The Amp Show was AWESOME. Walk into any room, plug in and you get sho-nuff T-O-N-E of the Woody variety.
And there most definitely was variety, all of it woody. I didn’t hear a bad amp or even anything approaching a bad amp, and didn’t expect to – though there was one that was a bit below the rest (more on that in part 3).
But in this installment, I’m going to tell you what four amps/builders stood out for me (parts 1 and 2), with an honorable mention (in part 3). Couple things first:
> These are all amps I want to own. No doubt whatsoever.
> I’m a knuckle-dragging rocker so bear that in mind.
> I played all these amps with my #1 axe, a stock 1980 Les Paul Standard with (I believe) T-Top pickups. If you’re unfamiliar with T-Tops, they’re lower-output, PAF-ish pickups that sound stupidly good.
> The following companies and amps are in no particular order. They just rocked.
Satellite Atom and Neutron
Adam Grimm at Satellite Amplifiers rolled out a few new amps this year, including the 50w EL34-powered Omega MKII (sounds great, rocks but different than any other EL34 amp I’ve heard), a 25w 3×10 combo, a 12w 1×10 combo with tremolo named the Elmer (no S) and another little amp called the White.
They all sound good or great, and any one of ’em can float your boat. The White isn’t loud at all and sounds like the speaker is about to blow up. Sort of Billy Gibbons-ish studio thing going on. The Omega breaks up at roughly 2 on the vol knob – “roughly” because Adam doesn’t put numbers around his knobs, which is kinda cool – and from there doesn’t get much louder, just sweeter.
All his amps sound darn good. But for me, the Atom is it. Play literally one note or chord through that amp, and that’s all you need to hear. Your reaction will be something encompassing Wow, Amazing, Wood, KILLER!
What does that mean in terms of Marshall/Vox/Fender tonal reference points? To me, it has the best of all of those – with just two knobs.
In an interview on AmpGAS.com, Adam described the tone of his amps this way: “f*cking awesome. That’s how I feel about all the amps I make, and I want my customers to feel that way too. I want them to pick up a guitar, plug it in, hit a chord and go, ‘Damn. That is f*cking awesome.'”
I can’t argue with that description.
The Atom is 36w of 4xEL84 power. The Neutron is the Atom’s little bro, at 18w (2xEL84). Both sound KILLER.
I will own one for sure (hey Adam, where’s my amp?!).
Goodsell Dominatrix 18
This is another amp I couldn’t wait to plug into after my experience last year. I remembered playing it and almost instantly “sounding better.” I didn’t want to stop.
Well, I wasn’t disappointed this year. The Dominatrix 18 is, bar none, the best small combo for a Les Paul-wielding rock player that I’ve ever heard.
Richard Goodsell had other amps there that I’m sure were good. He had a Strat there. It never occurred to me to play any other guitar through the Dominatrix or my guitar through any of his other amps. Why? Nothing could sound better than what I was hearing.
Here’s what the Goodsell website says about the Dom 18:
The Dominatrix takes it’s inspiration from the Watkins Dominator series made in England in the ’60s and ’70s. [It has] two EL84s and a trio of 12AX7 dual triodes [and] an EZ81 tube rectifier…[plus] a tone stack that notably includes a Midrange control, Volume, Master Volume and reverb.
Distinctly British, leaning more in the direction of Marshall rather than Vox, but plenty of good cleans on tap as well.
The MSRP on this amp is $2K. Stupidly expensive in a way, but also cheap at any price. I looked Richard straight in the eye and told him I will own of these amps one day. Hopefully soon….
> Quick story: I played my son’s talent show earlier this year. He’s 9, a drummer, we played “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Dance the Night Away” – none of his friends had ever heard of Rainbow or Van Halen, let alone the tunes, but the teachers knew ’em (lol). Anyhow, I played through a cheap 15w Marshall combo, and the whole time wished I had the Dominatrix…and that was about 9 months after I played the Dom for about 5 minutes. That amp stuck with me for sure.
– End of part 1 of 3 –
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- WoodyTone! - NY/NJ Amp Show Finds! Part 3 | June 14, 2011