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Archive for September, 2010

VHT Special 6 Combo
Summary: This is a hand-wired, solidly built tone machine that packs great features for an unbelievable price. The value proposition alone is enough to turn heads, but add superb tone to the equation and you have a winner!

Cons: None.

Features (as tested):

  • 6 Watts
  • One 6V6 Output Tube
  • One 12AX7 Preamp Tube
  • Volume and Tone Controls
  • Footswitchable Boost Mode
  • High/Low Power Switch (Pentode/Triode)
  • 10” VHT High-Sensitivity Speaker
  • 4, 8, and 16 Ohm Speaker Jacks
  • Mod-Friendly Eyelet-Type Board
  • Hand-wired In China

Price: $199 Street / $179 Street for Head

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ Clean or dirty, this amp delivers the goods! The tone sweep is absolutely excellent giving you gorgeous, warm jazz cleans, to classic rock bite! Add the Hi/Lo power switch, and Push-Pull volume knob boost (also includes a footswitch), and you’ve got an amp that can live in a variety of musical genres.

About a week ago, I extolled virtues of the Marshall Class 5, and raved about how great it sounds. It’s a fantastic little amp, and I haven’t changed my opinion of it. But along came the VHT Special 6 and the game has completely changed. VHT raised the bar with Chinese-manufactured, low-cost, low-wattage amps by offering a hand-wired, super-well-built amp with fantastic features that can easily change the amp’s character for under $200 for a 1 X 10 combo.

I think the arrangements many gear manufacturers have made with overseas assemblers is great. Egnater is another example of a manufacturer doing it with great success. Design the gear here in the US, then partner with an overseas manufacturer to take advantage of their cheaper parts and labor, ensure that they meet a high standard of quality, then give the savings back to the customer. The top-of-the-line stuff can be saved for domestic production, but the stuff you want to get out to the masses can certainly be made elsewhere, and in much higher volumes and production rates. It’s a good model that many manufacturers have been following for years. I realize that I’m going to piss off some of the ultra-patriotic that will only buy stuff made in the USA; I myself prefer to buy US-made stuff, but it’s tough to argue with getting great tone for a great price, and that is EXACTLY what the VHT Special 6 and lots of other gear assembled overseas provide.

But enough toeing the political line. Let’s get into discussing the Special 6, shall we?

Fit and Finish and Features

The first thing I noticed when I first looked at the amp is how solid it looked. Picking it up revealed an amp that is no lightweight. I don’t know the exact weight, but the Special 6 is not lacking in heft. The cabinet is made of birch ply, and from what I could tell, fairly large transformers were used with the amp and those are heavy. Note that I’ve actually heard some conflicting information about the cabinet wood. Some say MDF, others say Baltic birch ply. Actually, it just doesn’t matter. The cabinet’s solid, and it works well as a resonance chamber for the speaker.

As far as cosmetics are concerned, the amp is covered in tolex with white piping around the front grille. The rear panel sports a partially open back that, like the Marshall Class 5, has a thin metal screen covering the opening. That’s a nice touch.

The control panel is super simple. You’ve got two chickenhead knobs for tone and volume, on/off switch, a three-way Hi/Lo Power / Standby switch (I dig that), and two input jacks for Lo and Hi input. The volume knob is a push-pull knob that when out, adds boost (sorry, not sure about the amount of boost). You can surmise just by these features that you can do a lot of tone shaping with this little beast. 🙂 The back panel has jacks for 4, 8, and 16 ohm speaker outs, plus a jack for switching between normal and boost.

Sound and Dynamics

Even with a 10″ speaker, the amp is capable of producing a variety of tones, from lush, Fender cleans, to ringing, AC15-like overdrive to gorgeous, smooth Plexi overdrive. I’m not kidding about this! Depending upon the pickup you’re using and where you set the tone knob, and other amp settings such as hi/lo input, pentode/triode mode, you can cover a wide range of tones! This is what is so SICK about this amp! It’s so damn versatile!

I played around with it in my studio this afternoon, getting ready to record some clips (which I’ll have in an upcoming article), and just for kicks, I unplugged the stock speaker and ran the amp out to my 2 X 12. Granted, there is a HUGE difference between a 2 X 12 and a little 10″ speaker, but in my experience, many low wattage amps still sound a little on the thin side even when going into a bigger cab; not so with the Special 6. It sounded big and ballsy; much more “big-amp-ish” than it’s diminutive power. That really came as a surprise, much like my surprise when I plugged the Reason Bambino into a big cab. It’s clear that just like the Reason guys, VHT didn’t want to just build a low-wattage amp. They wanted to build a great amp, period.

