I’m not a big fan of my amp. I’ve been playing my strat through an early-90’s Peavey Bandit 112. That amp has gorgeous cleans, and a great reverb, but honestly the distortion is terrible. This was before Peavey introduced the new “transtube” technology, and really this was is a workhorse aimed at metal-heads. The dirty channel is clippy and almost useless for the styles of play that interest me.
So I’ve been contemplating picking up a Blues Driver because I don’t have $1500 to drop on a Zinky Blue Velvet or a Mesa Transatlantic 30 but the other day my bassist brought in an amp his neighbor had given him – it was rotting away in his garage, why not give it a shot?
So we plugged it in, and its a Fender G-Dec 30. I’ve never more than messed around for a few minutes with a modeling amp, so I figured, why not give it a whirl.
This is an interesting little amp. At 30 solid-state watts, I’m not sure I could gig with it (that’s a lot quieter than 30 tube watts) but it’s certainly loud enough to stand up to drums and a bass playing hard in a small room (in fact, in practice I don’t think I’ve turned it up past “4”). What’s really interesting about it is the modeling technology.
You see, this amp is designed to imitate the sounds of a lot of classic tube amps, like the old Fender Blackfaces. Now this isn’t the place for a full review of this amp but I’m pleasantly surprised by how dynamic it the distortion is in response to how hard I play (and it definitely overdrives harder playing my Les Paul than it does my Strat).
The biggest problem with it is that, despite being extremely flexible, it’s hard to tweak on the fly. If I dial in my favorite modeling settings – “Rhino Pop” is my current fave, which has a nice bit of overdrive and a lovely touch of tremolo – if I suddenly decide I need a little less crunch to balance with my keyboard player, I can’t just knock down the gain on the fly, I actually have to dive into some menus. There’s no dedicated gain dial, and that’s a lousy choice on Fender’s part.
But what the broad tonal palette of this amp has made me realize is how much my playing and songwriting choices are influenced by the sounds my amp makes. I’ve been composing and playing stuff on this little hunk-o-junk that I never would have written on my crystal-cleans-only Peavey. Tweaking the settings around makes me feel like a different musician.
It’s helped me understand intuitively why guitarists always have stacks and stacks of different amps. Of course, this has a downside (now I want both the Zinky and the Mesa, and probably something from 65 Amps, too!) but it really makes me recognize that I’m a more accomplished guitarist that I thought I was – I’m actually better at more styles of play than I thought I was, I just wasn’t choosing to play them because my gear wasn’t up to the task.
I feel a synergy with that “Rhino Pop” setting – limited as it is – that I don’t feel with my Peavey, and it’s pushing me to play in new and challenging ways. One way I’ve put this into practice when I don’t have access to my bassist’s amp is to use the amp emulators built into Apple’s Garageband. It’s expanding my playing … and, oh yeah, a lot of fun.
So what are you playing? How does it push you … and how do you wish it pushed you?