Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

Chat about Equipment Info
 #96402  by Counterstriker
 Mon Apr 04, 2011 5:19 pm
I bought an H&K Blues master (same preamp JK uses) I love his tone, I really love the tone of when we hits chords (Scarlet, Bertha) I love that bitey tone he gets, I can't seem to get it with my twin. I asked him some questions on setting the H&K up and he answered me but he never replied on the power amp, Would I need a really expensive amp? or a certain kind rather, Does it really affect the tone that much?
 #96406  by Dozin
 Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:24 pm
You'll notice a huge difference with a power amp. Solid State
 #96500  by JonnyBoy
 Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:34 pm
Bk Butler is an amp genius. He created Tubeworks, and the "Mosvalve" technology (Mosfet+ low voltage tube) or his version at least. Today he makes HIGH end audiophile amps, like Macs. His amps are warm and musical. They love to be pushed like we like to push them. I played a Mosvalve/Tubeworks amp for over 20 years, until I found Macintosh. There is just something about Mac amps I have actually made the change to them for the foreseeable future and glad to do so... They are by far the warmest sounding SS amp I've played, and do the Jerry thing well. They sound stellar as a blues amp or even hard rock too. So I would say a mac or I second the Tubeworks. If Strum is digging it, you know it sounds good, he has played through or tried out a bunch of amps since I have been around here. :smile:
 #96502  by Chuckles
 Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:30 pm
+1 on the TubeWorks/BK Butler/MosValve. I played for years through one of their TubeDriver combos and all that lacked was a decent speaker. Now I go SMS > MosValve 1500 (WAY more power than I need, but really nice even when turned down) and love it. Macs are just a little too heavy and out of my $$ range at the moment. The difference between a musical SS amp and a sterile one is quite distinct. I've also tried SoundTech and Peavey SS power amps, but they've both been relegated to PA duty because they had no warmth. It's almost like you're looking for some tube characteristics out of a SS amp, all the headroom but none of the power amp distortion.

Clipping these things is a whole other topic that has been covered at length... I don't even pretend to mess around with that stuff. :)
 #96508  by strumminsix
 Thu Apr 07, 2011 6:21 am
Thanks, JohnnyBoy.

They TW's actually clip like a poweramp clips. It was soooo strange. The knob on my SMS maxed when I racked her up but I didn't notice until I played and it sounded like a poweramp getting a super hot signal. Then, cranked the volume on the TW really low and cranked up the SMS and sounded just like it would on an amp.

What I really dig about my TW is that it performs very well like an amp being pushed to the point of no longer clean but not overdriven either!!
 #96510  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Thu Apr 07, 2011 8:11 am
Those Tubeworks MOSVALVE power amps are very cool indeed. They've been popular with pedal steel players for a long time. Many pedal Steel players have found themselves in a similar boat as we are going after the Jerry thing. High headroom, tube preamp for a sweet-clean factor, and power that has a warmth to it, not just a clinical sterility. Paul Franklin has been the #1 top A-list session player for decades now, and his primary rig for a long time was a Boogie studio preamp into a Mosvalve power amp into a pair of 12" Peavey Black Widow speakers.

The MOSVALVE is cool because its output is driven by MOSFETs. A MOSFET is a transistor with some tube-like characteristics. They have a warmth and a sweetness when run clean, and they clip in a somewhat friendly manner. And those MOSVALVE amps in particular are guitar friendly. Not exactly a Mac sound, but totally viable for our purposes. I'd say the Mac has a slightly darker or warmer overall characteristic and when the Mac clips, it's a bit subtler in it's harmonic content. The MOSFET amps are a bit more lively and maybe crispy with their distortion harmonics, but the harmonic quality of the clipping dirt is pleasant, not nasty like with some normal transistor amps.

Hafler is another consideration for a MOSFET power amp. There are tons of old DH-200's and DH-220's out there. These are really nice stereo and studio amps and work great for clean pedal steel or Garcia guitar approaches. The more modern Hafler trans-nova series amps are also out there to be had. Again, those are very good sounding stereo/studio amps as well as being very nice for these clean guitar applications. The older DH-200 and DH-220 may be more raw and pure like a Mac in that they don't have all that protection circuitry like the Trans-Nova amps do. So that may be a good thing.

But back on topic, yes power amps definitely have an effect on the sound. Some people will go for extremely clean and loud and boring sounding power amps that don't really impart any character and then rely on the preamp signal processing to develop all the mojo. Others will approach it like Jerry did and consider the entire system as part of the tone generation, with the power amp being a critical factor. But all that said, I think that when doing this clean approach, the preamp is the more critical factor as that's where the real tone shaping, EQ-voicing, and fundamental gain staging takes place. There's more guitar tone development taking place in the preamp stages for sure. That's where the tiny things like resistors, tubes, and capacitors all become significant contributors.

 #96604  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Sat Apr 09, 2011 6:59 am
I'd say that JK's approach is in the camp where the power amp is intended to be totally neutral and not necessarily part of the tonal picture. He does a lot of cool and interesting stuff in his preamp staging. That's where he gets his clipping and EQ and pretty much all of the coloration. It's a vastly different approach than using a power amp to take part in the peak clipping and tone coloration. Basically its an issue of preamp clipping vs power amp clipping. Both work and both get different sounding results.

 #96694  by Counterstriker
 Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:07 pm
Ahh.. I just got a job so I will finally have the money to buy these things.. I'm really thinking about doing a JK-ish rig just for at home and Jerry stuff with my dad, I have the Bluesmaster so I think I'm gonna take his approach and use a PA poweramp.. Since it isn't adding any color to the tone does it matter which one I get? I'm not trying to spend 500-800 in the amp either haha.
 #96725  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:49 am
There are a handful of new technology Class-D power amps like JK's you can get in the $300 range. Class-D used to sound like total crap, but in the last few years they've literally made giant leaps forward in the technology so they're no longer just for subwoofers and bass amps. They've figured out how to raise and filter the switching frequency so that now the mid and treble is quite nice sounding in many cases. There are even very high-end pro and audiophile Class-D power amps now.

But keep in mind, these amps will not offer any tonal enhancement. They're neutral at best.