboxes with the big-ass “Belden Brick” processor can get you an incredibly realistic spring sound. If you’ve of the DIY persuasion, Build Your Own Clone makes a great one. It’s great for, say, adding that Blackface Reverb tone to a Tweed-flavored amp. Would probably sound killer with your Audition.

  • I’ve used one of my favorite mid-80s solid state practice amps for my band’s last release and upcoming release. I don’t love it for everything, but it does a really gross clippy breakup that you’d have to spend $120 on a fuzz pedal to get out of another, “better” amp. I don’t really want to share what it is because I want them to stay cheap 😛

  • Edward Sousa

    My first amp was a late ’70s Rickenbacker TR-25 that had a cool built-in tremolo and a deep spring reverb.It had a funky low-fi overdrive mode and 25 solid-state watts driving a no name 12″ speaker.Cool little combo,it was.

  • Larry Antinozzi

    I found a (working!) Dean Markley K-20 in the dumpster @ work which actually sounds pretty good. I use it if I want a sound that’s a little mid-heavy on recordings. And it has a direct out and a headphone jack! But the best little transistor amp of all is my 35 year old Peavey Backstage.
    As far as solid state itself: Even though it’s not in the little, inexpensive class, I’d put a Tech 21 Treadmark 60 up against any tube amp in the same category for tone and overdrive. Plus, that amp, unlike tube amps, sounds the same all the time no matter what the conditions.

  • John Seetoo

    Been playing for 35 years and have owned and used both SS and tube amps.  Currently own a Music Man 210HD, a bunch of Peaveys (Couple of small Transtubes, a Vypyr and my main gig amp – a Bandit 65), a 70’s Yamaha G30-112, and several others. They all have their uses. I think a lot of guitarists want instant gratification and are too lazy to take the time to tweak the settings to match an amp to a particular guitar for optimum sound. I spoke to Steve Howe of Yes, who swears by his Line 6 amps, because he’s taken the time to get killer sounds for his beloved guitar collection that give him the consistency on tour with Yes and Asia that was missing with his Dual Showmans. I have achieved some great recorded sounds plugging straight into the Bandit that even fooled a friend of mine, who is a Grammy award winning engineer.  My personal fave sound is a cranked Fender Deluxe or Music Man. I’ve never liked Marshalls for some reason; call me a heretic. If I had to choose between a Marshall or a SS Peavey or H&K, I’d take the latter because that works for ME, but not necessarily anyone else. I can get the sounds I need from my Peaveys or Yamaha for most studio and stage needs, but that’s because I have had enough time to tweak them for each of my guitars.

    • joe

      Hey John — thanks for stopping in, and thanks for all the thoughtful observations. I happen to like old-style Marshalls, yet I can see what you’re talking about. The sound is so distinctive, it can almost seem to “force” an agenda onto your playing in a way that the American amps you mentioned don’t seem to do. Having said that, I built an Marshall 18-watt clone last year that’s pretty darn seductive….

  • Mike

    that micro-marshall clip is very Big Sugar-ish. Me Likey.

  • John Seetoo

    Joe – that Marshall Clone sounds very interesting; among Marshall tones, the Bluesbreaker sound is one that I prefer much more than the 4X12 half stack or larger. Here’s an example of what I mean by tweaking the amp(s) for the guitar: I am playing a New Year’s Eve gig at a 200 year old stone church in NYC. Lots of natural reverb – like a castle. There will be Vocalists, grand piano, synth keys, Ableton Live loops, a drummer, percussionist, cellist, Tenor Sax, bass, and a separate Baroque Group. I am using the Yamaha G30-112 totally clean with spring reverb and Vol. on 4 with a jumper to a Peavey Rage 158 for dirt sounds w/post gain Vol. on 4.  Strat sounded too sharp, so I am using a Hamer Special w/Seymour Duncans. Took out some mids, added highs on the amps (I adjust the Tone on Hamer between 3-7 depending on amount of cut I needed for solos) and made sure there was enough grit for a nice singing tone when playing slide. The Peavey transtube circuit does a great job of giving a cranked Princeton sound through the 8″ speaker, kind of almost like Brian May’s Deacey.  The Yamaha’s clean 12″ speaker gives me the low end and mids without the woofiness. I originally brought along a bunch of stompboxes, but between slide, volume swells, harmonics and the nice soundd of the combined SS amps, I’m leaving them at home for this gig as there are enough guitar textures to compliment the other instruments without clashing.

  • John Seetoo

    BTW – great blog!

    • joe

      Thanks, John — so glad you’re digging the blog!

