New head amp help

Discussion in 'Amplifiers' started by DougUSMC, Aug 19, 2019.

  1. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    Ok, I'll admit it: After all of the back and forth at the beginning of the summer I completely punted on the combo amp I was researching. Truth be told, I've been a "head + cab" guy for the last bunch of years, and was talking myself into a combo. I finally accepted over the weekend that my challenge wasn't that I wanted something more transportable (as I was telling myself), but that I was no longer happy with what I could do with my current heads. For a long time I told myself I didn't need "crazy expensive amps" to get what I was looking for out of my playing, but I've finally accepted that there's another truth I've been avoiding:
    I'm artifically limiting myself by keeping my max price in the "Don't need to spend $1, 2, 3k on a head". I'm playing a Core PRS as my primary, and have a PS on order. It's time to accept that I have to reevaluate that upper limit on the head.

    That being said, I love me some PRS, and have decided that's my first look. I know there are many nice builders out there, but I've done some homework, and I'm asking for advice on the following:

    - I'd narrowed it down to a Custom 30 on the combo side, so it makes sense to look for a Custom 25/50 head.
    - I've never gotten the Dallas 50 I played through out of my mind, it's always been what I measure all others to, mentally
    - The Archon is the only current production on the list. It's currently running third on my list tho.

    I know what I'm looking for out of the amp, but don't want to color others' responses. We all know our baby is the most beautiful, so I don't want to say "I want vintage" or "I want clean", only to hear the unconscious bias of everyone telling me their favorite does that best! What I'm hoping for is "I have a Dallas, and it's great at XX and not quite my favorite at YY"

    That being said, Oh Great and Knowledgeable PRSers, please shine down upon me with thine knowledge!
     
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  2. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Man, if you've got the Dallas all up in your craw, I'd go that route. Boogie swears by his. For me, the Archon is perfect. Outstanding cleans, and gain for days. Plus, you can dial it in for that Classic Rock sound..
     
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  3. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    I know, right?? The only real beef I have w/the Dallas is that they're just SOOOO hard to find. I think everyone agrees w/Boogie, and never lets them go!?!?
     
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  4. veinbuster

    veinbuster Freeze zone

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    For good reasons.
    Keep in mind, Boogie doesn’t have just any old Dallas.
    Custom 50 is a solid amp. It’s been long enough since I played one that I can’t really articulate how it differs from the Dallas.
    I pretty much feel that anything in that custom amp era is worth a close look. I tried most of them, and could have been happy with any of them. I ended up with the MDT.
     
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  5. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    What does that mean, that Boogie has a Super Dallas? I read a couple of things about them, but can't really tell what the deal is?

    I wish I really could look closely, but most of the "really cool PRS" have been discontinued for years now. Not that I'm disparaging the DG, Archon, and Sonzera, but 2/3 that I want to check out aren't in production any more... :(
     
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  6. veinbuster

    veinbuster Freeze zone

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    @Boogie or @crgtr are the best ones to give you the details. If I recall crgtr was the original owner and took it to Doug Sewell to tweak a bit. It may have originally had some upgrades prior to crgtr buying it - I no longer remember if it was Super leaving the factory prior to Chris bringing it back to Doug.
    Regardless, it has Dallas DNA. I think the DG are evolved from the Dallas.
     
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  7. andy474x

    andy474x Knows the Drill

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    I have a Custom 50, it’s a great amp in terms of reliability and quality. The tone, I would say, is very good for anything on the clean channel (including playing nice with lots of drive pedals), the lead channel has more of a specific flavor. Abundant bass and low mids, and the top end is smooth... I wouldn’t call it dull, but on the slightly darker side, doesn’t have the bite of a plexi, 5150, etc. The gain structure is also more vintage, it can get very crunchy but at the same time not extremely saturated, you’re not going to crank the gain and just start popping out pinch harmonics all day unless you slam the front end with a boost pedal. So if the Custom 50 would work for you, I would say it’s application dependent - if you’re playing a style where the band will hush a little and give you some sonic room to speak, and you want a nice fat tone that’s not too aggressive, that’s where it’ll shine. If you’ve got a crowded rock mix, and your drummer is really smashing snare and cymbals, you’ll need more top end to compete, so either make the lead channel much more lean with something like a tubescreamer, or pedals into the clean channel. But, really, in that case the Archon might be a better choice.
     
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  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    It’s smart to look into the better grades of amps, since you have nice guitars, and the amp is (to me) more than half of the tone equation. On a personal level, I’d rather have one great amp than a dozen mediocre ones, but I feel that way about guitars as well, so I’m something of a confirmed junkie.

    My preference is also for single channel, vintage style amps, for their controllability from the guitar’s volume and tone controls. I also think they have the most interesting tone in the range of that transition between clean tones and the edge of distortion.

