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Amplifiers Amp Shootout

November 30th, -0001

Mic Kaczmarczik’s Amp Shootout Information

Amp Shootout


Amplifiers

Amp Shootout

This directory contains USENET articles Mic has saved about guitars, equipment, pickup, techniques, players, and so on. Mic has graciously granted permission to post the stuff on the JT30 page on the off chance that it might be useful in the context of Blues Harmonica. Mic is not responsible for the content, just the collection.

Amplifiers

Amp Shootout
[Paragraph breaks by MPK. I just couldn't handle it as posted.]


From: scott.weave–(at)–tak.com
Subject: AMP SHOOT-OUT – VERY LONG
Date: 10 Aug 1998 00:00:00 GMT
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In an attempt to hear as many different amps as possible without having to
buy or play in a store where you can’t crank ‘em, I posted a request in the
first week of July for owners of a Bruno Underground 30, Dr. Z Prescription
and any of the 3 Trainwrecks located in the S. F. Bay area to join me for a
“shoot-out”. I got responses from Ron Ott, the man behind King Amplifier
Company, who brought a Matchless DC30 with Vox blues (although we didn’t know
they were Vox blues ’til after the shoot-out) and a King Blues Twin and Oleg
Tomashevsky, who brought a Dr. Z Prescription and KT-45. Guitar Player’s
Terry Buddingh also stopped by for 45 minutes in the middle of the day and
dropped off a Kendrick Black Gold. I brought my 1992 Matchless DC30 with
stock Celestions and an Alessandro English.


On Saturday, Aug. 1, we gathered in San Jose, CA to compare, contrast,
and, in general, have fun. The guitars used to evaluate the amps were
a Grosh Retro Classic with Fralins, a Grosh Hollow Custom T
(lipsticks), a Grosh Hollow Flat-top Custom (P90’s) and a Fender strat
with Fralins. Ultimately we decided on the Retro Classic as our test
guitar and all recording and comments revolve around that guitar
through each amp. As Ron and I agreed that he was the best player in
the warehouse, Oleg became our designated driver. We first became
familiar with each amp by tweaking tone controls, trying various
speaker cabs, switching output tubes (in the EL84 amps) and using
various guitars. For output tubes we tried Sovteks, Amperex Bugle
Boys, GEs and RCAs.


Comments – Ron: the Sovtek quartet provided a strong mid response with
relatively few highs and lows. Not an impressive tube compared to the
others, but might be useful in very bright or dark amps to offset the
amp’s tonal bias.


Scott – The Sovteks were not appreciated. We all agreed that they
sounded constricted, dull and lifeless.


Scott – The Bugle Boys were easily the most detailed and musical of
the group and exhibited great chime and complexity with an extended
frequency range.


Ron – These seemed to be the most musical in The English amp; both low
and high frequencies were accented relative the mids. This is
sometimes called scooping the mids, and results in well defined notes
in both clean and overdriven playing. These were definitely my
personal favorites, but Scott told us he paid $40 each per tube for
these very well matched tubes. Later, I scouted tube dealers on the
Internet and found one comment that Amperex were the best EL84s
made. That may be a bit of hype, but I don’t think it’s too far off
the mark.


Ron – The GE tubes added some highs to the mids and sounded
excellent overdriven. The highs gave a “raw” edge to the sound.


Scott – The GEs have a killer midrange response that works great for
lead work. They are not as refined and detailed as the Bugle Boys, but
have a rawer, slightly darker sound that is cool for certain
applications.


Scott – The RCAs were the most neutral of the tubes we tried. They are
extremely well balanced and don’t editorialize the sound at all. They
don’t have the clean detail of the Bugle Boys, but they distort
better. They don’t distort as well as the GE, but they have better
detail.


Ron – These tubes were more balanced than the others and therefore had
less character in some sense. They sounded better clean than
overdriven, but not as toneful as the Amperex quartet. Although the
Sovteks, RCAs and GEs were not as musical or versatile, I think they
could provide excellent tones in the right amps and with the right
instruments and players. There were no bad sounds here, only good and
better ones.