      I love that 18-watt, but as I understand, it’s not necessarily Bluesbreaker-inspired — it’s a clone of the 18-watts Marshall made in the ’70s. I think it sounds less “Fendery” that the ’60s Marshall combos. Also, it’s INSANELY loud. I partially got it so I could have a great Marshall sound at sensible volumes,but man, that thing makes serious noise.

      I assume you know the story about the original ’60s Marshall combos being, well, let’s just say VERY much inspired by the tweed Fender Bassman.

  • DaveP

    I’m glad to hear there are other folks who enjoy SS for what it is. My favorite is my Fender Deluxe 85 (mid-80s red-knob). You can run the clean and distortion channels in parallel and get all over the map balancing those out. Lot of fun, lots of headroom, and doesn’t need a dolly to move.

  • This is my 1977 Stage 25 (Univox) I was telling you about at the Duncan booth this past NAMM show It is a solid state 6 watt killer ( 8″ speaker, volume, tone, reverb, tremolo w/ speed and intensity)    (PS the CD you gave me is #ucking KILLER thanks man take care HeXx

  • Damian

    Wow… I thought I was alone on all this… I recently switched over from playing mainly bass to only guitar. I’ve got a 99-00 year Godin SD and a Dana Alvarez (with the tri-force and drop D tuned). When I switched over it was because I started a new band and I wanted to experiment. So before I bought an amp I researched online and everyone was about tubes. I have definitely heard many a tube amp before but never saw anyone play SS in a show… Anyways, kept shopping and tubes were too expensive and then I came accross the RED Fender Frontman 212R… looked beautiful… Looked it up on youtube for reviews and nobody played anything in the style in which I was writing but it all sounded so good… Found on on craigslist for $180 right after they released the red one so I knew it was mint… Picked it up plugged into it and started playing “Machinehead” by Bush… Went up to the more drive channell and it just nailed that song with the volume at 3 1/2… I’m in love with this amp and I’ve tweaked it to my liking to get the grungy sound I want… that’s with only the pedal it comes with… Working on building a bedal board soon and will keep it small and simple… Tuner, Screamer, Distortion and maybe a phaser or flanger… I like tubes but I don’t think they are for everyone…

  • Matt Seniff

    I am surprised no one mentioned the Pearson amps which were probably the best sounding solid state amp ever made IMHO. They were definitely touring class amps and really had a great tone even when being driven at stage volumes (which is where solid state amps usually lose it). They are somewhat rare today as most are probably in the hands of collectors. 
    Another great SS amp was the 70’s Sunn Beta Lead head which had a great distortion channel. You could get a very smooth powerful distorted lead tone. These amps have sky rocketed in price in the last ten years or so.
    BTW solid state is actually a misnomer the term solid state was originally used by RCA in regards to their TVs, it actually referred to the circuitry being built on circuit boards as opposed to the point to point wiring used previously. The TVs in question were hybrids, a mix of germanium, silicon and vacuum tube devices (it took a while for silicon transistors to be developed that could handle high current and high voltage reliably). RCA used solid state in advertising to denote the fact that they could produce TVs cheaper using the then new technology of printed circuit boards which they also claimed made them more reliable.  In fact TV circuit boards brought a whole new series of problems like broken traces, bad grounds and cold solder joints where the connections would deteriorate from high current flows (those circuit board problems kept many a TV repair tech working in the slow times). Back in those days circuit boards were designed by electronic artists who really had great technique, nowadays it is done by computer programs. For a while a few companies called transistor based units silicon state which was also shortened to SS but over time solid state became a name for non vacuum tube based circuitry. I have always been a bit bothered by the solid state term, but then I was around when all this stuff actually happened.

    • Matt Seniff

      I had a bit of a brain fart it is Pearce not Pearson. I had a customer with 3 G2R’s that were really sweet for both clean and drive.  The only repairs they ever seemed to need was cleaning the controls (with Caig cramolin) and the occasional touring related repair like broken off potentiometers or a cracked pc board.
       Jazz guys also love the SS Polytone amps like the Mini-Brute but they are a pain to repair since so much is crammed into such a small space. They are also unbelievably heavy for their size. I think what made them sound good was the sealed back 8″ and 6″ spkrs many of them used. They also were used at much lower volumes than a rock amp.

  • Oinkus

    I miss my Beta lead was the first really good amp I ever owned(sigh) I know it has survived and was recently given to someone for free. Got to love some good karma!

  • rickyredhead

    Yamaha G-5 solid state, nice wooden construction….put it in a long hallway and OD it with some reverb and a mike 3 feet away?