I also gigged with the amp in my weekly church gig yesterday afternoon, and it worked absolutely stellar! I kept the amp in high power mode, plugged into the high power input, set the tone and volume at 3pm each, then pulled the boost knob to activate the normal/boost footswitch. I didn’t use any effects at all as I just wanted the raw amp tones. I even tuned with my Peterson StroboClip so my signal from my guitar to the amp was completely direct. Note that even with a 10″ speaker, I still had to use an attenuator, and my trusty Aracom PRX150-Pro worked stellar with the amp.

During the gig, I mostly used the volume knob on my guitar to vary gain, whether in normal or boost mode. The amp responded so well to volume knob and pick attack. Even if I didn’t reduce the volume, and picked very lightly, I could clean up the sound. So sweet!

The only time I made any adjustments to the amp was when we did a song that I needed absolutely clean tones. I simply reduced the volume to around 11 am, then bypassed the attenuator. And the cleans were simply fantastic!

Made to Mod

Despite the fact that VHT says this amp is highly modifiable, I doubt that most people will do no more than swap tubes. I’ve seen some forum posts where people have made a couple of changes, but I’d say the majority of folks just won’t see a need to do that. But curious, for shits and giggles, I swapped out the stock 6V6 with a couple of different 50’s-era 6V6’s (GE and RCA). They each sounded beautiful as I expected, but quite frankly, they were just too smooth. The Chinese tube seems to be “hotter” and produces lots of harmonics; something my NOS tubes didn’t do. In my opinion, the Special 6 is meant to be a mini-rock machine. It won’t do really heavy stuff, but for 70’s and 80’s classic rock, it sits right in the sweet spot.

Overall Impression

I am thoroughly impressed with the VHT Special 6. Hand-wired, immensely versatile, plus fantastic tone for under $200? That’s tough to beat! And unlike other small, low-wattage amps that have only a volume and tone knob, the combination of inputs, low/hi power modes and boost make this an amp that can be used in a variety of ways. Big thumbs up, and 5 Tone Bones!

I’ll have clips in an upcoming article. Stay tuned!

Update: January 2, 2013

It has been awhile since I wrote the original article, and amazingly enough, I’m still using the Special 6. I did finally swap out tubes to 50’s era NOS for both pre-amp and power tubes, and I also swapped out the stock speaker and put in a Jensen Jet Electric Lightning. I use this amp frequently at my church gig where I don’t need a lot of volume since mic the amp and use the PA, and it is perfectly suited for that venue.

Even after all this time, I do have to say that I’m still thoroughly impressed with the tone of this little amp. When it’s cranked, and especially with the Electric Lightning speaker, the amp sounds SO much bigger than what its diminutive 6 watts would suggest. A lot of that has to do with how the speaker projects, but when cranked, that amp absolutely sings with tones of sustain and really sweet overtones. I love playing this amp with a Les Paul. The clean tones are gorgeous as well, and when I don’t hook it up to an attenuator, I just use pedals to get my distortion. From that perspective, the amp takes to pedals real well.

Finally, even with a simple, single EQ knob, the EQ works fantastically well with the amp. It’s kind of bright out of the box, so I normally just set the tone control to about 10 am. On some amps I’ve played, that muddies the tone a bit; but not with the Special 6. It simply makes the lower range stand out a bit more.

I’ve even been using the amp in the studio, over my DV Mark Little 4o and Aracom VRX’s (except where I need a heavier sound). It’s perfect for the studio.

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It has been a long time coming, but I finally got an actual Gibson Les Paul. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been wanting to get one for quite awhile, and when the opportunity presented itself, I went for it. It took me about two years to get just the right deal, but it was definitely worth the wait!

When I first considered getting one, I didn’t know too much about Les Pauls and just how many different ones there are! But then meeting Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps helped me educate myself on the type of Les Paul to get. Jeff has an encyclopedic knowledge of Les Pauls; especially vintage ones as he has a fine collection of them himself. So it was fortuitous to meet and befriend him; otherwise, I wouldn’t have a clue as to what to get.

