My amp I play with now is Fender’s Super Champ XD.
This puppy has two 6V6 tubes and one 12AX7. Thus the preamp and main amplifier are tube driven. This thing has incredible tone, both clean and overdriven. Its perfect for just a ‘touch’ of grit for blues. With my Les Paul’s neck pickups I can get a light overdriven crunch from the clean channel just from turning up my guitar’s input and palm-muting when striking.
Check it here: SuperChamp at Musician’s Friend!
There is a model of an overdriven Tweed amp that I love for certain riffs. It contains the perfect crunch. I use 2 of the 3 British stack models for lead. One is lightly overdriven and has bright sound, while the next has more gain and is a tad bit darker. For those who have played Electro Harmonix’s “English Muff’n” you have an idea what this sounds like.
A standout model for me is a Fender Hot Rod model called “More Gain, More Sustain.” With a tubescreamer before, this one is all Santana sounds. And that is important here in Puerto Rico where I currently live and play!
The metal models I use from time to time for a harmonic lead, but rarely use them otherwise. For fingerpicking, I have used the Jazz model which is wonderfully clean and tight. And every now and then I use the Acoustic setting which makes my Les Paul sound deep and resonant as though I was playing acoustic.
For modern worship, I turn up the treble knob just a tad to 6, and bass down at 4ish. My Les is a bit deep anyway, and this is good and complementing. Now I can roll the tone knob on my guitar and play something nice and deep and thick/crunchy or I can glisten with bright trebly tones.
As per my last post, tube amps sound best cranked. This particular amp sounds great from 4 and above, and has an excellent warmth about 8. So there are 3 moves you can do to get the best out of this amp:
1) Use an isolation room: most professionals use this tactic. Take a nearby closet area, plug your guitar in, crank the amp and mike it with an ambient microphone. Close the closet. you get a muffled sound, and the soundguy can control how much is in the mix or monitor. So everyone will love you!!
2) Find that sweet spot. As I said, I use 4 and higher and its quite nice. It works for everything. This amp can get LOUD and its amazing I play for 200-300 people and 5 o’clock is almost too loud at times. Another method with my sweet spot is I try to put my amp behind me as far back as I can go. If I can place it on the very backside of the stage, then I have more air i can move. That way sound disperses better and I can use the amp as a monitor. If I’m right on top of the amp, I can’t hear it and end up blowing people out by turning it up loud enough for me to here it. This method is the one I use the most.
3) Overdrive the amp slightly with a pedal. I use a TS9 or an Electro Harmonix Line Boost. For less midrange hump, you can use a Boss SD1 or related. I play at the 4, then click the pedal for a boost and it causes the amp to overdrive slightly and really warms up the tone. Increase the gain on the pedal slightly and you get a great overdrive from the amp with a classical crunch. The end result combines the crunch from your effect/boost and the crunch created by the overdriven amp. Quite nice!
One thing I would like to state in my amp’s defense for those Marshall Stack owners….
One of our Amps is a Line 6 Spider II with 4x12s. At low levels, such as 4 o’clock, it blows everyone off the stage. You can feel the wind off the speakers moving! And its not the warm sound that the tube has. At those low levels it sounds a bit “gassy”. But no one past the 3rd row can hear it because its not loud enough- but blows everyone off the stage still. Then if its cranked out, everyone on the stage is deaf, and the whole church has wind blowing through their hair. As much as the amp stack rocks, most of us are NOT playing stadiums and do not need that much power. Besides that, I can carry my amp in one hand. That’s the best part.
I can also guarantee you that if you were to interview the greats, you would find their small, personal amp behind stage miked into the stacks. That’s where the tone comes from.