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SamPlaysBass

Valve Amp - who’s still using them?

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A few years back I bought an Ashdown CTM 100 and paired it with an Ampeg 410HE and had a jolly good time. It sounded great, up to a point. I could drive it and get some amazing ‘Live at Leeds’ tones using cheap basses and it solved all of my tonal problems. Or at least it did, until I was playing more clean-toned funk and blues. I ended up swapping it on here after a sound engineer I have worked with for years said he couldn’t get a nice, clean DI signal for the biggest gig I had done up that point. It was a case of great package, but wrong application.

Having owned a valve amp once in my bass playing career, I had come to the conclusion that they were great, but not particularly practical for a bass player that needed to dabble in all styles. That, and it was a tad expensive to keep for one gig in 10. I’ve used various Class D amps since and I haven’t taken to any of them, except maybe a TC RH450 which is okay. This, along with the advancement of things like the Helix stomp, SansAmps/Behringers BDI etc made me think that there are better ways of achieving the sound and that was that. 
 

This week, I dropped my ‘77 Jazz bass to a local legend of a tech to be refretted and set up. He played it through a few valve amps he has on hand when giving it the once over. He was playing through a RD Amplification 100 watt valve head and 2x15 cab. It sounded unreal, with power and dynamics to dream for. I thought I had put the valve amp thing to bed, especially after I’d bought a less practical car and sold my big cabs. The mind wanders...

The tech also had an Orange AD200B up for sale for a good price, which had been tastefully modded by another renowned tech. Valves sound amazing, but is anyone out there still using them regularly? I’ve got a potential new gig lined up playing predominantly rock, and I’m half tempted to back down that route. What is putting me off is the initial cost of buying a valve amp and then a sound engineer turning up with an XLR, looking around the back of something like the Orange, seeing no DI and getting his little silver box out to take a line from the bass, thus defeating the object of spending a grand on an all valve bass amp. 
 

So, my question is, who is still using big old Valve amps? Has anyone swapped to something new and is totally happy with a new solution? Is it always a compromise? I’ve owned ~10 other amps and never really been pleased with any of them. 

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I had an Ashdown ABM600 and it was a good meeting in the middle of valve and Class D amps. 13kg, pre-amp valve, into Class A, 9 band eq, on board compression. It had that extra feel to the sound that just isn’t there on many of the Class D amps, and was portable enough to not make life difficult. Best amp I ever owned, and if I was still in a gigging band I wouldn’t have moved it on.

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I rarely get my SVT-CL out these days TBH, just too big and heavy, but I've never got a tone from my other gear like that thing does. If its a special event (eventually) it'll come out for that.

 

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SVT-II here, use it for all practice, rehearsals and gigs, even small ones. Tone to die for, will never need a gym membership, and my amp will never be stolen at a gig. What more do you need :)

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My Ampeg PF50T is proving really useful for the kind of gigs I do, and importantly when the sound guy appears with their XLR cable it has good DI outputs that do get some ampy character across. Stage volume is enough for  me with one or two reasonably efficient 12"s, and in a padded bag it's easy to move around. When I had a much larger and heavier old Carlsbro 100 watter with no DI outs, I ended up using my Gallien Krueger MB200 for a lot of gigs out of convenience, but the GK hasn't been out on a gig since I got the Ampeg.

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Beedster and Skidder - How do you guys send a signal out to the PA from your beastly amps? 

I now run two TC RS112 cabs, which are narrow and long. I'd be looking at a potential sideways mount if I pulled the trigger on a new valve amp! 

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I have the Ampeg 50-t too and previously owned a Fender Bassman 135 (1978 model!) I am hoping to get the Orange AD200B this year. I agree that there are alternatives that suit other styles of playing, but a bit like me playing vinyl records, I am attracted to the inconvenience and expense! :lol:

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13 minutes ago, SamPlaysBass said:

Beedster and Skidder - How do you guys send a signal out to the PA from your beastly amps? 

I now run two TC RS112 cabs, which are narrow and long. I'd be looking at a potential sideways mount if I pulled the trigger on a new valve amp! 

my ampeg has an XLR DI out which I use or my Dave Hall Preamp pedal has the same, so either get used

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10 minutes ago, Cat Burrito said:

I have the Ampeg 50-t too and previously owned a Fender Bassman 135 (1978 model!) I am hoping to get the Orange AD200B this year. I agree that there are alternatives that suit other styles of playing, but a bit like me playing vinyl records, I am attracted to the inconvenience and expense! :lol:

Yep, likewise, if I could find an amp heavier, less convenient and more expensive that the SVT-II, I'd be all over it :)

26 minutes ago, SamPlaysBass said:

Beedster and Skidder - How do you guys send a signal out to the PA from your beastly amps? 

