Lovely New Amps

Okay. So I know I just said that putting new strings on each week can keep you from buying new amps. This would be a lie. Putting new strings on should be able to keep you from buying new amps; but does it? hehehe 😉 The very fact that you are on this site probably means that you know the answer to that question. That, or you have a quite unhealthy obsession with U2/delay (same thing).

So I got a new amp. But not really. The main amp stays the same…not sure I’ve ever been happier with my main amp. But you know those ambient pads I talk about? The ones that I run through a separate rig, and into a separate tube amp instead of running them direct because the amp allows them to ‘sit in the mix better’? Ya. That’s kind of true. But mostly, it’s just so I can experiment with new amps. Because the pads are recorded off of my main rig, so as long as it’s any decent tube amp in the pad rig, they sound fine. So I buy and sell my pad rig amp every few months. Gotta feed the monster so that it doesn’t overtake you completely. (The monster being gear. It’s a very beautiful and warm-feeling monster. And something about that sentence doesn’t work.)

And it’s been a few months, so in comes the new amp. And…um… (that means I can’t think of a segway)

  • Amps are like children. If you must ship them, make sure to protect them. (The metaphor there doesn’t quite work, but hey.) I got the box and thought, ‘Huh. Must be a small amp.’ Ya. Nope. The box barely fit the amp, and it was wrapped in some butcher paper. Awesome. The price you pay for the money you save on Ebay.
  • UPS. I can’t blame you fully, because the packing was well…not there, but……well, it’s UPS.
  • Needless to say, I turn the amp on, and there is no sound. Which brings me to my next point: always have a backup plan. Having a backup amp, pedal, guitar, whatever…has saved me so many times.
  • Luckily, it was just a bad power tube. Anyone else feel all special, like you’re a real amp tech, when you change a tube? hehe 😉
  • Do you really ever need more then 12 watts? The answer is of course ‘Yes’, because power is wonderful, but just for the purposes of the fact that I’m diggin’ the new amp.
  • KT88 tubes? Make you feel like a rockstar. Those things are huge and make you feel cool just for playing them. Oh, and they light up more than other tubes…bonus round.
  • Oh ya! It’s a Frenzel. It’s a dude who’s making some point-to-point amps for really cheap. Self-biasing with 6L6 sockets, so that’s pretty cool. Makes me feel even more like an amp tech for putting new tubes in there and telling myself that since the amp is biasing the tubes as I put them in, that I biased my amp. It’s all about what makes you happy in your own mind. I am The Edge.


P.S. Apologies for taking so long to get back to this blog and respond to things. My wife surprised me this week for my birthday, and took me to Hollywood for a couple days to see John Mayer at Staples Center. It was quite amazing, and so is she. Then we went on a Heat pilgrimage through LA (hehehe…is she great or what?), and randomly saw Mario Lopez, and ate lunch next to Christoph Waltz and Orlando Bloom at a little vegan place on Santa Monica Boulevard. See? Eat vegan and you get to see all the celebrities. Or, that’s what I keep trying to tell myself as I try to go vegan. (It is not going well.) That was unplanned…obviously, because it’s Orlando Bloom. Legolas would not have been my…uh…first choice. Oh, and a post on the Mayer concert to come soon. But, that’s the reason I’ve been out for a little while. And in case you don’t know who Mario Lopez is:

That’s good tv right there. I’m pretty sure I had Mark Paul Gosselaar’s pants. I mean, no I didn’t…and…I don’t know his name.

Splendid…again. (hehe What a post…sorry.)

49 thoughts on “Lovely New Amps

  1. U2 tickets, going to Hollywood to see John Mayer. Karl, your wife seems extremely awesome. (: and a happy birthday indeed.

    By the way, I bought a Matchless HC-30 a couple months ago, kind of inspired by the side-effects of reading your blog intensively. I have never ever felt happier with my sound and its amazing clarity has even inspired me to become a better player. I play on some amazing amps in my everyday life but coming home to play on this thing feels like… well, coming home.

    Looking forward to the JM post!

  2. Rhoy–thanks, bro!

    And ya…isn’t that video crazy? I’m not sure about 4×12’s, but I know I’ve gotten some amp heads before that look like the took a couple throws like that! hehe

    LePaul–she is definitely incredible. I don’t deserve her…like at all! hehe

    And so stoked you got a Matchless!! And the way you described it is my exact experience. There’s a depth to the tone that I just have not heard in any other amp, and I’m not sure I can ever go back. Just like what you said…home. Man, it’s good to hear others say those words. 🙂 Cheers, bro!

