I had pretty well decided to try the modifications to my Delta, but like I said, I wanted to give these other amps a shot. So the day of our family Christmas (the 27th), when the kids went down for naps, Scott and I hooked up and headed for C.V. Lloyds.
It's been quite a while since I spent any quality time in a music store, and Lloyds is just the kind of place that, even when I was in the store-frequenting habit, I avoided. They have this nasty tendency to talk to you, and try to sell you stuff. But they were the place with the goods, so that's where I had to go. Still, I felt better having Scott with me, since it's kind of his guitar hangout, and especially because he'd done lots of twiddling with the Mesa/Boogies, which I knew were rife with one of my other top gear phobias--knobs and switches.
So Scott and I hit the door and it hadn't even closed when we got company in the form of a sales lady. She asked if there was anything I was wanting to play, and I said yes, I wanted to play that little Mesa/Boogie right there (it was about the first thing--other than her--that we ran into when we walked in).
"Little"? You betcha. The picture top/right is practically actual size. I mean, Fender and Marshall both make amps this size with belt-clips on them!
Okay, so not that
little, but certainly not big, by any standard. My Delta practically dwarfs this amp. The fact that it was on castors only served to make it look more ridiculous (though I do love the standard coco/bronco finish!). But, when I got plugged in and wheeled it around on the tile floor to face me, I was actually glad it had the wheels! This thing was heavy!
It's density should've clued me in as to what kind of territory I was headed into, but I didn't catch on. With the help of Sales Lady, we powered it up on the 30w setting (it has 3--30w, 15w, & an oh-so-groovy 5w) and I set the gain somewhere near where I normally run for church or in the basement studio. I plugged into the slumbering neutron star, barely touched the strings and POW! It was like being shot in the face! Wowee-wow-wow! I don't know if you've ever been hooked to a Mesa/Boogie, but it's the kind of power that makes you aware that you are not
really in control. You could do more sonic damage with this little toaster-oven than you could with an entire WALL of Deltas.
After some tweaking and a crash course on Mesa/Boogie channel settings from Scott, I managed to get it subdued to a non-face-blasting volume ("Subdued" being the only way to describe it. If you want to make a Mesa/Boogie quiet, you better bring some tie-down straps and be feeling healthy when you start, 'cause it'll kick the snot out of you.) and also managed to get it sounding pretty good! I mostly hung out at 5 and 15 watts, though. 30 was a'way
too scary in a confined space.
So what did I think of it, all in all? I think it's a good amp. Really good. Crazy-good, in fact.
Bill says it's the best-sounding amp he's ever played, and I might have to agree with him, overall. It'll do just about anything you want, so long as what you want is not a.) screaming leads, or b.) sounding like an AC30. It doesn't do either of those. Unfortunately, as we know, "b." is what I
want to do. Is it still on my "buy one of these when you've got an inexhaustible cash flow" list? Oh, yeah! But I don't. And it doesn't do what I want.
Now, I've failed to mention that the whole time I'm trying not to make a fool of myself with the 'Boogie, there are some punks over on the other side of the store playing an Orange "rocker 30" through a 4x12 cab. At scull-splitting volume and with appropriate ice-pick lead tone, of course. So instead of heading that way next, I went in the opposite one, which happily was also in the direction of the AC30.
A little more thunking around with dropcords, and Sales Lady had us powered up. She was completely clueless as to the workings of a Vox, so I took that one on. I plugged into what seemed to be the correct channel, threw a couple of the chicken head knobs around into a semi-recognizable configuration, and let fly with the first 3 chords to Tom Petty's "You wreck me" from the Wildflowers album.
Viola! Sweet Jesus! And Great Day In The Morning! Glory hallelujah and welcome to the sound of Vox, Baby! It was sweet, sweet magic at first touch.
For some reason, the completely non-intuitive (not to mention upside-down) controls of the Vox seemed to turn effortlessly under my hands. I couldn't hardly buy
a bad sound from it. All pickups. All configurations. All channels, verbs, eq's, tremolos and combinations thereof. And this isn't the one with the celestions in it, either! Obviously, I liked it. The plain ol' clean channel left me a little flat, but that top-boost channel... Glory, glory... It was like finding yourself without having realized you were ever lost. Like how you get to the end of one of those underwater suspense/action movies and suddenly realize you've been holding your breath for the whole 110. I came to the surface and sucked in a lungfull of sweet Vox-ygen. Mmm.. that's good! Yeah!
*sigh*... I got my Vox on for awhile, and then decided I'd better pull up out of the religious experience and try the Orange before our meter ran out. I toddled over that way and hooked up to the behemoth all by my widdy self. It took a bit of work, but I finally got it around to something that sounded pretty good. The story on the Orange is pretty short. Basically, if I'm ever ever
in the position of needing to rock out in a chest-pounding manner.. like, on a big stage... with a band that sounds like it might
just hurt someone before it's done... I'm gettin' me an Orange. Those things ROCK. And that's all there is to it. That's all they do. Period. They are a "one big knob" kind of amp, and I respect and admire them for it. Also, for being orange. Very. Unavoidably. Orange.
After that, I noticed there was an Ibanez AFS75t hanging on the wall right beside me. For those not familiar, the AFS75t is a full
hollowbody thinline with a bigsby-style trem. I've seen a lot of good reviews of them, and I love the hollowbody vibe, so I decided that it and I needed to take a trip back over to Vox-land and get to know each other. : ] Then, once I got that out of my system (review: "m'eh..") we tried to sell Sales Lady on my Yamaha AES800 (guess I didn't mention, I brought it along) because she was looking for an electric that could do a nice acoustic impersonation, which it can.
And that was it. We left. But what a way to spend a couple hours! I'm pretty happy with the whole deal, I gotta say. Enough that I've written a book about it here... So what was left to do? Did I love the Vox? Yessir. Was I ready to sell the Pro and buy it? hmm... Sure has been a long time since I actually played
Next time: "The last dance" or "Baby, why'd you have to go an' do me that way?"