This reflects my own personal experience. I personally find low wattage high gain amps a bit of a strange product. I'm coming from the viewpoint of using an amp in a traditional high gain rock band with loud bass and drums and potentially another guitarist. Other scenarios may call for different equipment.
Originally Posted by Dave_Mc
I find low wattage (5-15) watt high gain amps have a very narrow bandwidth of usage where they are the best product to use - and this is when you need a good power tube crunch with a band but not too much volume, and also you don't need a pristine clean. However beyond that volume (or if you need a clean) I'd pick a 50-100 watt head every time. You can turn a big amp down, but at some point the small amp will run out of power and sound narrow and will lose its clean. Again, this is in relation to high gain tones, other tones may require different equipment.
More watts also sounds bigger (more bass) at low volume, though how 'alive' a high watt amp sounds at low volume is down to design, as many sound like they're 'half asleep' at low volume. Many people choose to use an OD pedal to push high watt amps into life and tighten things up and this works at all volume levels, bedroom or band.
I own two high wattage high gain heads with variable wattage, a Blackstar 100 watt S104EL34, and recently scored a Laney Ironheart 120 watt for a good price (but don't have enough experience with it yet to write a review). With regards to high gain, and considering I play mostly in the home however occasionally do play out, I see no reason to not buy an amp with variable wattage (budget permitting), as you get the best of both worlds.
The Blackstar can be run from 10-100 watts, and the Laney from <1 watt - 120 watts, so you can choose your power band for the home or stage, no need to compromise. I have only used the Blackstar with a band, and I personally think the DPR works as advertised, you can dial in how much power amp drive you want at band levels.
Personally I believe modern (current) high gain is about having high pre amp gain paired with a big power amp section which stays quite clean, the further back you go in 'high gain history' the ratios change more in favour of power amp overdrive which in user terms means either more volume or less wattage. This is of course a gross generalisation. For the stuff I record I always run my amps at full wattage, even though the volume is low.
This is all in my opinion, hope it helps.
^ that would tie in with my experience, too :) EDIT: aside from the "see no reason to not buy an amp with variable wattage thing" (for high gain)- if the amp you want has it, great, but I wouldn't discount amps which are perfect for what you want which don't have it. As you said, most of the tone is in the preamp, and (also as you said) the full wattage tone normally sounds best, too. :) (that's not really disagreement, just a clarification)
Blackheart Handsome Devil 7/15 watts, Sounds brilliant if Classic Rock is your thing.
I agree that statement was an over generalisation, and you have clarified the point. There are also high power amps which sound good at low volume and don't have variable wattage. The Engls I've tried were that way though the tone wasn't really my style.
Originally Posted by Dave_Mc
Assuming the budget of the OP is around £1k+ (a new Mini Rectifier is £1099) OP has a lot of choice, especially if they are willing to buy used (not everyone is). For example you can pick up a used Dual Rectifier on Ebay with that budget, though again whether or not it is a better buy than a mini is up to the OP. Here is a video comparison of both http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXY53F03-lk
However looking at the OP's options I'd guess they aren't 100% sure of what they want just yet, as there is a massive difference in both tone and price between any Mesa Rectifier and an Orange Tiny Terror.
My advice would be to take your guitar, cab and any effects you use to a good shop, tell the salesman you are serious about trying some amps with a view to buying (I'd even ring ahead and let them know) and get them to let you try all the amps side by side with your own gear. PMT in Manchester were particularly helpful with me when I bought my Blackstar, the salesman helped in swapping cables so I could A/B things.
(a) no worries (and agreed about engls) :)
Originally Posted by guitarfishbay
(b) yep, definitely trying a bunch of stuff out is the way to go. :)
Some really good thoughts, guys, thanks! What you said makes sense, my Roadhouse 50 can do bedroom levels so wattage isn't everything. Around £1,000 is the budget but really depends if I found something I had to have.
To expand it out I guess partly I'm just looking for an alternative to the tone of the Roadhouse. It's great for classic rock but just doesn't sound right to me with dropped d tuning. That's probably why I was drawn to the Mesa and the 'american' sound. Jet City is appealing though and i've heard lots of good things about the 50w head so that could be a good way to go. Blackstar might also be worth a proper look.
Has anyone bought from the Thomann website? The prices on the Jet City stuff look a bit too good to be true!
i got a jet city 50 watt head back when they had them in stock. aside from one of the preamp valve shields coming off during transit (and i couldn't get it back on :mad: but it doesn't seem to be adversely affecting anything) it seems to be fine. I've bought from thomann several times, they seem to be pretty good. (bear in mind they'll have EU leads so you'll need to get your own kettle lead or adaptor)
if your budget is £1000 here is a couple of other amps to have a look at
Laney cub head
Krack Rev JR
Personally for a low wattage head the th30 is great for high gain and clean it can go way down to 7watts. The dirty side is the same circuit as the dark terror head.
I also have a jet city 100h and rivera knucle tre, My least used head is the jet city as I just don't like the sound so let the singer in my band use this amp for gigs.
a) you dont HAVE to run your amp flat out to get usable 'home' tones - especially with decent pedals and/or attenuation etc etc etc etc
b) if you really insist you do, then even 1 watt is going to be pushing the limits in a normal 12' x 12' room
If you want 1 watt, buy my Blackstar HT1 Head :D
Thanks for the other comments. I think I've pretty much got the idea out of my head that I need low watts for low volume.
Only problem is that I've now realised there are far too many amps in the world that I would like. Currently top of my list:
Mesa Mini/Dual Rectifier
Soldano Avenger/Hot Rod (or Jet City JCA50H)
Anybody looking to sell any of the above? Not sure my current budget will cover all of them though...