Ultimately, we agreed that the Bugle Boys were the best to show off
each amp. For speakers, we tried the stock Celestions in my DC30 and
the Vox blues in Ron’s. Although the Celestions are the best speakers
for the Matchless, we agreed that the blues were the best speakers for
evaluating all three amps. For the non-EL84 based amps, we used the
internal speakers from the King Blues Twin which were 2-12″ Weber
P12Ns.


Before describing what we heard, we should provide a little
information about each participant and their preferences.


Oleg Tomashevsky – I’ll try to be objective, as objective as I can
get. However, the following should be noted. No musician on earth can
be 100% objective – we have our likes and dislikes and can’t totally
abstragate from them, especially as our sensitivity to different
frequencies, transients etc. is an individual factor, too. This said,
I have to disclose my personal taste upfront. I play single-coil (Van
Zandts, Fralins and Duncan P90s) equipped Fender Strats and Don Grosh
guitars. What I mainly appreciate in an amp is an ability to fatten
single coil tone while preserving articulation and definition. I do
appreciate high-end complexity but only after I hear strong (not ala
TS9 honky, though) midrange. My favorite guitar tones are the ones of
mid 70’s Ritchie Blackmore and Tommy Bolin.


Ron Ott – Personally, I look for a juicy clean tone, sometimes with a
well-controlled bit of distortion. Examples of both might be B.B. King
and Stevie Ray Vaughn. But I also like a raw, primitive tweed Fender
overdriven sounds like those in some Lou Reed cuts. I have a Matchless
D/C-30 and really like the subtle Class A overtones from the
pentode-driven channel. I mainly play Strats with Van Zandts or
Fralin pickups into a Fender-like amp.


Scott Weaver – I grew up listening to Queen. Brian May’s guitar tone
does it for me. I also love the sound that Mike Campbell gets with Tom
Petty and The Heartbreakers and Peter Buck with REM. I play a Grosh
Retro Classic with Fralin single coils although I love a good Les Paul
style guitar w/humbuckers. What I look for in an amp is balance
throughout the entire frequency range (bass, low mids, high mids and
treble) and a lot of detail and complexity. I love to play clean,
semi-distorted and full tilt distorted (not metal) so I look for an
amp that can do all three well. If I can control that from my guitar
volume, that is even better.


ALESSANDRO ENGLISH – Head only; 4 x EL84-based power amp running in
Class A mode; 2 x 6SL7 all octal (optional 12AX7) preamp; single
channel with volume, treble, mid, bass controls; $2,000 as tested.


Ron – The name of this amp is intriguing and may refer to George’s
version of one channel in a VOX AC-30. We definitely had the right
speakers for this little tone monster. What I saw of it was well
built externally and I’d love to view the interior guts. It definitely
had the look of a hand built amp. The English has a single octal tube
in the preamp and a second as the phase inverter to drive a quartet of
EL84s. The 6SL7 (higher gain) preamp tube was a definite improvement
over the lower gain 6SN7 that Scott also tried. I’ve always liked the
sounds of Fender amps with octal-tube preamps; The English goes a few
steps further by combining an extremely smooth preamp compression with
rich Class A harmonics and well-defined notes. The clean tones were
delightful, but the overdriven sounds were truly impressive in their
musicality. Very refined and smoothly controlled. The Amperex EL84s
would be the tube of choice in this amp. If I were to choose a
refined, overdriven sound I really liked, this would be it. If you
like a more gutsy, raw tone, look to the Dr. Z Prescription to fill
your Rx.


Scott – This amp is incredible for its refinement and sheer
musicality. When played clean, the Grosh sounds like an acoustic
guitar. Think of the sound a high-end acoustic guitar with rosewood
back and sides with a spruce top. You can hear the wood resonating and
the fingers on the strings. Top end complexity and detail are
astounding. Semi-distorted sounds are ringing and complex in the top
end with resonant low end that had just a hint of distortion. The
overdriven sound is very cool, but depends a lot on the tone
controls. With the amp cranked past 1:00, the bass needs to be
somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00 or it will overwhelm the speakers and
sound muddy. With the bass set correctly, the overdrive sound is very
slightly compressed. It has lots of roar yet still manages to retain
all the musicality and complexity in the top end. Due to the solid
state rectifier, the bass never gets loose or flabby when cranked.
The sustain is excellent. When the amp feeds back, it does so
musically, not like a banshee wail the way some amps do. The mid
control on this amp is very cool. As you turn it down, you get the
fundamental note with fewer harmonics. When cranked all the way, the
harmonics leap out of the speakers. I would recommend this amp to
anyone looking for the ultimate Vox AC30 sound. If you love the guitar
tones of the Beatles, Tom Petty, Queen and U2, this is your amp.


