Posted on Sep 17 2023 06:30 PM
There are several ways to look at this.
I’m a tube amp fan, but I know that solid state amps are capable of sounding good. I could easily make peace with a solid state Champion 100 as a gigging amp. No, it wouldn’t be as good as a tube amp, but I could definitely make a Champion 100 work well enough to get me through a gig, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.
The polar opposite of this would be a small, all-tube amp, which works quite well, and can play any gig imaginable if you mic’ it through the PA. This is the option I have chosen for myself. Most of the time, I play through a Winfield Typhoon, which is a 5 watt, single-ended, Class A amp, voiced like a Vox AC-15. I also use a Winfield Tremor, which is essentially a ‘62 Princeton circuit, and has a great Surf sound. If I need more volume than these amps can deliver, I can mic’ it through a PA, and even the little 5 watt Typhoon sounds huge through a PA. I used to play a County Fair gig every year and used my 5 watt amp for those outdoor gigs. I walked to the very front of the stage, where I could hear the mains, and it sounded as big as a Dual Showman.
In your case, I would recommend thinking through just what you want as a base sound. I happen to like the Vox timbre for Surf. It’s close to a Fender sound, but not identical. For my needs and tastes, it’s a good fit, but every person has their own tastes.
The classic Surf sound was created mostly on big Brownface Fenders. There was a strong midrange and a powerful sound which worked well for instrumentals played on single-coil Fender guitars. To this day, Surf is influenced by these amps. The problem is, there are only so many of these amps in existence and the market doesn’t seem to support the mass production of new Brownface amps. My Winfield Tremor has a nice strong midrange and somewhat resembles the classic First Wave surf sound.
The Blackface series amps have less midrange and are not down the centerline of the classic Surf sound from 1962, but it is a good sound, and I’ve heard it used very successfully in Surf music.
Beyond that, there are many other sounds. The Vox sound, which is somewhat like the classic Blackface Fender sound, or the midrange sound of a Marshall. Good sounds can be created by a wide variety of amps. I came to like Surf music, because I love the sound of the electric guitar.
Yes, a Jaguar played through a Dual Showman and a 6G15 is a wonderful sound, but so is the sound of Duane Eddy, Link Wray or Stevie Ray Vaughan. When I was a kid, I listened to John Pisano playing a Fender XII with the Tijuana Brass. People don’t remember much about him, but that was some great guitar playing, and an excellent sound.
Find something you like, but is realistic to your needs, and play the heck out of it.
The artist formerly known as: Synchro
When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.