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Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

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Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

65 Amps London


Specs

Format: 2x12 combo
Watts: 18
Preamp Tubes: Two 12AX7s, one EF86
Rectifier: EZ81
Trem Channel: Hi/lo inputs with speed, intensity, tone, and volume controls
Colour Channel: Hi/lo inputs with color, tone, bump, and volume controls
Master Controls: Cut control
Speakers: Celestion Alnico Blue and Celestion G12H
Price: $3,295 (Also available as a head for $2,695 street, or as a 1x12 combo for $3,195 street.)
65amps.com

Though 65 Amps hasn’t been around as long as some of the brands in this roundup, since founding the company in 2002 Dan Boul has built an enviable roster of guitarists who play his gear on the stage and in the studio—players such as Keith Urban, Peter Frampton, and Rich Robinson. The London and its formidable combination of EL84-driven Vox- and Marshall-like tones is one of the company’s most popular rigs.

Locke: This is a great amplifier. I could do a gig with no pedalboard with this amp. It’s got two channels—the first sounds like an old 18-watt Marshall to me, the second channel sounds more Vox-y. Both channels are very touch sensitive, very responsive to pickup and volume-knob changes. The tremolo is very good, it’s deep but not mushy. The footswitch has a great layout— if you’re playing in the first channel, it controls the booster. So instead of bringing a boost or an overdrive pedal with you to a gig, you can use this to get the gain you need for lead playing.

It would be nice if they [made] a footswitch where you can go between both channels and the booster and the tremolo.

The amp’s tone is really robust, really rich, with really good note separation and clarity. You could go from playing regular rock things to more complex chords—major 7ths and [other] things—and it never gets mushy. It’s clear, it’s [got] good volume … it’s loud, but it wasn’t ever painful or harsh.

You could do anything with an amp like this—play whatever guitar you want, dial it in and record or play a gig for anything from rock to pop to blues. The 2x12 setup is great—a Celestion Blue and a 30-watt Greenback, which is great for recording because you mic each side and you record them individually.

One thing that’s frustrating to see is when an amp is stacked with the whole kitchen sink in there—with reverb and tremolo and boosters and switches—but it only has maybe one or two really good, useful tones in it. But everything here is really useful—these are things you’ll actually use in the studio or live.

Derrico: I really dig this amp. I like the Colour channel and how you can brighten it up and make it thin and sort of brittle or warm it up. The second channel sounds very Vox-like—good for Brit rock ’n’ roll and old-school rock ’n’ roll.

The tremolo’s killer, though it does take a second to appear when you switch it on. In a vibe-y sort of song, that’d be cool, but if I want to change scenes in a song really quickly, I want to turn the tremolo on and have it be right there. Other than that, I really dig the way it looks—the retro, old-school grille is sexy. I think the chicks are gonna dig it.

Trovato: I think this is an outstanding amplifier. And it’s got all the ingredients to sound great in several different styles. I’d set it clean and then add gain stages with external pedals, but it can do a great distortion tone on its own. There’s a really Vox-y channel and the other is really Marshall-like, for lack of better words. It’s heavy—hoo! So be prepared for that.

It has a great tremolo, and I really like that when you use the footswitch for the tremolo the effect comes in gradually, so it’s not startling. It’s also a very defined tremolo— it has a very wide spectrum of intensity.

The other thing I really like is that everything is easily visible onstage. When you walk back to the amplifier and look at the controls, it’s easy to read. Once you get used to the controls, there are a lot of options, so you’ll have to take some time to figure out what everything does. But, that said, if you just go turn it on, it sounds really good right off the bat.

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