Generalized relationship between high-gain amps (which are similar vs. quite different)?

JediMasterThrash

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I've seen a couple of these posted by people occasionally, trying to make a "Family tree" of high-gain guitar amps. I'm wondering if there's any golden source or best-tree somewhere?

The main reason I'm curious is that I'd like to own 2 or 3 preamps, but I'd like them to be "different", at least noticeably so, so it's worth switching between them for different tones, and for fun musical exploring. So I'd rather have a couple from different branches of the gain-structure-evolution-tree vs. all on the same branch.

I love Engl right now, but occasionally salivate over a SLO, Revv, Bogner Ectasy. But even within an amp line, their array of products might be completely differently designed. But if you could basically make two amps sound the same just with an OD pedal up front they're basically the same.

In the realm of $2k-$5k amps. I found there's a lot of options, which is surprising since you usually only hear about the same few amps all the time. I'm surprised the other boutique $4k amps can gain any market share against the big names unless a popular artists plays it.

Some other high-gain amps I knew about, Revv friedman, diezel, orange, victory, randall, bugera, Fryette, carvin, marshall
Some other expensive high-gain amps I just found out about, Mezzabarba, Archon, RIvera, Wizard, KSR, Omega,

Which ones are really "different" from each other? In a good way. 80's metal, prog-metal vibe.
 

youngthrasher9

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if you really want different, get 3 very different cabs.
This.

Also, IME, switching between different voiced high gain amps changes the feel/response a lot more than it changes the actual end tone. ESPECIALLY when using the same cab.
 

youngthrasher9

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As far as actual lineage, most things boil down to fender bassman > everything else. (According to most of the amp builders / modders I’ve spoken with)

And the everything else after the bassman is highly speculative.
 

JediMasterThrash

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True on the cab, but in the end the cab is mainly a post-EQ on your existing preamp output (And some transient response). It can dramatically change the tone and color, but it can't change the characteristic of how it got compressed/saturated.

Same with a front-end pedal, mostly indistinguishable from a pre-EQ and a clean-boost, unless you add some slight clipping.

How the amp clips and EQs between each internal gain stage though to generate harmonics and sustain though can't be duplicated with pre-post EQ. Even vs. odd harmonics, low-pass vs. high pass between gain stages, other EQ between gain stages, soft vs. hard clipping, relative saturation at each gain stage, etc.

This will affect the character of harmonics, how tight it feels, now noisey it is, sustain. I'm thinking terms like liquid, crunch, saturation, chainsaw, buttery for a preamp. Terms like thump, punch, cut, clarity a bit more of a cabinet thing.
 

bostjan

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I'm not aware of any sort of condensed version of what you are asking. Frankly, there are a shit-ton of different amps out there, so it'd be a bit daunting. If you are just fixated on the super-high gain ones, they're all pretty much in two categories: American or British.

The "American" amps are all based off of the Mesa/Boogie in some way, and the "British" amps are all more or less based off of the JCM800.

For example, Diezel Herbert is based off of a Dual Recto, and a Mesa Dual Recto is based off of the SLO100, which is based off of the Mesa/Boogie (Mark I).
 

tedtan

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As far as actual lineage, most things boil down to fender bassman > everything else. (According to most of the amp builders / modders I’ve spoken with)

And the everything else after the bassman is highly speculative.
And even Fender’s amp designs are only slight variation on the amp designs RCA published in the Receiving Tube Manual.
 

JediMasterThrash

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And by "Cab" I meant "Speaker". I don't think the cab itself has that much influence in comparison, at least once there's enough space for resonance.
 

BurningRome

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I had a Zwengel Banshee 2 which was really cool but I think was basically a hot rodded Fender, it def did high gain modern metal but like others are saying everything is based on Mesa or Marshall for high gain. To me, I usually can't tell on a recording what's what except for like Dual Rectifiers for some reason stand out.
 

MaxOfMetal

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It's important to understand that small changes can make huge differences in sound. Things as simple as slightly different values and even brands of the "same" component.

So unless you have a very good understanding of how this all works, a nifty graphic probably isn't going to be as helpful in parsing what real differences the amps have.
 

4Eyes

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very simplified history - it all started with mods of Fender amps. Princeton merged with Bassman eventually became what we know as Mesa Mark I, which evolved into Mark V. there were some amps that used Mark series as a baseline replacing it's pre-EQ with fixed values and replacing post- GEQ with traditional controls (Nomad series from Mesa) or replacing pre-EQ with some simplified controls and GEQ with traditional controls (Fortin Satan for example). Modded Bassman became something what we know as Plexi, or it's predecessor. Mods of Plexi opened whole range of modern higain amps starting with JCM series, going through adding diode cliping stages (known as Jose mod) which is now very popular in Friendmans, Fortins and whole other range of builders who do their own take on hot rodded Marshalls. Adding another tube gain stages to Plexi circuit or whatever it was leads us to Soldano SLO circuit which is baseline for Recto, 5150 and any other post 90's brutal sounding hi gain amps.