I now run two TC RS112 cabs, which are narrow and long. I'd be looking at a potential sideways mount if I pulled the trigger on a new valve amp! 

I rarely play venues that require the bass through PA, at least not the SVT played through my Barefaced Super Twin, which does tend to fill the room nicely

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1 hour ago, SamPlaysBass said:

 

The tech also had an Orange AD200B up for sale for a good price, which had been tastefully modded by another renowned tech. Valves sound amazing, but is anyone out there still using them regularly? I’ve got a potential new gig lined up playing predominantly rock, and I’m half tempted to back down that route. What is putting me off is the initial cost of buying a valve amp and then a sound engineer turning up with an XLR, looking around the back of something like the Orange, seeing no DI and getting his little silver box out to take a line from the bass, thus defeating the object of spending a grand on an all valve bass amp. 
 

 

I have an AD200B. If you need to DI from it, you can connect one to the ‘slave output’ on the back. I use an Orchid Electronics DI and would highly recommend them. Once the signal arrives at the mixer, just use a bit of EQ as a pseudo cab-sim and then problem solved! 
 

The better solution would be using a cab microphone though. You’ll get the tone come through better than a DI. The two in combination would be even better.

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52 minutes ago, Bankai said:

I have an AD200B. If you need to DI from it, you can connect one to the ‘slave output’ on the back. I use an Orchid Electronics DI and would highly recommend them. Once the signal arrives at the mixer, just use a bit of EQ as a pseudo cab-sim and then problem solved! 
 

The better solution would be using a cab microphone though. You’ll get the tone come through better than a DI. The two in combination would be even better.

I'd read a lot about the slave being used to send a signal to the desk, but I was skeptical. The Orchid Electronics DI is a great idea! First time I've come across them, but they look up to job. Is yours like this one? 

 

https://www.ebay.co.uk/i/332667391957?chn=ps&norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=710-134428-41853-0&mkcid=2&itemid=332667391957&targetid=938697916046&device=c&mktype=pla&googleloc=9045368&poi=&campaignid=10204071033&mkgroupid=100040608497&rlsatarget=pla-938697916046&abcId=1145987&merchantid=110659161&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_tyk1si76wIVzuvtCh0nrQI-EAQYASABEgJ36fD_BwE

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Posted (edited)

 Yep i'm using a valve amp, my SVT-CL.

 

I've been through a few solid states and never quite got the sound i was after until i got this. If i play a gig where it needs to be put through the PA I have a little word with the sound man and ask to be mic'd if possible. most of them are happy to oblige especially seeing as i bring my own microphone and use one of the ampclamp mic stands so they don't have to worry about finding a stand or a microphone. 

 

I downsized the cab from a Six10 barefaced to a Two10 just to make it slightly easier on load in. Some days i still hate the thought of lugging it every where but i can't beat the sound.

 

111.thumb.png.334d8742e147ef0942c571c4a215457c.png

 

Edited by simon88wilson
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Posted (edited)
49 minutes ago, SamPlaysBass said:

That’s the one. I didn’t realise they sold via eBay too. They’re a very small company with no social media presence so when I’ve ordered in the past I’ve had to ring them. They’re based down near Exeter.

Check the SoundOnSound review:

Sound-On-Sound_Orchid_DI_Boxes_review.PD

I have one of the micros and one of the classics. I would suggest maybe considering getting the classic rather than the micro, so that you can use it in other setups too, i.e bass straight in prior to amp, if that need comes about.

 

As for the slave output on the AD200B, it’s just a simple unbalanced output ‘from the core’ so whack a good DI on it and you’ll probably get a better DI signal than you would from the built in ‘standard quality’ DIs on a lot of solid state amps.

Edited by Bankai
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2 hours ago, skidder652003 said:

I rarely get my SVT-CL out these days TBH, just too big and heavy, but I've never got a tone from my other gear like that thing does. If its a special event (eventually) it'll come out for that.

 

Yep. Same here. Nothing else comes remotely close. It's not a sound, it's an experience. 

