Played my first gig with a tube amp in 7 years

metropolis_4

Shredder
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I finally got the JRT 9/15 and was able to use it for four shows over the weekend. I've been all digital for a while so this was the first time I've used a tube amp on a gig in about 7 years!

The shows are all '50s music (Etta James, Big Mamma Thornton, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, etc.) so mostly edge of breakup type tones where I can clean up or push harder as needed. I did use a small pedalboard with a tuner > EGO Compressor > ODR-1 > DM-2. The ODR-1 was to add a touch of dirt for some of the more rocking songs, and the DM-2 for some slap echo on a few songs. I picked up a "Mic-No-Mo" since I've heard so many good things about them and I was impressed with how good it sounded (and so was the sound tech!). It was way better than I thought it would be (maybe my opinion about analog cab sims has been unfairly tainted by some of the horrible ones from the old days).

The JRT sounded gorgeous. It edged out the Marshall DSL40. The DSL sounds great, but you know how there are amps that seem to be voiced specifically for live performance? That's the difference I heard in the JRT. It's focused and present and sits really well in a mix. Very touch sensitive amp and really has a nice feel that made me want to play it more and more. The volume level of the amp was perfect for this show. It sat right where I needed it without feeling like it was "starved" with a lack of input gain, but this was a pretty loud stage show with a full horn section and multiple guitars and keys. If I keep using it I'll probably be shopping for an attenuator for some of the lower volume work I do.

It wasn't all good news, there were a few realizations I had that made me remember why I moved away from tube amps in the first place:
  • I forgot how much I hate lugging heavy amps to shows
  • I'm more aware of things that could go wrong while I'm playing such as tubes going bad. Not a huge deal, but still I like to eliminate as many distractions from the performance as possible.
  • The two volumes and no EQ is a little tricky because so much of the tone is based on the balance of the volumes. Which makes it really hard to change your tone without changing volume too. This means very little ability for quick on-the-fly tweaks.
  • I sort of forgot how amps seem to like some guitars better than others. I wanted to use a Strat for these shows, but this amp likes my Tele a lot better so I might have to change plans.
  • It's a tight stage so the amp is about 2 feet away from me and pointed at my ankles which makes monitoring terrible. Sometimes I can hear myself better from the FOH speakers than from my amp. If I turn up too much the volume coming out of the back of the amp blasts the horn players in front of me, and the beam from the speaker blasts the drummer. Basically everyone in the band hears me more than I hear myself. (And before anyone tells me to just move my amp, for this particular show there is no other option)
Some of these issues are reminding me of the things I like better about digital rigs:
  • On a tight stage I can have a wedge monitor pointing up at me, and it doesn't spill as much volume to the players around me so I can get the level higher and hear myself better.
  • I can easily throw an EQ and/or compressor in the signal chain to balance between multiple guitars.
  • If the amp isn't jiving with the guitar I want to use, I can just pick a different amp or tweak deep parameters to get more of what I want and less of what I don't like.
  • If I want to fine tune the EQ I can add EQ blocks either pre or post amp to dial it in just where I want it.
  • Much better consistency from show to show. I don't need to worry about someone on the tech crew accidentally bumping knobs while setting up the stage.
  • Much less to worry about failing in the middle of a show... less distractions from the performance
  • Much easier to dial in multiple specific volume levels and sounds. For example, if I want a solo boost:
    • On digital I can assign one footswitch to turn on a compressor, turn on a delay, bump the input gain on the amp, bump the lows and mids on the amp, drop the presence on the amp, and increase the gain at the end of the chain +6db.
    • On a tube amp... I can turn on a tubescreamer.
Sure, a lot of the above can be solved and can be possible with an analog rig. But by the time I buy all the extra gear needed to do so and put it all together I've got a big, cumbersome, expensive rig with lots of failure points... compared to a single pedal that can take the place of all of it.

... And as I'm writing this I realize I'm talking myself right back to Fractal land :bag
 
Great writeup. On the last 4 gigs I played, my sound came 100% from a guitar amp after having used IEMs for the past few years and what I've quoted below resonates with what I experienced.