    MARSHALL to the WALLS in tone, and records great……..and cost me, oh, $25.

    The Readheadf

  • Double D

    I’ve used a Peavey Rage 1×8 combo I picked up for $63 (tax in) on countless restaurant and corporate casual gigs- y’know, the kind where you’re supposed to be audio wallpaper? I finally used it for a particularly raucous blues duo gig with a harmonica player, and was blown away.  That quick little eight inch speaker howls when its maxed and the amp itself has an odd compression when cranked. Absolutely EVIL in open D with no overdrive circuitry in use!
    The Dano Bacon and Eggs was a good friend to me in my touring days; I miss it, Kent, you thieving turd…
    Anyone who ever used public transit to get to and from gigs has probably come to terms with their knee-jerk hatred of SS.

  • Ben Niven

    Ben Niven here again…since posting last back in November, I’ve come across on old Dean Markley K20, as mentioned somewhere above. I’ve discovered that it really complements the bright, cutting rhythm tone I get from the Peavey Audition 20 by adding some warmth and midrange complexity to the sound. Soloed, I definitely lean toward the Peavey’s tone, but blended together in roughly equal amounts is better than either amp by itself…and still easy to carry, and louder. Now if I could only find some gigs again…

  • Oinkus

     Ran across a Marshall Lead 12 that we passed around our group 20 years ago that someone actually still owns. Spiffy little SS amp with some really decent sounds for the bedroom or front porch. Will see how it really sounds after it returns from a good shakedown and tune up , but I understand it has potential to use the direct out into something else and gets some great sound.

    • Just added a Lead 12 I nabbed cheap because allegedly broken. Deoxit is the 8th Wonder, though I have a couple minor issues left to sort before it’s 100%. Still, the amp justifies every kind word written about it–if you don’t get hung up on whether it sounds exactly like a tube Marshall, it really does give a lot of that vibe. Especially cleaner tones from the low gain input. A very fun addition for playing at home, and looks spiffy next to my Pathfinder running stereo effects.

      • Oinkus

        I have slaved it into a Champ clone and it is pretty dern magical give that a try. Some serious distortion becomes available to make the Champ just scream.

  • John Seetoo

    >Double D – your experience with the small Peaveys cranked up seems to mirror my own.  My Rage and Blazer 158 Transtubes nail that Fender Princeton OD sound when turned up past 1:00 on the gain. Best thing about them is that they can hang with drums at ear level but you don’t have to worry about a soundman constantly telling you to turn down and wimp out your tone!

  • Have a Pathfinder- among others- now that I love, has a great little vibrato in it.  Anyway, this will sound really strange and cheesy, but since we are talking about little “inadequate” cheap solid-state amps…back in the mid-late 1980’s my first amp was a Gorilla amp that I bought new in about 1985 or 1986.  I don’t remember the model, but even with all the higher-end amps I have owned and played through since then, I really wish I still had that amp.  It packed a wallop of a sound, and even just using the cheesy little distortion switch on the amp- without using any external pedal effect- it really had a hell of a great distortion sound that I have rarely been able to capture since.  It was able to get this surprisingly warm thick fuzzy amalgam of sound that sounded like a cross between Brian May, Tom Scholtz, and maybe Joe Walsh.  I don’t know what they did, but they really had a great inboard distortion sound that you could get on that amp. 

    • joe

      I TOTALLY believe it. I bet you could find one of those pretty easily — and cheaply!

      Remind me of a funny story: Back in the ’90s, I got into this obsessive cheap amp phase. My best acquisition was the dreaded Baldwin “Professional,” which I wrote about here. At the time I was working on my first album with Oranj Symphonette, whopse bandleader, cellist Matt Brubeck, is one of Dave Brubecks’s sons. I set up front-and-center in the studio, thinking, “Matt is going to shriek WTF!? when he sees this thing with its blue cabinet and ridiculous plastic pushbuttons.”

      But when Matt showed up, he eyed it calmly and said, “Oh — Baldwin Professional. We had one of those.” See, his Dad was a Baldwin piano endorser, and Baldwin would always send their cheapo guitars and amps for Dave’s kids to play with. So much for my “brilliant” discovery. 🙂

    • Hey Medecine Foot.  A bandleader I used to tour with had one of those Gorillas back in the day and had similar raves about it.  Strangely, they used to be all over the place in shops, but I haven’t seen one in years.  Where’d they all go? 

