Morgan Amplification

Posted by on Jan 17, 2016 in Amps, Blog | 0 comments

Where would I even begin to start talking about Joe Morgan? He gets it. He just gets it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Joe and his wonderful family and friends and there’s nothing about what a guitar player needs that Joe doesn’t understand. To that end, he’s founded a company that makes killer amps that are exactly what you want them to be. Sure, there are a bunch of guitar players out there that are looking for quirky- I get that. However, the most popular amps designs in history are so popular because there’s no tomfoolery involved. For most of us working musicians who love the rich lexicon of great guitar sounds, we just want damned good sounds with minimal knob turning and switch flipping. First off, every Morgan amps I’ve ever heard sounds just great out of the box with all knobs straight up and down. That’s an awesome sign. Second, all the knobs do exactly what you want them to do. You ever play an amp that sounds way too bright? You ever reach for the “tone” knob or the “high” knob and start turning it down, only to find that the frequency it’s changing just isn’t the frequency that’s killing you? Boy, I have- all too often. The range of each control on a Morgan amp does exactly what you hope it would do and that’s a really beautiful thing. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things about Joe Morgan’s amps and one of the common threads through all of his designs that makes his company a great one. Lastly, the amps are all simple in design, compact, light, and priced better than just about all of their competitors. When you’ve got all that going on, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find me a brand I’d be likely to recommend over their line. I personally own an AC40 and an RCA35 and as I said, though the amps are wildly different in their lineage, there’s a similarity to the frequency spectrum and gain structure that makes them both distinctly Morgan in just the right...

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HiTone Amplification

Posted by on Jan 17, 2016 in Amps, Blog | 0 comments

Some time in early 2014, I pulled the trigger on buying a HiTone DR HT30/15 and it was one of the best gear decisions I ever made. For many, the sounds of a classic Hiwatt amp are simply out of reach. Original Hiwatts are getting absurdly expensive and hard to find and the range of other amps meant to cover those tones has been bleak since the early 80’s. Having spent a little time with some real vintage examples, I can tell you that the amps I’ve heard from modern Hiwatts, Reeves, and others are just not it- not it at all. The Harry Joyce amps from the early 2000’s nail it but they’re even harder to find and afford than the old Hiwatts! HiTone, however, has put in the time and the research to bring back the sound and for great “big amp” classic rock guitar tone, they are my favorite. The company has partnered with the son of Dave Reeves (Hiwatt’s original amp guru from the glory days) to ensure that HiTone’s new builds live up to the standard of the originals and Clayton (the builder) over at HiTone does phenomenal work. The result is both bulletproof and toneful and I just can’t recommend them highly enough. The sound is extremely aggressive without being harsh and with a wide, full range that allows for an incredible thickness to your tones. The market is currently saturated with low wattage designs that are extremely saggy and compressed. Don’t get me wrong- those are GREAT sounds but HiTone has come to give you the other side of the rock and roll coin. They have incredible clean headroom, making them fantastic platforms for the pedal lover (like myself) and you’ll be amazed at just how rock and roll they sound without having to slather on the distortion. There’s an authority here that small amps with squishy circuits just don’t offer. There are several models to choose from that all sound amazing and all have the same inherent, core sound. The model I personally use is the 30 watt version of the classic 4 input series. I usually jump the channels together and have my channel volumes both up to about 2 o’clock and it’s still remarkably clean and incredibly musical. Clarity is a beautiful...

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Avatar Speaker Cabinets

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Amps, Blog | 0 comments

I’ve always been a big proponent of making good speaker choices for your amp and your style. I think way too many people are unaware what a huge difference speakers make in their overall sound. As a result, I’ve ended up a big fan of head and cabinet set-ups. I do feel that there are some speakers and amps that definitely go together better than others but to limit one amp to one speaker seems akin to only being allowed to use one guitar with one amp. Anyone would tell you that’s crazy, right? So that said- I like having a bunch of cabinets available that are loaded up with different speakers for a variety of options. There’s a couple of problems with that- first and foremost, the cost. I realize that every company has their own motives for their price points. I’ve bought good wood and I’ve tried to tolex a cabinet once or twice (and man, is it miserable work…) so I realize you’ve gotta make money on them but the prices that most amp companies charge for their cabinets is absolutely outrageous highway robbery. I’m sorry. It’s true. They always have some claim about the exact dimensions of their cabinet being the perfect dimensions for the best sound in every single situation, yadda, yadda, yadda… I have compared the same speaker in different cabinets and yes, there is a perceivable difference but it’s way slighter than every cab company out there would have you believe. It’s certainly not more of a difference than a different speaker or spinning the amp knobs would make. Cabinets just need to be made of good, solid, resonant wood that holds the speaker well, sturdily jointed, attractively covered, and devoid of rattles and buzzes. It’s never seemed to me to be rocket science. Enter Avatar cabinets. They are making the best, most affordable, no-nonsense speaker cabinets out there. From their shop up in Idaho, they make models for all combinations of speakers in closed and open back designs for guitar or bass and with a myriad of tolex and grill options. They also stock a huge variety of speakers and you can get your cabinet with any mix of them you want. I’ve used their stuff for years and never had any problems or complaints. The wiring and speaker mounting is solid so I’ve been able to switch speakers a bunch of times with nothing wearing out or stripping. They’ve always sounded great to me and worked reliably. I have an Avatar Traditional 2×12 out with Hunter Hayes right now (it’s painted to match the set but it’s an Avatar!) and a couple of their 1×12’s at home for club gigs and sessions. I find myself hard-pressed to think of why I would use any other cabinets out there and I’ve never heard a good reason from anyone else. As a...

