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Sunn Guys: Lay it on me.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by powellmacaque, Oct 22, 2010.

  1. I think I'm going to purchase some Sunn Equipment whenever I can get the necessary funds to acquire these beasts. I'm going to be looking for a guitar rig and a bass rig.

    I really like what I've heard on youtube and I am looking for an amp that's got a lot of gain and a lot of power.

    I am finding it difficult to decide what amps are what. Since there really is no definitive "one stop" Sunn website, I find it bothersome to compare models to see which ones are worth pursuing.

    If you guys could give me as much information (specs, tonal quality, gig stories, good places to find them, anything) as possible regarding any Sunn bass or guitar amp/cab, that'd be amazing!
  2. jdfarrell81

    jdfarrell81 Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2009
    Baltimore, MD

    This is the Sunn Discussion Page. It's THE source for Sunn info. The folks here really know their stuff.

    If you want a bass and guitar rig, many Sunn amps function well for both bass and guitar, though many of the oldest models may be underpowered for bass by today's standards.

    A vintage Model T (150 watts, four 6550's three 12ax7's) is an excellent all-around amp. It sounds equally amazing for guitar and bass, and it's plenty loud enough. Of course, they cost a fortune now, but good deals are still out there.

    The Sunn 2000s is also a great choice. It's probably the mother of all bass amps. But, again, almost all vintage Sunn amps can be used for both bass and guitar. They're pure, clean power.
  3. bovine mind

    bovine mind

    Jun 17, 2008
    San Francisco
    Get ready to pay way more than they're worth. Yawn.

    [ I love Sunn's, but the hype is more than played out ]
  4. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Oh yes. Once again, it's the whole "It's old, so it MUST be better" thing - even if it's just a logo.

    I *strongly* suggest the OP go to a store and PLAY some amps first. Heck, find someone who uses them and hear them on a gig. Youtube and on-line hype mean nothing. NOTHING.
  5. Gizmot


    Mar 22, 2009
    Nashville area
    I was a big fan of Sunn back in their heyday and thought that the 100S (guitar amp) and the 200S and 2000S bass amps were great. They are better for bass than guitar, but they are solid, honest products.
    I also agree that they aren't worth paying a super-premium price for.
    Technology has improved somewhat and just because it was good 40 years ago doesn't mean that it's what you should own now. If you can find good clean Sunn models at a fair price and if you like how they sound, go for it.
  6. I had a 300T, one of the reissues from the late 90's. It sounded great and I had minimal issues with mine, unlike some others that had to be rewired. It had 2 channels, and sounded great in the way tha tonly an all Tube amp can. It also sounded great as a guitar amp if you ran the pre hot and the master low. Downside....it weighed a TON.
    If you are into that sound go for it. They are nearly impossible to come by for a decent price and in good working order these days I think.
    My advice...play lots of tube amps. You might actually like somethin else better.
  7. edbass


    Nov 8, 2004
    That's an oxymoronic concept. Musical instruments, real estate, cars, etc.; what people are willing to pay for something is the only real barometer of what that item is "worth".
    I won’t speak towards the later model PCB transistor Sunns because I don’t really know a lot about them, but in my experience the original hand built Sundholm era Sunns are pretty competitive pricewise with similar vintage hand built tube amps, however; regardless of your opinion or my opinion the market determines value, not a “pseudo expert” post on a forum.

    I suppose that depends on a person’s personal definition of “better”. Old gear is like old cars, relative to “cutting edge” equipment higher maintenance and more user intensive. Not everyone possesses the wherewithal, discipline, dedication, or for that matter the inclination it takes to get the old stuff performing to its potential in today’s plug n’ play world; in the “olden days” you didn’t have a choice.
    Sometimes even “geezers”, who understand how to make vintage stuff perform, will even eschew the quality of the vintage products they grew up with in an effort to be vicariously “young and hip” again through boasting about using the modern “young” gear. But, I digress…
    Vintage things often take more dedicated user effort to perform to their maximum potential than newer ones but often the result is more satisfying to many, possibly because of the effort needed to get it to perform to its maximum potential.

    While I admit to being of the above mentioned “geezer” status, I try to see the “big picture”. I have both old and new cars as well as vintage and modern gear, and I use them all; no “trailer queen” vintage cars or museum piece old amps.
    If I’m running to the store, going to unknown places or taking an overnight road trip it’s the new cars every time. If the drive itself is the reason for the trip, it’s one of the old ones without question.
    If I’m going to rehearsal, going to an impromptu jam, or over to a friend’s house to work on material it’s usually going to be a lighter weight new rig that goes with me. If it’s a recording session, or some other “money gig” it’s going to be one of my dinosaurs almost for sure.

