By coincidence, I played through my HXDA for quite some time today, so your update constitutes perfect timing!It’s been over two years since I started this thread, coinciding with my discovery of the HX/DA. I thought I should chime back in and update my impressions and experiences with this amplifier.
First, I’ll cut to the chase and say I still love the HX/DA. Not like it… love it. I don’t know that I can say it’s the best amp I’ve ever owned, because that answer would have to be qualified with “best for what?” If I’m playing a covers gig with a lot of focus on “match the record,” I’ll likely use the Axe Fx or Mesa Road King II combo. But for anything where I’m freer to create or just use a more cohesive range of tones, and especially when those tones are classic “Plexi“ in nature, the HXDA is the weapon of choice. The best amp of its kind. It’s always the first amp I grab at home for vacuum tube-fired fun, and a great grab-and-go companion for jams that has not disappointed, ever. That the other players I jam with express a preference for the HX/DA is testimony to the quality of sounds. It makes the band sound better. How cool is that?
While the HX/DA sounds nice plugged into anything, I love it with Greenbacks. It just sounds natural there. But even connected to an Ox Box and running through IRs, it still punches through with that quality tone. Flexibility, because of the switches and interaction between the HX and DA controls, is much better than on a classic Marshall head.
As mentioned earlier in this thread, I had a chance to trade for a special paisley-covered head, also a 50 watter, and jumped on it. I still have both. That is new for me. I regularly get matching model guitars for gigging, as I always have a backup (or just a switch between) guitar at paying gigs. But I’ve never had two electronically identical amps before. While I consider any PRS CAD amp build to be eminently reliable, as much as any amp can be made to be, I simply thought having more than one HXDA was worth it! That alone was a ringing endorsement, and is particular to this amp only in my guitarsenal.
I’d still like to find a clean 2x12 or 4x12 paisley cab for the HX/DA #2, although it sounds pretty killer with the Marshall 1960A I rebuilt with Celestion GBs for it. Finding mint paisley cabs that you don’t need access to the US Mint to buy is a challenge, but I’m in no rush. I have plenty of cabs to alternate in and out. It’ll happen one of these days.
Summing up where I started: the HX/DA is a true keeper. I mean “like a favorite guitar” kind of keeper. Familiar, friendly, welcoming, empowering. It is a stellar example of amplifier craftsmanship that sounds as good as it looks inside and out. In my guitaring history, many amps and guitars have come and gone without fanfare. A few made an impression and are clearly different from the average great guitar or amp. They are the ones you keep, or the ones you regret having sold. I’m trying to avoid regrets these days, so like I said, the HX/DAs are keepers.
Then again, your posts almost always have perfect timing, since I tend to agree with you on so many things tone-related - what's better on a forum than 100% agreement?
Next year will be Year Nine for my HXDA. I use it with the Stealth Big Mouth Cab that came with V-30s, and it's great, though I will also agree that this type of amp sounds WONDERFUL with a set of vintage style Greenbacks. I've done the vintage cab thing, at a studio I use from time to time, and you betcha, late '60s/early '70s Marshall 4x12s are awfully hard to beat with a Plexi-style amp.
8 3/4 years, and the amp is still my #1? The only other amps I've had that merited #1 status for that long were a first-year '90-something Mesa Tremoverb, and a 1967-8 Black Panel Bassman head (bought new, yes I'm vintage, get over the age thing, I still make my living in music).
One thing I'll point out to others playing through an HXDA (you no doubt know this from experience, Mr. Rick): The amp truly comes into its own with the Master Volume set in the high range. Seems like "uh-oh, that'd be too loud," but the fact is that it's not crazy loud that way unless you crank the preamp gain. The advantage is that the tonal balance, and the warmth, comes when the power tubes are involved at more than "bedroom" levels. You don't have to crank the power tubes, but you do need to hear their effect on the tone, and yeah, that's why you bought an EL34 amp, right??.
Folks here know how I feel about this non-issue:
Except for teeny-tiny practice amps, guitar amplifiers do not belong in bedrooms, or turned up in houses with sleeping babies, cranky spouses watching TV, etc. There are any number of devices on the market that let you use your amp with a pair of headphones for those purposes, and most sound at least decent.
For this limited lowest-volume purpose, I use an older Mesa Cab Clone. It's fine for that. The UA Ox Box is better, and so are the Suhr Reactive Load and the more recent Mesa Reactive Load offerings, as well as several other excellent volume-reducing choices.
To those who say you can't hear hand-wiring, or you can't tell the difference between a model and a tube amp the model is based on, I have one reply:
Get over your bad selves.