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Dr. Z Carmen Ghia

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Amps, Blog | 0 comments

Dr. Z is one of my favorite amp builders out there. I’m consistently impressed with the build quality, sound, and price points of his models. I own a few of his amps and they are some of my favorite instruments I’ve ever heard. They’ve been fantastically reliable and have ended up on a lot of my gigs and the records I’ve worked on. I first got it in my head that I wanted a Carmen Ghia years before I ever even got to hear one. I grew up in a small-ish town in Virginia and didn’t really run into much modern, ’boutique’ (though I really freaking hate that word…) gear. The store that had all the coolest stuff that I wanted was just a state away in Cary, NC. Though I’ve still never actually gotten to go to Fat Sound Guitars (www.fatsoundguitars.com), I still check their website every now and again as I’ve found they consistently carry the best of the well-known modern gear and also the coolest new gear around. If they think it sounds great then I can pretty much promise you it rocks. Side note here is that the majority of it is ridiculously out of my price range but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome. However, one brand they’ve always stood behind is Dr. Z. After reading about the Carmen Ghia head on their site, I knew it was something I’d need to own. A few years later, after I made it to Nashville, I got the chance to buy a late 90’s Ghia 1×12 combo at a good used price so I snapped it up. I’ve since built a really funky headshell for it since I couldn’t get Dr. Z to sell me a real one (bummed me out, man! If anybody at Z ever reads this- any chance you’ll reconsider?? It’s for a real Z- no faking here, promise!) So let’s talk about the amp. Again, I won’t bore you with specs you can read on-line and plus, there aren’t many to talk about with a Carmen Ghia. Volume, Tone, Input, Power switch. Mine is an older one and only has a single 8 ohm speaker out and a hard-wired power cable so it’s ridiculously simple but damn, it sounds good. It is absolutely, incredibly dynamic and pickup sensitive. It’s one of those amps that truly sounds like whatever guitar you plug into it. You can hear your guitar, your pickups, your pedals, and especially your hands- for better and for worse. It is NOT a forgiving amp that smoothes stuff out for you. If you have a bad right hand and smack the strings harshly then you are gonna sound like a freaking wall of glass through this amp. Just a fair warning. It’s a mirror to hold up on your playing and therefore definitely not the right amp for everyone. But,...

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Fender Bassman Head (Model AB165)

Posted by on Mar 31, 2013 in Amps, Blog | 0 comments

Sure- I get that when you say ‘Fender Bassman’, you’re usually talking about the famous late 50’s 4×10 Bassman combo that is one of the most well-known holy grail guitar amps. However, most folks I know will never own one. There just weren’t that many of them made and if you can even find one in decently original shape then you’re gonna have to shell out a lotta g’s to own it. On that note, there’s one thing you should know about me and that’s that I refuse to pay a lot of money for gear. There’s ridiculous amounts of killer sounding gear that’s cheap so I leave the collectable stuff to the lawyers. Also- you know you’re unhappiest with the gear that you paid the most for. You know I’m right. It’s a mental thing. And I know that Fender has a reissue Bassman. I’ve used a bunch of them and it’s a pretty darned good amp but it doesn’t sound anything like an original and at it’s price range, I think there’s a lot of better gear out there. Anyway, all that to say that when I’M talking about a Bassman, what I mean are the simple 3-knob, 2-channel heads that they made a slew of in the 60’s and 70’s (mine’s a ’68). They are some of my all time favorite amps and a regular go-to for me live and in the studio. I use the normal channel and set all three knobs to 5 and just play. It rules. Seriously. It does just about everything. It’s fairly tight so it can punch with the right guitar but it’s not overly scooped so if you don’t crank the treble or bass then there’s still plenty enough round midrange information to sound warm and fat. I’ve used mine for a very wide range of styles and it’s always worked well for me. That said- there’s a little mystery and arguments about them that I think a lot of people I run into don’t understand. I realize I’m often full of shit but in MY experience here’s what I’ve seen and read: in the 3 years that there were blackface models, Fender was concurrently manufacturing 3 identical looking models. You’ve gotta check the tube chart for the model number of the one you’re using. Even then, there’s some classic Fender chicanery going on and sometimes the amp is mislabeled as to the actual circuit inside. I’ve played all 3 and I don’t feel like there a MASSIVE difference in them (obviously Fender didn’t either or I figure they would’ve felt they needed different model names on the front) but there IS a difference. Once the silverface models came around in ’68- I’ve only ever seen the AB165 model. Fortunately, that’s my favorite. Seems like it must’ve been a lot of people’s favorite too since that’s the one they...

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