Thoughts on SS *Guitar* Amps?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Sid Fang, Jan 3, 2015.

  1. Sid Fang

    Sid Fang Reformed Fusion Player

    Jun 12, 2008
    Yeah, yeah, I know this is a bassist forum, but I've come to trust a lot of you folks much better than I would strangers on a guitar forum. And I think bassists as a group are less dogmatic about tube vs. solid state amp technology.

    I double on guitar sometimes, but my only guitar amp is a Marshall 6101 combo, a wonderful sounding but fragile and very heavy beast. I've played through SS Marshalls, but they are basically entry-level products that sound like sh*t to me. Are there any actually decent SS guitar amps out there with a little grit?
  2. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    Westchester, NY
    Randall, Roland, and some Line 6 stuff. I guess it depends on what you're calling a little grit.

    I'd much rather have tubes when it comes to guitar.
    Kustom_Thunder likes this.
  3. MR PC

    MR PC Inactive

    Dec 1, 2007
    Slippery slope! :) The Roland JC 120 sounds surprisingly great with a p bass when i plug into it at some back though, and you could easily blow speakers at higher volumes.
  4. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Fractal Audio and Kemper. Of course, with those two units, you're already paying as much as you would for a good tube head. The SansAmp PSA-1 is an excellent solid-state preamp, and it even has a great sounding sounding DI. The aforementioned Roland's sound great for cleans.

    I played with an opening band last night, and one of the guitarists was using a Line 6 amp. I immediately remembered why I generally hate Line 6 guitar gear. It sounds alright for cleans and mild overdrive. The minute you start pushing any gain with one, it becomes fizzy, compressed and canned sounding. Astrophysicists are still studying the infinite vacuum that seems to mysteriously appear on live music venue stages and seems to suck any mid range audio frequencies anytime someone plays through a Line 6 guitar amp.

    With that said, I've heard some Line 6 recording interface plugins that actually sound impressive.
  5. Well, most effects boxes are SS, either discrete or DSP. Unless it is a feature on a SS guitar amp don't try for that tone by overdriving one. The FOH PAs use SS amps to reproduce those "creamy tube amp sounds" by letting them do the overdriving.
  6. Sid Fang

    Sid Fang Reformed Fusion Player

    Jun 12, 2008
    Ah, cool, new names to me! I knew I could get some avenues to explore from you guys! I'm not saying price is no object, but same-as-tube is not a deterrent.
    Yeah. I know those and like them for jazz guitar. Not so much for rock, though.
  7. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Out there!
    Quilter and Tech 21.
  8. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I suppose that would kind of defeat the purpose of Line 6 products, though, since they are intended to model tubes amp, whether clean or overdriven. They're not really meant to be a pedal platform (though that doesn't preclude a person from using one as such). Tech21 just seems to have such a better handle of doing emulation that is more realistic and doesn't tend to get lost in the mix like Line 6 gear does.
  9. Argali


    Aug 19, 2008
    Portland, OR
    It's fairly inaccurate to classify Fractal and Kemper stuff as SS. They are high-powered digital modelers, best you can get at the moment.
  10. Argali


    Aug 19, 2008
    Portland, OR
    As for my two cents, as I've been a guitar player way longer than a bassist: In my experience, the SS amps that actually sound good at full volume are few and far between, and are made by Tech 21 and Randall. Tech 21 in particular shines in the SS department. I've heard really great tone out of the Trademark 30 and 60 amps. The Trademark 10 was my practice amp for years. Randall also make good SS stuff. There's great commentary on that here:
    Roland GR 88 likes this.
  11. Bassmec


    May 9, 2008
    Ipswich UK
    Proprietor Springvale Studios
    Randall are the current leaders for metal guitar sounds out of a solid state amp at the moment.
    Not to say that the results won't improve lots if you stick the line output into a tube amps return especially in the cleaner dirty tones.
    Most Kemper stock profiles often sound a bit thicker recorded via a valve power stage driven to the edge into a real cabinet.:)
    PS a Sans amp VT pedal sounds a lot more like an Ampeg SVT 300 and an 8X10 when you actually plug it into one.
    Go figure!.
  12. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    At the risk of being pilloried, and noting that the particular model (CR-19, with a glorious 8" 10W/15 peak speaker) is not a "performance" amp beyond a small coffeehouse without a mic and a PA (and perhaps one of those full-stack faux fronts would make it sound better to some ;-) ) but I have a tiny little Crate that makes nice distortion at non-earbleed volumes when you crank up its "drive"' control. Must be fairly old by now; just keeps working.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015
  13. Mr_Martin


