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Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

Top Hat Club Royale


Format: 1x12 combo
Watts: 20
Preamp Tubes: Three 12AX7s
Rectifier: EZ81
Controls: Dual inputs with master, cut, bass, mid, treble, and volume knobs and a fat-off-bright voicing switch
Speaker: Celestion G12H
Price: $1899 street (Also available as a 2x12 combo for $2,099 street.)

For Top Hat, Vox-style amps are old hat—the company’s takes on British chime have been favorites of tone connoisseurs for years. When it comes to AC15-style circuits, the Club Royale’s interpretation serves up a range of tones from very traditional jangle to heavy gain.

Locke: I’m really impressed. There’s a versatility to this amp—the amount of gain on tap is great, and the way the bass, mid, treble, and cut controls interact with each other is very useful. There’s not a bad setting on the amp, and it was easy to switch from my SG to a Stratocaster. The boost switch—and the amount of gain you get with it—means you don’t really need to put a pedal in front of the amp. I was able to get plenty of sustain for lead parts.

One thing you need to be careful about with smaller 1x12 amps like this is the bottom end getting loose and falling apart when you play with more gain. But this amps is very tight, and each of the controls does what it should so you can really carve out a variety of different tones. I can’t say enough about the build quality, too. You could do almost anything with this amp— you could make a whole record with a couple different guitars and this amp.

Derrico: This amp is killer. It’s got a nice bark and it’s really chimey, with a nice amount of gain, too. For a combo, it sounds big. I plugged in and it took, literally, a second to dial it up. My philosophy is, if it takes you more than two minutes to dial in a good sound, then it’s the wrong amp.

Trovato: My first impression of this amplifier is that it’s a Cadillac—it looks classy. And it’s got plenty of wattage for a small gig, which is a feature that I really appreciate. I set the amp up with master volume up all the way, then turned the gain up so that it was almost breaking up. When I set it there and adjusted the rest of the tone controls, it sounded just great. It’s big, it’s robust, and when I started playing the distortion pedal through it, it didn’t get muddy. However, I don’t really like to carry any extra gear to a small gig, and this amp does not have reverb, so right off the bat I’m going to have to bring a pedalboard with reverb or something to get some time delay.

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