Peavey Delta Blues....Great amp. Great value.
In 1997, I strolled into a Pawn Shop in Arlington, Texas – halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth. I was on my fairly regular pawnshop tour.
Not to make myself sound outdated, but that was back when you could almost always find cool guitar stuff in good, old-fashioned pawnshops. That’s much harder to do today, in my personal opinion, due to the proliferation of numerous online marketplaces.
Back to the First Cash Pawn, which was unremarkable in its fluorescent-bulb-infused pallor. The store had a Peavey Delta Blues tube amp for sale. It was tweed, had a booming 15-inch speaker in it and just needed a new set of power tubes. I walked out the door with it for $179 and still have the receipt to prove it.
Two decades later, I still have the amp – with my first set of replacement tubes still blasting out warm, organic vibes – and never looked back. And probably never will.
What is the point of this story, beyond the fact that I got a decent deal on an amp?
My point is that there are amazing guitars, amps and pedals that don’t cost a lot of money, give you great performance for the price and stand the test of time.
My Delta Blues is just one of many examples. Speaking for myself as a beginner/intermediate player who doesn’t have an unlimited budget, it is a terrific amp that does everything you could want – and does it well.
The 15-inch speaker is pretty special. I had never heard one before, and there is definitely more depth and dimension to the tone. Throw in reverb, tremolo and a more-than-capable gain channel, along with plenty of volume, and you have a really great amp that can meet any need.
On a societal level, I think sometimes consumers, myself included, get a little too caught up in the pursuit of what they perceive to be premium brands or products.
Now, I certainly understand that boutique and mainstream brands produce some unreal premium amps that people rave about. I also understand that for serious musicians and professional performers anything less than the absolute best is not an option. However, I personally can’t justify spending $2,000 or more on an amp. I would rather have four or maybe even five amps, as good or in some cases even better than my Delta Blues, for that amount of money.
Early 1980s Vantage Spirit Les Paul Style Guitar. Made in Japan.
A great little Blackstar HT-1R for under $150. And it has a headphone jack!
A Fender DeVille 212 amp can be found for $400 to $500. It's a beast to carry it, though!
The same is true for guitars. I am surprised to see how often people are willing to pay $500 to $1,000, or more, for a brand-new guitar. Now, believe me, I have zero problem with these guitars, and many of them are good quality instruments.
But, frankly, I wish more people would consider good-quality, pre-owned instruments that, in many cases, offer much higher quality for the money than modern counterparts. A 1980s or 1990s made-in-Japan Fender or Squier Strat or Telecaster are great examples.
Many players have already discovered the greatness of made-in-Japan Fenders. I won’t recount the history of Fender manufacturing that led to the wave of Japanese guitars to hit the United States (which is well-documented elsewhere) but these guitars are fantastic for the money. I have an ’85-’86 MIJ Squier Strat with a black body and maple fret board and recently sold a ’93-’94 MIJ Fender Foto Flame Strat – and both are outstanding for their feel, tone and quality. The ’93-'94 Strat felt just as sweet as my own personal ’97 USA Fender Roadhouse Strat.
Block Logo MXRs from the late 1970s are fantastic pedals for the money.
A very cool, vintage Ibanez Standard "Wau Wah" pedal from the 1970s can be found for about $100.
The same buying philosophy holds true for pedals. If you could get a vintage, analog MXR Phase 90 (block logo version) for $129 or so versus paying the same price or more (or even a few dollars less) for a new digital pedal, to me it’s a no brainer to go for the old classic. I’m not here to debate analog versus digital but it’s hard to beat the tone on these old pedals. And they are nearly indestructible if taken care of, aside from the occasional footswitch or battery clip replacement. (My view is that you don’t need to pay a premium for a vintage MXR script logo pedal to get amazing tone. The block logo versions do just fine for players like me, but that’s another debate.)
Made in Japan Fender Stratocasters? Yes, please! Love these guitars.
Marshall JTM 60 from the mid-1990s. I loved this amp and wish I still had it!
However, when I compare many new purchases versus buying used and vintage gear, I just feel that some folks are missing out. The options are too numerous to list, but, just in the spirit of sharing a few examples, you could purchase:
- A 1985-86 Squier Stratocaster, made in Japan, for $500 or a less, or Fender version for $500 to $700.
- Even USA-made Fender Strats, dating back over the past 25 years or so, can be found for under $800 if you are patient.
- An early 1980s Vantage Les Paul copy, also made in Japan at the respected Matsumoku factory, for $350 to $500.
- A Danelectro reissue guitar, the versions made in Korea starting in the late 1990s, which are fun to play and can be found for $200 to $400. They are also cool looking with a retro vintage vibe and vibrant colors.
- An early 1970s Epiphone EA-250 semi-hollowbody guitar (made in Japan) for $500 or less.
- Marshall JTM Series amps (30-, 45- and 60-watt) from the mid-1990s are great amps that can be found for under $500. I had a JTM 60 and I would rather have that back to go with my Marshall DSL40C (which is a great amp) that I just bought.
- A Marshall Class 5 tube amp for $350 to $450. Classic vintage styling and great performance.
- Any mid-1990s Crate Vintage Club series tube amp, which I believe came in 5-, 20-, 30- and 50-watt variations, starting around $150 and going up to $400.
- Any of the Peavey Classic Series amps (20-, 30- and 50-watts, including the Delta Blues referenced above).
- Fender Blues or Hotrod Deluxe and DeVille series amps, in a variety of speaker configurations, can be found for $400 to $500. Great fender cleans!
- The full spectrum of Blackstar tube amps, ranging from one watt to 60 watts. You can get these used starting in the mid $100-range up to about $500 for higher wattage. The features and quality on these amps are truly amazing.
- Any 1980s or early 1990s Epiphone Sheraton or Epiphone Emperor guitar, made Korea, which range from about $450 to $700.
- A Gibson Les Paul Studio or SG Faded or Special solid-body guitar, made in the USA, for as low as $550 to $750.
Early 1970s Epiphone EA-250, made in Japan. Underrated guitar for the money.
Early 1990s, Epiphone Emperor, made in Korea. Great quality, fun to play.
I love my little Marshall Class 5 tube amp. Doesn't it also look cool?
The list goes on and on. Hey, if you have the cash spend on a $5,000 Custom Shop Les Paul or $3,000 for a PRS, and that’s the sound that you need to have, I get it. No judgment from me. However, for the budget-conscious, it pains me to see what someone will get for $500 to $1,000 or so in new guitars or the comparable comparison with new amps.
Affordable tone is out there for those with a keen eye.
A great Fender USA Standard Strat can be found for under $800. This 2003 Strat played like a dream.
Danelectro U2 reissue, made in Korea. So fun!