Underrated Low Wattage Tube Amps

rjwilson37

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I had picked up a Blackheart Handsome Devil Combo new around 12 years ago for my first tube amp, and really just did not know what I had. For the price I had to spend, it did sound better to me than others a little bit more expensive. I swapped out the stock speaker for an Eminence Governor, which really did well in that amp. I remember playing it one time clean and the sound coming out was such a beautiful warm rich creamy tone, I was loving it. The gain though was just ok, you really needed a good gain pedal to drive it into something sweet. I got hold of an amp tech and we worked on it for a bit and got some nice Marshal type of gain from it, but the beautiful warm rich creamy clean tone was gone. I had it for a bit longer and ended up selling it when I left Michigan and came out to California. I have had several amps over the 6 years I have been in California, and about a year ago, I found a Handsome Devil combo on Craig's List in Excellent condition. I picked it up pretty cheap, changed the stock speaker and pulled my 1x12 cabinet with a Warehouse Reaper speaker out of the garage to pair with it and I just love it. Again though, the gain is just ok, but that is not why I have this amp. When I want a nice boutique warm rich creamy clean tone, I just turn off all effects and jam away. I'll add in some reverb for a little ambiance and wow, it sounds so sweet. I have the Headrush MX5 for my effects and other amp models, which sound really good coming through the Handsome Devil, so I can get pretty much anything I want. But having that nice beautiful clean tone on the Handsome Devil sometimes is all I need to be in jam heaven.

I was so sad when I had heard that Blackheart went out of business, they had such great amps at a great price. They have to be one of the most underrated guitar amp makers out there. The Blackheart Handsome Devil Combo I think sounds so much better than a Fender Blues Jr. and a lot of other low wattage tube amps. I will put together a nice clean clip tomorrow and post it here.

My computer is pretty cool, but when the computer is running at the same time as any of my amps, I can hear a bit of interference. My laptop did not have that kind of interference. I think it is all of the RGB lighting between my computer and keyboard that causes this.

currentrig_20211215.jpg
 
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fry

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^ To be fair, 'Crate' as a name has a fairly negative type subtext to it......Its the sort of title you'd use to describe a bit of junk that surprisingly happens to function.
Yeah, they have mostly a bad reputation. They had a handful of pretty nice amps, but seemed to just shoot themselves in the foot most of the time. I always thought that’s why they introduced the Blackheart stuff, maybe a chance to reinvent himself, but it didn’t end up happening apparently.
 

Classicplayer

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I had picked up a Blackheart Handsome Devil Combo new around 15 years ago for my first tube amp, and really just did not know what I had. For the price I had to spend, it did sound better to me than others a little bit more expensive. I swapped out the stock speaker for an Eminence Governor, which really did well in that amp. I remember playing it one time clean and the sound coming out was such a beautiful warm rich creamy tone, I was loving it. The gain though was just ok, you really needed a good gain pedal to drive it into something sweet. I got hold of an amp tech and we worked on it for a bit and got some nice Marshal type of gain from it, but the beautiful warm rich creamy clean tone was gone. I had it for a bit longer and ended up selling it when I left Michigan and came out to California. I have had several amps over the 6 years I have been in California, and about a year ago, I found a Handsome Devil combo on Craig's List in Excellent condition. I picked it up pretty cheap, changed the stock speaker and pulled my 1x12 cabinet with a Warehouse Reaper speaker out of the garage to pair with it and I just love it. Again though, the gain is just ok, but that is not why I have this amp. When I want a nice boutique warm rich creamy clean tone, I just turn off all effects and jam away. I'll add in some reverb for a little ambiance and wow, it sounds so sweet. I have the Headrush MX5 for my effects and other amp simulations, which sound really good coming through the Handsome Devil, so I can get pretty much anything I want. But having that nice beautiful clean tone on the Handsome Devil sometimes is all I need to be in jam heaven.

I was so sad when I had heard that Blackheart went out of business, they had such great amps at a great price. They have to be one of the most underrated guitar amp makers out there. The Blackheart Handsome Devil Combo I think sounds so much better than a Fender Blues Jr. and a lot of other low wattage tube amps. I will put together a nice clean clip tomorrow and post it here.