Oleg – The head itself is tiny and looks quite beautiful. How does it
sound? Beautiful, too, and not tiny at all! When I was told that it’s only
14W I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how much of its tone is due to octal
tubes (6SL7’s) in the preamp and phase inverter, but it’s hard to imagine a
more refined sounding amp. To me it sounds like something a VOX AC30 wants to
sound like in its dreams. Highs are incredible – very musical and chimey –
and not a hint of harshness. Lows are THERE, and mids are not overwhelming
but very complex. As a matter of fact the MID control more affects the
harmonic complexity vs. the volume of mids itself. Distortion sounds as good
as clean – very complex and multi-dimensional. Distorted sound felt like
Class A, but not as muddy as some of them get. Simply put, so far, it’s the
ultimate VOX-inspired amp I have ever heard (never tried Bruno).


MATCHLESS DC30 – 2-12 combo; 4 x EL84 based power amp running in Class
A mode; two channels with high and low inputs for each; Ch. 1 has 2
12AX7’s in the preamp; right channel has 1 EF86; your choice of tube
rectifiers (we had 2 5V4Gs); controls are Ch. 1 volume, Ch. 1 bass,
Ch.1 treble, Ch. 2 volume, Ch. 2 6 position tone switch, master cut,
master volume w/pull defeat; $2,000 in 1992 – who knows how much they
sell for now?


Oleg – Well, should we just say HC-30 since we ran it thru different
speakers? I think we had it more for the reference point. The strong
points noted by so many people are still there, along with the
weaknesses, too. One thing I want to say is that it sounded much
VOXier thru bulldogs. However, I felt like the original modified
Celestions are a better choice for this amp – they add more midrange
and (IMHO) give this particular amp a more multi-dimensional sound.


Ron – Be aware of my strong prejudice for the pentode (right hand)
channel in this amp – I really dig it. One of the benefits of getting
together with Oleg and Scott was that I could pick their brains about
various preamp tubes to use in my own D/C-30. With the Seimens EF86
that Scott had in this Matchless, I thought the pentode channel was
perfectly thick with Class A second harmonics that make single notes
seem so fat. It’s less refined than the Alessandro when clean, and I
preferred the D/C-30 for the clean blues that this beginning guitar
player likes to attempt. The D/C-30’s overdriven pentode channel
needed more attention to get a great tone than the Alessandro, which
could rely on its low-gain preamp and compression to keep things under
control with the gain control all the way up. The Matchless is louder
and has more preamp gain, so that you have to find a sweet spot with
the volume control. Still, it’s a bit mushier by comparison; The
English is really a hard act to follow when overdriven.


Scott – This amp is pretty well known in all circles, so I won’t try
to describe what others have. Plugged in to the first (Treble Boost)
channel for a clean sound, the Matchless also sounds like a high-end
acoustic, but with a cedar top instead of a spruce top. The sound has
slightly more mids in relation to the highs and lows. Semi-distorted
tones in the first channel are slightly constricted, but have great
barking lows with a slight chime in the top end. Plugging in to the
second channel for semi-distorted tones yields a more open, stinging
and full sound with less chime. Double stops sound very cool here due
to the slight midrange emphasis. IMHO, this sound is the calling card
of this amp. This is where terms like “greasy” and “high-cholesterol”
can be applied. Cranking the second channel for maximum distortion
brings out a slightly raw sound with a definite emphasis on the
mids. Bass gets a little loose when cranked, but the six-position tone
switch can fix that by dumping the bass. While I thought the Matchless
sounded great through the Vox blues, I agree with Oleg that the stock
modified Celestions are a better choice. They bring out the inherent
midrange character of the amp and match the tendency to be slightly
raw sounding. If the English is too refined for you, but you don’t
want to cross over to the Marshall side of the tracks, the Matchless
would be your amp. Think Natalie Merchant’s “Carnival”, Counting
Crows and John Cougar Mellencamp’s later material and you have the
strong points of this amp.


