Last November I reviewed the excellent 65Amps Lil’ Elvis combo
, and the Tupelo’s arrival stirred up a little case of déjà vu. Looking nearly identical to the Lil’ Elvis and sporting the exact control panel layout, I was a little leery of how different this amp could sound—how could I write a review if there wasn’t anything new to say? Upon closer inspection and consulting the manual, it’s clear that 65Amps had a method to their madness when designing the Tupelo. While it may look like Lil’ Elvis, the Tupelo is more like his bigger, American brother.
||Download Example 1
Slightly overdriven clean with tremolo. Guitar: Richmond Dorchester
||Download Example 2
Raw, dynamic rock rhythm. Guitar: Hamer Korina
||Download Example 3
Edgy, Strat-style lead/rhythm tones. Guitar: Godin Passion RG-3
|All clips recorded directly into Pro Tools HD3 with a Shure SM57 into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with no EQ. Small bit of Lexicon room reverb on all tracks.
Designed to produce a bigger and bolder flavor of the great ‘60s American amps with more tonal and modern gain options, the Tupelo pushes 20 watts through a pair of 6V6s, three 12AX7s, and a solid state rectifier. The combo is made of 1/2 blind dovetail-jointed Baltic birch and covered in the classic and classy 65Amps black and tan color scheme with gold piping and basketweave-like grille cloth. Like in the Lil’ Elvis, the speaker of choice is a Celestion G12H-30. Front panel controls from left to right are Volume, Smooth switch, Tone, Bump switch, Intensity, Speed, and Master. The rear panel offers a passive effects loop, two-button footswitch jack, dual speaker outs, an 8/16-ohm impedance switch, and IEC power cord input. The power section has been optimized for 6V6s and includes newly designed Mercury Magnetics iron to maximize the tone. The transformers are big and beefy—cool!
Peaking inside the beautifully designed and cleanly laid out chassis, you can see a mix of NOS carbon comp and metal film resistors as well as a selection of Sozo caps. According to 65Amps, they use the carbon comps in the tonal paths and the metal film resistors where stability is critical. The Sozo caps are also a mix of modern and vintage styles. With all of these additions I was ready to get right to it and check out what the Tupelo had to offer, so it was time to plug in.
I won’t lie—I’ve heard the clips of [65Amps co-founder and Sheryl Crow guitarist] Peter Stroud playing through the Tupelo and was blown away with that big, open jangle and gorgeous, chimey distortion, so I was expecting a lot. First up was my standard litmus test of a 2003 Gibson Murphy Les Paul R8. With the controls all set at about the halfway mark and the tremolo off, the amp kicked my ass right out of the gate. The Les Paul didn’t have the same chime as Peter’s Elliot guitar but I’d expect that from the different guitars. The tone was thick and chewy with a bold and wide bottom end and a killer crunch that had just enough top without being brittle. You could feel the headroom and power on big chords, making me realize just how loud 20 watts is—I was shaking the walls.
Backing off the volume knob on the guitar cleaned the amp up very nicely and brought out the more subtle tones that you only get from that type of combination. Throwing caution to the wind, I dimed the controls and hit the Bump switch. This setting gave me that open throttle feel, similar to my favorite Marshalls where it’s on the verge of feedback and notes effortlessly glide out of the guitar. Because the Master is a voltage control, it works differently than a typical master volume by bringing the voltage down correctly and effectively reducing the volume. At all but the lowest settings it didn’t harshly affect the tone. You can bring it down to a comfortable bedroom volume without killing the integrity of the sound, which is a nice bonus and also useful for late night studio sessions at the house.