Archon, Which One?

Senor Verde

New Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2013
Messages
104
Reading through Bogner's thread "What Are Your Favorite Amps To Play," I see quite a few replies stating the Archon. I don't really know anything about this amp, but it appears there have been a few configurations and a US version as well as an overseas version. What, in your opinion is the best version (wattage, combo/head cab etc) and why?
 

andy474x

Knows the Drill
Joined
May 4, 2012
Messages
4,618
Location
West Michigan
The older ones seem to have a little bit more clarity (splitting hairs, perhaps), but the new/V2 models have a more versatile gain range, and some have been liking that from the chatter I've heard. Just depends on what you want.

I will say one thing - I'm not a big fan of the V-Type with this amp (which is the stock speaker in combos or matching cabs), played a combo of the new model and it was dark sounding with an over abundance of low mids, and I think a lot of that has to do with the speaker. Don't get me wrong, I love the V-Type for some applications, just not this. I'd be looking at a Creamback H, or something along the lines of V30's.
 

LSchefman

Historical Entity
Joined
Apr 26, 2012
Messages
30,531
Location
Michigan
Reading through Bogner's thread "What Are Your Favorite Amps To Play," I see quite a few replies stating the Archon. I don't really know anything about this amp, but it appears there have been a few configurations and a US version as well as an overseas version. What, in your opinion is the best version (wattage, combo/head cab etc) and why?
There's no best version, there's only the version that's best for you, and that's impossible for someone else to predict (I'm sure you agree, so I'm probably preaching to the choir).

PRS made two levels of amps in its US factory:

The CAD amps were largely hand-wired with a few circuitboard traces that were made on super-thick boards. They were fussed over a great deal during assembly, and for that stuff, they were pretty expensive amps (The DG30 is still made that way, and Doug Sewell, the amp's designer, told me that it's the most time consuming amp to produce he's ever done). PRS originally thought these amps would wind up being the amp equivalent of a Private Stock, with lots of custom mods and options. These were more or less 'cost no object' builds.

The Custom 50s, the 2-Channel H, the C, and similar models, as well as the US Archon, were made with circuit boards, but the circuit boards (though not hand wired) were populated carefully, and everything was of higher quality than one finds on most amps, down to the circuit boards themselves. They were built by the same amp team that made the CAD amps, and they are very high grade amps, certainly worthy of any studio.

The overseas-built amps were designed by the US team, but are built on a foreign supplier's assembly line to meet a lower price point. This might be a compromise, and might not be a compromise. I make no claim to omniscience.

The sourcing of parts and materials might also be, or not be, a drawback. This might represent compromise, or it might not. I think it's going to take a few years of these amps being used in the field to find out.

The higher the wattage, the cleaner and tighter the bottom end. Amps have the most difficulty with low frequency reproduction. Bigger transformers and more tubes are needed. But not everyone wants or needs that.

When people talk of amps 'mushing out' this is why lower wattage amps tend to do that, unless the design of the amp includes a low-cut filter, like the Vox AC 30 amps. So the right wattage for you is a personal choice, influenced by your own needs and taste.

I prefer heads to combos for a few reasons. First, even though I have to make two trips to the car for a session out of my own studio, each separate component is lighter, and two lighter units puts less strain on my back than one heavy one. Also, I like using different types of speaker cabs.

Another drawback with combos is that the tubes are hanging right over the speakers, and that's a tube torture chamber due to speakers vibrating loudly like crazy in close proximity to the tubes. Most current production tubes can't handle this for very long without becoming rattly, ringy, noisy, and microphonic.

I had a problem with tube rattle when I got my Mesa Lone Star combo. I called their customer service department, and the tech said, "I won't buy a combo for that very reason. New tubes are junk, they keep getting worse, and they rattle unless they're isolated. So I only buy heads."

My personal preference is for the US builds, because I've been to the factory and have seen how they do what they do.

But so what. That doesn't mean my preference would be right for you, or anyone else.
 

DreamTheaterRules

The guys in my car club call me The Cruiser
Joined
Nov 20, 2013
Messages
12,374
Location
Cincinnati area
Reading through Bogner's thread "What Are Your Favorite Amps To Play," I see quite a few replies stating the Archon. I don't really know anything about this amp, but it appears there have been a few configurations and a US version as well as an overseas version. What, in your opinion is the best version (wattage, combo/head cab etc) and why?
I agree with most of what was said above. I too have an original 50 watt head and it's never going anywhere. EVER. But that doesn't mean a new import model wouldn't work as well. Definitely recommend head/cab over combo. This is an upper mid to high gain monster and those amps generally thrive with closed back cabs. And re: what Andy said... one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was about speakers. A guy I've bought stuff from for years said he felt that for him, the speakers were at least as important as the amp. Over the years, I've amended what he said to what I now believe, which is this. Finding the speakers you love is more important than finding the perfect amp.

Why would I say something like that? Simple. I believe that if you have the perfect speaker cab combo for the sound you love, that an amp that is just in the vein of your preferred favorite, maybe not the best most perfect amp for you, will sound more like what you want to hear, than if you have that perfect amp and the wrong speakers and cab. The speakers are SO much a part of the total sound, that I believe you're better to find an amp you love and then spend more time experimenting with speakers, than having a couple cabs with the V30s everything comes with these days and buying 50 amps looking for your perfect sound. Fine tune those speakers, and you'll get your tone!

And for the record, I am NOT saying that amps don't sound different or anything like that. They most certainly do... practically ever amp sounds different. But I'm saying that if you know you love the Vox sound, you're probably better with a small Vox or copy and a nice cab (probably open back) with 2 Blues (or similar) than buying the nicest Vox, Bad Cat or whatever and playing it through a 2x12 closed back V30 cab.
 

