Features: 2007 NAMM Report
2007 NAMM Show Report: Get Amped
By: Scott Kahn
NAMM is most certainly an amp fest, with plenty to see and (sometimes, but not always) hear from boutique builders like Fuchs and Bad Cat and Bogner, European heavyweights like ENGL, newcomers like Diamond Amplification and Bugera. Wait a sec… Bugera?
Is that Bugera or Behringer? It looks like the company who continually reinvents the low price point for a huge variety of music equipment is distributing a new line of tube amplifiers, starting with the 6262 head and 6262-212 combo. The 120-Watt amps are available in two and three channel configurations featuring six 12ax7 preamp tubes and four 6L6 tubes. We’re very curious to hear how they sound, and even more curious to know how they’ll be priced.
Relative newcomer to the USA tube amp market, Diamond Amplification was showing off not only its high-gain Spec Op amps, but two new models coming soon: The Spitfire, a vintage tone, simplified amp, will be available in both head and combo versions, and the Phantom, similar to the Spec Op, but with more traditional voicing instead of the super high gain voice of the company’s flagship offering. It shares the six 12ax7 and four EL-34 architecture of the Spec Op but is clearly targeted at the mainstream guitar player who doesn’t need to play everything cranked to eleven and dropped a few whole steps on the guitar.
By the way, bet you didn’t know that Diamond’s chief amp engineer, Martin Golub, is a veteran of Bob Bradshaw’s Custom Audio Electronics company. We’re looking forward to reviewing his latest creations.
What’s dark, blue, and sits in a rack? That must be Emerson Williams’ darkblue tube recording guitar pre-amplifier! The darkblue features 4xECC83 (like a 12ax7) preamp tubes and 1xE88CC (special double triode tube) combined with speaker-simulated outputs and an effects loop. The 2U rack preamp wins high praise for its cool blue coloring and backlighting, and the front panel has a simple interface for dialing in your gain and tone settings.
Though you can also get great sounds using the darkblue with a power amp for a live setup, it only has a single channel in the debut edition. We had a chance to play a PRS guitar through it and were very happy with our initial experience. The preamp should make its way to our labs in the next few months. Look out, Rectifier Recording Pre!
The monster of rock introduced its highest-gain tube amps ever. The JVM Series amps continue their ECC83/EL-34 heritage, have as many as four channels, multiple modes per channel with their own gain structure, a new foot controller that stores front panel settings, MIDI control, and two effects loops. The JVM410C combo will retail for $3,000 and the JVM410H 100-Watt head will retail for $2,500 – expect both prices to have reasonable discounts offered.
Also of particular note were the new Vintage Modern Series amplifiers, built around Marshall’s first ever power amp output sections that utilized KT66 output tubes, and cabinets using Celestion G12C 25-Watt Greenbacks. Prices for this line range from $1,390 to $2,300.
The big news from the folks in Petaluma was the introduction of a new line of guitar amps at the lower end of the product line. The F-series amps have been retired, but it would be unfair to merely call the new Express amplifiers replacements. Really, for about the same price, you get far more amplifier than what the F-series previously delivered.
The Express 5:25 is a single-ended pure Class A amplifier producing five Watts or, when operating in typical Class A/B mode, producing twenty-five Watts of output. A switch enables selection of power output, utilizing either one or two EL-84 tubes, while the preamp section features five 12AX7 tubes. The two channels are fully independent, and each offers multiple voicing options, similar to more costly amps in the family. The amp is available in either head configuration ($999) or as a compact and lightweight 1x10 combo ($1,049). This is a lot of great-sounding Boogieness for such a low price!
The Express 5:50 is the big brother to the 5:25, offering two 6L6 power tubes instead of EL-84, and fifty Watts of output power in full Class A/B mode. Pricing is $1,149 for the head, $1,199 for a 1x12 combo, or $1,299 for a 2x12 combo.
Perhaps even more exciting to us was an update to the fabulous Lone Star amplifier. In addition to the amp’s two power settings, a third has been added: two power tubes generating ten Watts of single-ended Class A power. The power setting can be assigned on a per-channel basis, too. Wow!
Peavey had plenty to say in the amplifier department. Of more importance than John Taylor’s “juicy” guitars (for our serious musician audience, at least) would have to be Joe Satriani’s introduction of the Mini Colossal. If you just glossed over the recent ads thinking it was nothing more than a tiny practice amp, it’s time to revisit this hot new sound machine. It’s actually a nice recording amp (or practice amp) featuring a five-Watt Class A tube amplifier with an adjustable power attenuator. One 12AX7 preamp tube and one EL84 power tube supply the tone, delivered through either the built-in eight-inch speaker, connection to an external speaker cabinet, or via an XLR connection through speaker-simulated output. Pricing should be under $600.
According to Joe, he actually used a prototype of the Mini Colossal during tracking of his most recent album’s title track, “Super Colossal,” and he shared another interesting fact with the press: though you may see mics in front of his cabinets on stage, those are really just in place to be used as a backup. His live sound goes to the PA from the direct outs on his JSX heads.
Vox is one of the classic British amp makers, and you know what to expect from their AC-15 and AC-30 amps, so it was particularly exciting to hear about their new Classic Plus tube amps that deliver both classic and modern sounds. Channel 1 is vintage AC-30 tone, while Channel 2 offers up real hard rock tone for the first time. We look forward to checking out these EL-34 powered combos and heads shortly. The 50- and 100-Watt heads are available now for $1,450 and $1,650, with a 50-Watt 1x12 combo due in April.
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