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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Gear »

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I just bought a late 90s Mexican Stratocaster, and I'm looking for a practice amp which can produce a classic surf sound. I assume that a tube amplifier would be best for an early 60s sound, but the tube amps reviews on YouTube usually emphasize the ability to achieve distorted/bluesy/metal timbres. I’d also like to be able to get a Link Wray-like distorted sound as well.
A jazz guitarist recommended the Roland Micro Cube, but my experience with inexpensive solid-state amps (the Peavey Rage and the Fender Frontman) has been unfavorable: those two sounded thin, and the controls were wobbly.
Any suggestions for a relatively compact guitar amplifier with spring reverb and tremelo?

Welcome, JohnnyBD! You're off to a solid start with the Strat.

Great gear primer article here.

Also, loads of convo history on the site about practice amps. The Roland Cube, Vox AC4 TV and of course a few different Fender models are well cited among others.'ll not find too many with true Spring Reverb & Tremolo on board, but there are quite a few modeling effects and whatnot that are more than adequate for anyone getting started.

You'll inevitably wind up geekin' more on Reverb options. Um... Search it on the site, else be warned of the wrath of dead horse beaters Wink


El Mirage @ ReverbNation

I wouldn't rule out the Vox DA5 - it is solid state but has the fender tube sound down remarkably well. Also has decent built in effects such as reverb, delay, etc. All of my amps are older blackface fenders except my DA5 and I find it plenty nice enough to practice through (and occasionally to use at a small job while on vacation - it can fit in a suitcase). Bigger sound than the Microcube.

Last edited: Jul 29, 2011 04:39:19

By practice amp do you mean alone in the bedroom or as an amp for "band practice"?

What day is Surf Rock's birthday? Looks like Surf Rock and I was born the same year. Maybe we are both Libras?

The Fender MUSTANG amp series seems to be well regarded across the board. They are very inexpensive as well.

THE KBK ... This is the last known signal. We offer Sanctuary.

Check out the "Fender Frontman 25-R" has 25 (or so) watts & a 10" speaker & only costs $99 ! It is the "closest" & most affordable tone you can get to an original "Princeton Reverb"...the Reverb is GREAT ! (I had 5 PR's so I sorta' "know"...I guess...). You could probably (small) "gig" with this amp !

Best practice amp I have played is the Fender Super Champ XD. Very good amp. Has good reverb and tremolo (but limited variations - only 2 preset speeds) - Excellent tone however. There is also the Vibro Champ XD which is a bit smaller and cheaper.

Depending on how much you want to spend I would try find a silverface champ/vibrochamp/bronco as you can still pick these up dead cheap and they will only increase in value if yr lucky. Good solid fender tube sound, loud enough for recording and bedroom use and if well miked then giggable with (I use one as a split with my ac30).

Only downside is the lack of reverb, but as I'm sure you'll find on this forum there are plenty of options out there. Personally I reckon on the EHX holy grail as a good starting point Smile

You might want to check out the Deluxe Reverb Reissue (DRRI).

It has the features that you want and is very flexible, as it works well for home practice, band rehearsal, and most small to medium sized gigs.

At home, set the amp volume on 5 to 6 and your Strat volume on 3 to 5, for great tone at reasonable sound levels.

The reverb is beautiful and the amp has that authentic Fender tone.

If price is a concern, there is a good selection out there used.


Last edited: Jul 27, 2011 11:13:00

I'm lovin' my Champ-based VHT "Special 6". Six watts into a single 10" speaker. More headroom than I expected and a switchable Boost to boot. I may try it on a small venue duo gig.

You should be fine with that, it's louder than my vibrochamp and I've used that when playing with me and my singer

If you're looking for an economy amp with reverb check out the Hartke G15R it's a solid state (NO tubes) and can be had for $85.00 new though you can likely find one used for less (many new players quit soon after starting to play) on either Ebay or Craigslist.

