Working at PG, I get to observe a lot of the trends that ebb and flow through the industry. A perfect example is the explosion of small, low-power tube amplifiers over the past several years. One individual who understands this trend is Ed Quidley, and he definitely knows more than a thing or two about low-wattage amplification. The Quidley 22, his first commercial creation, was the culmination of not only the sound of a low-watt tube amp, but the knowledge of their history as well. Extremely loud tube amplifiers were largely the product of inadequate PA technology that was unable to keep up with the expanding seating requirements of rock shows in the past. The obsession with manufacturing amps that could produce a clean, loud signal caused small tube amplifiers to be swept under the radar, only to have their unique, singing tones rediscovered decades later. The Quidley 22 aims to encapsulate those sounds of decades past, with a few new tricks added in for good measure.
The Quidley has a few more features than one might expect from a simple, single-channel 22-watt amp. Rather than provide multiple channels for gain changes, there are two switchable gain stages (Normal and High Gain), which are selectable from the front panel or the included footswitch. Combined with separate high- and low-gain input jacks, these give the player a total of four available tones to start with. The tone stack comprises four controls: Treble, Middle, Bass and Brilliance. The first three are active controls (cut or boost) and the Brilliance gives passive control over the upper harmonics. The Quidley’s rear panel sports an effects loop, and impedance selector switch and a Pentode/Triode switch (HI or LOW), so the amp can operate at 22 watts or approximately 8 watts. The rear panel also provides a Mode switch (Open or Closed), which is essentially a negative feedback loop switch—a really handy feature. In the “Open” position, the amplifier takes on a less compressed nature, good for producing the lower gain tones made famous by Vox and Matchless. When switched to the “Closed” (negative feedback loop) position, the Quidley becomes more aggressive, tight and compressed, geared more towards wide-open, high-gain tones familiar to Marshall fans.
The instrument of choice to begin testing the Quidley was a Duesenberg Mike Campbell signature semi-hollowbody guitar. It’s always proven to be quite a versatile instrument, and the best tones that I’ve been able to produce with it have generally come from lower-wattage amplifiers. I decided to kick off my Quidley experience with this switch at the Open position, the Gain control at a modest setting, and the Master Volume set at the 2 o’clock. Striking an open G chord, I knew immediately that I was in for a great time with this amp. The attack, definition and high-end spank commonly associated with low-wattage amps was entirely present, and it was stunning. The high end had a very pleasing sheen to it, which was complemented with a great, throaty upper midrange. Ed Quidley recommends that users set the Gain to the highest setting they’ll need for the type of music they play, and then rely on the guitar’s volume control for cleaner sounds. Switching to a Nash ’63 Strat-style guitar, I set the Gain to 3 o’clock and the guitar’s volume control halfway down. That brilliant clean was still as glistening as ever, albeit with the added frequencies of the Nash’s singlecoil pickups. Maxing the guitar’s volume control caused the Quidley to react exactly as it should have: no added volume, but plenty of added overdrive. All too often, amplifier designs are hampered by the issue of input sensitivity, and some players still like to use the old-school technique of gain cleanup with the onboard volume control. With the right guitar and amp combination that method can sound much more natural and vibrant than a channel-switching setup, but often the overall volume itself is dropped or raised too much. The Quidley didn’t exhibit this behavior at all; in fact it did better than my prized ’73 Marshall head. The accompanying 2x12 cabinet, loaded with Mojo BV30 speakers, even included a optional built-in power attenuator for dialing down the volume when needed. After playing with a few different settings, I was very pleased to hear that it didn’t succumb to low-end frequency roll off, which some power attenuators suffer from.
Flipping the loop switch to Closed produced almost a night-and-day difference. The beautiful, sparkling Andy Summers-esque cleans and soft mid-gain tones suddenly gave way to an onslaught of ripping, aggressive Malcolm Young sounds. The new tones had more of a Marshall flavor, reminiscent of the famous 18-watter that has enjoyed a recent revival amongst tone enthusiasts (Ed Quidley credits this revival as the start of the low-wattage amp trend). With the amp in such a belligerent state, I figured that a solid humbucker guitar was in order, namely a 2006 Gibson Flying V with a Bareknuckle Warpig in the bridge position. The Warpig is a very hot pickup, but thick and clear at the same time, great for just about any use, but geared more towards higher gain rock tones. At this point, I was pretty much pushing the Quidley as far as it could go in the gain and volume department, and it held up very well. Some of the more modern riffing that I threw at it was too glassy, but that’s the nature of the amplifier itself. Personally, I was surprised at how well it handled vintage Sabbath. Most low-wattage tube amplifiers that I’ve come across have too much high end and too little definition when highly saturated for those sorts of applications. For the Billy Gibbons crowd, this is definitely an amp that should be on the radar, as dropping the Tone knob down to 6 and playing double stops gave some extremely satisfying and thick tones.
The Final Mojo
The past few years have seen the release of plenty of low-powered tube amplifiers. Luckily, many have been quite good, with their manufacturers understanding that a small tube amp produces tones all of its own, tones that usually cannot be produced by their stadium-ready brethren. The Quidley 22 more than easily handles those sounds, and also pumps them out at a volume that can sit well in a band setting. The internal power attenuator is a major step in the right direction of expanding versatility, while keeping the tone vibrant without dropping the low end frequencies that plague many other devices with that purpose. It’s most certainly a vintage-voiced amplifier, so players needing a darker, more modern overdrive should probably consider other options. However, for that player looking for that intoxicating, singing tone that only the best low wattage amps provide, the Quidley 22 serves it up in spades.
you want a simple but classy and feature-rich tone machine won’t blow your eardrums out.
you need more modern overdrive tones or a lot more power.