Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #103318  by Marlow
 Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:25 am
Sure there's no substitute for a BF Twin, but is there a small, low-power head (or preamp) that will do a semi-convincing approximation? I've googled around, but GD folks have more my idea of what "good tone" means than most.

My main amp is a '73 Bassman head, which is great but too big and powerful for my needs these days. I'd like a small (magical?) box that does great pure Fender cleans at 15W or less. I never use fuzz or other effects except reverb. Cost is less important than small size and good quality.

I spend most of my tone-quest energy on speakers and home-brew cabs. Right now I'm running into a 2 x12 HT clone with a a ceramic Weber Cali (paper) and a TT hempcone, baltic ply. My new project is to downsize that to a 2x10 with a JBLK110 and alnico Weber Cali (metal dome), clear pine. Should be better for low volume.

Any ideas????
 #103329  by tigerstrat
 Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:37 am
everything great about Fender Twin Reverb tone can be put into a pretty small box... except that 17" reverb tank. Early 80's Super Champ is a great example- only thing I don't love about it is the shorty verb tank.
 #103333  by mgbills
 Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:15 am
I love my Mesa Transatlantic TA-15. Has 5W, 15W & 25W. Hooked to a K120 it's awesome. No onboard reverb, however. I use a pedal. Very sparkly & responsive clean, and a whole bunch of other goodies. It took me some study to really understand the gain structure (mostly because I was starting from scratch), but I love it. Size of a loaf of bread. I've recently ordered an SMS Classic. When that arrives I'll A/B it for the group.

 #103353  by myoung6923
 Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:48 am
Check out my thread on my backup amp:

I really like it's tone a lot. I'm eventually going to go with an SMS as opposed to it or my twin. But for the time being it is super clean, plenty powerful, lightweight andnroad worthy.
 #103365  by helio
 Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:28 pm
OK... for you preamp needs, chalk up another BIG vote for the Sarno Classic Tube Preamp. Just beautiful tone in that thing.

As for your power amp needs... and keeping it small... a couple things:

- as already noted, a Mesa 20/20 could do the trick. Run it in stereo for 40 watts, or dial one side down for 20 watts. I haven't played much with this power amp, so can't say what the Mesa EL84s will mean for the tone, but I do remember that when I spoke with Brad Sarno to order my preamp, he liked that Mesa as a power amp for his box.

- Another trick: My FAVORITE tones to date... my current main setup... is running my Sarno preamp into the effects return of a very nice, simple 16 watt 6V6 powered combo. It's a Valve Train Trenton. The trenton is a wonderful little amp somewhere between a Deluxe and a Princeton. Bought it to have a small combo around. Had no plans to run the SMS preamp into it, but out of curiosity one day, I tried it (the Trenton is simple, but happens to have an effects loop, which makes this possible).

WOW!! It sounded amazing. That clear pure Sarno / Twin tone, but feeding into low wattage 6v6s, so it just wants to jump to life. Tubes really humming along at moderate volumes, and the strong signal from the Sarno really gets them singing. Not sure how much of this magic in the Valve Train specifally, or if you'd get similar great results with a different amp. Perhaps its the recipe of the Sarno pushing 6v6 tubes...?

All you need to try in a nice low-watt amp that has an effects loop. As for volume, this rig is plenty loud. I run it into a 2x12 cab, and it's been great in band practice, and also for good strong stage volume at a large venue (mic'd for front of house). And that's with a very loud drummer, and songs where I need plenty of good clean headroom.
 #103367  by Pete B.
 Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:53 pm
Marlow wrote:...My main amp is a '73 Bassman head...
I would add a Pre-Amp Tap to that amp. All you need then is a power amp ('Sounds like you have the Speaker cab already lined up).
You can now run your Bassman at any setting you like on the Volume knob, and dial in the actual power to speaker (Volume) with the power amp.
You could remove the power tubes completely.
 #103433  by Marlow
 Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:03 pm
Thanks to all for this excellent advice and recommendations. I hauled out the Bassman to see about removing the power tubes or tapping the preamp etc, but found it pretty dead. Even though it's my main amp, I haven't used it in months. I usually just noodle acoustically, and now maybe the caps have finally dried up. The whole thing is bone stock, even the power tubes as far as I know. So the caps are probably tired.

This got me thinking -- what about a solid state amp modeler? Apart from being way more reliable than tubes, supposedly some of them can generate convincing Fender cleans. I hate the idea of playing through a hunk of plastic, but tone is tone. Anyone ever tried it?

Otherwise, the SMS classic with Jerry mods certainly seems like the ticket. I wonder if they ship to Canada. Lots of outfits don't these days. The H&K Blues Master route is a different way to go but sounds intriguing.
 #103559  by DonHess
 Sat Sep 17, 2011 8:49 am
Hi, I love Fender amps, but you'll never find one with the clean overhead of a twin, but I really love the tone of my Hot Rod deluxe (40 watts). Theoretically it is a little hotter than a twin sound will get you, but it's got enough power to provide that great clean Fender tone at high volumes without any breakup. I really love it. I also have a Fender Blues junior tweed 15 watt that is easy to carry around and has great tone, but it won't get you far if you're looking for a super clean tone at high volumes. I have a twin that I haven't used in a while since it is so heavy and so powerfull, it's really good for big gigs only.
 #103568  by strumminsix
 Sat Sep 17, 2011 12:25 pm
IMO, tube amps aren't unreliable but they do require maintenance from time to time.

Modellers will get the sound but you'll take time and money and likely a few different versions to get "the feel".

IMO, the sansamp Cali gets a good Fendery w/JBL feel as the use an early Mesa as the amp and EV speaker to model.
 #103587  by jackevorkian
 Sun Sep 18, 2011 5:16 am
Have you considered a Princeton Reverb with a 12" JBL? You could use extension cabs for bigger sound, if needed. Of all the Fender amps, Princeton's and a Pro Reverb's have been the closest tone wise to a Twin, in my experience. You can find silver face non master or transitional amps for under 1k.
 #103588  by barefootdave
 Sun Sep 18, 2011 6:03 am
I personally am very happy with my Line6 SpiderJam for living room volumes and also my PocketPod for travel.

Another thing to consider would be a simple power attenuator like a Dr. Z Air Brake for your tube amp.