pick your favourite brand/amp and it's for sure variation of circuits mentioned above, unless it's some ridiculous design as Fucking Fucker from Metasonix. there may be tweaks here and there, different caps, resistors values, different tubes, different FX loop design, some may have different approach to feedback from power amp, but basic preamp circuit topology is the same. But they'll sound different because of how their gain stages are filtered, how EQ is tweaked, different OTs etc etc.. even two same amps can sound different, because in the old era, builders didn't give a f...about component values and they'd threw in whatever was available and on hand. These days it's more about slight component value variatons.

as @budda said - different cabs/speakers will make bigger difference, than different amps through the same cab. If you want to cover different grounds - pick multichannel amp and some boost/OD, there are only three basic amp sounds - clean, crunch, lead. learn to use different pickups, volume pot and you have to be able to get all the sounds you might think of with three basic amp sounds, OD in front and volume pot on your guitar
 
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JediMasterThrash

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That's what I currently do with my engl e530. I have 4 basic tones, clean, clean+hi gain switch + overdrive, lead + lo-gain switch (aka crunch) + less overdrive, and lead+hi gain switch + minor overdrive.

Always trying to hit that cliffs of dover tone in those mid-two tones. I got it pretty nailed but only with my PAF Pro guitar. The pickup really makes a difference in those mid-gain tones.
Also getting that clean sustain sound for extended range double-hand tapping with the clean+overdrive
And vinnie moore maze tone off the crunch.
I can get good 80's maiden with the high-gain lead with the gain about noon (more of the JCM800 sound), while cranking to 3 o'clock is more 80's metallica.

So it is pretty versatile. But I've got so much EQ stacking to try to get upper mids cut while eliminating the high-end fizz and chainsaws. I wonder if another style of amp would sound as good without needing so much EQ. I have to cut highs on the overdrive, then boost highs on the amp to get the cut, and then three EQ layers to try to reduce the 8k-16k hiss. Also having to cut the sub-100hz thump, and then boost the 150-250 to get the chug back.

I'm one of those guys that spends more time tone tweaking than playing lol.

Stil I much prefer an amp now to an amp sim. When I used to use the sim/modellers, the amount of tweaking was just way too much, i never played anymore.

I run CL80's for a more relatively flat curve, so I can just use an EQ to shape the tone.
 

4Eyes

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That's what I currently do with my engl e530. I have 4 basic tones, clean, clean+hi gain switch + overdrive, lead + lo-gain switch (aka crunch) + less overdrive, and lead+hi gain switch + minor overdrive.

.....

I run CL80's for a more relatively flat curve, so I can just use an EQ to shape the tone.
do you run it through any poweramp or at least power amp sim? that will have a great impact on the tone, especially with engl preamps (I had e530, too). I'd also try different speaker(s) rather then tweaking EQ, try different IRs to give you some sort of idea. ..but that's bit off topic
 

Emperoff

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When dialing Engls, crank the treble and dip the presence (hi-mid/treble in your case). And I'm not talking about 4 and 6 on the dials, I'm talking about 10 and 0 and adjusting from there (1st row is crunch channel, 2nd row is lead channel).

20220519-224157.jpg
 
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JediMasterThrash

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i have a solid state mosvalve for a "Flat" response poweramp. The combination does a great job of generating the same tone at lower and higher volumes so I don't always have to worry about needing to crank to get the right tone out.

Yeah, every few months I switch whether I'm upping the hi-mids and downing the treble, or reverse. They really interact with each other. I found you need the hi-mids up to "Cut", but I needed some treble on somewhat to get the hair metal brightness, but then I have the post EQ's with -24db at 16k and presence on my power-amp at like 2 (all numbers out of 10, not clocks). I was trying to record youth-gone-wild for a friend and couldn't get any of that tone with the treble down.

That contour switch really does a good job of removing the highs. But somehow it removes the thick distortion, it almost sounds too clean. Great for some smooth lead tones, but doesn't work with rhythms.

The bass knob neve rmakes things muddy either, it's more like the low-mids. The amp is real tight and middy too, i Use a OD but actually add bass and don't boost the mids as much and cut highs with it.
 

Shask

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Yeah, as it has been mentioned, old Fenders were pretty much tweaked and modded into Mesa Mark Models and Dumble type amps on one branch, and then tweaked into Plexis, JCM800s, which were tweaked into SLOs, 5150s, Dual Rectos, Orange, Laney, etc.... on another branch.

Most modern metal amps are based on 5150s or Dual Rectos in some way, which came from the JCM800, which came from the Plexi, which came from the Fender Bassman, etc....

There are a few 'other' branches out there also like Vox AC30, and HiWatt, which got tweaked into VHT/Freyette.
 


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