Premier Guitar

BC Audio Amplifier No. 8 Amp Review

November 25, 2010

Download Example 1
Epiphone Sheraton - singing sustain tone
Download Example 2
Fender American Standard Strat – clean spanking tone
Download Example 3
Godin Redline HB – shredding lead tone
All clips recorded with an SM57 off-axis through a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre into Apogee Symphony I/O direct to Pro Tools.
In the world of design—be it watches, furniture or architecture—many swear by the less-is-more ethos. But in the world of guitar amplifier design, few put that philosophy into practice quite like Bruce Clement—the BC behind BC Audio. With their point-to-point wiring and no-frills control sets, his amps couldn’t be much simpler. But as the performance of BC Audio Premier Gear Award winning Amplifier No. 7 attests, these simple circuits can be capable of a startlingly wide spectrum of sounds.

The BC Amplifier No. 8 is a designed with the same versatility in mind—in essence the capability to move from truly clean to dirtier amp sounds solely through manipulation of amplifier and guitar controls. But the 25-watt, Class A Amplifier No. 8 gives the player this same versatility with a lot more gain on tap and a capacity for overdrive that’s stunning for an amp of such simplicity.

Looks Fast
BC Audio offers his amps in either the classic “ammo can” or a head box format. And The No. 8 I received was in a more conventional head configuration in black vinyl covering with a cool vertical red racing stripe that suits its rowdier demeanor. Like all BC Audio amps, it’s clean, simple, and elegant—inside and out. