Please don’t judge me.

I just can’t stop. And not the buying gear part. That part is easy to stop……you just run out of money. But the quest for tone part. Because you can always sell something to buy something better. (Or, well, that you think for that particular hour, is going to be better. Next hour it’ll be something else.) And I’ve always been like this. If a part of me is not good, I literally can’t sleep until it is. I remember in high school, if I had screwed up at soccer practice, I’d literally get out of bed at night and go run drills in the front yard until I was satisfied that I was still a good soccer player. (Ya, I know; I honestly have issues. The few of you who read this for tonal advice or whatever…just remember that the writer might be…well, if you’ve read any of this blog you know; things work differently in my head.) And the same thing with tone…because tone, of course, is an extension of our souls. (I have no theory to back that up; because it would probably fall flat. That’s one of those things I believe because I want it to be true. Like the fact that me, Edge, and Brad Pitt all have coffee every Tuesday (well, they do, I’m too neo-indie for coffee) so that they can glean ideas from me.) If I feel my tone or playing wasn’t where it should’ve been on any given night, I’ll literally get out of bed and go take my rig apart until I’m satisfied and can once again sleep in peace. And I know this sounds weird, but it’s a scientific fact that you need sleep, people.

So after an almost 3 1/2 year love/hate relationship with my Holland AC30 amp head, complete with hating it so much that I buy another amp, but then the Holland still sounds better in an ab test, so then I sell the other amp and beg the Holland to take me back, I finally took the plunge on Monday, went out to Hollywood, and bought a Divided by 13.

(This is on the 10 in LA. That’s the house in the film Heat where DeNiro has to do the humane thing and shoot a wounded brother. So emotional. But I forgot my camera and had to take this with my phone. That’s the house, up there on the left, on the hill, underneath that tree. See it? Ya. I figured not. My camera failure is amazing.)

Now before you say anything, let me set the record straight. A lot of gear comes into my house. I love gear. More than I love most people. However, very little of it stays. I am also very poor, and I have to use my rig to pay for my rig. I was lucky enough to be a bachelor for a while who had two jobs because no girls were ever interested, and I spent all my money on gear (again, because of the no girls being interested thing). So, now that I’m married, and working towards things of greater importance than having more pedals than U2 (I know, what could possibly be more important?), I have to sell something to pay for everything else I want. Which is what makes this decision so hard! I love my Holland. And I’m pretty sure it loves me back. And it’s the only one of its kind Mike Holland ever built, so it’s got that going for it, and that makes it incredibly hard to sell! If I end up in a month wishing I had it back, it’s not like I’ll ever be able to get another one without like, begging the person who ended up buying it off of me. 

(Exhibit A on why girls were uninterested. This is me 5 years ago. One of my heroes was Will Ferrell, as evidenced by the Elf pose. But if you look at my face, obviously one of my heroes was also The Count of Monte Cristo, shown by the worst facial hair sculpting in history. The long hair is also atrocious, although I am jealous of my hair line back then. And I had the indie shirt, which is good, but still with the 1985 glamrock necklace, the 1993 baggie cargo pants, and the 79 cent Wal-Mart sandals that don’t really have a time period. In short, this picture is the ultimate personification of adolescent identity confusion. And at the time, I honestly could not figure out why I couldn’t get a girlfriend. I wonder if I even looked at this picture.)

So this is difficult. But……that Divided by 13 does sound…well, in a word, lovely. And, I bought it from a guy with a sweet studio in a one bedroom apartment tucked away in Studio City, in true ‘underground tone junkie’ fashion; so it’s got that going for it, which almost rivals the fact that the Holland is the only one of its kind. And as of yet, I’m undecided. So before I do the official shootout, I quick snapped some rough, demo videos to help myself decide. Which I always do, but never post them. But I’m really busy right now, and don’t know when I’ll have a chance to do a really good shootout, so I figured these will have to do for now.

The Players

–Holland AC30 (EL84-based) running at 15 watts

–Divided by 13 (KT88-based) running at 23 watts

And the first question is probably why I decided to get a different type of tube than EL84 if I like the Holland so much. Well, the Holland is not your normal Vox clone EL84 amp. It has a good deal more mids and fullness. Almost like EL84 tubes with a Fender Bassman type circuit. And the D13 RSA23 is supposed to be just that. It uses the KT88 tubes and a very unique circuit to supposedly get a Voxy/Bassman-ish sound. So in theory, the two amps should be fairly alike tonally, and this is the tone I’m going for.

Possible Tonal Issues

–Unfortunately, the neighbors were home, so I had to keep it quiet. (I mean, ‘Hooray for neighbors! People are more important than tone.’ ……Wow, I’m a liar.)

–Because of this, I kept the half-power switch on the Holland on, so it was running at 15 watts instead of its full 30. Jerry Blaha did a great job with that mod, and half-power seems to lose absolutely zero tone, but it’s still worth mentioning.

–But the Divided by 13 is very loud, and I haven’t gotten an attenuator in yet, so I did not have the gain quite up to its sweet spot. So hopefully those two things balance out.

–I am switching cabs, so I’ll mention which head is coming out of which for each video.

Possible Biases

–The Holland is my old friend.

–But the Divided by 13 is like the cool kid on the slide who I want to be my new friend.

Clean Tone

Prairiewood Les Paul with Wolfetone Dr. Vintage pickups–>

Loop-Master bypass box–>

Loop-Master bypass box–>
         (–>Damage Control Timeline with extremely slight delay–>

Holland AC30 or D13 RSA23

(Any more delay you hear at given times is another setting on the Timeline.)

The Videos

Video 1:

–Divided by 13 RSA23 into 65 Amps birch cab with Celestion Blue and G12H-30

–Holland AC30 into Heritage pine cab with Jensen P12N

Video 2:

–Holland AC30 into 65 Amps birch cab with Celestion Blue and G12H-30

–Divided by 13 RSA23 into Heritage pine cab with Jensen P12N

Video 3:

–Holland AC30 into 65 Amps birch cab with Celestion Blue and G12H-30

–Divided by 13 into 65 Amps birch cab with Celestion Blue and G12H-30

(And massive props to anyone who can name what riff I’m playing. It’s the riff on one of the tones that continuously haunts me, and as such, I play it nearly every time I try out gear.)

So then. I’m still undecided. I think I might be leaning towards the Divided by 13…seems to be just as warm as the Holland, but maintaining more focus. And maybe some more harmonic stacking/interestingness. But does it really have the girth that the Holland has? Yikes, this is hard. I’m also leaning towards selling all my pedals so that I can keep both amps. I can do all that delay stuff with just my hands, right?

Either way, I’ve tried a good number of amps, and this is the first one that I’ve felt actually keeps up at least with what the Holland has going on (and perhaps even beats it). Of course, that’s not to say that I have the best tone ever. hehe Just the first amp that does for me what the Holland does with my guitar, and my inferior playing. So, huge props to both D13 (I think his name’s Fred…at least that’s what everyone says when they mention D13, like they know him, and I’d definitely like to get in on some of that ‘borrowed cool’) and Mike Holland. 

Oh ya! And then to add more fuel to it, my heritage is from Holland (the actual country), so that’s kind of cool. But Fred (see what I did there? So cool!) builds the D13 amps in LA, and I bought it in Hollywood, and I’d like to think my future heritage will be from Hollywood once I move there after Coldplay picks me up as second guitarist and consultant of all things tone. (Come on now, don’t crush my dreams!) This is a tough one.