What Do You Call An Amp With 10 Tubes, 5 Trannies…

March 5, 2010 | By | 8 Replies More

Plaid Blues, 4xEL84s, Know Anyone Who Owns a Hiwatt?


I’m surfing around, minding my own bidness, when I come across this line: “What do you call an amp that has 10 tubes, five transformers, user-controlled variable feedback, variable bias and a built-in Variac?”

I’m thinking, I don’t know…a science experiment? The last act of a tone-desperate man? A hernia?!

Then I read the next part: “You could call it INSANE! Unbelievable! The first of its kind or the only amp of its kind. You would be right on all accounts. But we call it: The Dirty Boy.”

Turns out the amp is the newly-launched creation of Mojave Amp Works and Blues Saraceno – and presumably Blue’s father Alex, an electronics expert who has designed built many of the pedals Blues uses (including one Seymour Duncan makes, the Tweak Fuzz – a great pedal – I have it – but has to be modded to compensate for a volume drop). Judging from Blues’ website, Alex may have created the first Dirty Boy amp many years ago.

Blues back in the day.

Blues back in the day.

You remember Blues? He’s a guy who came up at the end of the shred days, and I distinctly remembered that his thing was plaid guitars. Not that he wasn’t a good player (he still is), just plaid was his visual gimmick. (His full bio is here. He played in Cream! And…Poison.)

Take a look at this old vid. There’s the plaid guitar, and hey…what’s that amp in the background? Apparently the Dirty Boy is an amp Blues has messed with for a while.

Anyhow, I haven’t been following Blues’ career, but the Dirty Boy amp got me to his website. That amp isn’t on there yet, but there were a couple vids of Blues demoing a Hiwatt amp, which I thought sounded killer.

The amp is a Hiwatt Studio Stage combo. Here’s what the Hiwatt site says about it:

“Classic Class A design. Studio setting uses two EL-84 tubes in the power section to give you the sustain and overdrive you need at more manageable levels (like the Custom 20 Head and Combo). Switch to Stage setting and use all four EL-84’s together with our special wound transformer, giving you all the power and sustain you need. Still not enough, then pull out the gain switch for serious overdrive, but yet still hear the tone of your guitar. How a classic British valve amp should sound. Now dial in the all tube design Accutronics spring reverb, back off your guitar volume and you have the coolest sounding amp on the planet. All this and useable ‘musical’ 3-stage tone network, this amp does it all. Equipped with two Fane 12″ speakers all assembled in an 18 marine ply cabinet.”

Sounds good! (Blues’ chops help.)

Hiwatts – all I can come up with is Pete Townshend. Where are all the Hiwatt users? Do you know any?

Even Blues has moved on. From his website: “My constant search for true amp greatness has led me to Mojave amplification. I was originally approached by Mojave to do some sound clips for their line of amplifiers, After having a chance to play four different models of their product line (Plexi 45, Coyote, Scorpion and Sidewinder…. each one stellar in it’s own right), I came to the conclusion that they were the best-sounding modern amps that I had heard! What started as a work for hire turned into an endorsement situation based solely on the merit of their product.

“I really feel that the Mojave product stands out from the pack. I found it refreshing to finally play on a non-master-volume amp that gave me that shade of ‘old-school’ classic tone with just the right amount of that newer ‘edge’ that you need in order for it to compete with what is going on in music today.

“After getting familiar with the Mojave product line, I settled on the ‘Sidewinder’ model as my personal first choice. It’s a 4xEL84 power section, around 30 watts. I tend to favor the sound of cranked up power section over the typical fizzy preamp sound that a lot of players go for, so the Sidewinder suited my requirements perfectly. Another added bonus was that the Mojave responded well to having fuzz/fizz and boost pedals driving its front end.”

Four EL84s. So his pre-Dirty Boy Mojave amp of choice had those, the Hiwatt he plays in the vid has those and it just so happens that my amp of choice right now, an old Bedrock head, also is a 4xEL84 amp. I love the Bedrock, but it doesn’t quite get the Marshallesque upper-mids I love – though the Hiwatt seems to get there, and there’s that Mack Amps head I’d love to hear….

So to close this out, here are my questions:

> Do you own any 4xEL84 amps, and if so how do you like them?

> Do you know anyone who actually owns a Hiwatt? These amps can’t be that numerous because hardly any are on eBay. And in 30 years of playing guitar, I’ve never owned one nor run across anyone who did – at least not in a playing situation. If you own one, tell me about it, man! I’m curious now…

Category: Blues Saraceno, Hiwatt, Mojave Amp Works, Seymour Duncan

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  1. cvaldeski says:

    my old lead singer had one but he was having a hard time getting a good tone out of it. he asked me to eq it for him. i remember it was so bright i ended up turning the treble control all the way down. then it sounded fine

  2. Don Mackrill says:

    Hi Jay,

    Something you and your readers might want to look for is tube amps that do not utilize negative feedback (basically connecting the signal at the speaker jack back into the amp's circuitry). Negative feedback is used in many amps (Fender, lots of Marshalls, etc.) to sweeten the tone and tame the gain. However, an amp running without it will produce noticeably more resonant – woody! – tone.

    IMO, zero feedback is something to check out in your quest for woodytone!

    PS: I appreciate your interest in the Heatseeker HS-36!

    Don Mackrill

  3. Dave says:

    Which Model Bedrock???, I have a 1400 and a 1200, which are El-34's , love them!!

  4. WoodyTone says:

    Sweet! It's a 600 head with the El84s. Been wanting to try/find an EL34 head!

  5. scott says:

    That's insane. That built in variac is cool. I don't have any all el34 amps but my MKIV has two el34s in the outer sockets and I can run it just on the EL34's Defeinately gives it a more English vibe.

  6. Josh says:

    If you're looking for Hiwatt users, I have to mention that I play through an '82 Hiwatt Custom 50 and a '77 Hiwatt Custom 100 in stereo at every gig. We are out there :)

  7. gdasilva says:

    Tommy Bolin, David Gilmour, Rich Robinson are/were Hiwatt players.

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