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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Amp Day

Current mood: enthralled

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So on Friday, I finally got my first real piece of equipment: an amp that can make nice sounds.

I should mention that I'm currently using a Squier Strat, although looking to upgrade soon. The pickups suck, but it's honestly a pretty good guitar. I used to play it unamplified (bedroom practice ftw) even when playing metal which is mainly what I play, because it actually sounded nice. I don't know if I really like the 9.5" radius neck or if I'm just used to it, but when I went to the music store and tried out more metal guitars (14-16") I got owned. Seriously, I had a hard time playing basic scales. I tried a Jackson RR3 (which, other than the shape and the neck I'm not used to), was awesome - amazing sound. I also tried an ESP M-53 and an Ibanez S520EX (hard to follow at first without inlays on the fretboard).

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that I was using a Fender Frontman 15G which came with my guitar. I remember when I first got my starter pack I loved that amp, and the clean is pretty nice. But the distortion was EXTREMELY muddy, and the EQ wasn't too good either. No effects at all. As I mentioned, I used to mainly play unamplified when practicing because it was more convenient and honestly sounded better.

So I went to the local store specifically to try out the Roland Cube 30X. I don't need 60 watts, and I like the idea of an onboard tuner and the Power Squeezer. I was also considering trying out the Vypyr 30, but after playing the Cube I didn't even bother (probably sloppy consumering on my part, but whatever).

I remember the first song I played completely there with the Cube. It was The Trooper by Iron Maiden (although I butchered the intro because of the neck). All I remember of the solo is that the trebly parts sounded awesome. Thank you Jackson, thank you Seymour Duncan, thank you Roland.

The rest is history. I got the amp and of course played for a couple hours at home (on my guitar, without screwing up songs I usually play). I'll put up a full review of it on this site once I get a new guitar, but here are my first impressions.

First, the cleans. They were awesome, and that's coming from a Fender user, although part of it is due to the reverb. The acoustic mode is amazing, that and the reverb control is all I'll ever need clean-wise. It also has the JC Clean Channel, but that just gives the plain sound and I'm guessing it's what you use when you run distortion pedals and the like through it.

The distortion is amazing. Comparing it to my Fender is like comparing heaven and hell. Best distortion I've heard on a solid-state amp by far, and there were no good tube amps for metal at my price range. The gain is crazy on this thing; I was playing Death with it at about 2:00. I also tried cranking it, but that was beastly. I'll probably never use full gain. The R-Fier model (based on the M/B Rectifier of course) is amazing, although the Metal Stack is decent too.

This amp has a cool Dyna-amp mode, which basically means that it distorts the notes more if you pick the strings harder. God, I had a good time trying this out. It works out really nicely, especially if you have a song which requires some heavily distorted parts and some less-distorted parts (without a distortion pedal ofc).

Another awesome feature about this amp is the Power Squeezer. It cuts the wattage from 30W to 2W, so I can use the volume at a comfortable range. On my Fender, I had to keep the drive volume exactly between 1.3 and 1.4 (out of 10), or it would be too loud or inaudible. The Power Squeezer is awesome though, I was using it until my brother started playing his drums. He isn't too good, so I turned off the power squeezer and drowned him out (no complaints from neighbors yet :D).

Delay/Reverb are cool. I probably won't use either much for what I play (metal), but Reverb does sound real nice with the cleans. It also has Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, and Tremolo, which are fun to play it. I love playing experimenting with Flanger and Phaser, they're just such wacky effects. I don't know if anyone actually uses those seriously.

Finally, this has an auxillary in. So of course I plugged my ipod in and started playing along, it was awesome! There's also a headphone jack so I can practice at night without waking my family and neighbors up.

Bottom line is that this a fantastic practice amp. I've had lots of fun with it already and will continue to experiment. I've already managed to get a sweet Tony Iommi tone out of it, as well as some nice Metallica and Priest tones too, although I'm still trying to find the right sound 80s Maiden. If you play metal, get this amp.
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