I looked at and played countless Les Pauls in shops, and several months ago, almost pulled the trigger on a ’58 VOS at Gelb Music. But then I discovered the Gibson Nighthawk, and I got distracted. Luckily I did that because the Nighthawk is very Les Paul-like, though with the super hot pickups, it has a much fatter sound. Then I got a ’59 replica, and that was a real game changer for me. But still, I wanted a real Gibson. So I waited some more, and that gave me more time to narrow down exactly what I wanted.

I finally narrowed it down to the Standard Reissues, from ’58 to ’60. So I started monitoring auctions on EBay. I must’ve looked at hundreds of guitars, and I did a lot of sifting. It was a bit mind-numbing, but I wanted to make sure I’d get exactly what I wanted. Here were my parameters:

  • Didn’t want to spend over $2200
  • The Standard had to have all the case candy in addition to the Certificate of Authenticity (there were a lot that only had the COA and were missing some or all of the case candy).
  • It had to be a Standard Reissue
  • The guitar had to be in great shape: No worming down to the finish and minimal dings.
  • Finally, the EBay seller had to have lots of positive ratings, 99% positive and above.

That was a fairly tall order, but then Jeff had mentioned he’d seen a few in his own searches that were going for a good price and had all the right stuff. So I waited. And waited. And waited, until I finally found what appeared to be a fantastic deal, and now I have the guitar.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to “Amber.”

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Here are some clips I recorded this evening. The first two and the fourth and fifth clips are of Amber recorded raw. With the fourth, I added a touch of reverb to both tracks, and the sixth is an excerpt from a song I wrote.

Neck, Clean

Neck, Dirty

Middle, Clean (Rhythm) Neck, Clean (Lead)

Middle, Dirty

Bridge, Dirty Lead

Bridge, Dirty Lead Again as part of a song

3D Sound

It’s hard to capture in a recording, but Amber projects a real 3D sound; especially when she’s cranked up. Her tone is so complex, and has all these subtle overtones and harmonics. It’s the type of tone that just makes you close your eyes and smile while you’re playing to soak up all that tonal goodness.

Playability

Being that this was a purchase of a guitar I had never even played, I was a little concerned about how fat the neck might be, as I have short fingers, and fat necks and short fingers don’t go well together. But when I took Amber out of her case for the first time, and started playing, yeah, her neck is hefty, but not like a baseball bat. In fact, the size of her neck was absolutely perfect, and I found that I could move up and down her neck with utter ease!

The setup is absolutely perfect. The original owner really took good care of her! Even though it’s a 2005, before Gibson started to plek its Les Pauls, there is no setup necessary. The intonation is perfect, and the fretboard – oh that wonderful fretboard – just plays like butter!

I Finally Understand

After getting my ’59 replica, I really started getting the vibe about vintage and historic Les Pauls. I used to dismiss those who extolled the Les Paul – especially the historics – as people spouting semi-religious drivel. But now that I have one, I understand why it’s hard to put one the guitar down. I’m hooked!!!

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Marshall Class 5 AmplifierSummary: Class A, Plexi goodness in a low wattage amp that packs a punch despite its smaller size.Pros: Great, ballsy tone that’ll just make you smile

Cons: None.

Features (as tested):

  • Power: 5 watts
  • Preamp tubes: 2 x ECC83
  • Power tubes: 1 x EL84
  • Controls: Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass
  • Speaker: 1 x 10″ 16ohm Celestion G10F-15
  • Headphone output
  • Extension speaker output
  • Dimensions: 19.48″ x 16.34″ x 9.05″
  • Weight: 26.46 lbs

Price: < $400 Street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ Even though I didn’t get to spend as much time as I’d like to play around with the amp, I was simply impressed by the tone that it delivers, and at a price point that makes it very difficult to ignore. While many low wattage amps can sound thin and tinny, the Class 5 with its generously-sized cabinet has a fantastic, rich tone.

On Low Wattage Amps

I love low wattage amps – those that are 10 Watts or less. I have a few. For years, people eschewed these super low wattage amps, and passed them off as mere practice tools. But I suspect they really didn’t understand what a super low wattage amp brings to the party. Low wattage amps such as the 5 Watt Fender Champ helped define the sound of rock and roll. Listen to classic rock tunes, and more likely than not, the venerable Fender Champ would be the amp providing the sound.