    Jeff–right on! Ya, wasn’t he fantastic? Killer band too…and that’s definitely an understatement. Wow! 😀

    Mark H–lol Ya…that metaphor didn’t really work, did it. 😉

  3. That show is awesome, and defines my childhood. What about this one?


    Cocaine is no joke. Wait, it’s just caffeine pills?

  4. John Mayer, really? Awesome!

    And oh yeah, my wife dated Mario Lopez in High School… and she still chose me over him. Dude, you know!!! 😉

  5. Ben–lol I remember that one! Funny, though. I remember it being a lot more intense. 😉 hehehe

    Anonymous 1–hehehe 😉 I’m guessing that referred to John Mayer’s recent comments? I apologize to edit it, but seeing as the trouble he just got in, maybe we’ll just leave that joke understood instead of published, if that’s cool. 🙂

    Anonymous 2–no way!! haha That’s the best thing ever!

  6. Boxing up kids and shipping them is a big no no. 🙂 Re: John Mayer. Love his playing, not what I’m hearing about his personal life. Seems to be the pattern with “rock stars.”

    Amps: I don’t think I’ve ever owned an amp Karl would approve of, but I have had my fun.

    I remember the time with our high-school-age band where we were playing for some kind of Kiwanis club party they threw for their teenagers. We didn’t think we were loud but one of the adults pulled the AC plug for my amp out of the wall mid-song. Party pooper.

    I tried to use my old Peavy Renown with the band formed with my co-workers to play at the company “Christmas” party a few years ago. 160 solid state watts into two 12s. The band made me downsize to my Carvin Vintage 16, miked. The Peavey made everyone else’s gear rattle.

    Lastly, the Peavey 5150 full stack I played in a music store recently. So that’s what everyone is talking about — get tone with no pedals and hardly trying. Maybe I’ll rent one and set it up on my front deck for an afternoon.

  7. haha Ya, John Mayer would be way better if he just played. hehe

    You were so loud they pulled the plug? That’s rock ‘n roll right there! 😉

    And the 5150’s are a very decent amp. Check out Peavey’s Classic series…yes wattage…could be amazing! And you wouldn’t have to play it out on the deck. 😉

    • The Classic Series amps are nice but you have to change out the stock speaker. Put the amp to a good Alnico and it will produce some good tones.

  8. Mark–for sure. Little speaker swap and tube change can never be a bad thing. 😀

    Cory–I have a standing rule to buy any amp built by a cellist. 🙂 Seriously. hehe Great looking amps there!

    Ken–hear hear. Gorgeous. Have you guys ever checked out Emery Amps and Vero Amps? We can add Bradford to that list now, of ‘more than gorgeous’ amps. 🙂

  9. Hey Karl!

    I’ve been a long time follower of your blog, you write some great stuff man! I actually just started a blog, Anyways, this is the first time I’ve actually made contact on here so I hope to be involved in the craziness that’s the blogging community. Quick question, How do you feel about different brands of true bypass loopers?

    Anyways, looking forward to talking to y’all soon!


  10. I have a question, how do you deal with a bad worship practice where it seems like nothing is sounding like it does in your head? The drummer isn’t getting what you’re asking him to do, the harmonies are flat, the bass isn’t grooving, your tone seems weak, and the lead singer is annoying?? What do you do!?

  11. Congrats on the Frenzel. Which one did you get. Surely, that amp didn’t get shipped from Frenzel that way. Mine got shipped directly from them and was shipped better than I ship my kids (Minus the breathing holes of course.). I’ve got the FM-5E3. With the two inputs and the flexibility of swapping power tubes without a biasing, I can change my tone to match worship sets if I wish. It’s a fun amp. Jim’s also a great guy to deal with.

    • Oh no, it was an Ebay thing. And ya! That was what sold me on it, was the ability to change tube types without biasing. 🙂 And I’ve got the FM-5E1SS Super Champ Sportster whatever. Diggin’ it right now, and I’ve got a KT88 tube in it right now. Looking for the D13 RSA23/Hiwatt sound. hehe

      • Kt88’s it the only power tubes I haven’t tried. Ran into a box of old preamp tubes at a farm sale. Guy was a ham operator. Been testing combinations and got a real nice Plexi sound with a pair of Ruby el34s and a mix of some of those preamp tubes.

        I find a combination that I like and then document it with the tubes used. I took over this photo hutch thing my wife bought for storing pictures and now it’s my tube storage unit. So far I’ve got a set for:

        Fender Bassman Sound

        Marshall Plexi

        Fender Tweed

        Black Face Fender Something or other

        So I guess I’m gonna have to go for that Hiwatt sound. I don’t know what I’ve been waiting for. David Gilmore is one of my top 10 tone monsters.

