december 2008

We've got the scoop from Goodsell, Soultone, Blackstar, Egnater, Red Iron and Bogner

LA Amp Show: Hot New Amps
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:

LA Amp Show: Hot New Amps Goodsell Amplifiers
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.

Video Demo

LA Amp Show: Hot New Amps Soultone Amplification
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.

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For at least a decade, the classic Ampeg SVT was the dominant bass amp for power and tone.

Photo courtesy of

From the giant, hefty beasts of yore to their modern, ultra-portable equivalents, bass amps have come a long way. So, what's next?

Bassists are often quite well-informed about the details of their instruments, down to the finest technical specs. Many of us have had our share of intense discussions about the most minute differences between one instrument and another. (And sometimes those are interrupted by someone saying, "It's all in the fingers.") But right behind our backs, at the end of our output cables, there is a world of tone-shaping that we either simply ignore or just don't want to dive into too deeply. Turning a gear discussion from bass to amp is a perfect way to bring it to an abrupt end.

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Flexible filtering options and a vicious fuzz distinguish the Tool bass master’s signature fuzz-wah.

Great quality filters that sound good independently or combined. Retains low end through the filter spectrum. Ability to control wah and switch on fuzz simultaneously. Very solid construction.

Fairly heavy. A bit expensive.


Dunlop JCT95 Justin Chancellor Cry Baby Wah


Options for self-expression through pedals are almost endless these days. It’s almost hard to imagine a sonic void that can’t be filled by a single pedal or some combination of them. But when I told bass-playing colleagues about the new Dunlop Justin Chancellor Cry Baby—which combines wah and fuzz tuned specifically for bass—the reaction was universal curiosity and marvel. It seems Dunlop is scratching an itch bass players have been feeling for quite some time.

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