When I switched to my Strat, I was very
impressed with how the single-coils sounded
through the Drive channel. Cranking the gain
made them sustain like humbuckers. The
Smooth voicing sounded great with the Strat,
especially when I backed off the gain a bit for a
medium overdrive rock tone. Soapbar pickups
gave me some of my favorite sounds. I coaxed
great British rock tones out of the Memphis
Thirty, as well as fat, juicy distortion that would
make any grunge or punk fan happy. The soapbar
pickups responded well, and while soloing I
was able to get some cool feedback.
With its three different voicings plus footswitchable
power output and boost options, the
Drive channel offers a huge palette of distorted
tones. However, when I played sustained, single-note lines in the Drive channel, I sometimes
heard overtones that were an octave
above or a perfect fourth or fifth below the
note I was playing. While some players consider
this a cool effect, I found it could be distracting
when playing slow melodies. (Fryette responds:
“The ‘ghosting’ in the Memphis Thirty, like
its historically important American and British
predecessors, is an inherent ingredient and
key to the harmonic signature of the amplifier.
Overtones and subharmonic accents are so
intertwined with the amplifier’s sonic quality
that players often unconsciously incorporate
them into their playing style.”)
Kick-Butt Clean Machine
I was just as impressed with the Clean channel.
Going back to the Les Paul, I put on both
humbuckers and set the voicing to Bloom. The
tone was lush, full, and very well balanced. This
tone could be perfect for traditional jazz. The
other voicings sounded great as well, with Brite
enhancing the high end and Spank adding low
mids. With my Strat, I was able to get some
funky tones à la Prince and dig into bluesy licks
that sound great with the Boost engaged.
The Clean channel definitely offers a full
spectrum of EQ. For example, playing a
bridge-position single-coil with the Spank voicing
on was a little too bright for my taste, even after
bringing up the amp’s bass and turning down
the treble. On the other hand, in Bloom voicing,
a neck-position humbucker produced a full, clear
tone without sounding too muffled or boomy.
Switching between 18- and 30-watt settings
in the Clean channel, you probably won’t hear
much of a change at a lower volume. But if you
turn the amp up a bit, you can feel the tone
beef up with bolder low mids in the 30-watt
mode. If you kick on the Boost, the tone breaks
up for a nice crunch sound. This works really well if you prefer to have a clean sound for
rhythm playing, yet want an extra kick for leads.
A Tweaker’s Delight
After getting to know the Memphis’ many
features, I went back to thoroughly explore
each channel’s voicing options. I found that
the Drive channel’s Smooth setting is perfect
for medium-gain solos with nice sustain. This
setting sounds great with Strats or mapletop
humbucker guitars. Crisp offers more
emphasis on upper mids and works well with
darker-sounding guitars or guitars with EMG
pickups. The Fat voicing adds more mids to
the tone—especially with high-gain settings—
and adds some punch to low-gain modes.
In the Clean channel, Bloom enhances sustain
even at a low volume, and offers a clear and
balanced voice. Brite is an enhancement of
Bloom and adds some high end to the tone.
Spank has the Brite voicing with some added
low-mid emphasis. It’s good for soloing with
an overdrive pedal, and also for guitars that
emphasize lower frequencies.
If you’re a tweaker, you’ll appreciate how the
Memphis makes it easy to explore different
preamp tubes—which are easily accessed via a
hatch on the front panel. It came with a Tung-
Sol 12AX7 and three Chinese 12AX7ACs, and
changing the order of the tubes alters saturation
and gain. For example, I swapped the
Tung-Sol in the first stage with a Chinese tube
in the second stage, and that increased the
bite and attack of distorted tones.
The Final Mojo
The Memphis Thirty is capable of everything
from twangy country to metal power chords.
With the three-position voicing switch, footswitchable
boost, and Power Shift in each
channel, the Memphis Thirty packs a wide variety
of tones into a high-quality combo amp.
you’re looking for a versatile,
great-sounding combo for stage
you play one style of music and don’t
need a lot of tonal options.