Today, more and more people are turning to low wattage amps – especially home recording enthusiasts, and even pros like Jeff Beck – to save their ears and to get crunch and grind at low volume levels. As a result of the increased demand, many manufacturers, boutique and mainstream alike, have responded and come up with a slew of low wattage amps. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, you have tons of selections, on the other hand; well, you have tons of selections. There are a lot of them out there and it’s tough to decide which way to go.

The shear amount of low wattage amps on the market is perhaps a big reason why Marshall waited so long to come out with its super own low wattage amp. Perhaps they were studying what the market responded to and what they could do to address what people might have fed back as improvements that could be made.

Enter the Marshall Class 5 amp. This amp was released in the UK near the middle of last year, and arrived here on our fair shores around November of last year. Amazingly enough, news about this amp has been relatively quiet. There hasn’t been all that much advertising that I’ve seen about this amp. The Marshall Haze amps have gotten lots of “rag” time, and the response to those amps has been generally positive. But I haven’t heard much about this amp other than user reviews. That’s too bad because after playing it, I have to say that I really dig it!

Classic, Killer Tone!

Is Marshall embarrassed about advertising such a low wattage amp? I certainly hope not, because I got a chance to play this amp today, and I just have two words to describe it: KICK ASS! Built upon the “Bluesbreaker”/Plexi pedigree, the Class 5 has all of that Plexi goodness in a low wattage combo. Make no mistake: The Class 5 packs a serious punch; maybe not maximum volume-wise (for a gig, this amp would need to be miked, but will provide plenty of stage volume), but if you’re looking for those classic Plexi tones in a low wattage solution, look no further!

Because I was in a shop, I only tested it with a single guitar: An Epiphone Les Paul Ultra. But the Class 5 delivered that cranked Les Paul through a cranked Marshall Plexi true to form. It was everything I expected to hear from a cranked Plexi, just at a lower volume. That really blew me away!

There’s really something special about that tone. My Aracom PLX18BB is a super-close replica of the Plexi 18, plus my good buddy has several Marshalls including an original JTM45 and Plexi 50, so I’m very familiar with that classic tone. While the Class 5 is just a tad grittier in its overdrive than its more powerful siblings (perhaps due to the new speaker), the rich harmonics and smooth overdrive delivered with “balls” with a gorgeous sustain is all there.

While it might seem from my description that this amp isn’t very loud, it’s plenty loud. You can even gig with it easily, even with the stock 10″ speaker which, by the way, has tons of volume and provides rich tone. I was actually expecting the amp to sound a bit thin due to the smaller speaker, but there was nothing thin-sounding about the amp.

Another reviewer mentioned turning the bass all the way down, because he thought it was flabby. I really didn’t detect a flabbiness to the bass, but I like a bright amp anyway so I had the bass EQ dialed down to about 8pm which is almost off.

All this tonal goodness is delivered by a 10″ speaker specially developed for the Class 5 by Celestion, the G10F-15. As expected, the 10″ really has an emphasis on the mid- to high-frequencies, but Marshall compensated for the lows by providing a spacious cabinet to act as a nice resonance chamber for the speaker. The result is a very balanced and smooth tone, if a little on the bright side. But bright is what Plexi’s are all about, and the Class 5 delivers on that swimmingly!

As far as my customary test clips go, sorry, this was a shop eval, so I didn’t record any. But if and when I get the amp, I’ll post some for sure!

Yikes! It’s Too Loud!

Hello… 5 Watts is loud. In fact the speaker’s SPL is rated at 97dB at 1 meter with a power rating of 15 Watts. People have complained that they can’t crank it up in the bedroom past 3 or 4. Yeah… welcome to the Non-Master-Volume club. But that’s the beauty of the Plexi in the first place! You need to saturate the power tubes as well as the preamp tubes to get that Plexi vibe. If you need to run this amp at bedroom levels, the best solution is to get an attenuator such as the Aracom PRX150-Pro.

I sincerely hope that Marshall doesn’t cave in to those complaining it’s too loud and add a master volume to the amp. To me, it doesn’t need and would take away from its vibe.

Made in the UK

This amp is constructed in the UK, amazingly enough. And what’s even more amazing is that it sells for less than $400! The shop I tested it at had it a retail price of $389! One would expect those kinds of prices to come from gear manufactured in Asia. But not this beauty. So to have a UK-made amp at this price point is truly remarkable! Then to get tone this good? OMG! Truly amazing!!!