  • Just did the speaker in the old Peavey Rage in.  Didn’t take a whole lot in the end…false confidence always gets ya’ in the end.  Any suggestions for a good, solid and (most important) dirt cheap replacement?  This also led me to wonder when we can expect a good, unflinching Joe-style review of the ZT Lunchbox (which was promised, or at least hinted at, so long ago).  Seriously Joe, really interested in those things, but haven’t read what I consider a legit breakdown, particularly form someone who won’t expect it to sound like their favourite ’66 Princeton…

  • Oinkus

    Mojotone has some cheaper  speakers but Craigslist or Ebay is probably cheaper.

    • joe

      Don’t know if there’s a cool used-gear shop near you, but I’d look for something from the ’50s or ’60s from some no-name, beat-to-crap amp. 

  • Will

    I’m with Supernaut.  I’ve got a Frontman 25R from the late nineties that I love the sound of when it comes to the drive circuit.

  • Bruiz

    Been using a Peavey Bandit 65 for years, got it from my Uncle who played a steel through it. Love it with my old Yamaha tele and my Ibanez hollowbody. Takes pedals really well also. I love tube amps but this one stays in the living room and if I I’m watching the tube and want to play during a commercial break or what ever, I just turn it on and go. Love that simplicity.

  • Elliot

    my favorite amp is my late 70’s Peavey Backstage 30. super thick compressed mushy gain when cranked. the original speaker was blown so I put a Lil’ Buddy Patriot in there and man does it bark!
    I use it with my band exclusively, and its really become “my sound”.
    that and a Pignose are responsible for all or our recorded tones.

  • bear

    Bumping Re: the Pathfinder. There’s an LED mod that is pretty well known around the interwebs where you remove two clipping LEDs in the preamp to open up the sound and headroom. At I Love Fuzz, TweedBassman came up with an additional mod to make the trem depth deeper, too, and it’s sweet. (TweedBassman is the guy behind Penny Pedals, maker of the Fuzzprint fuzz and other sweet dirt boxes.)

    Here is the mod thread:

    • joe

      Dude, you are seriously coming up with most of the ideas for my blog these days. Keep up the great work! 🙂

      • bear

        Thanks for the kind words, Joe, but for this one all credit goes to the guys who pioneered the mods. TweedBassman (I think his meatspace name is Matt) came up with the depth mod virtually in moments just ’cause I asked if he knew there was one. Now that’s ****ing greatness right there.

  • tim hoot

    One of my favorite clean tones ever has to be my fender harvard…….no not THAT Harvard…im talking about fenders solid state 1981 Fullerton made Harvard amp, its a 40 watt 10 inch amp, rather loud thou I must say for its rating….anyhow the clean sound on this amp is quite nice and the dirt aint too awful bad either (but like most solid states as your turning up the gain and things are goin good and just a lil bit more and just before you hit that sweet spot the tone just dies and the distortion just…you’ll all know what im talking about I find this true of every solid state I have ever owned …there nice sounds till about 2 thirds the way up….that last 1/3 where on a tube amp you would be hitting breakup…just sounds awful on a solid state……I think the tone is great thou if you dont go past halfway….im not knockin it thou, solid state has there place in my books, I own a few…love the roland cubes

  • I always thought it was funny that it is accepted that tube amps sound best and at the same time it is perfectly OK to stick a Tube Screamer (or almost any other solid state footpedal) in front of a valve amp.
    I’m doing a lot of amp repairs these days and the majority of relatively new amps I see are now hybrid designs, only the output stages are valve. The pre-amps are solid state, mostly op-amps. Although the manufacturers tend not to mention this in their advertising.
    One guy I do work for buys up stuff at auctions and he had bought a pretty beat up 1998 Danelectro Nifty Fifty – 18W, 8inch loudspeaker, that wasn’t working. This amp has what Danelectro called a Dirty / Sweet circuit, a very soft, always on, LED clipper on the input stage. After I repaired it I liked it so much I bought it from him. I even bought another one (also busted) off Ebay, fixed it up and fitted an Eminence hemp cone loudspeaker to it, so I have one with the original speaker and one with a hemp cone (I wanted to see how much difference this speaker change would make). They both have really interesting, but quite different tones. Really useful little amps – portable, small, loud and tons of character.

    • joe

      Totally agree, Terry. Oh, the things that a well structured blind listening test can reveal about players and their relationship to tube tone! A lot of players aren’t aware that the Marshall JCM-800’s character is largely based on clipping diodes, not tube distortion.

      Interesting how the thinking 15 or 20 years ago was tube preamps and solid-state power amps. It sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but the opposite arrangement seems to work better, doesn’t it?

      (I haven’t tried that Nifty Fifty thing, and now I’m curious — even though I shun modern Dano products because of the parent company’s homophobic political activism.)

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