    There is just something satisfying about finding the right combination of hand throttle, gas pedal technique and driving style to make an old 911 “sing” (or for that matter “start” ;)) and likewise for getting a B15 or 2000S into its “sweet spot”.

    So is old better? Generally from a quality of craftsmanship standpoint I’d say yes. When you duplicate the hand crafted build technique of vintage hand wired amps today, it gets pretty pricey. Look at the cost of a Reeves, Morgan, Divided by 13, Alessandro, Reinhardt, ect. compared to a throw away PCB amp.
    Of course you could get the “best of both worlds”, a new Orange AD200; A throw away PCB amp that’s priced like a hand crafted boutique amp… :rolleyes:
    From a tonal perspective, who knows? I’ve heard plenty of players (particularly guitar players) whose tonal preference sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, and I’m sure that the tone I get is obnoxious to some as well; that’s a subjective opinion and has no right or wrong answer IMO.

    I completely agree that it’s a good idea to play everything you can, that’s the only way to get a handle on how a particular rig will work for you personally.

    I totally disagree that “Youtube and on-line hype mean nothing. NOTHING”; on the contrary it means everything to a lot of people.
    To many aspiring players the perception that a specific piece of gear has is the deciding factor, particularly the perception of said person’s peer group or chosen musical genre.

    I saw a kid drooling over and sloppy smacking on an Ibanez around his knees in GC the other day. His buddy and he were just gushing over how nice the bass was. He was wearing a Korn T shirt, you can’t convince me that “Youtube and on-line hype” had no influence over their preference in gear and tone.

    Old Sunn amps like most any all tube amp, will grind up and get nice and nasty if you saturate them, but are in reality very hi-fi and fairly articulate amps, very dynamic and not very “colored” tonally.
    However, they are extremely loud and up until the late 90’s really, really cheap, which made them affordable for the doom/drone genre to pile into a miss-matched heaps and abuse. Now Sunns, while designed to be clean and hi-fi and likely not the best choice for loud distorted noise, have a cult doom/drone/stoner following which is largely responsible for the spike in vintage Sunn prices over the last several years.
    All those kids who discovered that they could get a guitar or bass for Christmas and within hours learn to be an accomplished drone “musician” wanted to play what their heroes did; just like most generations of aspiring players did, and in this case it was Sunn amps.

    So I must disagree that “Youtube and on-line hype mean nothing. NOTHING”, I think in the big picture it means a lot.

    Ask the marketing department of any MI company how important “Youtube and on-line hype” is…
  8. protoz


    Nov 30, 2000
    If you can try before you buy then go for a Sunn. I have 3 Sunn amps and they are all for different tones and I'll always love my Sunn gear but lugging it around is a pain. Even my Coliseum 300 sounds warm and tubey but the solder joins are bad so it crackles under load.

    Recently, I've moved over to an Orange Terror Bass because I can get my tones faster than I can with my Sunn 300T and it's 1/8th the weight.

    I'm not saying to avoid Sunn amps but know that there may be a newer alternative that gives you a similar tone that is more reliable.
  9. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    You make a good point; I guess what I should have said was "Youtube and on-line hype mean nothing as to the actual quality of an item". Value and quality ARE two different things, agreed? Just look at your parallel with old cars: Old cars are cool and fun, but many (if not most) just are not as well made or engineered as current cars. Can you say PINTO or GREMLIN?

    There is a silly trend that I've seen on this forum that The Hive decides that some old piece of gear or company is *great*, even if they've never owned a piece of that gear or heard it live - all because some band or video or rumor says so. I've really gotten into with with a few folks over the value of some CBS Fender gear, and I've come to realize that this is like arguing religion; These folks have a faith I, as a rationalist, can't understand. So why try?

    However, if a young person asks my opinion of, say, a 1977 J bass, well, you can bet I'll tell them. But here, on an open forum? I've learned that folks get VERY defensive about their gear choices - which completely puzzles me. You can insult *my* gear choices all day long, and I'll just shrug - I'm the one who has to gig with it, right? Why would I care what anyone else thinks?
  10. D.M.N.

    D.M.N. (O))))

    Oct 6, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    First off: To the OP, if you are looking for a lot of gain, I really think you're looking in the wrong place with the old tube Sunn's, excluding the Model T. They were based on Hi-Fi audio circuits (Dynaco), and will stay very clean until really pushed to the max. Not very gain-y at all. Most of the time the demos you hear where they are all distorted is due to a pedal, not the amp itself. If you want to go hear a cranked 200s, look up The Who Live at the Fillmore East on Youtube.

