– part 1 of 2
My main amp for non-clean sounds is the THD Flexi. Around the time when I bought it in 2006, there was quite a bit of hype concerning THD’s amps. Carl Verheyen, Mike Landau and Chris Poland were namedropped as users, and a very favourable review of the Flexi in Guitar Player Magazine had been published in late 2004. As time went by, though, things seemed to go increasingly pear-shaped. As far as I know the THD company exists in name only today.
…my first impression was one of utter disappointment
When I picked it up, I had decided that I was done with high gain amps. My last rig, which had consisted of a Mesa/Boogie Triaxis preamp, Marshall 2X50 power amp, 4X12 cabinet and a TC Electronic G Major effects unit, was
total overkill overly complicated for my needs, and I wasn’t getting the sounds and/or vibe I was after. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was after, but I knew I wanted something simpler, more organic and with a smaller footprint. And it could absolutely not be reliant on MIDI switching!
Enter the Flexi
I was somewhat intrigued by what I’d read and heard, and by a total coincidence I was able to buy one from a guy whom I’d later become friends with – Kjetil (check out his Facebook page here). I tried it out at his studio, turned it up quite a bit – loved it – and took it home, certain that I’d picked up a proper amplifier.
At this point there was a sort of natural intermission, because I had to get a cabinet for it, and also there was some auxillary bits that needed replacing. After a couple of weeks, the cabinet was delivered and I was ready to rock. I connected all the stuff that needed… connecting, and fired the Flexi up. Expectations running high, I blasted through a couple of solo phrases and riffs. Sadly, my first impression was one of utter disappontment.
It is… absolute rubbish as a bedroom amp
The amp was the same amp as it was when I tried it at Kjetil’s studio, but where it then had sounded and felt like a proper classic rock amp with added versatility, it now sounded boomy in the low end and either shrill or dull in the high end. It compressed in an unfamiliar way that felt both stiff and imprecise at the same time. All my licks sounded horrible, and I had a severe case of buyer’s remorse. Regardless, my wife and I were in the midst of a complete remodelling of our flat, so the amp was put in storage for some time. Later I used it on a few recording sessions, and I kind of got used to the amp. I decided to stick with it, and maybe get rid of it later, if a good offer surfaced. During this waiting period I used the amp sparingly, until I finally started playing in a band in 2008/2009.
The Flexi excels at playing in “proper” situations…
Revenge of the Flexi
In short, when I turned the amp up properly, so that I could be heard over the gifted – albeit quite loud – drummer, the Flexi sounded absolutely fantastic! All the things that sounded strange in isolation now made perfect sense. It also seemed to cut through the band, and parts where easily heard without having to drown out the others (it should be said that if I turned it up full wick, not even the drummer could keep up volume-wise).
After the band imploded, (like they all tend to do at some point – maybe it’s me?), I used the Flexi on some recordings I did at home. I quickly found out that getting a good tone on disk had never been so easy with any other amp I’d ever owned. It was almost too easy! When I thought about my experiences in the rehearsal room and in recording situations, it slowly dawned on me: The Flexi played on its own in a room with the volume turned down to levels approaching acceptable in a flat, was unsatisfying, to say the least. This stood in stark contrast to the minimal dialing-in the amp needed to effectively play live or record.
The Flexi excels at playing in “proper” situations, and it needs to be turned up to a certain degree (to my ears this is between one and two o’ clock on the master volume, which is live drummer territory) to sound at its best. It is also absolute rubbish as a bedroom amp – unless you have the opportunity to open it up a bit, then it’s absoultely wonderful in the bedroom as well (your wife may disagree).