DR. Z PRESCRIPTION – Head; 4 – EL84 based power amp running in Class A
mode; 3 – 12AX7s in the preamp; a 5AR4 or GZ-34 (we used a GZ-34);
single channel with high and low inputs; Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass, 3
way bright switch, expand switch, and footswitch Boost; $????.


Scott – This is the Class A EL84 amp your mother warned you about. The
clean tone is definitely electric and does not sound like you are
playing an acoustic guitar. It is very detailed and, to my ears,
produced more finger to string sound than either the Alessandro or the
Matchless. Interestingly, on reviewing the tape, the Alessandro and
the Matchless both have great finger to string feel, but they are
balanced by the resonance of the guitar body wood, where the
Prescription has less guitar body wood resonance and, therefore,
comparatively more finger to string feel. The Prescription has better
highs than the Matchless, but not in the league of the
Alessandro. Think of Jimi’s “The Wind Cries Mary” and you have the
idea of the clean sound. The semi-distorted tone is very reminiscent
of Stevie Ray Vaughn (think “Pride and Joy”). Slightly distorted,
stinging highs combined with full, smooth lows. The distorted tone has
a very full, yet very tight bass with rounded highs and strong
mids. If SRV or Hendrix were looking for a Class A, EL84 amp, this
would be it. Also great for REM style music as Peter Buck uses both
Vox and Marshall amps to get his sound.


Oleg – I’m the owner of this amp and I love it. It does great in
clean, it does unbelievably great in distortion. It’s a 4 EL84 class
A, but it’s not a VOX, nor does it try to be one. For Vox like tones
you may use the low-gain input and turn the expand switch off. A 12BH7
in phase inverter can do the trick too (I tried it before). But to me
this amp is not about VOX – it’s about RAW tube tone – massive
midrange, ballsy and tight bass, crunchy/crispy highs. We didn’t have
enough time to have all testers play with tone controls and dial in
the different tones this amp is capable of. In the beginning I’d set
controls my favorite way: expand on, bright at 1, mids all the way up,
lows – noon, highs 11 o’clock.


Ron – I had never seen or heard a Dr. Z amp “live and in person”
before the shootout. Both the Prescription and KT-45 are great amps,
though quite different. What they have in common is a great raw
overdriven sound, but not one that would hurt your ears. If we hadn’t
had the refined and controlled Alessandro English amp for comparison,
I might not be describing the Dr. Z amps as “raw”. These amps fit
Oleg’s style and he had the tone dialed in for strong mids with a bit
of highs to give them the “raw” edge. Both are quite loud, and the
KT-45 sports a pair of EL34s. I thought it had less of the Class A
sound and more Fender-like tone qualities than the Prescription, which
had a set of Sylvania EL84s. I will defer to Oleg’s take on the Dr. Zs
as he has played them for many hours. I will say that they seem to
have their own sound and are not tone replicas of anything I have
heard. Also, they appeared to be cleanly and ruggedly built. I was
hoping someone would show up with an 18-watt Carmen Ghia and would
like a comparison with the Prescription or other amps we listened to.


SUMMARY -


Oleg – The main strengths of Alessandro are incredible treble
complexity and overall sound perfection. This can be a blessing or a
curse – it all depends on players’ style and preference. Matchless’
left channel (12ax) could come close – close, that is. Both Dr. Z and
Alessandro have a better clean sound with their volume maxed and
guitar volume rolled off than the Matchless does. In addition, both
the Alessandro and the Prescription have more compression in their
clean sound than the Matchless. C-30 left channel still sounds very
good and has its own identity. C-30’s right (ef86) channel is where it
shines in low to medium distortion settings. Very greasy and
thick. Not for crispy-clean sound freaks, but excellent otherwise. And
as for Prescription, it’s probably an ultimate amp for those players
who stay on the other side of barricade from Alessandro fans. NO amp
can match its warmth and raw power. All three are great tone
machines. Prescription and English both have their signature tones and
are capable of both great clean and great overdrive with just one
channel and guitar volume manipulation. The DC-30, thanks to a 2-
channel design, can cover (slightly) greater territory. On the other
hand it may require an a/b box and there is a significant timbral
difference between the two channels – for some players it may be
desirable, for others, a ‘no go’ when switching from rhythm to
lead. Also it won’t go as far dirty as the Prescription or the
English. All that said, the C-30 still has certain virtues and is
unbeatable in its own territory.