It's a tight stage so the amp is about 2 feet away from me and pointed at my ankles which makes monitoring terrible. Sometimes I can hear myself better from the FOH speakers than from my amp. If I turn up too much the volume coming out of the back of the amp blasts the horn players in front of me, and the beam from the speaker blasts the drummer. Basically everyone in the band hears me more than I hear myself. (And before anyone tells me to just move my amp, for this particular show there is no other option)

"your amp needs to be here, but you need to stand here"

And they wonder why guitarists are too loud sometimes :columbo
 
Gigging an amp is a joy. There are lower weight options if that is an issue. I have thoroughly enjoyed these past couple of months of gigs. Though this weekend; the digital casino rig is coming out because plexiglass shields everywhere.
 
The weight is annoying, but it's not really the biggest issue. I think the main things that will end up driving me back to digital are the level of control over the sound, the ease of changing any part of the signal chain I want, and the amount of live control.

IME an EQ pedal in the effects loop makes a better boost than an overdrive out front if your amp is already mid gain or higher.

An amp stand might help with your monitoring

Yeah, if you're already clipping the input stage of a tube amp hitting it harder will usually just result in more compression and gain rather than more volume. At that point you kind of have to do something on the other side of the input in order to get a solo boost.
 
I finally got the JRT 9/15 and was able to use it for four shows over the weekend. I've been all digital for a while so this was the first time I've used a tube amp on a gig in about 7 years!

The shows are all '50s music (Etta James, Big Mamma Thornton, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, etc.) so mostly edge of breakup type tones where I can clean up or push harder as needed. I did use a small pedalboard with a tuner > EGO Compressor > ODR-1 > DM-2. The ODR-1 was to add a touch of dirt for some of the more rocking songs, and the DM-2 for some slap echo on a few songs. I picked up a "Mic-No-Mo" since I've heard so many good things about them and I was impressed with how good it sounded (and so was the sound tech!). It was way better than I thought it would be (maybe my opinion about analog cab sims has been unfairly tainted by some of the horrible ones from the old days).

The JRT sounded gorgeous. It edged out the Marshall DSL40. The DSL sounds great, but you know how there are amps that seem to be voiced specifically for live performance? That's the difference I heard in the JRT. It's focused and present and sits really well in a mix. Very touch sensitive amp and really has a nice feel that made me want to play it more and more. The volume level of the amp was perfect for this show. It sat right where I needed it without feeling like it was "starved" with a lack of input gain, but this was a pretty loud stage show with a full horn section and multiple guitars and keys. If I keep using it I'll probably be shopping for an attenuator for some of the lower volume work I do.

It wasn't all good news, there were a few realizations I had that made me remember why I moved away from tube amps in the first place:
  • I forgot how much I hate lugging heavy amps to shows
  • I'm more aware of things that could go wrong while I'm playing such as tubes going bad. Not a huge deal, but still I like to eliminate as many distractions from the performance as possible.
  • The two volumes and no EQ is a little tricky because so much of the tone is based on the balance of the volumes. Which makes it really hard to change your tone without changing volume too. This means very little ability for quick on-the-fly tweaks.
  • I sort of forgot how amps seem to like some guitars better than others. I wanted to use a Strat for these shows, but this amp likes my Tele a lot better so I might have to change plans.
  • It's a tight stage so the amp is about 2 feet away from me and pointed at my ankles which makes monitoring terrible. Sometimes I can hear myself better from the FOH speakers than from my amp. If I turn up too much the volume coming out of the back of the amp blasts the horn players in front of me, and the beam from the speaker blasts the drummer. Basically everyone in the band hears me more than I hear myself. (And before anyone tells me to just move my amp, for this particular show there is no other option)
Some of these issues are reminding me of the things I like better about digital rigs:
  • On a tight stage I can have a wedge monitor pointing up at me, and it doesn't spill as much volume to the players around me so I can get the level higher and hear myself better.
  • I can easily throw an EQ and/or compressor in the signal chain to balance between multiple guitars.
  • If the amp isn't jiving with the guitar I want to use, I can just pick a different amp or tweak deep parameters to get more of what I want and less of what I don't like.
  • If I want to fine tune the EQ I can add EQ blocks either pre or post amp to dial it in just where I want it.
  • Much better consistency from show to show. I don't need to worry about someone on the tech crew accidentally bumping knobs while setting up the stage.
  • Much less to worry about failing in the middle of a show... less distractions from the performance
  • Much easier to dial in multiple specific volume levels and sounds. For example, if I want a solo boost:
    • On digital I can assign one footswitch to turn on a compressor, turn on a delay, bump the input gain on the amp, bump the lows and mids on the amp, drop the presence on the amp, and increase the gain at the end of the chain +6db.
    • On a tube amp... I can turn on a tubescreamer.
Sure, a lot of the above can be solved and can be possible with an analog rig. But by the time I buy all the extra gear needed to do so and put it all together I've got a big, cumbersome, expensive rig with lots of failure points... compared to a single pedal that can take the place of all of it.

