||Download Example 1
Epiphone Sheraton - singing sustain tone
||Download Example 2
Fender American Standard Strat – clean spanking tone
||Download Example 3
Godin Redline HB – shredding lead tone
|All clips recorded with an SM57 off-axis through a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre into Apogee Symphony I/O direct to Pro Tools.
In the world of design—be it watches, furniture or architecture—many swear by the less-is-more ethos. But in the world of guitar amplifier design, few put that philosophy into practice quite like Bruce Clement—the BC behind BC Audio. With their point-to-point wiring and no-frills control sets, his amps couldn’t be much simpler. But as the performance of BC Audio Premier Gear Award winning Amplifier No. 7 attests, these simple circuits can be capable of a startlingly wide spectrum of sounds.
The BC Amplifier No. 8 is a designed with the same versatility in mind—in essence the capability to move from truly clean to dirtier amp sounds solely through manipulation of amplifier and guitar controls. But the 25-watt, Class A Amplifier No. 8 gives the player this same versatility with a lot more gain on tap and a capacity for overdrive that’s stunning for an amp of such simplicity.
BC Audio offers his amps in either the classic “ammo can” or a head box format. And The No. 8 I received was in a more conventional head configuration in black vinyl covering with a cool vertical red racing stripe that suits its rowdier demeanor. Like all BC Audio amps, it’s clean, simple, and elegant—inside and out. Weighing in at a back-friendly 17 pounds and measuring a relatively diminutive 7.5” x 17” x 7.5”, it can easily travel in the front seat of any car and sits safely on a compact 1x12 speaker cabinet.
A pair of 5881s powers the No. 8 and, like the No. 7, it uses a pair of 6SL7 octal preamp tubes—which Clement favors over 12AX7s for their more power-tube like tone and less-bright character—and a GZ34 rectifier tube. The amp is meticulously wired in true point-to-point style and is an exercise in minimalism and perfection. In fact, I haven’t seen an amp so cleanly wired since I reviewed the No. 7!
Refreshingly, there are just three controls on the front panel: Presence, Volume, and Drive. A 3-way toggle for Off/Standby/On and a square red indicator light reside on the left side of the front panel and the input jack follows the controls on the right. On the back panel you’ll find a single speaker jack (8 or 16 ohms), a mains fuse, and an IEC input for the power cable.
Hidden Heaps of Tone
To evaluate the performance of the Amplifier No. 8, I ran the amp into both a 75-watt Eminence Governor-equipped 1x12 cabinet and a late ‘60s Marshall Basketweave 4x12 cabinet with original Celestion G12H-30s. Picking a ‘90s Epiphone Sheraton with Tom Holmes 455 pickups and the No. 8’s controls set to noon, I found the amp surprisingly loud (who ever said 25 watts was quiet?) and there was already a fair bit of gain coming through. The basic tone was not dissimilar to the No. 7, but slightly brighter and more aggressive with very Marshall-esqe fullness and bite.
The drive circuit in the amp was designed to produce both thick and clear clean tones as well as very high gain. And at these relatively flat settings, the Epiphone really sang and retained a wide dynamic range.
Moving from clean to a more aggressive tone was as simple as varying my pick attack. By pushing the amp volume to nearly full, I had access to as much sustain as I needed that bloomed gorgeously with overtones and dovetailed into beautiful harmonic feedback. Pick articulation and clarity was stunning at these overdriven levels. And as the 5881s were pushed to the point of breakup, the tone remained dense, thick, and detailed.