While some companies have been
around longer, Dr. Z is arguably
one of the kingpins of boutique amplification.
The Cleveland, Ohio, amp builder
has some seriously heavyweight customers,
including Joe Walsh and Brad Paisley. And
even if Dr. Z isn’t yet a household name,
with more than a dozen amplifiers to their
name (and counting), you can’t say they’re
One of the company’s latest creations,
the Maz 8, is an 8-watt baby Godzilla of an
amp that’s available as a stand-alone head
or in three combo variations (the 19 1/4"
x 19 1/2" x 10 1/2" 1x12 Studio reviewed
here, the 1x12 Standard, or the 2x10, the
latter two of which measure 23" x 20 1/8"
x 10"). Regardless of format, the Maz 8 is a
godsend to griping sound guys and players
who’ve had to endure the indignity of playing
a million-watt stack with the volume
on 2. For anyone who’s been through the
experience and grown tired of compromising
body for volume, the EL84-powered
Maz 8 is one source of light at the end of
Syrupy Short Stack
The Maz 8 Studio has a sleek modern
design with the elegant touches of a classic.
Standard black textured vinyl, white piping,
and a silver-and-black grille cloth adorn the
slightly slanted frame, and the open-backed
combo weighs a reasonable 37 pounds.
You can also hook up an external cabinet
using the 4, 8, and 16 Ω speaker outputs.
Though the power section relies on a single
EL84, four 12AX7s and a single 12AT7
drive the preamp.
The Maz 8 is a very close relative of Dr.
Z’s super-successful Maz 18. If you’re at all
familiar with the 18, you’ll notice that the
more diminutive Maz shares the same smart
control configuration. Hi and lo inputs suit
a wide range of pickups, and humbucker
fans looking to clean up their act a little
will be pleased with the lo input’s 3 dB gain
reduction. The EQ is comprised of treble,
middle and bass controls. There’s also a
cut control that acts much like a presence
control—once you’ve dialed in your desired
EQ, you can roll cut clockwise to increase
sparkle and definition in the top end, or
leave it rolled back for more of a vintage
Gain is controlled via a traditional
volume and master setup. If you need
cleaner output, just keep master higher
than volume. To fish up a more rugged
crunch, push the volume knob and roll
off the master. Once you’ve dialed in the
ideal relationship between the two, you
can use the onboard Dr. Z Brake Lite
attenuator that’s mounted alongside the
single Celestion G12H speaker. With five
levels of dB limiting, you can dial in your
desired mix of volume and master and
limit your overall output without sacrificing
too much tone.
Other tone tools in the Dr. Z’s box of
tricks include a spring reverb, and both
effects send and return jacks and a cool
triode/pentode switch on the back panel.
This latter switch can be used to significantly
change the Maz 8’s voice. In pentode
mode, you get the singing characteristics
of a higher-wattage amp with a little more
headroom. Triode mode gives the Maz 8
a vintage dialect with a uniform, savory
gain. Both voices respond beautifully to
the EQ, creating a seemingly endless buffet
of tones that can keep up whether you’re
tinkering with chicken-pickin’ and slithering
slide or ground-shaking AC/DC riffage.
And should you need a final boost for your
leads, the provided footswitch bypasses the
EQ and feeds a straight line through the
volume, master, and cut controls. And, yes,
it’s pretty hot.
Tone Across Time
In triode mode, a Fender Telecaster’s bridge
pickup coaxes a bright voice from the Dr. Z
that sounds fullest with a bump in the bass
and cut set around noon. These settings
resulted in a nice midrange honk that both
complemented the Tele and screamed blackface
Fender. And just as with an old Fender
combo, the high end was rarely harsh or
unpleasant. If you want a bit more kick
for leads, the EQ bypass yields an instant
blues howl that’s dead perfect for sorrowful
George Harrison slides and Clapton leads.
A Stratocaster driving the Maz 8 in
pentode mode and with the EQ bypassed
seemed to double the gain, and at times
drove the Strat to the verge of shrieking—
which was easy enough to fix by rolling
back the cut control. Doing so transformed
the Maz 8 from red-blooded, Bakersfieldbred
American tones to brawny Brit sounds
that let you channel a hyperactive Rory
Gallagher raging on “Off the Handle.”
Shifting to a mellower mood is as easy as
bringing the EQ back into the signal chain,
which drops the gain and enables you to
bump the bass a touch to round off singlecoil
Re-engaging the EQ bypass in pentode
mode, with the volume and master set at 11
o’clock, catapulted a Les Paul into a state of
late-’70s Thin Lizzy excess. And here again,
the cut control was especially effective.
If you’re ever dealt with soupy, flat tone
when you play humbuckers through a lowwattage
amp, the cut knob could be your
new best friend: Set it in the right spot with
high-gain settings, and it’ll keep ’buckers
sailing in seas of smooth sustain.
If party-hard, humbucker-crunch chords
are your thing, the Maz 8 can do that, too.
The pentode voicing exudes classic-rock
braggadocio when the volume controls are
in their upper reaches—but with a crackling
high end and a well-rounded bottom
that’s full and not too dark.
While the version of the Maz 8 reviewed
here includes the word “Studio” in its model
designation, it won’t have trouble hanging on
most stages. Despite being just 8 watts, it’s
exceptionally loud—loud enough to justify
the optional Brake Lite attenuator, which
will come in handy for those who favor highgain
sounds in small, shared spaces or those
who’ve pushed their luck with the neighbors.
Switching to different types of guitars in a
live setting may require some on-the-fly EQ
and input-jack changes, because some configurations
work well for humbuckers but
become wildly out of focus for single-coils
(and vice versa). But fortunately the pentode/
triode switch gives you scads of extra
tone-shaping potential to further optimize
your rig from instrument to instrument. And
both voices work well with the highly effective
EQ. This thing really does have more
tones within its little frame than most amps
its size. And while it’s certainly not practiceamp
cheap, the Maz 8 Studio is loaded with
features—from the attenuator to the spring
reverb—that make it a versatile, smart, solid
selection for the studio, home, or mic’d up
and roaring in big theatres.