Fit and Finish

This amp is extremely well made. The cabinet feels real solid, and nothing was loose. Apparently, earlier versions suffered from a buzz, but the unit I tested didn’t have that at all. In any case, I inspected the amp thoroughly – front and back-  and didn’t detect any finish flaws. The tolex was nicely molded down to the surface of the underlying wood, and there were no loose pieces of material. From what I could tell, 1/2″ ply was used for the cabinet, and that is good because I’ve found, at least from a purely qualitative perspective, that cabs built with 1/2″ thickness tend to resonate quite well. This obviously helps bolster the bottom end, and it does it nicely.

The rear of the cab is interesting in that it is partially closed with about a 4″ opening, covered by a metal grill. I suppose that this is so you don’t throw in the cable and accidentally puncture the speaker cone, but it may be purely aesthetic in nature. The rear grill is rather cool.

Overall Impression

I totally DIG this amp! It was fun cranking it up in the store this afternoon! Admittedly, the amp doesn’t really hit its sweet spot until the volume knob is about midway. But completely cranked up, it produces the tone I expect out of a Plexi! And even cranked up, it responds well to volume knob levels, so you can clean up the amp quite easily.

Compared to other super low wattage amps I’ve played, even my venerable ’58 Champ, this amp has tons of balls in stock configuration. With my Champ, I had to have an amp tech add a 1/4″ jack so I could run it into an external cab because the 8″ speaker really can be quite thin-sounding. But the Class 5 has enough balls and volume stock to not need any of that (though it’ll be fun to run this into an external cab anyway, which I plan to do).

Note that unlike other reviews, I really didn’t make mention of the amp being “Class A.” That’s a big deal with lots of folks, but to me, even though I understand the classification, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter to me is how the amp sounds, and it simply sounds killer. In my book, I couldn’t care less about an amp’s classification so long as I can get great tones out of it; and the Class 5 will certainly deliver on that!

As you might surmise, I’ll probably end up getting this amp. As if I need another! But it’s a great amp at a great price. That’s just plain tough to ignore! And note that this amp sounds so good stock to me that I really don’t see a need to swap out tubes unless they burn out (which they probably will considering I’ll be running the amp all out all the time 🙂 ).

Here are some cool video clips of the Class 5 in action:

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You’ve heard of it happening to other guitarists, and how could it possibly happen to you? That’s right, your guitar gets stolen at a gig. Over the years, I’ve heard of countless stories of players having their axes taken right off the stage during a break; especially at small clubs where the stage can get obscured by the crowd. Bands have devised numerous ways to protect their gear from taking their guitars with them during breaks, to always leaving at least one band member in the stage area to keep watch over gear to even cordoning off parts of the stage area.

Myself, in my solo acoustic gigs where I play outside at a busy outdoor mall, I cordon off the open, rear area – I play in a “patio” at the end of a busy walkway – to prevent people from walking through my “stage.” But I also do this as a mild deterrent from possible theft. In other gigs, the stage is either raised or in an area that’s secure enough so as to offer more reasonable protection from theft. But still, that’s not complete insurance, so when I take a break, I either do it within line-of-sight of my rig, or have the servers and bussers keep watch over the stage when I can’t be within eye-shot. But if in the rare chance that any of them get busy and can’t keep watch, it’s possible for a cunning thief to come along at take my guitar.

Just a couple of weeks ago, this kid wandered over to my stage area and started checking out my rig while I was on a break. He was even audacious enough to twiddle with my pedals – he even lifted my Deep Blue Delay to inspect it! And while I was trying to get through the crowd back to the stage, he picked up my guitar! I finally got out there and asked him what the hell he was doing, and told him to put my guitar down. It turned out that he was just a young, high-school kid who turned out to not have any filters for manners. Some of the stuff he blurted out during our conversation made me open my eyes wide (had to say a brief prayer that I make sure my kids have filters 🙂 ). In any case, he just assumed that since he played he could just go up and mess with another player’s gear. I was friendly enough so as not to make him too uncomfortable, but I was quite firm when he asked me if he could play my guitar while I was on break that no, he couldn’t, and it was just not cool to just pick stuff up.

So what are we gigging musicians to do?

