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.
This year, I’ve changed pedal platform amps again, even though I didn’t actually buy any new amps …
The Fractal Audio Axe-FX 3 has replaced the Marshall DSL20HR as my pedal platform amp. It wasn’t something I intended to do; it’s just turned out to be far easier to record my gear when I’m using the Axe-FX 3.
Thanks to the Axe-FX 3, I’ve just started to make more use of my Synergy rig again. If you want great tweed tone on a budget, I highly recommend the Synergy IICP module. There are days when I definitely prefer it to my real tweed deluxe amp …
My other amps are largely going unused, except for the Boss Katana, which I’ve sold.
What Has Changed This Year?
I’ve switched amps again. Well, I guess you could say that I’ve stopped using amps altogether for pedals.
I started the year using the Marshall DSL20HR for my pedals. It’s not just a great pedal platform amp for the money, I think it’s a great option period. I still haven’t found a drive pedal that didn’t sound great through it. The one and only downside is that I have to dial the amp in each and every time I switch pedals, to get each pedal sounding its best. I’m not sure that’s really a downside – but it is something to be aware of, if you’re looking for a pedal platform amp for live use.
That’s not why I stopped using it. In fact, I never planned to move away from the Marshall DSL20HR at all this year. I’ll come back to that in a moment.
My Synergy rig has definitely had more use this year. After a difficult start, I found that I really enjoy the clean tone of the Synergy OS module. Not sure I agree that it’s great for pedals, but for clean guitar (especially Strats) … I like it a lot. Towards the end of the year, I dug out all the modules that I have, and got great tones out the lot of them. My favourite is the Synergy IICP that arrived at the start of the year. I’m loving the tweedy tones I can get out of it, and it’s also a lot more convenient to use than my Fender Tweed Deluxe.
The Boss Katana, on the other hand, has gone. I needed the space for my Fryette PS-100 Power Station.
What’s New This Year?
I’ve gone digital. I switched to the Fractal Axe-FX 3 as my main pedal platform amp. I didn’t intend to, though.
Everyone thinks of the Axe-FX 3 as this amp modeller, but that’s only one of the things it’s good for. On the front of the unit, it actually carries the legend “PREAMP / FX PROCESSOR”, and that’s what I bought it for – to be a digital FX processor to pair with my Fender Tweed Deluxe. Let me say right now: digital convenience is a wonderful thing. I’ve made more use of more gear this year simply because I can just switch back to each setup’s FX settings in the Axe-FX 3. It was well worth the steep entry cost for this alone.
So what made me switch over to the Axe-FX for my pedals? In a word: recording.
I mic’d up my Marshall earlier in the year, so that I could record audio demos for new blog posts. I feel a lot better writing about my experiences with gear if there’s also some hard evidence in the form of captured audio. It went … okay … but I don’t have the space to keep my Marshall mic’d up all the time. Wanting to record more often, I started experimenting with the Axe-FX 3 instead. And once I got the hang of it, I never looked back.
I’ve got a series of blog posts about this coming out in January, where I go into a lot more detail about why,
The Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 is still here, but it’s sat in a corner gathering dust right now. (I moved it to make space for the Fender Tweed Deluxe.) I did look to move it on, like I said I would last year. Alas, Blackstar amps just don’t hold their value well at all, and the second-hand price hasn’t been helped by Blackstar dumping these amps at massive discounts through Andertons earlier in the year. I’m not sure what to do with it right now.
Speaking of the Fender Tweed Deluxe, that amp hasn’t been used quite as much as I hoped it would this year. Unfortunately, it’s just too damn loud to use without an attenuator, and I’ve had some problems with the Fryette PS-100 Power Station during the year (which I don’t think I’ve written much about). They’re now sorted (I hope), and I’m looking forward to using the amp over my Christmas holidays.
That means that I haven’t done as much with my Marshall Origin 20H as I’d hoped to. I need to crank it through the PS-100 to get dirty amp tones out of it – and for a long time this year, ain’t nothing getting cranked through that. On the plus side, I’ve just built a patch for the Axe-FX 3 so that I can record the Origin 20H and my Synergy plexi amp modules. Maybe next year I’ll finally get that long-delayed long-term review of the Origin done?
I haven’t switched the Vox Mini-Superbeetle on once this year. It’s nice and small, so I don’t feel like I need to move it on to free up space.
How Did Your 2022 Plans Go?
Better than my plans usually go 😂
- Synergy IICP module? Yes.
- Synergy OS module? Yes.
- Fender Princeton? Yes, through the Axe-FX (it’s the amp model I use for my pedals now).
- Celestion V-Type speaker? No.
In my defence, the main reason I haven’t picked up a V-Type speaker is because I’m using IRs in the Axe-FX 3 instead now. That said, I’d love to try making my own IRs (this is something else that the Axe-FX 3 makes very easy to do). If I make any that I like, maybe that’ll inspire me to get a V-Type in 2023.
Anything Planned For 2023?
On the amp front … no, not really.
I’d love to get some more tweed amps. As the world has opened up again after the lockdown phase of this pandemic, I’ve started to see more tweed amps coming up for sale on the second-hand market. I deliberately went with the Fender Tweed Deluxe first because I wanted that OG tweed amp experience. Now I’ve done that, I’m curious to compare it to modern amp designs, and find out if I enjoy what they do.
There’s almost no chance of that happening in 2023, though.
I’m working to get a new business off the ground next year. (Been working on it for a lot this year, which is why the blog has been quiet for long periods.) I can’t see me being able to afford any new tweed amps for quite a while.
If one turns up, I might get a second hand Marshall Origin 50H to go with my Origin 20H.