        I looked at that super champ but decided for more juice. Reviews got them pretty close in sound.

  12. David–Thanks for the kind words. And great site, bro! I’ll link to you in my blogroll, if that’s cool. 🙂

    As for bypass loopers, I have tried a few I didn’t like. Mostly homemade stuff off of ebay. The ones that I’ve had the best success with have been Loop-Master and Loooper. Keeley’s was decent as well.

    Cheers, bro! Looking forward to some great conversations!

    Ben G–ah man, I hate those days! hehe I find that often times, the whole ‘not clicking’ thing can usually be traced back to one over-arching thing. Bad song choices, your drummer didn’t get enough sleep the night before, the bassist is experimenting instead of playing, the acoustic is out of tune, you had a pedal on the whole time that you didn’t see, there’s a subtly wrong chord on each piece of sheet music, no one’s feeling the music, the worship leader is in a bad mood, etc. If you can figure out what that one thing is, and then humbly and quietly nudge the rest of the band to figure it out for themselves, then awesome. Unfortunately, that’s usually a pretty tall order. 🙂

    So, sometimes, you just have to resolve yourself to the fact that some days suck, and pray that God will use it for Himself anyway.

    Sorry to not be of more help!!

    Rhoy–for sure. Sometimes that’s all you can do. Especially if you’re not the one in the position to make an overall decision such as, ‘We’re changing this whole setlist’ or something. 🙂

  13. Mark–right on! Seem like great amps! And sounding like Gilmour can never be a bad thing, right? 😉

    If I end up liking this amp, I might sell it and get one with some more juice. But for now for the pads, it’s doing fine. Played a little guitar through it last night too, and wow. Very surprising! 😀

    • If you end up selling it, let me know! I’d love to pick your brain about this amp as I’m thinking about taking the plunge…and have little experience with this amp stuff.

  14. Sweet! Of course that’s cool. I just ordered a bunch of stuff, a DIY looper from Road Rage Pro Gear, 15ft of lava miniELC cable, and 40 right angle flat plugs, and I think I might be documenting it and the build on my blog. I have a small inkling that I’m gonna need more cable though….

    Anyways, nice talking to you man.


  15. We serve a great God! Thanks everyone for the advice. Worship was amazing last night! God truly answered prayers and used worship for his glory! It was awesome when I prayed and surrended our worship to Him… suddenly it wasn’t about the music at all. But in the end the music truly was amazing and better than I had practiced. Thanks guys!

  16. Right on, bro! Sounds like a project! You’re making me want to redo my pedalboard now just reading that. haha Cheers!

    Ben G–right on, brother. I totally agree, and it’s awesome to hear stories like this of when God just takes over. Good times! 🙂

  17. Zack Morris should know better than to mess with AC Slater. He’s like the toughest guy at Bayside.

    Those Frenzel’s look sexy. How do you feel about reliability / build quality compared to more expensive boutiques?

    Also, I just realized that you’re using a guitar amp to reamp something you recorded earlier with another guitar amp. Is there really ‘more’ tone if you go amp -> mic -> recorder -> amp -> mic -> FOH than going amp -> mic -> recorder -> DI -> FOH? Not to discourage the use of multiple amps, which is one of the principle purposes of human existence, but I don’t quite get it. Can’t argue with your results though!

    • I own two Frenzels and they are rock solid with the best components. There is no middle man when you buy from Frenzel. That is why they are such a great price. I gig my amps for about 16 hours a week and they have never failed me. I have had them for about 2 yrs.

  18. Paul–Bayside! Yes! I totally forgot that was the name of the school. lol

    As for the Frenzel’s, circuit build quality seems very, very good. All point to point, good power tranny’s, well-built. Only thing I don’t like is that the knobs are completely unprotected on the headshells. I’ve never seen an amp before where the knobs aren’t inset into the shape of the headbox at least a little bit. So, I’m a little wary of that; but maybe I should just get a custom head cab anyway. 😉

    lol ‘Principle purposes of human existence.’ Now that was classic. And therein lies the reason. 😉 But in all seriousness, the amp serves a few purposes. The first being that running them through a tube amp softens them a bit and makes the quality a little more earthy and less pristine; which allows them to sit further back in the mix. Which is nice, because they don’t change chords. 🙂 Secondly, it allows me to always have a backup amp with me. Which has saved me a few times. Main amp goes out or blows a tube, then I just use the pad amp for my main rig, and run the pads direct. And lastly, the pads are great as an ‘awkward killer.’ But sometimes, when coming back on stage after the message or something, the soundguy hasn’t unmuted the channels yet. So it’s really nice to have that stage volume from the amp going while it’s still muted in the house, and I’m still setting up/tuning up my main rig. 🙂

    But ya…basically just to have multiple amps. hehehe In some strange part of my mind, I think that I’ll die if I don’t or something.

