About a year ago I "discovered" Crate amps. I read about some "hidden gems" in a web site called
In this site a guy teaches Van Halen techniques using a Crate GFX212 (solid state combo amp). He says that for recording and low volume the Crate is better than his Marshall. I became a believer and bought a Crate GFX 212 too. I love it. It does great early VH sound. The solo channel is super for VH and 80s rock. The Gain 1 channel is very good for AC/DC and Aerosmith type of sound. The clean sound is the weaker area of this amp. Not awful but not good either.
Many people have commented in web sites that the 212 (2 twelve inch speakers) Crate solid state combos are much better than their single 12 speaker versions. Also a lot of people prefer the overall sound of the versions with digital reverb (versus the ones with the spring reverb). Go figure.
I also tried newer Crate amps at music stores. Solid state with the flexwave preamp 212 combos with digital reverb are excellent. I have not tried the small Crate tube combos so I can not say anything about these.
About a month ago, I saw Billy Gibbons
play live using a Crate tube amp (a V-Series) and his sound blew me away. A couple of days ago I found a used V-Series VFX 5212 in a music store. I tried it and loved it. I went back the next day to buy it. I spent most of today playing with it. This amp is amazing (and a great bargain). It has the best clean channel I have ever heard. I could not believe how good it is. The overdriven/distortion channel is excellent too. The distortion is different from the flexwave (whose solo channel can deliver more of a high gain distortion). The VFX 5212 has more of a classic rock
distortion (not metal) which suits what I like to play. Needless to say I am in love with this VFX 5212. Check the reviews on www.harmony-central.com
So net, you will be able to find a great sound with some selected Crate amps. Make sure you test drive any Crate amp first before you buy. The GFX 212 solo channel delivers a killer early VH sound. The VFX 5212 is an amazing tone machine. I was in heaven playing this amp today. I can't wait to gig with it. If you find one try it, you will not be sorry.