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Just now, stewblack said:

Yep. Same here. Nothing else comes remotely close. It's not a sound, it's an experience. 

Well, I mean there is another option.. ;)

(photo from a recording session last week)

38B408AB-CCC7-4289-BEB2-2B7EE073862C.jpeg

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8 minutes ago, Bankai said:

Well, I mean there is another option.. ;)

(photo from a recording session last week)

38B408AB-CCC7-4289-BEB2-2B7EE073862C.jpeg

I only ever mean in my experience when I post. I can't compare with this as I've not used one. Is it really enormous or is the speaker up the wrong way? 🤔 

 

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17 minutes ago, stewblack said:

I only ever mean in my experience when I post. I can't compare with this as I've not used one. 

SVT-II is the king of Ampeg tube amps. Simples. Hard to say why in technical terms, but in acoustic terms it's just that little bit more visceral (IMO of course)

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I have a Trace Elliot V6. I gig it now and again. It sounds huge. It lacks the EQ flexibility of something like an SVT II or Mesa 400+. Don't get me wrong the tone is amazing, however the interactive bass, middle and treble controls are a bit fiddly, particularly when you are using a high output active bass. Stick a passive Fender in it though and you are all set though. The costs of re-valving it are also astronomical. It is also a very clean sounding amp with loads of headroom, so to get any kind of valve grit you have to run it at volume levels which are  likely to make you physically ill. Accordingly I have never made it my 'workhorse' amp for rehearsals or gigging purposes. 

My Mesa Walkabout has been my workhorse amp in that regard and it is less than half the size, a quarter of the weight and still delivers an amazing tone. 

I nearly bought a Mesa 400+ last year but ended up buying a Big Block 750 instead. I don't regret it but ideally I would have had both!

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There's nothing quite like an SVT II, I had one which screwed into an Ampeg 215 isobaric cab, making an earth shaking combo that was a challenging two man lift.

These days I use a Sadowsky SA200 or a Handbox R400 through a Barefaced supertwin, much more user friendly.

I have tried Eden wt 400, 550, TC RH450 and Markbass heads, which were all very nice, but didn't quite hit the spot for me.

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I have an Ashdown ctm300.

Bought at the start of lockdown. Never used in a band setting yet.

I have the opportunity to introduce it into a new band, but I'm in 2 minds.

Having never played it in anger, I wont miss it if I dont, but will wonder what it would have sounded like.

My current aim is to use the abm600 due to weight, load ins, etc.

But, I'm still undecided.

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3 hours ago, simon88wilson said:

 Yep i'm using a valve amp, my SVT-CL.

 

I've been through a few solid states and never quite got the sound i was after until i got this. If i play a gig where it needs to be put through the PA I have a little word with the sound man and ask to be mic'd if possible. most of them are happy to oblige especially seeing as i bring my own microphone and use one of the ampclamp mic stands so they don't have to worry about finding a stand or a microphone. 

 

I downsized the cab from a Six10 barefaced to a Two10 just to make it slightly easier on load in. Some days i still hate the thought of lugging it every where but i can't beat the sound.

 

111.thumb.png.334d8742e147ef0942c571c4a215457c.png

 

What mic set up do you use for PA/FOH purpose? I like that idea, give the sound guy a solution before it becomes a problem. A mic and a DI as suggested by @Bankai have will have everything covered. 

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When/if I get back to gigging, my Weber Mywatt 200 is getting some outings. Fired it up a while back after an extended period of using class d amps, and it sounded beautiful. If Covid has taught me anything, it's make the most of the stuff you've got and don't be too lazy to lug it around.

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3 hours ago, SamPlaysBass said:

What mic set up do you use for PA/FOH purpose? I like that idea, give the sound guy a solution before it becomes a problem. A mic and a DI as suggested by @Bankai have will have everything covered. 

I’m using an Audix D4. I did a bit of research and that was what worked/sounded best for me. It’s handy especially as the amp clamp just slots onto the cab at the same place everytime so it’s always in the right spot. 

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I don't gig with them but have a Trace Hexavalve and a couple of 130w Burman Pro4000HD heads.  I did a gig once with one of the Burmans and I didn't need to put the car heater on during the drive home.  That sucker was still glowing.  Haven't gigged with the hexavalve yet but it's probably going to replace my Shuttles once I get the last piece of the signal chain in place.

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