67 Fender Dual Showman Blackface"Until it’s recognized that the amplifier is AT LEAST 50% of the sound of the electric guitar, its full potential cannot be realized" Leo Fender

I couldn’t verify whether that quote is truly attributable to Leo Fender, but it’s a good point. 

We tinkerers spend all this time tweaking our electric guitars’ pots, caps, pickups, etc- when really the biggest factors in how your guitar sounds are the amp and pedals you play through.  Your guitar may be puttin out the most beautifully kickin tone in the world, but if you’re playing it through a crappy amp, you’re gonna hear crap.    

I found this interesting collection of FAQ’s about amps, tubes, etc (along with a ton of other tips) by Steve McKinley at Atlanta Tube Amp.  Check it out:

http://www.mindspring.com/~atlantatubeamp/id15.html

Oh, For the Love of an AC15

Vox AC15C1 Wow.  Yesterday, I had a chance to play a session through a new Vox AC15C1.  Really dynamic and responsive to play.  Great character and presence, and a really nice break up when you dig in.

My usual session amp, a late-eighties solid-state Fender Stage 185, is increasingly unsatisfying to play- seems I can never find the right level of brightness in a band setting.  Cranking up the presence, or tweaking the treble tends to make it harsh before it becomes pleasant.  The clean channel is pretty nice, but the drive/boost channel tends to feel a bit fizzy.  

Vox AC15HW1 Vox has just released a new hand-wired series, including the AC15HW1, pictured left.  After my experience with the AC15C1, I’m anxious to hear whether the use of top-shelf components, hand wiring, tube rectifier, birch cabinet, ruby tubes, can make the already great sounding AC15 even better.

I also really like the ability to kick in extra gain with the new hot/cool foot switch, and the the OP mode switch to drop to 7.5W for nighttime playing.

The only things missing from the hand-wired series are the tremolo and reverb.  One tune in yesterday’s session, Glen Phillips’ excellent laid back version of I Want A New Drug, calls for a bit of tremolo- but every time I tried kicking in the AC15C1’s trem, I just found it distracting and reached back to flick down the knob- perhaps I was just overdoing it, but I think I can probably live without it :)   And while the AC15C1’s reverb is very warm, smooth and pleasant- I rarely use reverb.  And I must say, if you turn the verb knob up over about 10%, it just sounds huuuuge, like you’re playing inside a water tower.

Warning- explicit photos follow:

Vox AC15HW1 Turret Board Wiring Vox AC15HW1 Ruby Tubes

Full disclosure- I work for Korg R&D, which owns Vox.  So perhaps I’m a little biased towards Vox, over other alternatives (employee discount, woo-hoo!)

UPDATE 3/22/2011: I did eventually buy that AC15HW1, and it is a thing of beauty.  I borrowed Chuck’s AC15C1 again and made a video comparing the two.