I think my first amp that wasnt a crappy little practice amp (some 'practice' amps are very good: emphasis on 'crappy'! was
I was 16, had been playing for 0 years, and wanted something that made more noise and didnt sound terrible. At the time I had some idea what I wanted an amp to sound like (metallica11!!!!!1!1) but no fucking clue whatsoever how to get that sort of sound (or that it was utterly hopeless to try to get something like the black album sound from any one amp, in the room). It basically suited my needs, save that it farted out on palm mutes. So I sent it back. I shant try and comment on the memory of the tone; far too dim and distant.
Its successor was:
This amp did me for some considerable time. It lasted me until I think my last year of university and I was generally, at the time, impressed with it. It had an odd 'channel blending' feature where you could mix the clean and distortion channels, that was basically useless. I reaquired the same amp recently (got it back off the person I sold it to, then sold it on again) so the tones: cleans, dull and lifeless, distortion, boxy, fizzy and anemic. Why I liked it I have no idea.
First 'High End' amp, 21st birthday present in...shit, wait, how old am I now? Ok, must have been 2003. Rampant guitar forum activity had not yet brought a million and one new amps to try to my attention, and the internet did not yet effectively provide clips and demo recordings, so I was quite content with:
For a while, believing that a Marshall surely must be able to provide the sounds I wanted, without having to (or being able to) shell out for a mesa (which is what I thought
at the time was my holy grail tone). This aint such a bad amp, but it wasnt right for me, I (fairly) quickly realised. I kept wanting it to be less woolly, more aggressive, tighter in the low end and yada yada. I swapped the valves out a couple of times to little avail and changed the speakers and never really got on with it perfectly well. I used an EQ20 in the effects loop for a bit, which helped, but it was never going to have the modern metal voicing I wanted.
Engl screamer combo
I liked this amp quite a bit. I enjoyed its fatter bass response, greater aggression and after a while grew to like the glassy, ultra-unforgiving high mids and top end. I used the screamer and the tsl at the same time if I needed to make a shitload of noise, to great effect, and kept them both around for I think 2-3 years. I wasnt quite content, however, because it still didnt deliver qute the tightness and punch in the low end that I wanted. I didnt want a huge overbearing low end, both the TSL and screamer had enough on tap in magnitude, I just wanted it to be more solid.
- notable mention in this time:
Roland Cube 30
I loved this amp. LOVED it. I sold it really hastily after I got my ADVT30XL, and was basically alright with that until I moved to a new place and need amps in multiple rooms for practice and people coming round, and now I think "I wish I still had my cube!". 80 poxy quid for one of the best low volume amps I've ever used! What was I thinking? Sounded thick, chunky, not overly fizzy, and was quite articulate at whisper volume.
Which I suppose leads me to:
My harping on about 'little' amps may not seem worthwhile, but one thing I STILL stuggle with is a satisfactory low volume sound. This and the cube are pretty much the best I've found. Most of the channels on this are pretty rubbish, but I found some sounds in it that I like and I stick to the same two, and enjoy them. Same basic description as the cube (which is also my functional spec of a practice amp: here it is again: "thick, chunky, not overly fizzy, quite articulate/clear, all at low volume". It doesnt seem much to ask, but its been very hard to satisfy! The vox is brighter than the cube, and I swear I can hear that lone 12ax7 doing something minuscule and insignificant to the tone, but it sounds decent for what it is.
While I'm at it:
Hated it. I listened to recordings and went 'I'll have me some of that', got me some of that, in the mean time learned how to mic an amp reasonably well and discovered that I may as well just use one or 10 of the billion VSTs out there and then decided I didnt want me any of that any more.
Same, but with better amp models and effects. It took me longer to get rid of this one, but it went anyway, with pretty minimal use. Was really hard to get a bright and tight enough metal sound from it, but doable (but not worth it in the end!)
Where was I?
Ah, yes, we're up to my current amps (which include the ADVT30XL, still; its infront of me now as my lounge practice amp)
Peavey Vypyr 30
The less I can play this the better. I wanted it to be a second practice amp for the studio. Its high gain sounds are all terribly similar, loose, and somehow manage to be both too squishy and too clangy and harsh. Dont like. At all. The volume is very hard to use when low: one arc second of turn will increase or decrease by a factor of about 5 when below about 2. Cleans and effects are pretty good though. I keep it around for 'variety', 'in case I need it' etc etc
You all know this amp: I picked it up for £10, quite like it for what it is and shant complain
The key ingredient of much that follows:
Dear lord. The right amp/s through this cab and youre worried that youre gonna break your house in half. Very, very tight, punchy, clear and can and will sound gargantuan, if you let it. I've been through K100s and Swamp thangs in place of the T75s and came back to the 75s in the end (though may go all-V30). My only complaint: it could be a little less beamy, but I suppose thats the price you pay: I dont see any cabs breaking the laws of physics any time soon; closed = beamier. Better learn to deal with it.