One amp that is superb for beginners on a budget wanting the surf tone you describe is the AXL/Johnson Reptone 15 watt (NO reverb). A friends 15 yr old son helped with some work disassembling my lakefront dock and he had been borrowing his brothers guitar so I gave him a Squier SE Strat in excellent condition, when it came time for an amp I found a Reptone 15 on Ebay for $38.00 (like new) delivered to my door. The Reptone was so good with deep, rich tone just perfect for use with a Strat that for a moment I considered keeping it and giving him the still boxed Hartke GR15-R but just couldn't do it.

I bought the Hartke G15-R mentioned above before finding a Crate V-1512 (Made in USA tube amp w/spring reverb) at a yard sale for $40.00 in like new condition with just a loose input jack and that sees the most use in my home.

Note: Fender amps are the most popular in the surf music community due to name recognition and they have higher resale values. If you're on a budget and intend on keeping the guitar and amp a non-Fender may suit your needs.

Last edited: Jan 03, 2018 22:02:24

i actually just got a used micro cube,,, i dont know if i would choose it as a full time practice amp, but its a killer travel / battery amp, you definitely can get some great surf tones with it, does clean well and does the dirty link wray thing well

Another vote for the Superchamp XD. If you know amps, it will surprise you with what it can do and how well it does it, especially for the price. If you're just starting out, it's like a tour of amp history.

And it's surfy. The clean channel sounds great, and is blackface. It also has 3 blackface models at various stages of overdrive. There's also brownface, and vox, if you want to try something different. I've also gotten great results with their more distorted amp voices (hot rod) with the gain turned way down and the volume up. The acoustic and jazz voices are really nice, too.

It has a pretty devoted following, not just because of the sound, but because it is moddable... swap speakers, upgrade tubes, even move it to a bigger cabinet so you can drop in a 12 incher. It has speaker out for cabinets, too.

There's no headphone jack, but it sounds good at low volumes. I'd avoid the Vibrochamp (if you can find it), you'll get much more out of the Superchamp. There's a tube swap you can do if the volume is just too loud for you.

You will still want a reverb. This has a reverb, but I prefer to use the amp effects for slapback delay or tremolo and you can't do both at the same time. But that's what pedals are for, anyway.

Give it a try, you'll be happy! Look on CL for great deals.

jonfender wrote: I just got this Amp and he is dead on as I am very picky with the surf tone and this amp has a Mid knob which is very important to turn up all the way if you want that Jim Messina and Surfaris sound.

Check out the "Fender Frontman 25-R" has 25 (or
so) watts & a 10" speaker & only costs $99 ! It is the
"closest" & most affordable tone you can get to an
original "Princeton Reverb"...the Reverb is GREAT !
(I had 5 PR's so I sorta' "know"...I guess...). You
could probably (small) "gig" with this amp !

My practice amp is a Hugues&Kettner Surf Edition. It's quite unusual (these german amps are more often used to play metal) but that little amp (40 watts solid state) deliver a great clean sound and has an inboard spring reverb that has nothing to envy to accutronics reverb such as fender frontman's.
It was my first surf amp, but I kept it because it's perfect to practise and home recording.
Only problem is that it's quite difficult to find one (it's a limited edition)

Monkey Ju

Pirato Ketchup

Where's Johnny?!

Every word is like an unecessary stain on silence and nothingness.

I also suggest the Fender SCXD, it's a great little amp. If you need a headphone jack you can always get one of these:

Weber Headphone Tap

Last edited: Aug 18, 2011 13:57:29

Bought a Line 6 Spider jam for exactly that use, 13 months ago.

Had purchased a G-Dec 30 and took it back the next day for the L6.

GREAT "little" amp and you never have to worry about wearing out tubes. Lots of presets, loops, drum stuff and you can invent and store your own presets, too. Amazing onboard tuner, too.

Highest recommendation.

Sam Ash has the Fender G-DEC 3.0 Fifteen 1x8 Guitar amp on sale now for $100. List price is $400.

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