I've had a lot of guitar players come in with smaller amps lately - old Supros and Champs that when pushed to the limit deliver excellent overdriven guitar tones at easily manageable volumes. You just put a decent condenser mic in front and there you go. Emery Sound is making new all-tube, hand-made guitar amps that are perfect for this same function - and even better sounding than most of the vintage amps I've heard. At 8 watts maximum volume you're probably not gonna take it out to a gig, but in the studio it shines with clear tones and when pushed (especially in half-power mode), excellent distortion that sounds massive over the studio monitors! The amp is beautifully constructed - my clients all wanted to hear it after seeing it - and it has the transformer and tubes exposed up top like an old Ampeg. And here's the kicker- you can get the Mad Scientist tube experimentation set with 10 tubes (the amp only uses three), which you can switch out on the amp to try different sounds. We traded them around getting clean or throaty sounds and overdriven tones from different combinations. Better than a bunch of tone knobs that don't really do much. Speaking of knobs, there's volume and tone on this amp and they're interactive, making dialing in crunch a breeze. The head is available alone ($599) or with a Jensen re-issue speaker in a cabinet ($849) and the tube experimentation set is an extra $175. The Superbaby is worthy investment for any studio that deals with guitars a lot or for a player who wants awesome recording abilities and an attractive home practice amp! (www.emerysound.com, 510-236-1176)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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