Since the spring of 1994 I’ve been a tube amp kind of guy. My first amp in December of 1987 was this little generic practice amp. My uncle gave me his old DOD Flanger Pedal and I used to get this sound I called the “psychedelic butterfly”. I’m not sure where that name came from, but that’s what I heard while tinkering with the levels on that thing. For being a cheap practice amp I could get a pretty good sound from my Fender Squier Strat.
Within two years my older brother bought a used Randall head with a homemade cabinet with a single 12″ speaker. There was even chicken wire strewn across the front of it in lieu of tolex. It didn’t matter because this thing was loud and got a nice saturated distortion to it. I used that amp for years until I bought my first tube amp, a 60 watt Sovtek amp head with a generic 4-12 cabinet. It was great till the tubes overheated in the summer of 1995 when my cousin and best friend and I played a show in Center Lake Park. We were heading into our second song when my amp just went quiet. The tubes were all a bright orange, about ready to blow up.
The show went on, just not with us.
Then in 1997 I bought a 50-watt Marshall JCM-800 Lead Series head and plopped it on top of that generic 4-12 cab. That became my main amp for a decade. I gigged for most of 1998 with that amp. It was a solid amp, and both me and my cousin used it when we played out. I used Rickenbackers through it while he played a Gibson SG. No matter the flavor you wanted, it was happy to oblige.
In early 2011 I was wanting a change. I didn’t have the need for a Marshall half stack. I was into more indie rock vibes, not alt rock crunch. My good friend Mark worked at Sweetwater Sound and bought himself a Vox AC-15. He had it for about two days when he realized it just didn’t jive with his sound, so he offered it to me for considerably less than he paid. I played that amp through several albums recorded for different project from 2011 to just last year. It’s been a solid little jangly beast.
But the last few months my ears have changed. I felt like I just couldn’t get a nice medium between those cleans and the chunkier stuff. I found myself spending more time messing with my R.A.T. pedal and the gain on the amp than I was just enjoying playing the guitar. I wanted to just essentially plug n play. I missed those days with the Marshall when I could get a great chunky distortion without using a pedal. I like onboard chug.
So I made the plunge and bought myself a new amp. And my first solid state amp since I was in my teens. The Orange Super Crush CR60C. It’s a 60 watt behemoth with a clean and dirty channel, both of which do their thang with gusto.
My son and I made the 45 minute trek to Sweetwater Sound on Sunday and I picked up the big, boxy orange beast, while my son picked up some drum sticks and some dampeners for his drum heads. After a stop for fries and a shake, we headed home to get loud. After some dinner prep we opened the box with the Orange beast and carried it to the studio. Plugged it in and ran my pedal board(which consists of a Boss Tuner, MXR Phase 90, Electro Harmonix Doctor Q, MXR Carbon Copy Delay, EHX Freeze Pedal, EHX POG, and an EHX Frequency Analyzer currently) and then straight into the CR60C.
Man, what a beast!
I started with the dirty channel and my Squier JM Jazzmaster and instantly went nuclear. Between the Dirty channel’s gain and volume knobs I could get full Sleep sludge-y riffage. I slipped in a little “Outshined” for good measure before hitting up the clean channel and found my way to some post-rock, Explosions In The Sky vibes. With the Phase 90 engaged I may have unlocked the “David Gilmour” level of J Hub Guitar Hero.
Bottom line: I’m excited to play guitar again.
I had done some rearranging in the studio for some synth looping-meets-guitar-accompaniment sound experiments, and now with this new solid state beast I’m even more excited to get started on it. I was actually hoping to get started on those experiments today, but my MLK Day holiday from work turned out to be more about just chilling out and watching some shows/flicks. I did play some through the Orange today, but my son beat me to the studio and he’d taken the whole drum set apart and was cleaning up all the pieces and resetting/tuning the heads. I wasn’t going to interrupt that, so I came back upstairs and decided to tell all of you about my new amp.
The older I get the more I’m just like “you do you, dude.” I used to be very snobbish about gear. Guitars, pedals, amps, etc…it had to be “this” or “that” brand or it wasn’t good enough. Tube over Solid State. You know, you had to have that tube “warmth” or you were just a poser. Well I’m here to say that’s all a bunch of crap. Play on what you’re comfortable woth. Play on what sounds good to you. If it’s some 80s Peavy Strat copy through a Crate Solid State, then do it. You dig Mesa Boogie tube amps? More power to ya. For me? I want simplicity and easy. There’s no tweaking and hand wringing with the Orange CR60C. Plug and play. Gorgeous clean jangle or face-melting crunch with the flip of a switch. That’s me. That’s what I dig.
What do you dig? What’s your setup?
Editor’s Note: In November of 2016 I bought a Marshall DSL40C 40watt combo tube amp. It was a disaster. I had it back at Sweetwater twice for tube issues. It just was not a good sounding tube amp, plus the tubes they put in it were junk. Just because it’s tube does not mean it’s good. Don’t rule out solid state is all I’m saying. Keep an open mind. That is all. Keep on rocking.