Tone Versus Reliability

I’m sure we’ve all been in this situation…… you’ve got the most killer sounding piece of gear you’ve ever owned, but it’s a money pit. It just keeps breaking down.

I used to fall absolutely and completely on the side of tone. I had vintage pedals whose metal housing were being held together by like, one single solder connection on the battery connector wires. Sounded great…… for the one song per gig they actually worked for before eating it. Then I’d come home and re-solder, or re-tape or re-glue more than likely…… and make sure I stepped on them much more lightly the next time. Well, after a few years of this, I came to the brilliant conclusion……. ‘Wait…… what good is good tone if there is no sound coming out of your amp?’ I mean, it’s like, ‘Hey this pedal is the best you’ve ever heard! Okay, now listen closely, because it only makes sound for about a half a second.’

So, I moved out of that. And even further than that, I’ve been on a ‘toneful, reliable, versatile, functional,playable, and toneful, toneful, toneful’ rig overhaul the last year. (More blog posts on that tomorrow.)

But, I still have some remnants of ‘Tone over Reliability.’ Like this one:

Bassman1small2.jpg picture by rypdal95

This is my Mondo Amps bassman clone. Amp sounds fabulous, for straight guitar–>amp playing and for ambient loops (which are basically the two things I use it for). And it has a cool, vintage ‘found it in my grandpappy’s basement’ thing going on looks-wise. But I’ve had it for four months, and it’s already broken down twice past what I can fix.

See, I should never have bought it…….. but I wanted an ‘American-blusey-6L6’ style amp, and I (for once in my life) actually stayed in budget by buying this. (Ya, the whole ‘staying in budget’ thing lasted for all of about two weeks…….. silly me…….. good gear means in debt……. that’s all there is to it.) And I should have sold another pedal or something or been more patient, but……hey. And the funny thing is I sold it to replace my ‘other amp’ (a little boutique company whose name I won’t say to protect the innocent) that broke down more than this one. Great sound……could never stay working. I think maybe I’m done with combos. The constant vibrations of the speakers just seem to be death for the amps.

So…..I’m curious…..doesn’t matter what instrument you play, but where do fall in the ‘tone versus reliability’ issue? Or are you on a journey like me trying to find the perfect balance? And anyone else have the same problem with combo amps?


5 thoughts on “Tone Versus Reliability

  1. Hi Karl,

    new reader of your blog here, i like it a lot. maybe i’ll start a wordpress blog of my own.

    i currently have 2 combos, my first is an rivera clubster 25 and yes it kinda crapped out on me. i actually heard a loud pop from it and literally saw a puff of smoke come out the back. fortunately it didn’t happen live.
    i’m gonna try your Top Gear amp tech guy and fix it before i try to sell it or trade it in.

    currently i’ve got a hot-rodded Vox AC15CC1X, no problems yet. i might like to try going head/cab someday but at my church i get asked to turn down even with 15 watts if i turn the master past 9’o clock. and of course around 8 o’clock can’t hear myself at all. anyway i’m sure you know how that goes. keep up the great posts!


  2. Thanks, Stever! Great to have you here! And if you do start a blog, let me know. I’ll link to you from here.

    And sounds like you’ve got great gear! Sorry to hear about the one going out. Ya, if you’re in this area, definitely try out Tim at Top Gear. Great tech.


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