Posted by: kubiakl | December 20, 2010

He picked up a pick to play a string…

…he played a string to make a note, he made some notes to form a chord, and the chords got him a new amp.

I’ve been making some small changes here and there to my gear setup.  The most major change was the purchase of a new amp.

If you’ve been following along in your books, I’ve been trying to get better tone out of my current amp.  Changing the power tubes helped, as did the reverb tank – now it sounds really amazing with a clean or slightly dirty sound.  But I needed more fuzz without fizz and nothing seemed to really work for that.  My two overdrive pedals just weren’t cutting it for me – the Guyatone still works well for the slightly overdriven bluesy sound but the Tube Driver added too much fizz for my taste.

So I’ve been testing amps after deciding to skip changing out overdrive pedals until I find the right one.  It’s been a long process of going to Guitar Center, researching, and watching Youtube video demonstrations.  (As a sidenote:  why can’t anyone give a simple demonstration of an amp’s capabilities on Youtube?  Every “review” video was just an excuse for someone to show off their 645 bpm song.  I want to hear some single note lines, some power chords, and some open chords.)  For a short period of time I thought the Marshall Class 5 would deliver, but it only sounded good at volumes that were too loud for my apartment.  5 watts is louder than you would imagine when driven.  The Bugera V5 just didn’t cut it at all sound wise.  The tone bored me.  The Fender Super Champ didn’t have enough growl.

The Blackstar HT-5 seemed like a really great amp, and I loved the versatility of the tones – thanks to an ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) control the tone could go from a Fenderish howl to a Marshallish growl.  (Blackstar is a company started by former Marshall employees.)  It had great volume control while retaining a good amout of distortion and could go from a bluesy tone to an overdriven monster without pedals.

But it had volume issues – the clean channel just didn’t have enough power.  I need something that gets a good overdriven sound at low volumes but has enough power to occasionally play somewhere small.

I figured that out during my second test run.  A friend and I ran to Guitar Center after school on Friday when we had early release in the hopes that it wouldn’t be crowded.  We lucked out and found the place pretty tame with only a few others playing guitar.  We had listened to the Blackstar the last time we went to GC and liked it, so this was supposed to be just a final test before I bought.  Glad we did that.

I was back to square one and began roaming the amp section in an attempt to find one that we had overlooked.

They must have just put it out because it sure wasn’t there the last time I looked.  Jet City was one of my original choices but I couldn’t find one to test.  I excitedly plugged in to the 20 watt head sitting on an Egnater cabinet.

I was hooked from the first note but went to twiddling the knobs and managed to find a sound that just knocked me out.  See, one of my favorite songs is “Slack Motherfucker” by Superchunk.  The second chord is some weird D#/E hybrid power chord that has always sounded muddy when I played it, no matter what the setup was.  But through the Jet City 20H it came through clear and powerful while still being crunchy.  I also found that it was easy to get a good growl without the fizzy high end that has plagued everything I’ve tried (aside from the Blackstar, which I will say is a good amp for low volume use).  Add to that a pretty good “Beano” Clapton tone that my friend found while adjusting things and I was sold.

But, because I have to make things difficult apparently, I decided not to get the head.  Jet City makes a combo version of the 20h with tube driven reverb, the 2112RC:

Same amp, but with reverb and an enclosed 12″ speaker.  This is what I wanted but GC didn’t have it available here.  I ordered it on Friday night and am more excited about getting this than any Christmas present I’ve ever waited for.

When it comes I’ll put the amp through its paces and give a report but I think I made the right choice.  Jet City amps are designed by Mike Soldano, maker of the legendary Soldano amps.  Considering the reputation he has as an amp builder it’s hard to see how one could go wrong buying a Jet City.

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