A V2, I think. Things I like: ultra-tight, very aggressive, decent cleans, 'wide', highly effective controls (for the most part) let it be pretty tweakable, and I'm still, 3-4 years later, tweaking. Of course, if you dont like the amp 5 minutes after you plug in, youre never going to, and I did. It appeals to me in a mechanically brutal sort of a way. It doesnt have some characteristics that I do/did want, though: its quite sterile souding, I wanted an amp that had a thicker, denser, 'woodier' (never really understood how that term applies to an amp, but I get whats meant by it) bark in the low mids and mids. The PB mids are oddly congested, which can work sometimes, not others.
VHT Pitbull CL100 EQ
This was more or less a blind accident. I'd heard clips and nothing put me off, but nothing really enticed me about what I heard. But I was looking for more amps on account of the complaints I just gave about my PB. I wanted a supliment/compliment to the PB, really. I was offered this in part-ex for a couple of my ibanezes. What. A. Fucking. Deal. I ADORE this amp. Its the amp that I never knew I needed. Slightly darkly voiced, but utterly unforgivingly tight, clear and responsive. Shitloads of (highly usable) gain, but without much saturation, very usefull and well implemented controls (not least of which the 5-band EQ), good cleans (warm and smooth and chimey and glassy is all there), hyper aggressive, and all the midrange bark you can want or need (and not congested, either: they do what mids should; hit you in the chest and make your skull shake).
The only downside of this amp for me is that its made me want a UL as well.
I got this mainly to record people that want generic rock sounds (its something I've been moving into lately). It wasnt my thing, and I doubt it ever will be. It has none of the wool or the TSL, thankfully, and can easily be a metal amp, but its voicings not what I would use. That said, I do enjoy playing through it: its capable of a midrange snarl and bite that I havent heard out of many amps, and the main beats are all there, present and basically correct, from plexi-ish to JCM800-ish to hotrodded marshall-ish. None quite right, but all quite passable. All in all, looking at it as objectively as I can, its the best amp marshall have released since the JCM800, imo, but its not 'my thing. Were it my only amp I wouldnt cry myself to sleep at night, but I'd be looking for something different. As it is, its a welcome addition.
Current gas for - 5150 II/6506+
Never terribly liked playing through them; slightly squishy pick attack I dont agree with, but always liked the tones and would like to have one round as another option for recording; they do so so very well.
Notable also -rans (amps I havent owned, but in some way have stood out to me when trying them)
Now on its own, I dont like that much, too loose and fizzy (even loud) but boost it and youre in some fine-ass metal rhythm territory. Never bought one because I've always, despite quite liking them, seen them as unjustifiably expensive here (thick end of £2000). Also, I object to buying an amp that I HAVE to boost. (this also applies to the Uberschall, which I positively hated unboosted, and quite liked boosted). But, a boosted DR is a force to behold.
VHT Deliverance 60
Now, see, I'm a metal Rhythm player, really. Think "Someone that did most of his early learning from metallica CDs and now wishes there were more hours in the day to listen to Nile, Origin, Meshuggah and Hour of Penance"...among others, obviously. I can play leads, and often do just sit and shred for hours, but its not something I take seriously, its just for the pracitice and fun of it. But, I plugged into this and couldnt stop playing sweet, smooth blues-based leads with big wide vibrato, slow bends and the occasional incongruous sweep. It was just so responsive and articulate. Awesome stuff. Couldnt keep it together very well in drop B with my jackhammer picking hand, though, so it had to be ruled out (this is the TOTAL opposite of the pibull, btw, which maintains low end itegrity even when theres far, far more of it going on than you can ever want or need).
If I were in a position where I could have a 'lead amp' for recording, this would be it.
I'm not really sure how, but I hope this was of use to someone. Was fun going down memory lane and racking my brains about it at any rate
Edit: because I got the year I was 21 in wrong
Edit 2: Another also-ran
Similar dark-but-articulate thing going on on most channels to the pitbull, but more saturated and less throaty. More processed sounding. Extremely versatile; you can get a passable tone for more or less anything from jazz to extreme metal from it. Another absurdly tight amp, which I'm a big fan of (in case you hadnt guessed). Its somewhat processed sound (says the powerball-user) and massive price tag put me off, though. Its almost like its mixed and mastered out of the cab, very impressive, but also a bit flat. I like it very much nonetheless.