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Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

Matchless Lightning 15 Reverb


Format: 1x12 combo with reverb
Watts: 15
Preamp Tubes: Three 12AX7s
Rectifier: 5AR4
Controls: Volume, bass, treble, master volume, and reverb knobs
Speaker: Matchless-modifi ed Celestion G12H
Price: $2,384 street (Also available as a head for $2,013 street, as a 1x12 combo for $2,119 street, as a 2x12 combo for $2,331 street, and as a 2x12 combo with reverb for $2,599 street.)

The Matchless name stands as one of the most esteemed godfathers of the boutique amp scene. The company first made waves with its top-shelf, Vox AC30-inspired designs, but its Lightning model has long been legendary for its ace AC15-inspired tones, too.

Locke: I liked this amp a lot because it allowed the guitar, the pickups and controls to speak. I didn’t have to re-EQ the amp for different pickup settings. It sounds good clean, has a very smooth, linear transition into overdriven tones and plenty of gain for lead. I only turned to gain up to 12 o’clock and it had plenty of juice. If I had a solidbody guitar and cranked the gain all the way up it would have enough gain for metal. The reverb was really good—nice and thick.

Derrico: What I like about this amp is the dirty sound and the chime and that it’s nice and girthy. It would be cool for country lead stuff. I like the reverb, though the dial is pretty touchy and you can get into reverb overload. But it’s actually really nice reverb.

I like the clean tones, but I don’t know if I could crank it too much and still get that clean sound. I do like the glassiness of this amp. Especially when I crank the master—I always like to crank the master— it has a nice, warm sound with nice highs, lows and mids. It would sit nicely in a band mix.

Trovato: You can’t go wrong with this amplifier as far as projection goes. It’s bright, robust, and Vox-style jangly. The EL84s give you that jangly top end without the flubby bottom end you tend to get with these low-wattage amps. The bottom end is really tight. It has a great-sounding reverb—like a cross between an old Fender spring reverb and a digital reverb. So it’s got that digital clarity plus that surfy reverb and you can dial between the two of them. The amp is a little heavy, and the names for the tone controls are a little hard to see quickly, which is important when you’re changing things on the fly on a dark stage.

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