    Jul 31, 2014
    Best Guitar Amp i have had:
    PEAVEY Bandit "Redstripe"
    Light , very loud, reliable...
  14. beans-on-toast


    Aug 7, 2008
    What you use really depends on what you want your guitar amp to sound like. I'd take a smaller tube based combo that can be pushed any day, and it allows interaction with the sound coming out of the speaker. These amps can be light weight and sound great when mic'ed. There are a lot of affordable used amps. Think classic Fender Deluxe, Princeton, or up to a Twin. Mesa makes some very nice guitar amps. Peavey and Rolland are more affordable. The right tool for the job.

    If you are playing bass and guitar at the same gig, consider a guitar preamp, SS or tube, into the power amp of your bass.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015
    T_Bone_TL likes this.
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I have a Crate Power Block that is quite cool for guitar. It's discontinued now, but despite being SS, it's pretty decent.
    T_Bone_TL and delta7fred like this.
  16. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    we use a vox vt30, which i guess is technically a hybrid, because it has one 1 preamp tube, however they sound great and have a lot of useful effects, not to mention you can get newer ones that are more suitable for live/loud stuff or you can buy a used one like ours at gc for about 85 bones
  17. Weberman


    Apr 8, 2014
    Nilbog, Ohio
    Some of the SS amps above sound pretty good. The digital modelers can sound uncannily accurate. Even a couple of amp designers, like Mikey Soldano, have gone on record as saying that they can't really hear the difference anymore.

    With all of that being said, I have yet to find one that nails the same "feel" of a tube, particularly at higher gain settings. I know that it sounds a bit hackneyed at this point, but tube amps really do have a different response. When I was younger, I used to think that it was just nostalgic longings for anachronistic gear that made tube guys say that. My digital / SS gear sounded pretty good; "feel" must just be some sort of intangible, untestable schlock they use to justify their expenditures (like high-end audiophiles). Then, I got my first taste of a good tube amp, and was amazed. It just seemed so much easier to play. I had more control, it seemed. If you are used to tubes, you may find yourself unable to deal with many SS / digital devices for too long.

    If you are so inclined, there are some software suite / converter combos, too, that are set up to use live with a laptop. Those can sound pretty good, give you a lot of options, and are relatively cheap. Some of them have more latency than I like, though.
    AstroSonic likes this.
  18. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007

    I have used one of these on guitar for recording, the built in distortion sounds amazingly good (through a 412) for a cheap ass amp. I now carry it as my backup bass amp. 150W into 8 ohms and about the size and weight of a house brick.

    When I was doing split duty on guitar and bass I just plugged my guitar multi-effects pedal into the PA, never had any complaints from the audience. No way was I going to schlep 2 rigs to every gig.
    JimmyM likes this.
  19. If you like Marshall stuff, look for some of the old MosFet series stuff. Master Lead Series 30, 50, 100, and the old Mini Stack with 4x10 boxes (not the Micro stuff), is worth checking out. These were English-made units back in the late 80's and bear no comparison whatsoever to their current MG line. If you like Twang, the newer Fender FM stuff (with real spring reverb) or Mustang (with digital stuff onboard) is quite passable as well. As usual, you can add a real tube pedal in front to fatten things up a bit.
  20. oldcatfish


    Jan 8, 2011
    ---I also play guitar, and started out gigging as a lead guitarist. I know exactly what you mean regarding Marshall tube amps....I used to have one. Heavy, and somewhat unreliable, but sounded like nothing else. But needed to be turned up loud to be fully appreciated.

    Fortunately, time has changed things a little. There were some great suggestions already, so I'll expand on some of them a bit.

    After getting tired of lugging the Marshall beast around, I went to a solid state Randall RG 80 combo with an added extension cab on the rare occasion that I needed more. It sounded pretty nice and was much more reliable. But then I found the Tech 21 Trademark series. It is even nicer and has a great xlr out. Best of the solid state amps, in my opinion. I have played through Line 6 amps before too. They aren't bad at all, but the Tech21's definitely sound a bit more organic sounding.

    I would still be using a tech21, but got bitten by the modeling/multi-effect bug after hearing a guitar player use one through a keyboard amp. Wow....incredible versatility, seemless effect changes with one footswitch touch, and a very polished, studio sound even live.

    For me, there was an added bonus by going with modeler and powered speaker--I can run acoustic guitar and bass through it too (by using a bass preamp or bass specific multi effect unit). One rig that sounds decent for everything.