... And as I'm writing this I realize I'm talking myself right back to Fractal land :bag

I don't know what a JRT is but these last 5 months or so I have been running a hybrid rig and having a much better time. Amp on stage with no IR's and XLR out to PA for FOH. Helix LT. Glorious experience. I dont do the type of gigs you do but it's been a real joy since I added an amp back into the fold.
 
I don't know what a JRT is but these last 5 months or so I have been running a hybrid rig and having a much better time. Amp on stage with no IR's and XLR out to PA for FOH. Helix LT. Glorious experience. I dont do the type of gigs you do but it's been a real joy since I added an amp back into the fold.

JRT = Divided By 13 JRT 9/15

I may have to experiment more, but I haven't had good luck so far with a hybrid rig.

Recently, I tried HX amps into the effects return of the DSL. It wasn't bad, but it didn't sound as good as the preamp on the DSL. I didn't feel like I was gaining anything. I also tried the HX Stomp as a pedalboard in front of both amps and didn't like it. When the HX Stomp was in the signal chain it added a hard edge to the attack and made everything sound a little more harsh.
 
  • I'm more aware of things that could go wrong while I'm playing such as tubes going bad. Not a huge deal, but still I like to eliminate as many distractions from the performance as possible.

This I find kind of funny. I think the “fragility“ of tube amps gets overblown online.

I would say I've had more issues with digital gear than any tube amp I've ever owned, although both have been pretty reliable.

Digital:
- tuner freezing and becoming non-responsive on HXFX at gigs
- preset mode randomly turning on mid-song, also HXFX
- wah engaging for no reason on HXFX
- Helix Floor freezing and locking during update and needing to be returned
- currently, my new FM9 randomly goes into Scenes mode when just switching an effect on/off

Tube amps:
- blew a fuse once
- had a power tube ”redplate” on a new-to-me used amp that hadn't had a tech check-up yet; had a tune-up and replaced all power tubes and never happened again in 7 years
 
This I find kind of funny. I think the “fragility“ of tube amps gets overblown online.

I would say I've had more issues with digital gear than any tube amp I've ever owned, although both have been pretty reliable.

Digital:
- tuner freezing and becoming non-responsive on HXFX at gigs
- preset mode randomly turning on mid-song, also HXFX
- wah engaging for no reason on HXFX
- Helix Floor freezing and locking during update and needing to be returned
- currently, my new FM9 randomly goes into Scenes mode when just switching an effect on/off

Tube amps:
- blew a fuse once
- had a power tube ”redplate” on a new-to-me used amp that hadn't had a tech check-up yet; had a tune-up and replaced all power tubes and never happened again in 7 years

I had a Tremoverb catch fire on me once and one time a drunk guy fell into my tube amp and destroyed it but in the 20+ years I gigged with tube amps those are really the only things I can remember having any issues with and the 2nd one wasnt the amps fault. So 1 issue in 20+ years? I will take it.
 
This I find kind of funny. I think the “fragility“ of tube amps gets overblown online.

I hear ya. I've frozen the FM3 four times now (over a couple of months) whilst fiddling with the on-device knobs. I can't even be bothered to report the bug because I'm not even sure how to reproduce it and it's a time suck. I'm not gigging though, so whatever.
 