Enter the new Rock Lock from The Rock Lock Company. This is one of those inventions where you say, “Damn! Why didn’t I think of that?” The Rock Lock is much akin to a laptop tether with a loop at one end to attach to a fixed, stationary object (like a guitar handle as shown in the picture to the right), and a locking mechanism that wraps around the neck of your guitar.

Folks, this is the answer to guitar security! Talk about a theft deterrent! I’m totally excited to get one of these as it will certainly set my mind at ease when I go on breaks!

Here’s some information about the Rock Lock from the site:

  • MADE IN USA!!!
  • PATENT PENDING
  • Core Constructed from Cutting Edge Metal Replacement Technology
  • Nitro-Cellulose Safe Over-Mold
  • Heavy-Duty Braided Steel Cable
  • 1 Year Full Warranty with Registration
  • 2 Keys Included, with optional Key Registration
  • Fits almost all standard 6 string Guitars.
    This excludes: 12 String Instuments, Flamenco/Spanish Guitars, and Bass Guitars.

Pricing and Ordering

The Rock Lock will retail at $49.99, and if you’re one of the fortunate first to pre-order, you’ll get free shipping.

Note that the Rock Lock is not widely available just yet, but you can submit your name and email address to be notified when the next shipment is available (apparently, the first short, test-run sold out immediately). I exchanged info with the manufacturer, and he indicated that the first large production batch will be available on December 1, 2010, so get your name in ASAP!

You owe it to yourself to be comfortable to leave your stage knowing that your axe(s) are safe!

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I have to admit that I have a guilty pleasure: I love SPAM; no, not the e-mail kind, but the kind that comes in a can; the SPAM most folks who’ve never had it shun with disgust and disdain. Actually, who gives a flying f$%k about what they think? They don’t know what they’re missing. I call my love of spam a guilty pleasure, not because of the people who don’t like it, but because of health reasons, I’m not really supposed to be eating it. But once or twice a year, I get a hankering for it, and I have a couple of slices.

Who knows what actually goes into SPAM? I’m sure there’s a nutrition expert out there who can answer that, but for millions the world over, including myself, SPAM has been literally a part of their lives. Introduced in 1937 by the Hormel company, SPAM gained its original notoriety as a meat staple for US Troops fighting in World War II. It is probably from that where we get the terms “mystery meat” and the general hating of SPAM in America.

I don’t necessarily blame the troops for complaining about it. If SPAM is the only meat I’d get day in and day out, I’d probably hate it after awhile. But for many civilians at the time – especially in the Pacific Islands – SPAM became a staple that has been carried forward through the years even up to today. Ask any Filipino or Hawaiian how they cook with  SPAM, and they’ll give you tons of ways they use it in their cooking. Notice I didn’t say, ask “if” they eat it… Hey! In Hawaii you can go to Macdonald’s and get Two-eggs-two-scoop-rice-and-spam! Tell me that it’s not part of their culture!

However, there are always haters who have snide and vicious things to say about it, and many of those same folks I’ve been around who call it disgusting have never even tried it! I think that irks me the most. I really have a hard time with people who have diarrhea of the mouth about something of which they have little or knowledge. Yet in many cases, these same people speak with a certain authority and conviction that compel others to take them at their word.

I see it all the time on the many and various guitar- and music-related forums to which I belong. There’s always someone who speaks as if they know something about some gear or subject, but have little to no experience with it. They come on real strong in the threads in which they participate, and thus are able to convince the hapless who haven’t had the benefit of doing their own research that something is true or not.

In one particular forum, Dumble amp discussions are rife with folks who appear to know a thing or two about the amps. But what I’ve discovered is that a lot of them have never even played or heard one in person and that their only experience with a Dumble amp is through an amp manufactured by one of the Dumble clone builders out there. Not to say that those amps don’t sound killer, but no matter how close a builder followed one of the various blueprints circulating around the ‘Net, that amp ain’t a Dumble. People may argue that those clones have similar response and dynamics to an actual Dumble, but I’ll say it again: They are NOT a Dumble.

Personally, I’ve seen, heard, and briefly played a Dumble in person. But despite that experience, I still don’t feel that my minuscule experience warrants knowing that amp and completely understand what makes it so special. What I do know, is that there is definitely a vibe going on with it, but for me to actually articulate that “vibe” is difficult. So the best I can do is say that based upon my experience, it’s not the actual sound that the amp makes (to me, the one I heard and played sounds like a vintage Fender Twin), it’s the dynamics and sensitivity of the amp that make it so special. I’ve played amps that have a similar response, like my Aracom PLX18BB, but that amp is in an entirely different ballpark, being much more of a classic rock crunch box, so the two really aren’t comparable.