Scott – I feel that the Alessandro and the Prescription represent the
two ends of the spectrum for Class A, EL84 based amps, with the
Matchless falling somewhere in between. As Oleg stated, the Alessandro
is what a Vox AC30 wants to sound like in its dreams. Take all the
accolades you have heard or read about Vox and multiply them by a
factor of 10. Additionally, forget all the negatives you hear about
Vox – no loose bass, muddiness or midrange honk. This amp will reveal
all the nuances of your playing – good and bad. On the other end of
the spectrum is the Prescription. It has some of the goodies
associated with EL84s in Class A, such as chime and complexity, but
adds qualities usually found in Marshall amps, like a tight bass,
punchy midrange and killer raw distortion. In between lies the
Matchless. The Treble Boost Channel does a great clean, but falls
short of the Alessandro, while the EF86 channel delivers killer
semi-distorted tones.


On the negative side, it can’t touch either the Alessandro or the
Prescription for full out distortion. Bass becomes too loose and it
just doesn’t get as aggressive as either of the other two. But, as
Oleg said, it is slightly more versatile due to the two channels and
the significant tonal difference between them. In its domain – clean
to medium distortion – it is one of the best. If only the Matchless
tone will do it for you, the other two won’t make you happy. However,
if you like Matchless, but wish for a more detailed, complex clean
sound combined with a more aggressive distortion with tighter bass,
check out the Alessandro. If you like the Matchless, but want a more
Marshall like distortion, check out the Prescription.


KING BLUES TWIN – 2-12 combo; a 2-6V6 based power amp; 1-5751 and
2-12AX7s in the preamp; a 5V4 rectifier; two channels (normal and
bright) with volume, bass, treble and presence; $1,500 as tested with
NOS US tubes and Weber VST P12N speakers.


Ron – I build and sell King Amps, so this could be a highly “biased”
view. Perhaps I should simply describe the Blues Twin and leave it at
that. As this was intended to be a comparison of EL84 amps, I
suggested that bringing an amp with 6V6s for comparison might be
interesting. The King Blues Twin is a replica tweed Super chassis
with a pair of Weber VST (or other) P12N speakers in a replica ’56
low-power Twin cabinet. The ’59 5F4 Super and ’56 5E8A Twin designs
are very similar, except the Twin parallels the input triodes when
only one instrument is plugged in. I removed the usual Tung Sol 5881s
from the Blues Twin and installed and rebiased with a pair of
gray-plate RCA 6V6GTs. While this decreased the amp’s max power from
35 to about 25 watts, the clean tone became even juicier and output
tube distortion more prominent at similar volume levels. I plan to
leave the 6V6GTs in the amp as they are the richer tone to my
ears. The preamp has a 5751 and a pair of 12AX7s, and the rectifier is
a 5V4 to provide about 420 Vdc on the plates of the output tubes with
local AC mains.


Scott – Blues freaks unite! A Fender design that produces classic
Fender tweed tones. The clean tones are full and warm with a rich
midrange. The clean sound reminds me of a great arch-top guitar. The
semi-distorted tones are explosive and gritty (in a good way) with
great dynamics and transient response. The amp really doesn’t do a
fully overdriven sound, but it’s not supposed to. When we replaced
the 5751 in the preamp with a Mullard 12AX7, the distortion ratcheted
up a notch and took on a cool, growling feel. Clean and semi-distorted
tones don’t get any better. Robert Cray and SRV fans would love this
amp.


