2021 Review: Pedal Platform Amps

Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m going to do a rundown of what amps I’m using for pedal platforms, and why.

Previous articles: [2019][2020]

tl;dr

This year, something changed. I’ve switched pedal platform amps.

  • The Marshall DSL20HR has become my go-to amp for using pedals. It has a rich and powerful EQ, which (so far!) allows me to make any pedal sound utterly fantastic.
  • The Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 is still a great choice for hearing what a pedal can really do. It’s a completely clean amp that makes the pedal do all the work, and it does give me a sound that I can’t get out of the DSL20HR.

My Marshall Origin 20H doesn’t get used as a pedal platform amp any more.

Although I’ve still got them, I haven’t made any use at all of the Boss Katana, Vox mini Superbeetle or my Synergy modular amp system this year.

What Has Changed This Year?

I’ve switched pedal platform amps. I’ve become more interested in just enjoying playing, and I’m not as interested in what a pedal is meant to sound like on its own.

Earlier in the year, I decided to finally spend some time with the Marshall DSL20HR that I’ve had for a while. Once I figured out how to use it, there’s been no looking back. Used right on the clean channel, it has 6 different controls that affect EQ. I’ve found them to be very powerful. In the room, I think I’ve had some of the best tones I’ve ever enjoyed from pedals this year.

I also got a bucket-list amp: an actual Fender Tweed Deluxe. That was (very!) swiftly followed by an attenuator: the Fryette Power Station PS-100. While it’s definitely not a pedal platform amp, the Tweed Deluxe has been getting a lot of use since I got it.

That means that my other amps have all lost out this year.

My Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 has gone from my first-choice pedal platform amp to an amp that I barely use now. It’s still a great pedal platform amp. And, arguably, it’s a better choice than the DSL20HR whenever I want to hear what a pedal can do without much assistance. I’m giving serious thought to selling it in 2022, just to make space for the Tweed Deluxe.

I’ve barely used my Synergy rig at all this year. At first, it was because I was trying to focus more on recording acoustic guitar. After that, I’ve just never really wired it back in to use. It’s not going anywhere though, and I have plans to use it more regularly in 2022 – and finally write up my experiences with it.

Although I’ve still got them, I don’t think I’ve switched on either the Boss Katana or Vox Mini-Superbeetle once this year.

What’s New This Year?

In terms of pedal platform amps … I haven’t picked up any new amps. Thanks to supply-chain issues and pandemic lockdowns, I just haven’t had the opportunity to try any other amps.

My Marshall Origin 20H has switched roles. There’s a couple of reasons why:

  • As a pedal-platform amp, the Origin 20H just colours the signal too much for the kind of tones that I’m after.
  • Thanks to the Fryette Power Station PS-100, I can now crank the Origin 20H for the first time, and enjoy it as a dirty amp. While it’s still no plexi, I’m enjoying it as its own thing, and I definitely want to spend time exploring this side of the amp.

As a result, I’ve stopped recommending the Origin 20H as a pedal platform amp. It’s still great for pedals that are designed to go into a dirty amp (early Boss pedals and the like). That’s just not what I’m doing atm.

Anything Planned For 2022?

The #1 thing I want to do in 2022 isn’t an amp … it’s a new speaker.

I’ve got four 1×12 speaker cabs, and one of them just never gets used, as I’m just not a V30 kind of person. Next year I’ll swap out the V30 for a Celestion V-Type. I have been enjoying impulse responses of the Celestion V-Type speaker, and I’m interested in learning how it sounds in the room.

I’ve pre-ordered the Synergy IICP module; their take on the classic Mesa-Boogie IIC+ amp circuit. The clean channel on this will give me something I don’t have, and might make for another option for a pedal platform. Who knows when it’ll reach these shores, though.

I’m also on the lookout for a Synergy OS module (their take on a Dumble amp circuit). Again, it has a unique clean channel, which might give me yet-another option for running pedals. It’s not a high priority for me, though.

Finally … if a Fender Princeton and/or Champ turned up at the right price, I’ll seriously consider them.

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