    Mark H–so awesome! You’re one of the main reasons I got interested in trying one out. 🙂 When I do the Frenzel demo post, you’ll get some huge props. 😀

  19. Rad. Did you forget about Mr. Belding too? dude was legit

    Re 2 amp setup: those are some very good points Karl, I can see that being really useful live. Also, you sound like you’ve explained your guitar amplification strategies more than once to the uninformed :). I’m always stuck with one amp on stage, but I’ve long suspected that I’m only a power chord and a wall of marshalls away from understanding the universe. My doctoral advisor isn’t convinced, so I don’t know for sure…

    As for the Frenzel, your post has found me with amp gas at its height. Mark, any chance you’ve played/owned a Hot Box Wildcat? That thing looks like exactly what I need. If so, comments on the clean channel?

    thanks for the excellent gear insight

    • I own the Sweet Little 15 which is a jr version. It is so dynamic. I was playing it the other day and I wanted to dial in a good clean tone on the Boost channel. I did. Then I unplugged and plugged into the Clean channel. It sounded exactly the same. The clean channel is totally dialed in. The Wildcat would be awesome. Especially if you get the EL34/EL84 switchable tube option. The Boost channel is a different animal altogether. It can do everything a Vox can do and a ton more. When really pushed it almost has a Mesa feel to it. But it still has all the chime of a Vox. Incredibly versatile amps…they really are amazing.

    • The Clean Channel on the Wildcat has a complete tone stack so it can be shaped. I do not have that on my Sweet Little 15. I love my clean channel. Read the reviews about these amps at Harmony Central. That is what convinced me to buy one. The Vox series Frenzels have preamps based on the Matchless Hot Box. Jim Frenzel makes a seperate Hot Box preamp and he goes in depth about it on the Preamp page. Every worship leading guitarist my church plays a Frenzel. We have 4 worship bands plus the main band that I play in.

      The Wildcat is on sale right now too. I wish I had one. When choosing a Frenzel you need to ask yourself: Am I a Fender/Marshall guy or a Vox/Matchless/Bad Cat guy. I’m both. So I own a Super Deluxe Plus and a Sweet Little 15 and run parallel rigs.

  20. haha Belding was rad! And yes…as soon as I can get away with it, I’m on the wall of amps idea as well. 🙂 And are you getting your doctorate? In music? That’d be awesome.

    And hopefully Mark’ll chime back in with some Frenzel comments; he knows way more about them than I do. 🙂

  21. Jim Frenzel custom builds every amp so expect an 8-10 week wait…it is well worth it. Unless God smiles upon you and you find one on eBay. I have had both experiences

  22. Mark,

    That’s a really excellent review. I don’t know why I put more weight on your insights than the HC reviews, but you are totally selling me on one. Ideally I would run an AC30 and Plexi and A/B them, but that’s just totally unrealistic, unfortunately. You are making this sound like a pretty good usable solution. Everything I wish an Orange was, but hasn’t quite been. Can’t afford a badcat, but the Frenzel sounds awesome.

    Now my wallet’s in trouble.

    thanks for the info!

    • Something also to remember about Frenzels. Both channels can be played at the same time. You can ABY them. On my Super Deluxe Plus, I Y cord the inputs and blend the Fender and Marshall preamps. It is magic. All the bass of a Fender Bassman with the highs of a JTM45. I can’t help but think that the Wildcat would be similar in nature. If I was going to buy one, I would get the EL34/EL84 switch option. Imagine having both of the those power tubes in the output. No other amp can do that. That is an amazing feature.

      • Can you run stereo delays on them when in this setting as well? In models where you are running two speakers that is?

  23. I REALLY want to buy one of these amps to improve my tone. I feel like I’d be cheating on my ac15 though 🙁 Is there a way to use my Vox AC15 CC still but make it sound more like a matchless? I’m thinking of updating the speaker to an alnico blue and buying some nicer tubes… or should I just scrap this amp and go for the big guns up front and get a matchless spitfire?

  24. OOOOOOOOR… should i replace the speaker and the tubes AND get a matchless spitfire and run them in stererererereo?? 😀

  25. I don’t really need to be here right now, but just stopping in to say hi. 😀

    And BenG–as for stereo delay into two amp channels, it can sound good because each signal is getting preamplified on its own. But unless your amp sends each channel through its own power section, its own output tranny, and then its own speaker output, you won’t get the full stereo delay effect as if you were running into two amps. As far as I know, there aren’t any amps that’ll do that…maybe some custom orders, but I’ve yet to run across any personally.

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