Had a great time with the Little 40 this evening at my weekly church gig. I set the amp to full clean-headroom on the Continuous Power Control, cranked the master, then set the gain to a little before the edge of breakup so that a normal, light strum would still be fairly clean with the volume knobs on my R8 both set to halfway. Of course, at that setting, I had to use my attenuator because while it would work just fine in a club, it would be way too loud for church. But that’s okay because the amp retained all of its dynamics and tone.
Also, with the way I set up the amp, I could strum lightly or play fingerstyle and be clean, then get a nice overdrive by digging into the strings a bit. Then I could get into overdrive completely by rolling on either of the volume knobs on my guitar. Then for leads, I used a footswitch to activate the boost which saturates the power tubes by hitting the amp with 10dB of gain. Like my Aracom amps (and vintage Marshalls, for that matter), when the power tubes saturate, lots of sonic goodness occurs. The signal compresses – with the Little 40, it’s not too much, but the sound definitely “feels” a bit beefier – but more importantly, you get very nice sustain and these subtle harmonics and overtones get added into the signal that are total ear candy!
Once I set up the amp, I didn’t have to do any tweaking. My guitar was my control center, which is how I like it. But it does require that an amp be extremely responsive to dynamics, both from a playing perspective and from volume knob adjustments. It delivered all that in spades!
Here’s another extremely important tidbit that I hadn’t mentioned yet: The amp weighs just under 16 pounds! Dammit! That’s lighter than my attenuator! This is something that Marco De Virgiliis (DV Mark’s designer/owner) is known for in the bass world. For instance, my bassist uses a Mark Bass Little Mark II as his go-to bass amp head. That amp produces BIG sound, and it weighs less than 6 1/2 pounds! The Little 40 and its smaller and larger brethren follow the same pattern.
To top all that off, the amp looked so damn cool as DV Mark installed orange LEDs on the board that you can see through the amp grille-work. I tend to be fairly utilitarian about gear, not really putting too much stock on looks, but not only does this amp sound and play killer, it looks great on stage!
And speaking of stage, I actually did two gigs with the Little 40 today. The first gig was a mother-daughter church service at a local high school. Since there were lots of people attending, the service was held in the performing arts center, so I was up on stage. Before the gig, I had to run home really quick to pick up some sheet music that I left in my printer. When I returned, I looked at the amp on stage from the back of the theatre, and just smiled when I saw the extremely cool orange glow emanating from the amp. It was TOTALLY SICK!!! For that gig, I played all clean: Max headroom, Master full-on, then Gain set to pretty low. I controlled volume with my Gretsch’s master volume. The difference with that gig was that since we were doing a few different styles of songs, I adjusted the EQ to fit the songs. This is yet another area where the amp shines. You can dial up all sorts of different tones with the very-usable EQ! Nice!
Finally, if you happen to do some research on the Little 40 or other DV Mark amps, you’ll notice that it has just a single pre-amp tube (ECC83), which indicates that there are solid state components in the amp. There are. You can see them; plus everything’s mounted on a PCB board. But who the f$%k cares when the amp sounds this good and performs so well? Besides, he does list the other ECC83 in the power section – which I totally missed at first. The important thing to note is that while there are solid state components being used, the important parts involved in the amplification are valves.
But solid state components? I know, we all suffer from cork-sniffing; especially with tube amps. But I’ve gotten over it. As JKeith Urban’s guitar tech said in an interview, “If it sounds cool, then it is right…” Especially with the DV Mark Little 40, I’m getting the level of performance and sound quality that I get out of my Aracom Amps, and like my Aracom gear, I paid less than half the price for the features I got with the amp compared to other boutique gear manufacturers’ wares. The Little 40 retails at $799.
So what about my Aracom Amps? Well, I will definitely still be using them. The DV Mark has a completely different tone than my Aracoms, which are based upon vintage Marshall amps; specifically the Plexi style, Blues Breaker amps. While I most probably will use the DV Mark the most on stage because of its flexibility, my other amps will still get lots of use in the studio, though the VRX22 will also get lots of stage time because it too is extremely flexible. As for the other amps, no other amp does creamy-smooth overdrive like my PLX18. When I need high-end bite, which I like to have for funky rhythm lines, I can’t think of any better amp to give me this than my VRX18. And thus far, none of these amps is collecting any dust as I’ve been using them all this past week to complete the demos for my new album.
Damn! It just occurred to me that I’m really trying to justify why I have all this freakin’ gear… 🙂 Or maybe I’m just rehearsing what I’ll be saying next to the wife when she queries me about my gear. Ha! ROCK ON!