This I find kind of funny. I think the “fragility“ of tube amps gets overblown online.

I would say I've had more issues with digital gear than any tube amp I've ever owned, although both have been pretty reliable.

Digital:
- tuner freezing and becoming non-responsive on HXFX at gigs
- preset mode randomly turning on mid-song, also HXFX
- wah engaging for no reason on HXFX
- Helix Floor freezing and locking during update and needing to be returned
- currently, my new FM9 randomly goes into Scenes mode when just switching an effect on/off

Tube amps:
- blew a fuse once
- had a power tube ”redplate” on a new-to-me used amp that hadn't had a tech check-up yet; had a tune-up and replaced all power tubes and never happened again in 7 years
Similar here. Tube amps issues from my experience are waaaaaay overblown especially in digital forums. I’ve had issues with both types but not a lot and definitely it’s not one set up being glitch free over the other IME.
 
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This I find kind of funny. I think the “fragility“ of tube amps gets overblown online.

I would say I've had more issues with digital gear than any tube amp I've ever owned, although both have been pretty reliable.

Digital:
- tuner freezing and becoming non-responsive on HXFX at gigs
- preset mode randomly turning on mid-song, also HXFX
- wah engaging for no reason on HXFX
- Helix Floor freezing and locking during update and needing to be returned
- currently, my new FM9 randomly goes into Scenes mode when just switching an effect on/off

Tube amps:
- blew a fuse once
- had a power tube ”redplate” on a new-to-me used amp that hadn't had a tech check-up yet; had a tune-up and replaced all power tubes and never happened again in 7 years

It’s not because of things I’ve read online, it’s from personal experience. I’ve had quite a few tube amp issues at gigs over the years. Definitely enough to make me a little cautious.

- Blown fuses a few times
- Solder joints breaking on tube sockets
- Faulty tubes frying transformers
- Power tubes blowing at sound check
- Preamp tubes going out in a show
- volume drop outs

I’ve actually never had a digital rig fail during a gig FWIW. I’ve never had to use a backup with a digital rig
 
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This I find kind of funny. I think the “fragility“ of tube amps gets overblown online.

I would say I've had more issues with digital gear than any tube amp I've ever owned, although both have been pretty reliable.

Digital:
- tuner freezing and becoming non-responsive on HXFX at gigs
- preset mode randomly turning on mid-song, also HXFX
- wah engaging for no reason on HXFX
- Helix Floor freezing and locking during update and needing to be returned
- currently, my new FM9 randomly goes into Scenes mode when just switching an effect on/off

Tube amps:
- blew a fuse once
- had a power tube ”redplate” on a new-to-me used amp that hadn't had a tech check-up yet; had a tune-up and replaced all power tubes and never happened again in 7 years

I agree. Can only go on my own experience, but gigs in the hundreds in the past 18 years, through heat
and humidity, in cold temps, rattling around in a car or a truck dozens of miles to and fro, and I have not
had a single amp failure at a show. I have had player failures, though, many times. :lol One time our
drummer passed out in the middle of a song---so drunk. You could hear him fighting to stay conscious
and hang on. We only had a couple of more songs to get through, and then the drums just stop and
you hear this awful commotion as he literally passed out face first into his kit.

It was awesome! The crowd loved it. God Bless you, Tony!! :LOL:

:headbang
 
I can't even be bothered to report the bug because I'm not even sure how to reproduce it and it's a time suck...

Oh FFS. The FM3 froze again last night. It seems to be when trying to alter speaker settings on the hardware itself. In this specific instance, I was altering speaker compliance; but the time before I was tweaking the speaker impedance curve HF resonance. At least that is unlikely to be an issue during a live performance when selecting static presets, I suppose.

Ahh... the convenience of digital. :rolleyes:

I think I will report this after all, but I'll wait for the 6.0 firmware to be released and see if the bug is still present in that version of the firmware, since that release is "imminent".

In other news, I managed to get the FM3 Bandmaster sounding closer to the Bella through the same cab + SS PA. The FM3 tones were pleasing me more than usual. It's definitely useful to have a tube amp available as a reference when dialing in a modeller.
 
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