My computer is pretty cool, but when the computer is running at the same time as any of my amps, I can hear a bit of interference. My laptop did not have that kind of interference. I think it is all of the RGB lighting between my computer and keyboard that causes this.

View attachment 583607

Interesting story of “re-discovery”. I've seen some of your videos you had up a few years back, so I know you know good tone. To my way of judging any amp with my guitars, is what type of clean tone am I going to get and will it be my idea of a great clean tone. That is foremost with me because I know there is (or are) a pedal or two to dirty up that clean tone when needed.

My Orange Dark Terror is still my go-to tube amp after 4 years of playing it; not because of it's “clean” tone, but because I know how to get what “clean” it has to sound good to me without a pedal, 'cept a delay or reverb. No! It does not sound like the Dark Terror videos on YT that proliferate now. It's not dialed in for Metal or Hard Core thrash, but dialed in for my Les Paul's tone spectrum that provides me both clean and dirt without pedals. If I had to replace this amp, it would be an identical one which is testimony to how much I like the tones I get with it.

Classicplayer
 

hrpoms9

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I love my Origin 20. For a lot of rock styles it definitely is best as a pedal platform as the onboard gain is not quite enough. When you hit the sweet spot, or just give it a little boost, it's really nice lighter OD. My OCD then gets me to any 70's and 80's rock I desire IMO.
I see a lot of ragging on it because it's not "plexi" enough, and I'm no expert but that's probably true. But here in Canada, the SC20 and SV20 are $1300 more, and both are too loud for the home even at the 5w volume from what I've tried.
So for the amp, + 1-2 pedals I can get really great sound at a ton of different volume levels, and all for under 1000 total. I recommend it to anyone looking for the Marshall sound at home
 

speyfly

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I've never tried the Blackheart so can't speak of that, I did noticed a Vox bag in the photo and looked at your gear line-up and see you have a NT15. Don't know if it's considered underrated but they're a killer little lunch box. Another that I don't hear too much about is the Tweaker, little guy with BIG BALLS. Neither of these two amps require pedals to sound great.

I love low watt tubes...
 

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bilbarstow

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I have a Tweaker. It's a great amp, with lots of possible sounds, because tweaker ! I had some conversations with Bruce Egnater, in person and online, he was an interesting guy to talk with about Amps.

I re-built / modified / built from scratch a couple of the 5 watt Epiphone Valve Jr.s, with a lot of advice here in the Squawk Box.

Then I built a couple of amps from scratch with a design from a Member. 6V6 and EL-34.

Then I got a Phaez. Sibly 10 w, with a single KT-66.

Then I got a Soul Tramp Tweed 12. HOLY DAMN !

I sort of feel like I have the "small" amp thing covered.
 

rjwilson37

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Thanks everyone, I just love trying out new amps and I'm a sucker for a sweet smooth clean tone. Yes, I have the Vox NT 15/7w amp, and it gets that sweet Vox chime when you don't push it to hard, a very sweet low watt tube amp.

When I was looking at amps 11-12 years ago, I was comparing the Egnater Tweaker, the Blackheart Handsome Devil & Little Giant, the Marshall Class 5 and Blackstar HT 5R. The Egnater Tweaker combo was good and had a range of tones, but the Egnater Tweaker head through the Egnater Tourmaster 2x12 cabinet was fantastic. Back then, an extra $150 to $200 was a lot of money to me and the Blackheart sounded so much nicer clean than the others, it was a good choice to grab it and save some money. Afterall, I was just a home player and love a really nice clean tone. Anyway, after having it for a bit and when it came to playing some really hard rock or metal, the stock speaker kind of farted out a bit when you gave it some volume. For the next X-Mas present, my wife got me the matching 1x12 Blackheart cabinet, which had the same speaker, and it helped a little bit, but still farted out when I applied some more volume. I did some research and picked up a Governor and Wizard speaker from Eminence, the Governor for a nice smooth overall tone, and the Wizard for more mids, which these two speakers together were so sweet. So that was my sweet 2x12 home rig 10 years ago that worked really well.

