I've been trying to hunt around for a good, reasonably priced amp to use with my mandolin and soon-to-be-built CBG for shows/playing with other people. I've thought about acoustic amps as they replicate the higher tones of mandolins better, most normal amps are mid-heavy but acoustic amps sacrifice the effects and such that would be nice in a cbg. 

 

I suppose I could get an old tube amp and use a preamp or compressor pedal for the mando/cbg to have more control over it?

 

Any advice?

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I was going to write about my set-up but I think you want an amplified (acoustic sounding) mandolin... right?

Micing a good acoustic tone is the best but hard to do if your instrument does not project very well. Pickups just do not represent a good acoustic mandolin.

The Roland Cube series have a lot going for them in my opinion. They are compact, available in different power outputs (from 15w - 80w) several different amp modellings (from acoustic to Brit Stack etc) and they have built-in effects, which are really easy to use (the ease of use is a real plus point in my opinion, especially for live work). As Roland and Boss are the same company, the effects are pretty much what you'd get on a Boss pedal, and they are simply selected by turning the knob, no silly digital readouts for 200 sounds you'll never use. They aren't the flashiest hi tec, all singing, all dancing amps, but they are are simple, robust and reasonably priced.  Your idea of an old tube amp will be far less flexible..you might get a couple of good sounds out of it, but it may be noisy and relatively fragile compared to the Roland, and with an amp like the Roland, you dont need to mess around with a load of effects pedals..unless that's what turns you on. I much prefer an amp that's got some good sounds, and if you can dial in some simple effects onboard the amp, that's all to the good.

 

I think they have relatively recently upgraded the range, and here in the UK I've seen deals on the old line of Cubes..so you might get a good price on one (I think they've dropped the 15, 30 and 60W ratings and gone up to 20, 40 and 80W, but the discontinued ones are great little (but plenty loud) amps.

I've got a Vox Valvetronix amp which is a similar proposition to the Roland Cubes - you might see them referred to generically as modelling amps. They all have some sort of digital circuitry inside which allows them to mimic different kinds of amps and generally they'll include a setting for "clean" or "acoustic". So you ought to be able to get a usable sound for your mandolin and at the same time you have the option of switching quickly to something dirtier if you want.

Line 6 are another brand that do this kind of amp (including the Micro Spider, which seems to be their effort to compete with the Micro Cube). I've heard a lot of good things said about the Roland products - they seem to be pretty tough and, as John says, the effects come with the benefit of Boss's track record in that area. Hollowbelly drags one around with him and I believe it's also what Seasick Steve uses on stage, so you can take it they survive life on the road.

I bought my Vox through eBay. It was pretty much "as new" and I got it at less than half the cost of a new one. I'm sure if you keep your eye out you could find similar or better deals on a Cube.

I don't know about the bigger Rolands but the Micro Cube has an acoustic setting along with its other modeled amp setting, so you get both in one amp. And work's great with piezo's in my CBG's.

I have a Epiphone Valve Jr head that I bought for $100.00 new which sounded decent stock.  This is a five watt bare bones tube head without effects.  I modified mine with the Marshall mod and that made it sound much better.  I have around $150.00 into this head after modding it and it sounds like a good $800.00 tube amp now.  These amps do not have much clean headroom and are more for an overdriven sound which is what I prefer.  This amp is cheap new and for many people would be perfect for CBG if they like the sound it produces.  A guy like Seasick Steve would make my moddded head sound incredible and it would fit his usual overdriven tone.    

 

I'm one of those guy's who prefers the sound of a good sounding tube amp.

 

You may far prefer the amps others have mentioned above.        

The bigger Rolands also have an acoustic setting, and this is where this sort of amp scores, having a good clean sound as well as overdriven settings...and as has alreadv been pointed out, they are what Seasick Steve & Hollowbelly uses. I've got a great Fender tube combo, but I hardly ever use it at gigs..its way too big and heavy (at around 80lbs), whereas my little Sessionette transistorised 75w combo gives me great clean and overdriven sounds (footswitchable), it's compact and loud. About the only thing lacking is tremolo...there are a fair number of modern combos that have got some easy to use simple effects. Some gear snobs will probably say they are not proper gigging amps, more of a practice amp, but for really big stages you just mic the amp up and that's it.

 

The Epi Jnr is a hot little thing, but it's really only got one sound...it makes a great harp amp...but with only 5 watts it can struggle even in a small room with some other musicians.

Yeah, I was thinking about getting a Roland Cube 80, once I can find the 350.00 or so.

at home-Roland microcube

at gig-Roland Cube 30X.

The Epi Jr sounds pretty good stock but it is a one trick pony.  It would struggle in a band setting volume wise by itself.  I use it as a practice amp and I could put a mic in front of it.  You say the Jr is a good harp amp and I believe you.  One of the best amps for harp is a 50's tweed 4x10 Bassman.  I think that is one of the best sounding amps ever made, so I like this type of tone.  The Epi Jr can't hold a candle to the 50's tweed Bassman, but it sounds good for what it is.    

 

 


ChickenboneJohn said:

 

The Epi Jnr is a hot little thing, but it's really only got one sound...it makes a great harp amp...but with only 5 watts it can struggle even in a small room with some other musicians.

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