5 Brands Worth Checking Out …

Blackstar Venue Series Amps

It seems like the way that things are going Blackstar will soon be the new Marshall. Lately, I’ve seen more Marshalls get pulled off stage and replaced with Blackstars than any other amp out there. From Ozzy’s Gus G. to Journey’s Neal Schon, Blackstars are finding a home on the stages that once were towered by the iconic Marshall stack. It could have something to do with Blackstar slipping into Marshall’s tried & true distribution unit in North America, or perhaps that it’s run by X-Marshall guys who knew how to get things running right out of the gate. Maybe, it’s all of the above. Nonetheless, if you haven’t checked out a Blackstar yet, you might want to dig in. Since its inception, I have yet to hear anyone complain about them – No complaints about tone or quality. With a selection for the bedroom rocker to the pro musician, Blackstar has all its bases covered. And, don’t get me wrong. I’m still a huge fan of Marshall. But if there’s an amp that’s showing me something different, it’s the next generation of Blackstars.

Bugera Infinium Series Amps

I have yet to meet a person that has said they hate having an option to buy a Plexi inspired amp (Bugera’s 1960) or a JCM inspired amp (1990) new, for less than used ones found online. Sure, Bugera is a bit late on the delivery of the TriRec and Magician, but they promise that it’ll be worth the wait. Bugera’s not trying to win a race, here. Instead, getting it right will keep players happy with their purchase and retain trust in the line. Remember, Bugera is new to market. Unlike Blackstar that was run by X-Marshall employees, Bugera learned from the ground up, and like any other of the new names on the block, they’re learning what works and what doesn’t. Take for example the new 333XL Infinium. That amp is a complete overhaul from the first revision of the 333XL, sporting higher quality components than the first. Bugera has pushed themselves to give you an all tube amp that is completely maintenance free. Imagine that! The #1 complaint all tube amp owners have and Bugera’s claimed to have solved it. So for a company that’s new to the game, they’re learning quick. And the proof is that they’re leap-frogging the competition with their new line up of Infinium amps. (See Video Below)

Carvin Series Amps

Carvin brand product is a diamond in the rough. For those that want domestic quality (made in the USA) at an affordable price, and an impressive selection to choose from, look no further. Sure, it’s no secret that TTK himself likes brands like Custom Audio Electronics and Soldanos, but the reality is not everyone can afford them. Just like CAE and Soldano, Carvin is made in the USA. Whether you want something Solid State / maintenance free with their SX series, something portable like their full featured, full wattage V3M micro-head or balls to the wall full stack X100B or modern V3, Carvin can handle it. Made in San Diego USA, family owned and operated – not to mention operating direct (no middle man fees which pass savings along to the consumer) – there are few who can compete with Carvin. Most people who buy Carvin usually stay with Carvin. The only caveat to buying one is that not everyone has the luxury of trying before you buy. However, with the internet at our fingertips, more decisions are made by mediums like YouTube than ever before. You don’t need to try before you buy like you did yesterday. Today, there are plenty for forums on the internet, with people that will either rant or rave about the products they own, have sold, or simply love. And, Carvin always seems to be part of the love fest. If that doesn’t work for you, they also offer a no-questions asked return policy, giving you time to decide if the amp should stay or go. Personally, I own a vintage X100B Series 2, and X100B Series 3, a Vai Series 1, a V3M and a V3. In addition to my fav Quad X and T-100 rack gear! Why, because as far as I’m concerned, Carvin rocks! If it didn’t, trust me, I would’ve sold it all off long ago. Carvin is a keeper in my book.

Line 6 DT Series Amps

Gotta give it to Line 6. They’re always in the frontlines when it comes to amp modeling, continuing to push the envelope while trying to give players the best bang for the buck. Plus, they strive to give players modeling at its best all while keeping their ears to the street so that they can hear what people are asking for – Always striving for true, organic, life-like circuitry that interacts with the player. Their DT series amp line looks like a break-through for modeling amps – in that it’s simple (controls & layout) yet versatile (4 Channels of pure bliss from Class A chime to Modern Metal), all keeping true to what guitarists want. And that’s the versatility of modeling with the bliss & soul that only tubes can deliver. Despite all of the haters that say modeling sucks, everyone seems to dig the Spider Valve and DT series amps. Remember, with any product from any company, you get what you pay for. If you want a $99 amp to sound like a $999 amp, it’s not going to happen. And, this is where I hear the biggest complaints. But, if you put in your time, and research, and understand what you’re buying, Line 6 leads in value for the buck.

Randall RG and RT series Amps

Randall is one of those brands that’s never steered me wrong. Long before anyone else was doing it, Don Randall was making high-gain amps with snakeskin cabinets that looked as good as they sounded. For players looking for a lot of gain for not a lot of coin, Randall was the way to go. And they still haven’t lost steam. From Scott Ian to George Lynch, artists are still flocking to them. Product manager, Joe Delaney, probably has a hand in that. He’s the ‘player next door’ that always keeps his hands in the design of Randall’s next big amp. Everyone says that Joe is devoted to his trade, wanting to keep the roots and tradition of the line intact. Whereas many other companies are always searching for the next best thing, Randall continues to keep it simple and keep it real. Check out their new Mosfet RG1503. If this thing doesn’t rip your face off, maybe you should consider taking up the tuba instead. (See Video Below)

Enjoy some coverage on the aforementioned suggestions …

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Filed Under: FeaturedAmps

About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for TheToneKing.com, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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