Oleg – What can I say – the Fender tone doesn’t get more Fendery. With
5751 in the first gain stage and NOS 6V6’s in the output stage it
sings. 2-12 cab gives it an interesting twist – this amp sounds much
bigger and deeper than most 1-12, 2-6V6 combos I have heard. This can
actually eliminate the need to mike it up in many club
situations. With the 5751 it stayed semi-clean up to the volume max –
beautiful compression and just a hint of ‘melting’ in
highs. Substituting a 12AX7 (Mullard) yielded Bassman-style distortion
with volume maxed. Actually, to my ears, it was smoother than a
Bassman (probably thanks to 6V6’s). I think most of the crowd digging
this type of amp will prefer it with the 5751. It also would be worth
trying a 12AY7 for even more beautiful clean sound.


KENDRICK BLACK GOLD – 1-12 combo; 2 x 5881 based power amp; two
12AX7Ws and two higher-gain 12AX7WXTs in the preamp; a 5AR4 rectifier;
clean and lead channels feature dedicated volumes but share a single
common tone control; preamp signal is routed through a footswitchable
three-knob reverb that offers drive, tone, and mix controls; PC board
construction; $1,295.


Oleg – Well, to my ears it sounded like yet another variation on the
Fender theme. Of course with some Texas flavor. When run thru 2-12
Webers, it produced a more aggressive but not as sweet sound (compared
to the King). Its clean sound was entirely in the same domain
otherwise. Plugging into the lead channel and turning the volume up
produced very dense, harmonically rich distortion. Tonally it was
rather dark (there were plenty of highs but I can’t think of a better
descriptor. Also I don’t want it to be taken in negative
sense). Dynamically it was very alive – I could almost hear it
breathing. When played thru its internal ‘Greenframe’ 12 the Gold
sounded smaller but also smoother and warmer. Overall this was a very
nice surprise (before this shoot-out I felt a little leery about a
budget offering from the company whose owner was cursing PC boards not
so long ago). To my taste it actually sounded better with internal
1-12. Players preferring more classic sound can probably get it as
2-10 with Kendrick Blackframes.


Ron – This amp was set up with the stock 6L6 or 5881 tubes that
Kendrick supplied. It had a single Kendrick Greenframe speaker that
we didn’t use much, as we decided to connect to a pair of Weber P12Ns
as the common test speakers for the Kendrick, King, and Dr. Z KT-45
amps. I have a Greenframe in a 25-watt Kendrick Texas Crude and it’s
really a great speaker for overdriven blues in 25 to 35-watt amps. I
thought the Kendrick BG had a very good Fender clean tone through the
Webers, while the overdriven sound had more mids and was a bit
“mushier” than the King by comparison. This was not really a fair
test as the King had selected NOS US tubes, including a pair of RCA
6V6GTs while the Kendrick may have had tubes of lesser quality. I
would like to have retubed the Kendrick at home and had my way with it
for a few days. I heard a Kendrick BG at Univibe with a pair of
10-inch speakers played at low volume and thought it had a nice clean
sparkle. The BG did have enuff gain to provide Oleg with some nice
guitar feedback when cranked; the King, with a 5751 first preamp tube,
didn’t cut it in the feedback test until we swapped a 12AX7 into the
first slot.


Scott – I have to admit this amp pleasantly surprised me, too. I would
liken the tone of this amp to the aural equivalent of a cup of strong,
black coffee. Clean sounds are detailed and sweet, but have a darker
presentation than any Fender I have ever heard (are ya sensing a theme
here?). The semi-distorted sound is more open with good note
separation on double stops and slight distortion in the
lows. Distortion sound is firmly rooted in the midrange and some may
find it *too* dark. My personal preference for speakers with this amp
were the 2-12 Webers as they open up the tone somewhat. The controls
are stupidly simple (I mean that in a good way) and having only one
tone control didn’t limit the tonal variety. With two channels, each
with high and low inputs, the versatility should appeal to a lot of
guitarists. I would recommend this amp to a guitarist who likes Fender
tone, but wants to add a little dark Texas brew to his tweed tone
recipe. Think early ZZ Top tone and this amp gets close.


DR. Z KT-45 Head; 2-EL-34 based power amp; 1-EF 86 and 1-12AX7 in the
preamp; a GZ-34 rectifier; single channel with Volume, Bass, Treble;
$????.


