Not to disrespect any guitar or amp shows involving big, open convention halls that sound like twenty Guitar Centers on a Saturday afternoon—we’re big fans of going anywhere gear is gathered—but there’s something to be said about Loni Specter’s L.A./N.Y. Amp Show formula. Instead of booths, each vendor has a hotel suite. You walk from room to room and fire up any piece of gear you want, as loud as you want, all while spending some quality time with the manufacturers themselves. Imagine rolling into the Fuchs room with your guitar, plugging into the new ODS-HRM and having Andy Fuchs himself show you how the amp’s unique post-overdrive tone stack works.
|Click here for a listing of all of our 40+ video demos from the Amp Show.
This year’s L.A. Amp Show involved about 50 manufacturers—most of them were amp manufacturers, but some guitar, effects and accessories companies were there, too. Held at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys, California over the weekend of October 4th and 5th, the fourth year of this event involved the usual sights. There was an interesting mix of celebs like Warren DiMartini, Steve Trovato, Zakk Wylde and Tommy Smothers—who managed to beat Zakk at arm wrestling in the hotel bar; live performances by Carl Verheyen, Raj Phanse, Marc Ford, and the Travis Larsen Band; a “Tone Wizards” panel session; and of course, lots and lots of gear. New this year was a “Vintage Amp Exchange,” where owners of pre-1970 amps were welcome to bring their stuff to sell, trade or simply show off.
As for the actual show of newer gear, there was no shortage of buzz-worthy stuff. With so many big name manufacturers, boutique operations and startups bringing their “A” game (knowing that NAMM is around the corner), we needed both days to check everything out—and we still ended up missing a few rooms. Here’s a sampling of what our staffers and contributors on the scene in L.A. got excited about:
The words luscious and sweet come to mind when you talk about what Goodsell is known for; their amps sound amazing, too. The Atlanta company’s reputation for versatile, pro-level tone is best exemplified by their line of Super 17 amps, but Richard Goodsell is now making a high-gain growler called the Black Dog. This 50-watt, EL84- equipped, face-melting head is loud as hell, with thick overdrive and Goodsell’s famed touch sensitivity. Look for the street price to come in under $2000 when these puppies make it to retailers.
When we walked into the Soultone room, we were greeted with righteous JTM45-ish sounds by a player who was readily channeling Hendrix. Yes, the chops were there but the Soultone head had a lot to do with it, too. There was some serious, unadulterated plexi action going on in the room.
With a wide range of looks, from vintage to classy gator-skin luggage, Soultone’s amps had a commanding visual presence as well. The company offers what it calls a Heavy Duty line and a Pro line, in addition to kits for DIYers.
“That’s only 5 watts?” was a commonly heard response from guitarists after playing Blackstar’s HT-5, the British company’s new mini-stack consisting of a 12BH7 dual-triode valve head with two Celestion-loaded 1x10 cabs. While it will definitely find a spot in studios and practice rooms for its ability to breakup without shattering eardrums, it just so happens that this little rig can do a bit of blasting, too. The head’s preamp borrows from the company’s HT pedal circuitry, offers speaker emulated output and a convincing voicing switch for 1x12 or 4x10 characteristics. Suffice it to say that AC/DC licks were in abundance as people demo’ed the HT-5. Due for release in mid-November, the company is also planning a combo version with a single 10” speaker. British music stores are pricing the mini-stack and the combo at around £400 and £300, respectively.