Help picking out a new studio amp...


Jan 10, 2005
Ok, at the studio I have moved to, all we have as far as the amps for bands to use when their gear is...well...crap, is a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier head, a 5150 (signature) 2x12 combo, Rocktron Chameleon (on request), and a PODxt Live with model packs. For cabs, all we have is two Marshall JCM900 1960a 4x12's, a Marshall JCM900 1936 2x12, and on request a Mesa Traditional Recto 4x12. What I mean by "on request" is that I have a friend with the Chameleon and the Mesa 4x12, and he's cool with me using them at the studio for projects, usually the Chameleon is great for death metal, plus it has direct outs so it's easy to hook up real fast. Anyway...

I wanted to look into getting another amp to bridge the gaps we have and add something else for the guitarist's to choose between. With the two amps we have, there's not much versatility to be honest, you can either have the Recto sound, or the 5150 sound, nothing in between, and what if what they need is something with a bit of British JCM sound? So I have been checking out a few different amps, but can't really decide on ONE to start with. Eventually I would like to have quite a few amps laying around at customer's disposal, but for now something to add some spice and rejuvenate the studio a little bit.

Not really worried too much about cost, anything will have to be saved up for. I am really interested in Engl, however, if I bought one, I would end up leaving it at my house all the time hahah :). I want something that can get a very wide variety of sounds of course, but has some really shining tones that can be used for anything. I was looking at the Randall MTS series, it looks pretty good, and the sound clips are decent, but they always play 70's style cock rock riffs on sound clips so you never know how brutally fast metal sounds on it, or how well the amp responds to low end for detuned guitars, lol. I was figuring on getting the rackmount preamp thing where you can put 4 modules in at one time (each one's output to a patchbay of some sort, and then go into the the other room to a mic'ed cab.) However, I can't really find any reviews other than the magazine one's, which aren't much help anyway since they're biased as hell. Just curious if anyone here might have had the opportunity to try it out?

The other amp I have been checking out a lot lately is the Peavey JSX. I hear it's supposedly a XXX with a few added features. I haven't had a chance to play a JSX, but I have played a XXX before, and loved the sounds. I remember getting a very Recto-y sound setting it one way, and then I got a pretty close JCM-y sound setting it another. Speaking of which, a XXX is another one on the list.

I use to own a Mesa Mark IV combo, and wish I never sold it. It's just like the Engl to me, if I got one, I'd probably end up using it for my band(s) or home projects, heh. Plus it's got that *one* sound to it too (like the Recto), so it's not much help, even though it does sound great. I would throw a Bogner Ecstacy, or Uberschall, a Diezel head on the list, but the kids that come in these days don't know tone. Luckily there are amps like Engl and stuff that have the gain they want but I'm not ashamed to have my name attached to the credits since the tone is great too. *SIGH* I just can't decide, and the owner is really excited about me doing this, he would have but all he ever uses is the Mesa Dual Recto, so he's kinda like "what's the point of using another amp, if this one works?" Don't get me wrong, the Recto sounds great no matter what in those rooms. But, it's not for every project that comes in. So anyway, people post your ideas on this. I'm down for anything pretty much at this point, since it's not an amp for ME, :).

Orange Rockerverb (my actual fav), Matamp, Marshall JMP MKII or JCM800 2203 with a clean booster, Framus Dragon, Bogner Ubershall, VHT Ultralead, Soldano Slo 100... There's plenty of good amps with different tones.
But also consider buying differents cabs with different speakers... V30, Century Vintage, Greenbacks, G12h, Classic Lead can make a world difference with the same amp. The G12t75's (the ones in the standard marshall cabs) are the weakest imho.
I have a Mesa Road King that covers the dual recto sound nicely, as well as many other sounds as well. It's much more versitile than the dual.

For heavy sounds you can look into the Soldano SLO-100 or the Hot Rod. However, the 5150 is based on the SLO, so they are quite similar (not the same, and the SLO is nicer to my ears, but they are similar).

The Splawn pro-mod sounds to me like what a Marshall should sound like. They are under $2k new, and you can find them used every once in a while.

The Ubershcall is a one-trick pony. It does well with brutal distortion, but doesn't seem to be very good at much else. The XTC is fairly flexible, but I prefer the Splawn's Marshall sound to the Bogner.

The ENGLs sound really nice, but I won't have mine until tomorrow, so I can't speak from experience.

VHTs are quite popualr, and their resale value isn't very strong, so you can usually find a good deal on them used. I've played several and some I liked some I didn't, but none enough to actually buy (or even remember model names!)

Once the ENGL gets here tomorrow, I'll have a Road King, a Soldano Hot Rod, a 5150 and a PowerBall here to go with a Marshall v30 4x12 and a Mesa oversized recto cab with C90s.

I am currently doing the Pharaoh CD ( and we A/B'd all the amps (except the ENGL) and both cabs. For rhythms we wound up using the RK through the Marshall for L/R and the 5150 through the Marshall for the center track. Cleans were done using the RK and leads are through the Soldano and some RK.

If I was in your position, I think I'd get the Splawn or the PowerBall because they are different enough from what you currnetly have to make it worth your while.

Also, check out the clips at, he's a good guy and has a bunch of clips of ENGL, Framus, etc.
The Randall MTS heads or RM4 preamp would be killer in any studio. These units take modules with circuitry based on the original amps they mimic : Fender, Marshall, Mesa, Vox, etc. They sound really good and could cover a full range of tones for any studio or style...
Well, I've played a PowerBall several times, and had plenty of opportunities to buy one at an insane price, as well as trade my 5150 combo for one, but I never did because I was too lazy to make the drive lol. Of course, I'm kicking myself now, but it's too late at this point. I will probably buy the amp new regardless of what it is, unless there is an outstanding deal on eBay or something, just so that I have factory warranty and all that good stuff.

I would definitely just go for a PowerBall, but as I said, I'd probably end up not ever taking it to the studio and using it for my band, hehe. I have heard a lot of good things about Framus amps, and they are starting to become more popular lately with a lot of heavy acts, so thats good. As far as Krank is concerned, I played one and wasn't impressed, but Terror used them for their recent tour and they had great live sound. I liked their sound on this last tour with the Kranks than I did when they came through before with Triple Recs. A VHT sounds nice, never had the chance to play one myself, but I've heard tons of recordings with them and never had a complaint or anything about their tone.

I guess the main thing here is whether I should spend $2-3k on the Randall rackmount setup and get almost all of the modules, or spend $2-3k on one head. I guess I should just find as many sound clips as humanly possible and make a decision from there. Although it would be nice to get one direct answer from someone here so that I don't have to decide :) Oh well, to rocksolid I go!

If you need versatility, get an Engl SE. Personally, I don't need versatility, so the Engl Fireball is perfect for me (and it's MUCH cheaper than the SE due to it's bare bones design). I really don't think that any other high gain head could suit me better (although I haven't tried an SE or Powerball).
The JSX would be a good cheaper alternative for something versatile.