Most modern amps have a harder time in achieving the edge of breakup tone. This is because their design focuses more on achieving higher gains and stronger bass.
To achieve edge of breakup more easily, these are the top 3 amps that I recommend
Top 3 amps for edge of breakup tone
- Fender Bassman: Can easily produced beautiful distortion sounds without needing loud volume. The amp is also capable of creating a lovely clean tone, thus making the transit from clean to distorted a very easy and smooth experience
- Vox AC-30: This is another vintage amp that breaks up nicely especially when paired with the right speakers such as celestron blue. Only thing that I don
- Peavey classic 30: This is the budget option that about 1/3 or 1/2 of other models. It is pretty close to the Bassman in terms of tone slack but not as easy to achieve the breakup tone. The best way is probably to use a loud volume on the dirty channel. (It has 2 channels: 1 dirty and 1 clean)
Why I choose Fender Bassman
When trying to achieve the edge of breakup tone, I find Fender Bassman to give me the most easy way to do so because:
- The Fender Bassman offers an easy way to get distortion tone that sound wonderfully. This ease will help you hit that sweet spot without spending too much time figuring out the inner workings of the amps. Some models can achieve this spot but it is not without extensive trial and error process.
- Easy to achieve overdrive at low volume. This is especially so when you use 2 channels concurrently using a short cable. In this way, you can achieve overdrive without needing to dial the volume way, which many other amps need.
- It is a combo amp so saving me the effort to look for speakers as well as setting it up.
However there are some downsides to buying this amp
- One is the price. It is above $1,300 so it is not an entry level amp.
- No master volume control so more troublesome to adjust the volume.
Fender 59 Bassman reissue vs ltd
If you are considering Fender Bassman, then you need to know about the 2 options and their differences:
- Ltd uses tube rectifier while the reissue uses the solid state ones. However, it is easy for the reissue to switch to the tube rectifier as the solid state ones can be easily removed from the cabinet.
- Ltd’s cabinet is made of all pine wood while reissue uses plywood
- Ltd has a adjustable fixed bias but not the reissue
- Ltd uses the Jensen 10″ speakers while reissue uses the blue frame speakers
Overall, both are very solid amps but your mileage might differ based on the above differences.
In terms of overall design, I would say the ltd is a better choice due to the adjustable bias and the all pine wood.
It is also easier to purchase as ltd is available in most online stores including Amazon.
If you are into the blue frame speakers of the reissue, then you need to hunt one from the 90s as well as doing all the necessary inspection of the parts. I don’t enjoy this process so I am not recommending it.
What is edge of breakup tone
For folks who are still not too sure what is breakup tones, the best description I came cross is this from the tdpri.com forum
“the clean still rings but has a slightly dirty compressed edge”
In layman terms, it means at the ‘edge of breakup’, you can go from clean to slight distortion very easily. The transition will be smooth without jarring difference in the listening experience.
With the right amp, this transition becomes something a player can control via how much he or she is attacking the play.
Most amps tend to swing one way or the other, even with the right settings. In fact, most modern amps are harder to work with to achieve this tone as they focus a lot more on gains and bass.
Amp setting for on the edge of breakup
Even with the right amp, you need to know how to find that setting that will help you achieve the ‘on the edge’ breakup tone:
- Figure out the setting which allows you to easily achieve overdrive by simply digging into your guitar more
- At this point, you should still have a clean tone when you are playing lighting
- However, once you dig hard, the overdrive should occur. That will be the setting for the edge of breakup tone
- An alternative is to set at a higher setting than the above but dial back on the volume. That will give you the same effect but less loud.
The above works only for amp and speaker combos. If you have a set up that includes multiple tubes, amp and speakers, then it will not be so straight forward.
Breakup is ultimately linked to volume threshold. Specifically, any volume you pushed past the threshold on any speaker or amp lead to overdrive and thus the breakup.
So, with multiple devices in one set up, there will be a cascading effect. When a device in the upper chain gets overdrive, it will spill the effects down the chain.
The end result breakup is a function of all the devices’ distortion. Hence, you need to adjust the setting on all the devices in the whole set up to get that kind of edge of breakup tone that you want.
When it comes to hitting that magic spot, a suitable amp comes a long way. At the very least, it will make the transition from clean to distort much smoother.
However, a really suitable amp can also achieve this at lower volume, meaning you don’t need to find a suitable timing or place to hit that sweet sweet tone.