"Wait a minute, this amp isn’t a clone of a plexi Marshall?!"
That was my initial thought when plugging into this amp for the very first time. And that’s actually a good thing for many users who will enjoy the added flexibility of the many tonal options presented by THD Electronic’s new Flexi 50 amplifier. Though my initial idea really was to pit a ’68 50 watt Marshall against the THD Flexi-50 amplifier head, it was clear from both looking at and listening to the Flexi-50 that this would have been an apples to oranges type of comparison. The Flexi-50 offers quite a bit of tonal and feature-set variety and it would be inappropriate to simply compare it to one single amplifier.
Perhaps I subconsciously took the name "Flexi" and associated it mostly with a 1960’s plexi-era Marshall. In any case, Andy Marshall, THD’s President explained it best: "It’s named the Flexi-50 because of its flexibility in being able to capture vintage British and American tones."
It’s not a secret that nothing beats the sound of a great guitar tube amp cranked up. When a tube amp is driven to overdrive, rich and musical even-ordered harmonics flow in abundance and the amplifier seems to take on a new sense of dynamic character that responds better to a player’s touch. It is this feel that gives a tube amp an organic and natural sense, while solid-state amplifiers are considered more sterile in sound because of the lack of this response or harmonics.
The age-old problem has been getting the great tube amp sound at lower and more realistic levels. As the majority of musicians play relatively small clubs and in even smaller practice rooms, only the minority (i.e. those famous guitarists!) get the real opportunity to play these tube amps at the volumes that they sound best. As a result, many of our classic and much beloved Marshall, Fender, and Vox amplifiers are often seen used with distortion and fuzz boxes to compensate. While my personal belief is that these distortion and fuzz boxes are useful in some applications, they are certainly not the best way to achieve great tone when used strictly as the sole source of distortion.
This past November, I had the pleasure to attend the Aerosmith show at the Shoreline in the Bay Area, with the added treat of being able to go backstage in the tech area prior to the show to get the full lowdown on what else? – the gear! I have to thank Brad Whitford’s personal guitar tech, Greg Howard, as well as Brad himself for taking the time out to meet with me and chat.
The stage sound during the show was perfectly mixed and sounded great. Joe Perry and Brad Whitford’s setups were both for the most part straightforward and based around the use of some of the best vintage guitars and amps along with a limited use of effects.