Wallace Amplification BKW45
Brian Wallace has electronics in his DNA.
His father, an electronics engineer, and his
grandfather, an RCA tube repairman, were
both instrumental in his early education
and development in tubes and electronics.
When he was young his father gave him a
75-in-1 electronic projects kit and further
encouraged Brian by letting him watch as
he built his own projects. Like all of the
builders in the roundup, Brian is a player.
He began modifying amps in 1974, when
he removed the speakers and baffle in his
Checkmate amp and replaced them with
a baffle he created and some purchased
speakers—altering the sound of the amp
and thus beginning his lifelong journey.
In 1995, he was approached by Guytron
Amplification to help out while they were
getting started. A positive experience, it
propelled him to the next level and led
to the creation of Wallace Amplification,
which now offers several amp models as
well as replacement transformers under
the Marstran name.
Wallace’s first amp is the BKW45, but he
is more than a clone maker. Recently he
introduced the Abaddon, which is a 50-watt
master volume head consisting of four
gain stages in the preamp. There is much
more to come, including a line of pedals
and a reissue of the Fuzz Ace pedal he
made back in the early 90s. The BKW45 is
a unique flavor of JTM45. A hair darker in
tone and possessing slightly less gain than
all of the other models, including both the
vintage and reissue Marshall, it yielded
enormous bloom and a bold, thick, sustaining
quality. Even though there was a little
less gain, it didn’t affect playability, and we
never struggled with the amp. It was one of
the rarest qualities I’ve experienced in an
amp, and certainly an unexpected bonus.
The Wallace had a magical ability to push
notes through loud and clear while still being
able to dish out gritty and harmonically pleasing
chords that didn’t fight the non-perfect
intervals they were built on. This all came out
of an amp that was using tubes you can buy
today without breaking the bank.
Speaking of breaking, check out the sidebar
on what the BKW45 was subjected to by
UPS en route to our roundup. In spite of the
gorilla treatment it received, the amp arrived
without shattered glass and performed flawlessly
throughout the entire set of three
sessions of playing and listening. That’s a
testament to a solidly built and roadworthy
piece of equipment. And one look inside the
amp will show what a dedicated and precise
builder Wallace is. In tone and build quality,
the amp is a work of art.
|Ever wonder what could happen to your amp
in shipping? In the case of Brian Wallace’s
BKW45 amp, UPS had a field day, and
decided it would be a lot of fun to throw it
around. When the amp arrived, it was packed
neatly in a new cardboard box with padding
inside suspending the padded road case that
housed the amp. That’s double-boxed and
protected by a case built for heavy abuse.
Sadly, it took one good slide down the end
of a ramp and collided with either another
box or the wall of the truck. Though the box
didn’t show any signs of abuse on the outside,
it was clear that something had shifted when I
opened the case. Take a look at this picture of
the damage and the way the entire amp was
shifted to one side because of the impact.
Believe it or not, the tubes didn’t shatter and
the amp worked fine, but it was cosmetically
damaged by a broken front Plexi panel. This
isn’t the first time this has happened, but it’s
the first time I’ve seen it happen with this
type of road-worthy packing. Let this serve
as a reminder to always insure your amps, as
the shipping company can’t tell if you’ve got
a bag of peanuts in a box or an amp that was
lovingly built by somebody like Brian.