Scott – Right up front, I am not a big fan of EL34 amps. But I really
enjoyed this amp. The clean tones are very well balanced with rounded highs
that give a burnished tone. The semi-distorted tones are great. Full highs
and clean, smooth lows. The tone controls on this amp only cut, so when you
turn them all the way up, they are out of the signal path. They are very
effective at controlling their respective frequencies. The treble affects
gain and treble and the bass affects the low end only. The volume then
determines overall drive. A great way to dial up a stinging, distorted high
end with a clean, full low end. The distorted tones are full and rich with a
healthy dose of harmonics. I agree with the description on the good Dr.’s web
site that says this amp is reminiscent of Pete Townsend’s tone on “Who’s
Next?”. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Baba O’Reilly” come to mind. A great
amp at a great price.


Ron – According to Oleg, this is a very early KT-45 (the first
production one, in fact). This amp has all the subjective look, feel,
and tone of the midwest – sturdy, well built, straight forward, and
meant to be played at a loud volume. Enuff hyperbolae; this amp had
more Fender like qualities than the Prescription, but it is not a
Fender. It definitely had controlled crunch with a slight raw edge,
but not as much as the Prescription, as I recall. I am not familiar
with other EL34-based amps to make any tone comparisons with Marshalls
or Matchless amps. Oleg digs overdriven tones with plenty of mids, and
the KT-45 delivered them smoothly without a shudder. Personally, I
would like to have heard more sweet presence and upper mids for the
blues tones I prefer; I don’t know that the KT-45 wouldn’t deliver
some of that, but the afternoon was running short on time and we
didn’t explore the tone space of the control knobs. Perhaps Oleg will
comment more on this amp from his ownership experience with it.


Oleg – It’s not a Fender, it’s not a Marshall nor a Vox. What is it?
It’s a truly unique new offering from Dr. Z. BS aside it’s a no bells
or whistles, no nonsense single channel (and input) EL34 open loop (no
negative feedback) class A/B amplifier with tube rectifier and EF86 in
the preamp stage. To me it’s my primary blues and R&B amp (although
the Fender gang may proclaim me insane for saying that). This amp has
the transient response of class A/B but thanks to the EF86 it also has
an incredible richness to the tone. Notes are thick and ‘glazed’ in
harmonics. Bass is massive. There’s Treble and Bass controls (no Mid,
but even I don’t feel much need for it in this amp) which are bypassed
when turned up. Distorted it becomes mean but not boomy or
icepicky.


One of the KT-45’s trademark features is that its distortion tone
timbrally is very close to its clean tone. Of course, you get more
harmonics and the frequency accents change, but you can still tell
that it’s the same amp. One of the few other amps with this quality is
the aforementioned Matchless C-30 in its right (EF86) channel. Due to
the same EF86 in the preamp there is a lot of timbral resemblance
between these too, but that’s where it ends. The KT-45’s output
section has EL34’s and it sounds like EL34s. This amp was shipped with
Tesla E34Ls and a Tesla EF86. Needless to say, this amp was not
designed to sound like tweed, (and won’t sound like one either),
however if you want to push it into that territory, it’s possible by
rolling highs off to 11 o’clock and lows to 1 o’clock (both depend on
guitar, string gauges etc.). This makes the sound less aggressive (and
less distorted too) and works especially well with mixed PU
positions. I use this trick when playing with another guitarist who
plays thru a tweed Deluxe to avoid much tonal clashing.



 

Index:

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Why Carvin Sucks

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Premier Gallery A Blues Harp Player's Guide to Amplifiers
Silvertone & Harmony Amp Gallery Masco Gallery
Twin 8 Project Lectrolab Gallery
Gibson Schematics Stalking the Wild Premier
Harp Amp Secrets and Tips by Gerald Weber 2001 Auburn Guitar Show Pictures
2001 Saratoga Springs Guitar Show 2001 South Jersey Guitar Show
Transformer Specs 2003 Auburn Guitar Show
Lectrolab R800 Project Epiphone Valve Junior Review
Harpin Help 2001 Fall Philly Guitar Show
Little Charlie and the Night Cats Gary Primich at Isabels
90.5 "the Night" 6th Annual Guitar Show Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets Feb 22, 2003
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