    My two PRS examples are the HXDA, an amp that combines the tone of two classic Marshall Plexis, and the DG30, the amp that was made for David Grissom.

    The HXDA began as a direct clone of Duane Allman’s amp that was actually used in the recording of the Allman Brothers’ ‘Live at the Fillmore’. Because the Allmans used PRS amps, the actual amp was provided to PRS. Turn it on, and with the switches set to “DA”, it’s THAT amp. But they also got one of Eric Johnson’s vintage Hendrix type Plexis, found that only a few parts were different, and added them, so you can progressively switch the various amp stages to Eric Johnson’s Superlead.

    If you like those tones, you’re 100% in business with the HXDA. It’s a very easy amp to play through, by the way.

    A clip is worth a million words of description, so...

    Here’s how it sounds the way I set it up (I wrote this little piece to demo the way the amp behaves without any dirt pedals, going from semi clean to semi grit; the guitar was a PS with Paul’s Guitar pickups. I’ve posted this a few times before. Both the clean bit and the dirtier part were 100% controlled from the guitar’s volume. There were no changes at all to the amp’s controls. The speaker cabinet was PRS’ closed-back Big Mouth 212 with V-30s:

    https://soundcloud.com/lschefman/ps-20-hxda

    The DG30 is a different thing; it’s more of a blend of the vintage amp tones that Grissom has in his amp collection. So there’s a bit of Tweed, maybe even some AC30 but with more bass, and a few other types. The DG30 is set up a bit differently than most master volume amps, because the Master Volume affects the tone. So you have to abandon the typical preamp-oriented way to dial in a tone, and have the controls interact.


    Here’s how I set mine up; the lead in the first half of the clip is the 594 Soapbar, and in the second half, the 594 humbucker guitar. I did use a slight boost to color the sound a bit, because one of the things Grissom wanted was a good pedal platform, but 99% of the grit comes from the amp itself, the pedal was set up as a clean boost, and the controls on the boost and the amp were not touched to get the sounds, they’re controlled only from the guitar volume. The speaker cabinet was the matching Grissom ported 212 with V-30s.

    https://soundcloud.com/lschefman/messy-2-guitars-mstr

    I’ve never been able to get these kinds of transition sounds with a two channel amp, so 3 of my 4 amps are single channel models.

    Both of my amps are 30 Watt models. They don’t need to be loud to sound good, but man, when the master is turned up they are glorious! These clips were recorded at a very reasonable volume, however, and they’re pretty much the types of tones you can expect at home (I recorded these in my condo).

    EDIT: I forgot to mention that one of the guys I use for session work came over and said of the HXDA (he didn’t play through the DG30), “Amazing amp. You can actually hear the guitar clearly even with the gain up.”
     
    #8 LSchefman, Aug 20, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
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  9. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    Thanks for all of the input everyone!! SO much more than I expected, and probably more than I deserved!

    TBH, I went the emotional route:
    The Dallas is the one I've wanted forever, and then the changes to the PS website "reminded me" that PRSh is playing that Dallas head in his test room.

    DECISION = Made

    I just paid for the one I found on Reverb, hopefully it shows up soon.
     
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  10. Boogie

    Boogie SuperD

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    Actually, my Super Dallas was a custom build by a touring artist in Texas that had it built as a backup to his primary SuperD. Since the backup was never needed or used, he moved it and I happened to be in the right place at the right time! Yes, he toured internationally with a single PRS amp! I had it out to see Doug for some tweaks many years ago so it has some features that aren’t found in other Super Dallas models. It is unique to the Super Dallas as is the Super Dallas to the standard Dallas.

    A Dallas is a 50w, 6L6-based amp based on Doug’s loose interpretation of several F amps. The Super Dallas is a 50w EL34-based variant that has a preamp with a nod to Super Reverb and HiWatt with the HXDA power stage. Very different amps. Both take pedals spectacularly and are built like tanks.

    CRGTR’s Dallas from Hell was a standard Dallas combo with oodles of mods by Doug. I know of 2 trips back to Log Canoe Drive and there might have been 3. Maybe CR will see this and talk about the history. I did get to play it before I got my SuperD and can confirm that it was loud as hell! Great great amp in all ways, but it was never mine.

    The original Custom Amp Designs (CAD) amps were all very special. Many were all hand-built and some were point-to-point wired, and all were meticulously tweaked to perfection. I be been fortunate enough to play numerous CAD models and I was blown away by every one. 3D, harmonics, and dynamics befitting the best of the best amps. If you every have the opportunity to experience them, do it! And matched with PRS cabs, they deliver everything you’ve ever heard in the factory demos.

    After watching this demo in person and talking with DG later that weekend, I went after the Super Dallas...
     
