Gear Finds: Amps
Check out these excellent amps from some of the best brands in the industry.
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Greek for “ruler” or “lord,” the PRS Archon is a commanding 2-channel amp with versatile overdriven tones and sparkling cleans with plenty of headroom. Designed with five gain stages before the master volume, the Archon’s lead channel is voiced to cover everything from Classic Rock to Metal with full, lush distortion. The clean channel provides rich tones that retain clarity even at high volume, and there is ample headroom, creating an excellent platform for pedals. The Archon has remarkably responsive tone with incredible note separation, whether you’re playing on the clean channel or chugging on the lead.
The PRS Archon is powered by two 6CA7 power tubes, which fall between EL34 and 6L6 tubes, offering the best of both worlds. 6CA7’s are warm, full, and articulate with smooth high end and tight low end. They chug, distort, and get heavy without over-saturating, and they sing without becoming harsh.
If you play electric guitar, chances are you’ve heard of John Petrucci and Dream Theater. You may even know of our 30-year relationship building many of his favorite amplifiers–the very same amplifiers you might have chosen for your sound. This distinguished list includes the MARK IIC+™, Dual Rectifier®, TriAxis™, MARK IV™ and MARK V™ to name a few. Inspired by our longstanding relationship with John Petrucci and more than 30 years of collaboration we are proud to introduce a MESA® first; The JP-2C™. Our first unlimited-build Signature Amplifier. In celebration of John’s talent, his life-long dedication to our shared art, and the long relationship we’ve enjoyed with him, we are proud to introduce a MESA® first; The JP-2C™ - Our first unlimited-build Signature Amplifier. And YES, it’s a MARK IIC+! A next generation Re-Issue of the legendary amp so many Recording Artists, MESA enthusiasts and Tone Freaks the world over covet, often searching high and low to find. Only THIS IIC+ pulls in an enhanced feature set born from our collaboration with John over a period of three decades of research and development.
As the first tube of the new TAD REDBASE™ series, the TAD 6L6GCM-STR REDBASE™ has a powerful but always well-defined bass range, with clear, silky and transparent highs - offering plenty of headroom.
In every setting, the TAD 6L6GCM-STR REDBASE™ responds directly and with great dynamics, from soft and warm to punchy and powerful, without ever losing detail or depth.
An effective upgrade
The TAD 6L6GCM-STR REDBASE™ is the recommendation for lively clean sounds as well as powerful broadband multi-channel amps. This makes the TAD 6L6GCM-STR REDBASE™ an effective upgrade for virtually any amp that uses 6L6GC or 5881 tubes.
The SLO Mini head is a 30-watt powerhouse with the same rich overdrive and crunch as the original amplifier. This ultra-compact head delivers searing harmonics, and the perfect balance of gain, sustain and tight touch response that the SLO has become famous for.
No matter where you are, you can plug into a Yamaha THR30 II Wireless and experience realistic tube tone. This battery-powered combo amplifier includes a full arsenal of guitar and bass amp emulations, along with mic models for your acoustic-electric and flat modes for everything else. Ditch your pedalboard — the THR30 II Wireless’s 3-band EQ, and a great-sounding selection of modulation effects, echoes, and reverbs, have you covered. Bluetooth support enables you to stream backing tracks — with full Hi-Fi quality — through the THR30 II Wireless’s stereo speakers. The THR30 II Wireless also includes plug-and-play USB connectivity for recording and playback, along with a built-in wireless receiver for performing cable-free.
The BOSS Katana-50 MkII is the latest installation in BOSS's esteemed line of Katana series amplifiers. And whether you're interested in accessing its pummeling 50-watt output section and platform-perfect 12-inch speaker to amplify your existing modelers and preamps, or in building your dream tones from the ground up to create the ultimate all-in-one gig and practice solution, take it from Sweetwater — the Katana-50 MkII is a powerful tool in the hands of any electric or acoustic player. Cab-emulated outputs and monitoring make the BOSS Katana-50 MkII a truly silent stage and studio guitar solution, while multichannel footswitch support provides hands-free remote access to every sound in your arsenal. New amp variations and access to 60 timeless BOSS effects within the BOSS Tone Studio editor make the 50 MkII a tone tweaker's holiday.
How many guitars, pedals, and amps do you need? Enough to make you happy. But window shopping alone has its own benefits.
I just got back from the NAMM show, and I am suppressing the nervous twitch of desire. My eyes and ears were flooded with all kinds of great gear, from cutting edge software plugins to microphones to—my favorites—pedals, amps, and guitars. With so much new gear around, G.A.S. was so abundant you could almost smell it hanging over the show floor. (Sorry, I could not resist.)
As you all know, I’m talking about Gear Acquisition Syndrome, the disease for which there is no cure. I have 15 guitars—17, if you count a cigar box and a diddley bow—that cover the sonic waterfront for me and then some. So why would I want more? My tube and solid-state amps are carefully curated so I can recreate all the classic tones I love, and with my quirky playing approach and equally carefully assembled pedalboard, I can put my own spin on every one of them.
