This holiday season I’m leaving all my nice gear at home & doing a buncha parties & gigs where there could be potential drunks staggering into me – big fun, except for a 15% chance of vomit. Here’s my “sacrificial” rig:
Electro Harmonix “22 Caliber” Amp head – $100 – actually sounds alright, I’m using it tonight for a small-scale gig to see how much abuse it’ll take. They also make a 44-watt version. If it can’t hang, I’ll use:
1974 Traynor BassMaster head – $200. It’s a Canadian-made Plexi Marshall clone, basically. Sounds awesome if you trick it out with some Telefunken preamp tubes & Mullard EL34’s, but that would defeat the “sacrificial” nature of the amp; I switch out the tubes with Sovteks for gigs & leave the good ones in for recording. Think “Machine Gun”.
Late 60’s (CBS) Fender 2×12 loaded with Eminence 12’s from junk shop – $100. The cab was wired all out of phase and poorly, the guy thought it was a piece of crap. I reversed one of the speaker connections & soldered it properly and now it sounds killer.
Washburn Overdrive – $30 (sounds as good as a TS9, IMHO). Squishy.
And, the pièce de résistance:
An SX PRS-style knockoff, delivered to my door for less than $200 from rondomusic.com.
Maple top/mahogany back, rosedwood neck etc. I clamped down the trem, set it up & polished the frets, changed the tuners & voilá! Serviceable & sounds fine – the pickups are medium-output & not too middy for clean strummy stuff, but thick enough for blues.
There are a lot of ways to inspire yourself to play cooler stuff, and exploring top-quality gear and attention to tone are definitely two of them. Ultimately though, your tone comes from your mind, hands & heart and a dash of technique. I use Instruments for safe situations, and Tools for gigs where “tone” is essentially taking a back seat to convenience. And damn, I think my shit still sounds pretty alright. If you keep your eyes open you never know what you’ll find.
The 22 Caliber pulled its weight – i ran it thru an old Boogie chassis and it was pretty loud, it broke up at the right volume ( I don’t require a crazy-clean headroomy sound, i like a little squish). Sounded about as good as a Peavey Bandit or Backstage. Definitely giggable and a great backup in case your rig goes tits up at the wrong time.