In any case, that’s as far as I’ll go with sharing what I know about that amp. I know it has a “vibe” but my actual knowledge of its overall performance isn’t enough to warrant any kind of expertise on the amp. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, there are folks with even less experience with a Dumble than I have that participate in threads and spout off all sorts of seemingly “knowledgeable” rubbish.

So what’s the point to all this? Forums are great places to get information, but make sure you put on your bullshit filter because there’s A LOT of it out there! And just like with SPAM, if someone’s a hater of a particular thing, make sure they actually have experience with what they’re talking about; in other words, they need to justify their hate…

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Jensen Jet Falcon JC12-50F

Summary: The newest member, lowest-powered, and lowest-cost speaker in Jensen’s newest “Jet” line at 50 Watts, this speaker produces tons of happening tones right out of the box!

Pros: Even before reading Jensen’s description of the Falcon, I found it to be a speaker that was built upon the substantial foundation of a rich bottom end. But make no mistake, the Falcon is not boomy in any sense, and that makes this speaker versatile. I can see using this in a bunch of different styles. I love it!

Cons: None.

Features (as tested):

  • 50 Watts / 16 ohm
  • 12″ Overall Diameter
  • 1.5″ Voice Coil
  • Ferrite Magnet
  • Steel Frame
  • Paper Cone
  • 98.7 dB Sensitivity
  • 7.2 lbs

Frequency Response Graph

Click for larger view

Price: ~$85-$90 street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ If you’re looking for a versatile speaker that can handle a bunch of different styles of music with ease, look no further. This is a keeper!

There are tons of advantages of being close friends with an amp builder; not the least of which is I often get to test everything in his shop, including components he gets from manufacturers to possibly include with his amps. The builder I’m speaking of in particular is my good friend Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps. A couple of weeks ago, during one of our numerous conversations, he mentioned that he got a new speaker from the Jensen distributor to try out, and asked if I would like to test it. Of course, as I have a very low resistance to trying out new gear, I immediately agreed. I think he asked me to test it out because he’s been so busy with building his AWESOME PRX150 attenuators and working on a couple of new amp designs that he didn’t have much time to do an evaluation himself. That’s a great problem to have!

In any case, we met a couple of days later and he handed the speaker over to me. I was excited to do a test on it! But unfortunately, life happens and I didn’t get the chance to test the speaker until just a couple of days ago. I wish I could have tested it earlier, because bottom line – and if you don’t want to read any further – I’m not giving the speaker back to Jeff. 🙂 Read on if you want to know why…

I could say a bunch of stuff about the Jensen Jet Falcon, but I’ll just say this: The Falcon sounds freakin’ fantastic right out of the box. My experience with speakers has been that you have to play them for several hours before they start breaking in to remove their harshness. The only thing Jeff did once he got the speaker was open the box. I installed the speaker in its brand-new, pristine state so I was anticipating having to play if for a few hours; not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. But that’s what I was expecting.

Much to my very pleasant surprise, once I had it installed in my closed-back 1 X 12, I was immediately taken by its tone. There was absolutely ZERO harshness! And I immediately thought that if it sounds this killer right out of the box, it’s going to sound even better once I’ve gigged and recorded with it. The cleans were sparkly with a nice, substantial bottom end, and the overdrive tones with my ’59 Les Paul replica got me quickly into Rock and Roll nirvana.

I could go on with technical details, but I’d rather not bore you with those. You can read about them on the Jensen product page. But as I said, bottom line, this speaker isn’t going back to Jeff. Hopefully he uses my enthusiasm to offer this speaker in his line. I recorded some clips to show what I mean. Both clips were recorded with my Aracom VRX22 and my ’59 Les Paul replica plugged straight into the amp. I only added a touch of small room reverb in my DAW to give the tone a bit of grease:

Clean with a Dirty Lead

Dirty Lead

I also downloaded the clips from Falcon page. Frankly, I didn’t like how these were recorded, but they are just reference clips:

Clean

Overdriven

As a final note, I’ve been playing this in my studio for the past few days, and the more I play it, the more I love it, especially for the songs I’m working on that need a great overdrive tone. I can’t wait to gig with it!

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