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May 2014
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Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

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Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

Budda Verbmaster


Specs

Format: 1x12 combo
Watts: 18
Preamp Tubes: Three 12AX7s, one 12AT7
Rectifier: 5U4
Controls: Hi/normal inputs with bass, treble, volume, and reverb knobs and sand-off-surf reverb selector
Additional Features Effects loop, two speaker outputs with impedance selector, slave output with level control, and footswitch input
Speaker: Budda 12
Price: $1,799 street
budda.com

Budda’s Verbmaster first appeared in the ’90s, and this latest incarnation stays faithful to the design that first made it popular among early boutique amp aficionados. In general, the Verbmaster has a heavier voice than a lot of smaller EL84 amps, and it’s a great tool for rowdy rock ’n’ roll.

Locke: This is a good, crunchy, high-gain amp if you play humbuckers or play a lot of power chords or leads. The clean channel can sound a bit dull at times. Even with the treble way up and the bass way down, it seems a bit dark and woofy and doesn’t have as much of that chimey, bell-like tone that a lot of EL84 players look for. But it has more bottom end than I would ever want.

The footswitch changes between the sand and surf reverb settings, but there’s no light to indicate which is which—and both modes sound a little similar. A footswitch to go between normal and high-gain channels would’ve been useful.

Derrico: I like the milkiness of the Budda for lead stuff on the high-gain channel—that’s really cool. Rhythm sounds can get a little floppy on the low end. That’s good for some things—like Hendrix-y sorts of sounds. The bass-heaviness is nice on the lower-gain channel for rhythm stuff, too. Channel switching would be nice when you want more gain for shredding, because on the lowergain channel, there’s not quite as much as you want.

Trovato: The first thing I like about this amplifier is that the top is recessed a little bit so that when I’m onstage looking down, I can lean down and see what the settings on the knobs are clearly. Both reverbs sound good, but they can be subtle, so it’s harder to get over the top of a band in a live situation. It sounds like a nice Fender spring reverb, though.

The amp has that Vox top end, but the low end is nice and tight. It’s obviously a smaller sound than a 4x12 cabinet, but you still get that big, tight bottom end. So you can play full chords with it, using open strings, low strings, and it still sounds good.

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