Archive for the ‘rants’ Category


I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Fender over the years. When I’ve loved Fender, I’ve really loved them, and when I’ve hated them, I’ve really hated them. Right now, I’m really hating them. I’m just aghast at the prices they’re charging for their new gear! This Champ ’57 Reissue from the Fender Custom Shop lists at $1295 with a street price of $999! This for a 5 Watt amp with a diminutive 8″ speaker.

Make no mistake: The parts for this cost less than $400! This pricing is absolutely outrageous. Yeah, I’m familiar with its history, blah, blah, blah. And even though I’m no electronics dude, and couldn’t possibly construct an amp myself, I know a few manufacturers who build hand-wired amps with more power and GREAT sound for even less!

Take for instance, the Aracom VRX22. This is a hand-wired, 22 Watt amp that simply kicks freakin’ ass, and the head sells for $895! Then, there’s the upcoming release of the Reason Bambino. This is an 8 Watt amp that will sport that distinctive Reason sound. This head costs $699! It’s my next amp.

I’m sorry folks, this is the same issue that I had with the Fender Roadworn series of guitars. I’m not really in to reliced guitars, but there’s no way I could justify paying $999 for a freakin’ MIM guitar, especially when I paid less than $400 a couple of years back for my MIM Strat.

MAYBE Fender’s production costs are much higher than the smaller run manufacturers (not likely), which is how they justify the price-point for this amp. But this amp is nothing special from my point of view, and as I mentioned above, the parts for this cost less than $400. Lots of people have built 5F1-based amps. Look at the Valve Train Amps Concord. This is a 6 Watt point-to-point, hand-wired combo with a 10″ speaker. It sells for less than $500.

Go ahead, you can argue all you want about the classic sound and history of the Fender ’57 Champ reissue. But to me, Fender’s just again trying to trade on nostalgia. If that’s what floats your boat, more power to you – and mind you – I’m not questioning the quality or the tone of this classic. It has done much to contribute to the sounds of rock and roll. I just want to make it very clear that there are clear alternatives out there that may not have the name but undoubtedly have great tone, and watt-for-watt, and dollar-for-dollar have A LOT more value.

Note that I have the Champ 600 and it is one of my all-time favorite amps. But it has limited usability outside of my home studio. And that’s another thing that bugs me about the ’57 re-issue. It’s a hefty price to pay for an amp that would see limited if any use outside of my studio.

Like I said, if this floats your boat, and the price of this classic reissue, more power to you. For me, I demand a lot more value for the money I pay.

Recent Update

I’m still not sold on this amp, even though I have indeed played it, and it has some real vintage mojo. The sounds it produces are fantastic, but I still can’t justify buying it for the price Fender wants for it. Besides, I’ve seen some late-50’s originals that sell for the same price on EBay! I would buy one of those before I’d buy the re-issue.

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I can just imagine the heat from the flames I’d get on the forums if I said this, but this is something I just can’t hold back any longer after reading so many threads on the Ultimate Attenuator. I’ve spent a lot of time studying how different attenuators work, and I’ve come to the conclusion that despite its popularity, this is not an attenuator that I’d even consider getting, even if it’s at a reasonable price – which it isn’t. I have a lot of different reasons for not liking this attenuator, but the biggest issue to me is the fact that with the UA, the amp is no longer reacting with the speaker and vice-versa. The UA has a cheap, solid-state amplifier built into its circuitry to re-amplify the amp’s signal after it has passed through the 32 ohm fixed resistor. At that point, the speaker is interacting with the solid-state amp. How that can pass for transparency is beyond me.

Then there’s the fixed resistor. Don’t even think about running a 2 or 4 ohm output into that attenuator. You’re risking serious damage to your amp if you do that. The impedance mismatch there is so high, it has the potential to fry your power tubes or worse. As an add-on, you can get the 16/32 ohm switch, or get one of Ted Webber’s impedance matchers. But then you’ve already spent $750 – that’s just nuts!

I use the Dr. Z Airbrake which uses a rheostat type of resistor to provide variable attenuation. People have complained that at high attenuation levels it sucks tone. It does indeed, but for normal usage, just above loud conversation volume, it is very transparent, and I would daresay that it’s much more transparent than the UA because the amp and speaker are still reacting to each other as there is no “middle-man” solid-state re-amplifier.

I’m probably going to piss people off with this little rant, but so be it. I freely admit that I’m no electronics expert, but I do have the intelligence to understand a thing or two about amps, and a re-amplified attenuated signal – at least to me – isn’t going to be transparent.

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Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
If you’ve had your ear to the ground about the oncoming Fender price hike well, it’s real, and it’s here. I was in a shop today, and a brand new Fender Hot Rod Deluxe – the exact same amp I own that I got for $599, for a whopping $839, with a list of $1200! For cryin’ out loud! This amp is NOT a boutique amp. While a tube amp, it has a solid state well, everything. All the electronics are on PCB boards, and the damn thing’s not even assembled in the USA!

If I was looking for my first tube amp, at these prices, I’d ignore Fender, and get something like an Orange Tiny Terror, or an Aracom RoxBox. The Tiny Terror costs $550 new, and RoxBox head is $895. I’ve played both, and they both sound way better (at least to my ears) right out of the box than the Hot Rod, which I had to spend even more money on mods and better tubes than the stock GrooveTubes that come with it.

Make no bones about it: Fender amps at this level ain’t boutique, not in the slightest, but they’re approaching boutique amp prices. Well, I guess it’s the sign of the economic times.

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After a few years of listening to my boys blast their death metal, new punk and “alternative” rock, I’ve finally hit a breaking point. I just can’t stand that shit! Kudos to those artists who’ve been able to get recording contracts, but I’m sorry, it’s just not for me; especially that vomit screaming bullshit that somehow passes for singing. I first heard that type of voicing when I was riding in a friend’s car. He was always into pretty heavy stuff, but this was way over the top, all growl, no melody, filled with tons of low-end power chords. And now, that style of “singing” has moved into the more mainstream metal areas. I’m not sure I call it an evolution.

Call me old-fashioned or old-skool, but I need a much more melodic approach to music. Don’t get me wrong, I like metal, but I’ll qualify that with I like metal where the musicians have a very definite, discernible level of skill – especially in the guitar department. They don’t necessarily have to be fast, but they really have to feel what they’re playing. In a lot of the music I’ve heard my kids play, I can’t tell one guitarist from another – they all play the same fuckin’ licks! On the other hand, take a pretty high-powered, heavy, thrash metal band like Metallica, and just listen to Kirk Hammett play. The guy’s technique is incredible! Or let’s get even heavier with Pantera. Phil Anselmo may growl a lot, but there is a recognizable melody in what he sings. As far as guitar playing is concerned, does “Dimebag” Darrell ring a bell?

Perhaps I’d be a bit more tolerant of my kids’ music if I could detect a uniqueness in their bands’ musicality, but I can’t. As I said before, it’s as if they all play the same licks. But even though I admire these bands for getting recording contracts, it’s amazing that at least to the younger set, this shit passes for music. So maybe as a seasoned musician who can play more than power chords, plus a trained vocalist, I should learn how to vomit scream and play two chord songs. I just might get a recording contract – NOT!

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