The Matchless Avalon 35 features a hybrid circuit with both PC-board-mounted components and point-to-point-wired, chassis-mounted
tube sockets and controls.
Wielding the Blade
I tested the Avalon with a nice variety of guitars,
including a ’60s Strat reissue with Custom Shop
Fat ’50s pickups, a PRS Ted McCarty DC 245
with 57/08 humbuckers, a Schecter Ultra III
with splittable mini-humbuckers, and a Gretsch
G6118T-LTV with TV Jones Classics. With each
axe, the tones were dynamic, detailed, and
varied. The key to the variety is the Master
Push/Pull knob, which enables you to go from
needling AC30 glory to higher-gain, Marshall
plexi-type sounds at less problematic volumes.
For the former, you’ll want Master Push/Pull
disengaged (pushed in) so you can experience
the open, airy feel that comes when you let the
Volume knob control both gain and output. For
rock and hard-rock sounds, turn Master Push/
Pull to a lower setting (so you don’t get blasted
in the face) and crank Volume toward its upper
regions for rich distortion. As with most master-volume
amps, this convenient feature is very
practical, though it slightly darkens the timbres
and decreases some of the to-die-for dynamics.
With Volume and Master Push/Pull nearing their
limits, things can get splatty and fizzy, but the
same can be said of a lot of classic amps.
The Avalon’s EQ is remarkably interactive,
too. As with classic Vox and Matchless
circuits, Cut shaves off high-end frequencies
as you turn it clockwise. When it’s completely
counterclockwise, you get those glassy
sounds made famous by the Who and the Fab
Four. With it maxed, you get a thick, scooped-out
tone that could accommodate jazz cats
or rock guys looking for notched mids. While
jazz cats won’t be the first to gravitate to an
amp like the Avalon—and the same probably
goes for hardcore rockabilly guys—I got fat,
neck-pickup jazz tones and bristling rockabilly
bombast with the Gretsch.
The Treble and Bass knobs work like they do
on other amps, and the latter in particular
has much more impact than many other tube
amps. Dime it, and you get more mids for a
honkier sound—but in a musical, absolutely
usable way. Bring it back a bit, say, to three or
four o’clock, and you get muscular, in-your-face
tones. My playing runs the gamut from
heavy-handed rock/rockabilly riffing and
chording to a lot of hybrid picking, so I eventually
settled on Volume at two or two-thirty,
Master Push/Pull off, Bass at two o’clock,
Treble dimed, Cut off, and Reverb—a three-spring
unit that adds nice dimension but less
depth than I’d hoped—at two o’clock. This
let me get the broadest array of tones, from
all-out brashness and crystalline detail to full,
rounded notes by going from a heavy pick
attack to curling the plectrum under my index
finger and strumming with my thumb. With
the Strat, I got deliciously detailed quackiness
in the in-between positions—perfect for
Southern rock flavors or funky chording like in
Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” With
the Schecter, I got raw, in-your-face indie-rock
sounds using the bridge pickup. The PRS
yielded everything from Zeppelin-esque PAF
sounds to fat neck-pickup tones that would
make SRV proud.
The Final Mojo
Like a lot of aficionados of high-end anything,
guitarists can get pretty hung up on certain
details before they’ve even tried a product.
They might dismiss an amp for even minimal
PC-board construction or because it wasn’t
designed during a certain period of the company’s
history. There’s a kernel of wisdom in
some arguments over such minutia, because
the longer you play, the more you realize your
sound is the sum of all the little things—from
your pick gauge to how hard you fret and
what kind of tubes are in your amp. But we
all know such obsession can be crippling, too.
The trick is to do your homework and find
great equipment, and then focus more on
your playing and your ear than on your gear.
That’s what most of our heroes did (or do).
And that’s why I really dig the new Matchless
Avalon 35. It offers an excellent balance of
flexibility, durability, and quality tone.
you revel in bristling, dynamic EL34
tones and simplified flexibililty.
you want more sophisticated control
of surf-able reverb.