What does “Inspired By” mean?
Vintage amps sound great, or do they? Unless you’re a professional or collector with the means to pay for one, you’ll probably never know, except when you hear someone else play one. You may never hear one, as people that own them often don’t tour with them, because they’re too valuable, or fragile.
One thing is certain. They’re old. They have outdated grounding schemes that are noisy. They have capacitors that have dried out. They have resistors that have drifted from their original specs. It may sound good, or it may not.
So people buy clones. Sometimes they pay large sums for a factory “reissue.” But, what is it that you really want from a good tube amp?
Before you decide, know what you really want.
Sometimes, the most difficult thing to ascertain when making a decision, is, what is the desired outcome, what is the goal? Is the goal to have a 5E3 Deluxe, a 5F6a Bassman, or a JTM45? Why? Because they’re great amp? They were great amps. They’re iconic. They’re the standard.
Many times, though I hear from guitarist questions or complaints about these designs. Things such as,
- “How can I get more clean headroom from my tweed Deluxe?”
- “My Bassman/Marshall clone is too loud for the venues I play. I have to turn it down, and then I don’t get the tone I want.”
- “The amp is great, but it’s heavy” or “it’s too noisy.”
Texas Tone™ tube guitar amplifiers are inspired by famous designs.
The Texas Tone 30 is inspired by the 5F6a Bassman/Marshall JTM45. But it’s not a clone of either one.
- I dispense with the Bright channel, and add a Lead channel. Why? The Bright channel simply had a high-pass capacitor that bypassed high frequencies around the Volume control. My Lead channel actually changes the gain and frequency response of the channel, allowing for both more distortion and a better ability to take pedals.
- The resistors are chosen for low-noise, stability, and long life.
- Modern grounding techniques allow for less hum and hiss.
- I use a phase inverter that is more balanced and still high gain, and a different output transformer, to push the output tubes to optimal performance.
- I scale back the Presence control with a more subtle Voicing control.
The results is a loud 30 Watt 12″ combo amp that can play with sweetness or crunch. I call it my BB King amp, because with it, even I can get those sweet tones.
The Texas Tone Ranger is inspired by the Marshall 18W amp, but it’s not a clone, or even close. For starters, it uses a pair of cathode-biased 6L6 output tubes for the full-range tone those tube are famous for, rather than the EL84 tubes of the Marshall. Secondly, I use the ‘normal’ channel as a practice channel, with less volume and a single non-interactive tone control that is a high-pass/low-pass design, rather than a simple treble roll-off. The TMB channel is a rocker.
Inspiring Better Living through Better Tone
It’s my experience that when you have better tone, you’re inspired to play more, to play better. I once told a band mate that if you have the right tone, you can play anything. Think of your favorite guitarists. Chances are, he has a signature style, a signature sound, a signature tone.
Inspire yourself. Go practice. Sound good and be heard.