The newest offering from Steve Carr and his
North Carolina-based Carr Amplifiers company
is the Artemus—a 30-watt beastie that
dishes Steve’s take on classic Vox AC-type
tone. But, as with most Carr amps, it does
that and more. It’s available as a 1x12, 2x12,
or 1x15 combo, and as a head. But before
I get deeper than that, let me start with a
bit of disclosure: I own two Carr amps—a
Rambler and a Mercury—and I love them. I
am not an endorser, though. Just a customer.
And if I thought this amp stunk, I would feel
it my duty to tell you.
What’s Under the Hood
Carr prides itself on boutique quality, inside
and out. As for the inside, the Artemus runs
four EL84 tubes for power, two 12AX7s in the
preamp, and a 5AR4/GZ34 rectifier tube. The
controls are straight ahead: Volume, Treble,
and Bass knobs, as well as three toggles.
Edge switches between a mid and top boost.
Mid toggles between British and American
voices. And Watts switches between 15- or
30-watt operation. I’m sad to say that Carr
chose not to include reverb, because they do
the best reverb I’ve heard on a tube amp.
On the outside, the Artemus comes in a
variety of amp coverings. Our sample has
a sort of cowboy-belt, tooled-leather look
that I seem to find myself coveting. The
amp handle is the most honkin’, heavy-duty
leather monster I’ve ever seen. As with most
Carr amps, it has a dovetailed, solid pine
cab. I think pine cabs are just more musical
for guitar amps than other materials. I can’t
prove that, but I feel it in my guts when I play.
“Made in the USA” used to mean the best
quality money could buy. While those days
are largely gone, there are still some shining
examples, and Carr amps are one of them.
Carr uses old-fashioned, point-to-point handwiring.
I won’t go through and list all the parts
they use, you can read about it on their website.
But here’s just a couple of “for instances”
for you. The power cord is long enough for
most gigs. The internal wiring is done with
Canare shielded cable, which is also heavy-duty
and very quiet. Suffice it to say that they
use very high-quality stuff and they don’t cut
corners. You want to talk about roadworthy?
You are talking Carr Amps.
Tone Available Here
OK, this amp is pretty interesting. While I’m not
sure I would go as far as saying it can sound like
two totally different amps, the Edge and Mid
switches yield a nice variety of sounds and a
bit of a change in how the amp responds. Carr
was going for a Vox deal here, and I think they
hit the mark very well. You can get that “top-boost”
tone easily with the Edge switch set to
Bright, so Beatles chime can be yours. Now
what I really dig is the way the amp breaks up as
you crank it. Through good design or voodoo or
however they did it, this amp has a wonderful,
vocal singing quality when cranked. It just has a
silky-smooth quality that is very pleasant. Turn
down the guitar volume and it cleans right up.
The articulation is big and clear. Notes pop out.
This amp would work well for the John Scofield
funky vibe—and so much more. It has a very in-your-
face immediacy. Think the beginning of the
Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’.”
As I played the Artemus more, the sound I
heard the most was Rory Gallagher’s. It just
does that dead on. Looking it up, I found that
Rory actually played Vox amps quite a bit. (How
about that, my ears still kinda work!) So this amp
has enough oomph for your Strat—many lower-powered
amps just don’t. Low output pickups
just cannot deliver sometimes when you have an
amp that’s under 50 watts. As for humbuckers—
badda-boom—this amp is dripping with rock ’n’
roll. When I was just wanking some chords out I
kept thinking “I am Keith Richards.”
The Final Mojo
We live in the age of the boutique amp, and I
think most boutique amps are pretty good. It’s
more a question of finding what works for you
and your sound. Carr makes top-quality stuff.
Their amps are way roadworthy and are built
like tanks. That said, the Artemus offers a particular
flavor—it is not a Swiss Army knife-type
amp. It won’t suit every need and, as I said, I
really wish they had included their wonderful
reverb because I am a reverb junkie. But if
you want quality, Vox-like tone, this amp will
rock you. It’s not for metalheads. It’s more
suited to blues and roots folks, and for them
it should be able to do any club gig with style.
So scamper down to your nearest Carr dealer
and have a listen.
you want a smoking-hot Vox sound.
you need mega overdrive or reverb.