Here are a few clips I have from like 2012. This is before I knew how to adjust pickup height to really find the sweet spot for your tone.
Core tone with Blackheart HD New Speakers
Clean tone Blackheart HD New Speakers
Clean tone with effects

myblackheartrig.jpg
 
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truckermde

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I had a head version of that Blackheart, and I agree that it was excellent. Probably shoulda kept mine, too.

I also had an Egnator Tweaker, and agree that thing is pretty amazing. You can pretty much get whatever tone you can imagine from that one, and I DEFINITELY should not have sold it.

I had a Marshall Class 5, and I think that one was OVER-rated.

The little amp I'm most impressed with, however, is a hybrid rather than a purely tube amp. The Orange Micro Terror and especially the Micro Dark absolutely blew me away, and far exceeded my expectations. And all for less than you'd spend on a night drinking.

You might not impress your buddies when they see it, but the tone will make them do a double take. (if you like Orange tone)
 

dc007

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I don't get out to audition to many amps these days. I did like the Vox AC10 a whole lot when I played it. I tried a BlackHeart a long time ago and I thought it was very good as well albeit a little noisy. I would very much like to try those new Marshalls as I have really enjoyed some of the videos I have seen. The Egnater Rebel 20 I had for the the longest time was a kick ass little amp but at the volumes I was playing at the time required several pedals for it to shine but it took them well
 

rjwilson37

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Three 5W, one 1W and some cabs:

full



Laney 10W, Egnater 1-20W, Orange 20W (@4 ohms) and a Peavey 5-20W. The rest are 1W to 7W
Ignore the Traynor 200W bass head :)

full
That is a lot of cool stuff to play with. Unfortunately, I don't have that much room. I love that blue Vox, is that the AC4C1? Those little guys are sweet.

What I really wanted way back then, was the Tweaker Head through the 2x12 Tourmaster cabinet, now that combination sounded killer. I just don't think the Tweaker Combo sounded very good overall with the stock speaker. I just did not have the $800 back then for the Tweaker Head and Tourmaster Cabinet. As a matter of fact, the Blackheart Handsome Devil I purchased was a floor model, the only one that they had, and I got it for I think $350. I then went over to my favorite small Mom & Pop music store and had them put some new Mesa Boogie EL84's in it which they did for free after I paid $45 bucks for the matched set of tubes.
 
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efstop

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That is a lot of cool stuff to play with. Unfortunately, I don't have that much room. I love that blue Vox, is that the AC4C1? Those little guys are sweet.

What I really wanted way back then, was the Tweaker Head through the 2x12 Tourmaster cabinet, now that combination sounded killer. I just don't think the Tweaker Combo sounded very good overall with the stock speaker. I just did not have the $800 back then for the Tweaker Head and Tourmaster Cabinet. As a matter of fact, the Blackheart Handsome Devil I purchased was a floor model, the only one that they had, and I got it for I think $350. I then went over to my favorite small Mom & Pop music store and had them put some new Mesa Boogie EL84's in it which they did for free after I paid $45 bucks for the matched set of tubes.
Yes, that's an AC4C1 with a 10" Celestion. Picked it up in a pawn shop several years ago for about $170 US.
The Egnater is another used one I picked up for $280 US. The blending between 6V6s and EL84s is pretty cool, as is the power reduction knob.
If nothing else, I like my amps to be cheap :D
 

rjwilson37

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Yep, the little giants are sweet 5w amps. They come in the same enclosure that the Handsome Devil does, but it just has volume, treble, middle and bass with a switch to go to 5 or 3 watts. Still has the same stock Eminence 12" Blackheart Speaker. I had found an excellent condition Blackheart 1x12 cabinet last year, but they wanted a lot for it. I found somebody selling an Epiphone Valve Jr. Cabinet on Craigslist with the Eminence Lady Luck speaker and it was in really good condition for $125. So I grabbed that and put a Reaper HP speaker in it, which is really sweet. The Valve Jr 1x12 cabinets are pretty much the same thing as the Blackheart 1x12 cabinets as you can see in my first picture.
 
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wildhawk1

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Fender recently killed off a favorite of mine the underated Super Champ X2 which ends the many variations of the original model Champ over the decades.


No surprise considering it was a tube amp for $399 and the profit margin isn't what current solidstate amps can earn.

The only Champ still available is the 57' Custom Champ. Five watts and eight inch speaker for $1199.
 
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