    Second: Regarding the hype.I agree that the hype over "ZOMG! SUNN (0))) USES SUNN AMPS! TEHY R SO DOOOOOOM! OMGROFLLMAOBFFASDFGHJKL;'!" is a bit ridiculous, and I'm ready to be done with it. On the other hand, the hype about them being fantastic amps, in both sound and quality, is well deserved (IMO). Yes, the prices have gone up since the Doomers, but if you really take a look at it, you're paying for a beautiful handwired machine, built for years and years of service. Look around at what a similar brand new handwired amp would cost. Well over $2000. The most expensive 2000s I've seen sold for $1500, with most in the $800-$1000 range, and to me, that's a pretty good price for what you're getting. Sure, not the steal you used to get, but then what amps still ARE the steals you used to get?

    On a side note, the Pinto and Gremlin are like the WORST examples of old cars to use. Maybe from a reliability stand point newer cars are better, but I'll say this: our 62 Tbird is WAY easier to work on than my dad's '04 F150. Same with my 85 Toyota. You can keep your fancy electrical doodads and computers and whathaveyous out of my car.
  11. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Well then, you see my point: The Gremlin is an old design; By many folk's logic, it MUST be good.

    And gushing over hand-wired solid state amps is all well & good - but if it doesn't *sound* good, then what's the point? I owned and gigged with a Sunn rig for many years: In the late '70 & early '80s, that was a *FINE* rig... but it just doesn't compare to what's out now. Perhaps a "new" Sunn that was hand wired and carefully designed might be great - I don't know. But I feel pretty sure that that old Concert Bass head of might just couldn't compare to what I could buy now for the same amount of real $$$.

    And don't even start on enclosures... Speaker tech is *so* much better now...
  12. waleross


    Nov 27, 2009
    South Florida
    I currently have a Fender Bassman 300 which is supposed to be the same as the Sunn 300T, I don't know about that but many years ago(1971) my first "big" amp was a Sunn Colesium with (2) 15" speakers and a foot pedal of some kind. Back then I was on top of the world (so I thought) but.. All the good old sentiment aside +1 on newer alternatives......:cool:
  13. D.M.N.

    D.M.N. (O))))

    Oct 6, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Yeah, I see your point with the Gremlin: Not all that is old is good.

    And the SS Sunns I have no comment on. Not really my thing. And they ARE PCB (I'm pretty sure? :bag: ) When I was talking about Handwired, I was talking about the tube 100s, 200s, 1200s, 2000s, Sonaro, Solarus, THOSE Sunns. Sorry if their was any confusion. They are what I'm talking about when I speak of quality and value. The recent increase in price of the SS ones is a bit ridiculous really. Not a value at all IMHO.

    And I won't start on about how my 2000s enclosure stomps most modern cabs.............;)
  14. Oh, please do start on that. I need encouragement to get back to work.
  15. Deluge Of Sound

    Deluge Of Sound Banned

    Nov 8, 2007
    Agreed. Sunn Tube stuff was a steal at $300-$400 a head. Now... not so much.

    The Sunn 300T is exactly the same as the Bassman 300. They're both Fender designed amplifiers.
  16. D.M.N.

    D.M.N. (O))))

    Oct 6, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    ^^Yeah, the Sunn 300T/Bassman 300 were wholly designed by Fender, not really Sunn at all, aside from the badge. Not that they're bad amps at all, quite the opposite, that's what I currently use, and it does kick major bum. They just aren't blood relatives of the original Sunns made by Mr. Sundholm.

    Hahaha. Okay, it makes my pant legs flap all about, can deafen those with hearing while restoring that of the Deaf. It's like Chuck Noris Roundhouse kicking you in the chest, while giving your nethers a sensual massage. It's like a miracle, but made out of wood and metal and various other parts.

    But seriously, how's that going?
  17. That said, neither is the Model T, really.

    Anyway, thanks for the encouragement. I'm going to get off my butt and go get some plywood tomorrow. Then have some fun with saws, a router, and sandpaper.
  18. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
  19. Dave-Action-Fig


    Nov 28, 2006
    I recently bought a Sunn S1200 (Modified a bit here and there). And I am VERY happy with it sound-wise. But it has a typical sound and it's not versatile at all, so that something you have to keep in mind. And about the overhyped stuff; let's say they are far less expensive than a old Ampeg SVT or Hiwatt.

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