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> Boutique Amps
FrankW
post May 8 2008, 03:38 AM
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This post has been edited by FrankW: May 11 2008, 03:25 AM
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Saoirse O'Shea
post May 8 2008, 09:16 AM
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Can't comment on all boutique amps - there are just too many and they're quite varied. However I have an old Matchless which is generally regarded as a boutique amp. Apart from the specifics of construction that you mention where it differs from the Mesas etc that I a/b'ed it against was in tone and build quality. By tone I mean that it was just more 'organic', warm, versatile then the mass ones. It responds to dynamics in my picking much more then those other amps did, the clean and saturated tone also just sound fuller and deeper, there are more high end harmonics - not just 1st order ones. The tone controls actually do affect the tone over a reasonable range and cascade and interact with each other - not something you tend to get on mass produced amps.

The voicing is - imo- very close to a vintage AC30, even closer then new ones get. This is, imo, what a lot of boutique amps (including Victoria, Bad Cat, Top Hat, Matchless etc) aim at - faithful reproduction of a vintage amp whether Vox, Fender or Marshall. Yes you can buy all those brands new for less but they don't sound quite the same. Yes you can also buy a vintage version but one's in A1 condition aren't cheap anyway and often the repair shop beckons smile.gif.

Build quality is awesome, apart from tube changes I've never had to change anything on the amp, no faults, no repairs and the amp is now about 15 years old. Construction is first rate and the materials used of premium quality. The only quibble is that you don't get many controls - on mine for the money there is no reverb, no graphic eq, no effects loop, just tone controls, master volume and gain.

One thing else - I've only tried a couple of Matchless amps and they all had v similar tonal qualities and all sounded, to me, wonderful. I've tried quite a few Mesas etc and they vary a lot - from mediocre to v good, even within a particular model: I've tried several Mark 2s in the same shop on the same day and they varied quite a bit. So ideally you need to do an A/B if you can as perhaps it depends not just on a boutique vs a Mesa but which Mesa smile.gif.

Cheers,
Tony


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Marcus Siepen
post May 8 2008, 10:52 AM
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I have to say that I couldn't care less about custom made transformers or any type of wiring, the only thing I care about when it comes to amps is first of all the sound, and how reliable the amp is. For me both is equally important, the best sounding amp is worth nothing if it blows up after one week on the road, and of course the most solid amp is useless when it sounds crappy. My tripple Rectifier may not be a boutique amp, but it has everything I want, it delivers exactly the sounds that I want, and in the 13 years that I am using it now it never ever failed to work, so for me this is a great amp wink.gif


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Danilo Capezzuto
post May 8 2008, 03:26 PM
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Holy words Marcus. It seems that the boutique amps are best, and mesa and marshall are just c...p!! I think that a mesa sounds like a mesa, no matter if they are hand made or not. The best boutique amp will never sounds like a mesa or a jcm800...it only about taste, if you like a boutique amp just buy it, but don't buy it just cause is a boutique amp!


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Marcus Siepen
post May 8 2008, 05:47 PM
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I 100% agree. You should always get the gear that YOU like, and not go for something only because of the name or because somebody else is using it, at least this is my attitude. I have played all kinds of amps, I started with Marshalls, had some Engls, but when I bought my Rectifier I immediately knew I found MY amp, and so far no other amplifier came even close, so I guess I made the right choice wink.gif


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FrankW
post May 8 2008, 07:21 PM
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I agree with you guys that it is ultimately about the ears. The thing that interests me is that what I consider a sweet tone, along with my playing ability, has continued to develop over time. Alot of it has had to do with what my heroes sound like, but as I have progressed, it's more about what actually inspires me sonically. You know how it is, if the rig you're playing through sounds bad for some reason, you'll not be playing your best. Conversely, if you play through a rig that sounds absolutely fabulous to you, your inspiration can take your playing to a new level. There's obviously something to boutique-type amps because all of our heros have one or two, (or more), at home, if not on stage. My issue ultmately is about what I can afford. I'm not going to buy one of these things unless it moves me. On the other hand, I'm almost afraid to give some of them a test run for fear that I might just have to have it, no matter what. It just ain't in the budget right now. By the way, I also had a Boogie rectifier, (Dual), and it was the best sounding amp I ever had, and I've owned many amps over the years, (mostly Marshalls). Maybe it was just about the 6L6 power section versus EL34s, I dunno. All I know is that my personal heroes play Marshall and Mesa Boogie live, including the so-called tone freaks like Eric Johnson and Andy Timmons to name a couple. Like what was mentioned before, the desirable tone of boutiques may be the way they emulate the sound of the old Marshalls and Fenders and Voxes to some extent.

To add one more tidbit, Tonymiro's analysis in the first paragraph of his reply was exactly the information I was seeking. Thank you for the input, gentlemen. As teachers, I respect your opinions highly.
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Marcus Siepen
post May 8 2008, 07:24 PM
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Those guys play Marshalls and Boogies for a good reason... those are killer amps, it just depends on what kind of sound you want. As I mentioned before I found "my" amp in a tripple rectifier, but I also still have my first Marshall, an old JCM 800, this thing is indestructable and also sounds great.


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Hisham Al-Sanea
post May 8 2008, 08:02 PM
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i agree with Marcus


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Ivan Milenkovic
post May 8 2008, 09:29 PM
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I think Marcus has a strong point there. I would also like to emphasize the need for a quality made amp that will run for years without need for repair. Mass produced amps have advantage here to imo because parts are easier to get, and people who fix them know around them much better then a hand wired expencive boutiques. Of course boutiques have their own advantages too, but I think they are in the weaker spot because of the maintenance problem that they may have and the varying quality. On the other side, when you buy a proper 1500-2000$ Marshall or Mesa amp you know what to expect from it. Reliability and Awesome sound in close to 100% cases.


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