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Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

Champions of Chime: The EL84 Roundup

Dr. Z M12


Format: 1x12 combo
Watts: 12 (cathode biased)
Preamp Tubes: One EF86, one 12AX7
Rectifier: 5Y3
Controls: Volume, bass, and treble knobs with a hi/lo switch
Speaker: Celestion Alnico Blue
Price: $1,738 street (Also available as a head for $1,249 street, as a 1x10 combo for $1,399 street, and as a 2x10 combo for $1,499 street.)

Dr. Z’s associations with high-profile players and knack for simple, sweet-sounding circuits keeps the company near the top of many boutique amp nuts’ wish lists. The cathode-biased M12 is the very picture of Dr. Z design economy, and makes a lot of noise for just 12 watts.

Locke: For only 12 watts, this amp has a surprising amount of headroom. With a Stratocaster, I can stay totally clean and there’s not really a bad setting on it. I preferred the hi input, and all five positions of the Strat really spoke when I cranked the volume. With P-90s, it sounds really smooth and compressed in a way that you want from an EL84 amp, and it has great note separation for more complex chords.

I like the simplistic layout. And what it might lack in features it makes make up for in spades with tone. The simple EQ controls—bass, treble, and volume—it’s all you need with an amp like this. You use different guitars, different pedals, and explore different amounts of gain on the volume knob and you can do a lot with a really simple, good-sounding, well-made amp like this. Really well done.

Derrico: The Dr. Z is badass. I just cranked it all the way up and actually didn’t really even touch the bass and treble. I love the fact that it only has three knobs, it’s killer. Brad Paisley uses these [Dr. Z amps] and gets great sounds out of them, but this amp right here—the way it’s set—would be great for rock. It’s really milky, but it sounds like it will cut through a mix really nicely, too, which is always a big thing. Nice mids and highs—boom!

Trovato: The first thing I noticed was a robustness and a sparkle and a tightness to this amp. It’s got plenty of volume, too. It has such a natural, transparent sound that I can hear the delicate nuances and subtleties of the instrument and each pickup. This amp brings out the best in a guitar.

It doesn’t have any reverb, which would be a great addition. The other thing is that when I’m looking at this amplifier from a seated position I can’t even see a knob. I wouldn’t even know this thing had any knobs or controls on it. I have to go way down in front to see what these things are and what they do. So, of course, when you’re onstage you have to bend down or reach under there and hope you get the right knob. I like when the top is recessed a little so you can look down and see where you’re going. The best thing is that I don’t get option anxiety with this amplifier— there are only three knobs: volume and the tone controls. Simple, to the point, and great sounding.

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