And yet … I return with a pocketful of maybes. Maybe that new semi-hollow with the sleek neck and coil-splitting would get me another tone I can’t quite access now? Maybe that pedal would make it easier to accommodate pitch shifting while I solo? Maybe it’s time to add a bona fide high-gain amp, or dive into modeling?
I used to think these impulses were unhealthy. Especially when I was a touring indie musician and had no money to spend on gear. (One of musical life’s great ironies is that club-level working musicians often earn so little that they can’t afford to increase or upgrade the tools of their craft.) But I’ve changed my mind, thanks to my dog.
“You should never pick up interesting things with your mouth.”
Dolly, who is going on 17, is slow … or perhaps methodical … when we go on walks. But every inch of the way she is sniffing, her ears are up, and she stops to spend time looking at and smelling anything that captures her interest, even for a moment. That’s a great way to spend NAMM and to examine gear, with senses and imagination open, considering the potential of everything for your music, prepared to evaluate impulses without prejudice. (But, unlike Dolly, you should never pick up interesting things with your mouth.)
Considering a piece of gear is not the same as buying it, or I’d be broke. And evaluating these flirtations can lead to something good. Let’s say you’re smitten with a brand-new $250 modulation pedal. But after careful consideration and inspection, you realize you can get a similar sound with the chorus or vibrato you already own, and a delay or reverb pedal. The tempting new gear has led you down a path of finding a new, purposeful sound in your current gear. Same with a drive pedal. It’s fresh, it’s raw, it’s low and singing—and maybe with a bit of compression it isn’t very far from the sound you can get with your current overdrive if you just roll back the tone controls on your 6-string. And what about that semi-hollow? Maybe what I really need is a 10-band EQ pedal so I can approximate semi-hollow and hollowbody tones on all my guitars at whim, which would certainly inject a different voice into the solos or choruses of songs in my repertoire. Sometimes looking at new gear reminds us of the full range of our current musical real estate holdings. And that’s great. It’s easy to get in a rut and overlook the potential of gear you already own. (Parallel question: How many of you really make full use of the tone and volume controls on your instruments? I find this to be an oddly neglected zone of exploration, even this many years beyond Eric Clapton’s unfortunately dubbed “woman tone.”)
That said, there’s also not a damn thing wrong with buying some new gear. In fact, it’s great. Guitars, pedals, amps, microphones, plugins, and even accessories seem to get better all the time, which means we probably all have some room for upgrades if we’re able to make them. Same with the tones produced by modern emulations of vintage gear, which ideally get more on the nose with every iteration, while adding improvements to tonality and performance. In terms of consistency and playability, today’s well-made guitars are perhaps the finest ever built, in some cases outperforming the templates that inspired them at much lower cost. And, as the saying goes, every guitar—or pedal, or amp—has new songs inside of it, waiting to be discovered.
Hopefully you’ve gorged on the videos and reports from the NAMM floor that we’ve shared at premierguitar.com with you this month. There was a lot to see, hear, and smell. Well, maybe not smell, but I think you know what I mean. Never be afraid to chase gear temptation, because it can often lead you to interesting places.
Brent Mason has picked for the biggest and best names in country music: Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson, Shania Twain, Brooks & Dunn, Blake Shelton, and George Strait are just a few of the country stars on whose records you can hear Mason’s Fender-on-Fender fretwork. But his solo on “Southbound Train,” the closing track on Travis Tritt’s 2000 record Down the Road I Go, might be his hottest work of all.
As Mason explains, the song scoots along at his favorite country tempo—a Cajun two-step, Mason says—which provides the rhythmic framework for his face-melter lead. Mason says the melodic and structural components came in part from his familiarity with jazz, and the mixing of jazz and blues with his usual twangy conventions. In fact, Mason’s furious note barrages occasionally earned him some raised eyebrows (and some choice words from Conway Twitty) in the more traditionalist Nashville studio system.
This might be the toughest solo our host has taken on so far on Shred With Shifty. The key to wrestling it? “You gotta keep playing [it] til you wanna pull out all your teeth and hair,” says Mason. Which Nashville producers and stars would let Mason off-leash in the studio? How does a session ace deal with hand injuries? Listen on, shredders. And if you’re brave enough, send in your take on Mason’s solo.
Producer: Jason Shadrick
Executive Producers: Brady Sadler and Jake Brennan for Double Elvis
Engineering Support by Matt Tahaney and Matt Beaudion
Video Editors: Dan Destefano and Addison Sauvan
Special thanks to Chris Peterson, Greg Nacron, and the entire Volume.com crew.
Calling all pedal lovers! You could win one of SIXTEEN (and counting!) pedals in this year's I Love Pedals giveaway. Come back daily for more entries, giving you dozens of chances to win! Giveaway ends March 1, 2024.