    #10 Boogie, Aug 22, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
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  11. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    This here is exactly what I'm talking about. I wish I'd had invested when they were still available, b/c I think I missed an era of awesomeness there. That's a lot of the reason I settled on the Dallas: I know they're only getting harder and harder to find, and I haven't QUITE convinced the wife that checking out the J-Mod is "necessary" yet, but as soon as I can justify the need for 100w... :D
     
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  12. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    The great thing about a 100 Watt amp isn’t necessarily volume, it’s how nice and tight the low notes are. Amps lose bottom end clarity quickly when they run out of gas.

    The Dallas is an awesome amp, though; it’s a lifetime keeper. It’ll spoil you!

    Edit: One recommendation re: these wonderful CAD amps; tubes matter, and the nicer the amp, the more they matter. 90% of perceived amp issues are tube-related. The CAD amps are dead quiet. If there’s noise, it’s likely to be a bad or crummy tube. NOS will be a great choice, esp. for V1 in the preamp, but good output tubes also make a difference. Also, it takes only a few seconds to check the bias with a multimeter thanks to PRS’ bias jacks on the back panel. It’s worth doing.
     
    #12 LSchefman, Aug 23, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
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  13. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    I dig it. I just know I'll never use the 50, the last thing I want is a 100 that I can't hit the sweet spot on, w/o bringing other things into the signal chain.

    I am excited about the Dallas, as well as playing w/the tubes. I'm betting that ~ 10 y/o it's time to check them out and potentially replace. Any idea which sites are best for NOS tubes? I've never shopped for replacements before, and don't see anything on West St East. Is Sweetwater a reasonable option, or are there specialty shops? I'm about to queue up some YouTube vids on how to properly read my multimeter for this...

    As always, your input is much appreciated. I don't remember from the PRS 5 thread, can I hope for the chance to meet & shake your hand there?
     
  14. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    I've had good luck with tubes from here. Old school website, but tons of good info, and old glass.

    http://www.audiotubes.com
     
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  15. DougUSMC

    DougUSMC Perpetual Practicer

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    Awesome, that's what I'm talking about, thanks! I *knew* the Sweetwater list was too simple to be right. :D

    Now I just have to wait to crack open the Dallas, to see what brands/builds were included in the original build.
     
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  16. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    My pleasure!
     
  17. Boogie

    Boogie SuperD

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    Doug and company are famous for their tube cocktails! The only tube I changed was V1 to a NOS Mullard 12ax7. The others were all over the map...a Tube Amp Doctor (TAD) high grade, JAN Phillips, and a Tung Sol. Original EL34s were =C=!!
     
    #17 Boogie, Aug 24, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
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  18. watelessness

    watelessness New Member

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    I've never played the Custom but i have a Dallas and two Archons, a 100 and a 25.

    I love the Dallas for cleans, especially clean humbuckers. I find it monsterous for this purpose, especially when it is paired with a warm cabinet. It is quite serviceable for single-coil sounds but i prefer the Columbia Reverb for that specific purpose. I am not much of a pedal guy but I will occasionally throw a Fulltone 2 in front of it for some Grit.

    As far as the Archons go, the 100 has so much beef and umph to it, even at low volumes and in the 50-watt setting. Depending on where I set the gain and master, I can cover a wide range of crunch to unbridled power. It cleans up quite effectively but I have not found it to be my favorite clean amp, most likely because of where I have the presence, but for live gigs it is totally solid.

    The Archon 25 a solid amp with respect to clean and dirt, but it has different tubes than the 100, and I cannot seem to get the right amount of gain without sacrificing too much of the Headroom. I use it for small rooms or when we are the opening act and I don't have the luxury of bringing all my gear. Perhaps a different speaker would be in order but i'm too lazy to open that rabbit hole.

    I find the MT-15 to be nonstop power with little headroom and an OK clean channel. Not a bad amp but too much constant power for the classic rock that i mostly play.

    I also have an HXDA and it is everything that everyone says it is. I am astounded every time I plug it in because it has so much versatility in it. I do not find that it cleans up well though, by design.

    As much as Les has been trying, he has failed to convince me that I also need a DG30.

    I hope this helps!
     
  19. Boogie

    Boogie SuperD

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    This is why I adore the Super Dallas. It’s specifically a blend of the two above amps. At the same time, it’s a compromise of the two amps, which suits me just fine. But having tried for years, trying to shoehorn it into very small stages/venues does not do it justice, which is why the Kemper came to be in my set of rigs. But when you can open it up, let it breathe, and strut its stuff, man, it is very cool.
     
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  20. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    What, me proselytize PRS amp models? ;)

    Seriously, you already have some great amps - you’re in mighty good shape!
     
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