Senor Verde

New Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2013
Messages
104
The things you guys mention are kind of why I asked the question. I've had cab/head and combo versions of amps and almost always prefer head/cab. Also, when watching videos of the Mesa Fillmore amps, the head/cab always sounds bigger and fuller, even when the combo and head/cab were in the same videos. isolating the tubes from the speakers is always good, to me as well.
 

Bogner

Redwood Original - Pure Blood
Joined
Jun 20, 2016
Messages
1,053
I have both the original US version 100 and 50. Both lovely amps and both similar yet different. I typically gravitate towards 100 watt heads and I am not a fan of combo amps personally. I love 4x12 cabs and the only combo amp I now own is a Roland JC-120. The overseas 50 watt head I played did not sound like the 50 watt US version (or US 100) I have. Similar....yes but not the same. How much of that was the store cabinet and guitar, I don't know but I could immediately tell it was different. I know others with the same feeling. I guess my answer to your question is 100 watt head.

The amp has an absolutely beautiful clean channel and a fantastic gain channel. The amp is articulate and can get a bit dark which at times I really like. I play on the heavy side so I love that it is pretty tight without being stiff and has enough sag without feeling bloated or slow on quick picked stuff. The amp takes pedals well and has nice mid gain tones. For one amp with two channels to have superb clean, crunch, High Gain and lead tones all in there is not as common as one may think for that setup. PRS did a great job on the amp aside from the loop issues. I hope that helps a bit with providing more info about the Archon. :)
 

Toolmaster Of Brainerd

You know what a loon is, noodle head?
Joined
Sep 14, 2020
Messages
259
Location
Minnesota or New Jersey, depending on the season
I managed to snag a 100W head locally for a good price 2 years ago. It's technically not my only amp, but it gets 99% of my playtime. I absolutely love it. I have no need whatsoever for a 100W amp, but I couldn't turn down the price.

I think the 25w combo version used is an insane deal. Very few $800 amps gets both beautiful cleans and musical high gain distortion. You can't go wrong with any of the Archons, but the 25W is the best deal imo.

The one thing the Archon doesn't do is pushed clean or mild breakup tones. Like, actually very clean when playing light, but breaks up just a little bit when you dig in. The Fender on 5 kind of gain range. The Archon doesn't do that at all. I have a Kingsley Page on my pedalboard for that. So if those sounds are your thing, then the Archon probably isn't for you.

The other praise I'll add for the Archon in addition to what the other said above, is that all of the knobs on the front panel are very useful with wide range. The master volumes do low volume very well. Both tone stacks have a huge range of genuinely great sounds. I have my clean treble on about 3:00; extreme settings are still very musical. The gain knob on the clean channel is useless, but the lead channel gain is fantastic. You can turn it down to 8:00 or even lower and the amp still sounds great. Presence and depth are on the subtle side, but very useful.
 

FunkyFreeman

Moo Panuwat
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
314
Location
Bangkok, Thailand
During honeymoon period of owning my v.1 Archon 50, I was exiting with it's spectacular lows-mids which sound huge than most high gain amps I've ever played with. But as time goes by, I began to reallize I couldn't live with such tone forever and this couldn't be my main amp so I'm selling it and currently use Mesa TC-50 instead.

Back to OP's question. I've tried the v.2 many times at my local dealer. To be frank, despite having some imperfections over its predecessor (workmanship, noise, etc.), the new one's tone is far better to my ears. I like how the new EQ has been shifted toward highs-mids while the signature airy characteristics still remains. Also the v.2 has some spanky clean which I like. Also the new one operates in low volume setting better.

If I had to choose between old and new, I'd go for the new one for sure. But like LShefman said, it's not about right or wrong, it's just about one's taste. If I had tons of cash I'd love to keep them all, but my budget allows for only one lol.

VE09zHj.jpeg
 
Last edited:

DreamTheaterRules

The guys in my car club call me The Cruiser
Joined
Nov 20, 2013
Messages
12,374
Location
Cincinnati area
Back to OP's question. I've tried the v.2 many times at my local dealer. To be frank, despite having some imperfections over its predecessor (workmanship, noise, etc.), the new one's tone is far better to my ears. I like how the new EQ has been shifted toward highs-mids while the signature airy characteristics still remains. Also the v.2 has some spanky clean which I like. Also the new one operates in low volume setting better.
Thank you, Frank. I wondered how much they had shifted the tone on the new ones. Now I'm interested...
 

DreamTheaterRules

The guys in my car club call me The Cruiser
Joined
Nov 20, 2013
Messages
12,374
Location
Cincinnati area
During honeymoon period of owning my v.1 Archon 50, I was exiting with it's spectacular lows-mids which sound huge than most high gain amps I've ever played with. But as time goes by, I began to reallize I couldn't live with such tone forever and this couldn't be my main amp so I'm selling it and currently use Mesa TC-50 instead.

Back to OP's question. I've tried the v.2 many times at my local dealer. To be frank, despite having some imperfections over its predecessor (workmanship, noise, etc.), the new one's tone is far better to my ears. I like how the new EQ has been shifted toward highs-mids while the signature airy characteristics still remains. Also the v.2 has some spanky clean which I like. Also the new one operates in low volume setting better.

If I had to choose between old and new, I'd go for the new one for sure. But like LShefman said, it's not about right or wrong, it's just about one's taste. If I had tons of cash I'd love to keep them all, but my budget allows for only one lol.

VE09zHj.jpeg
So, how do you compare the TC-50 to the Archon? After 10 years of trying Mesa's, I got off the amp merry go round a couple years after the TC came out. I was REALLY interested, but tired of buying one Mesa after another thinking it was going to be the amp I always wanted. In theory, the TC-50 had the potential to be that amp for me, but so did many of the others. I haven't forgotten it though, but never got to play one.
 
Top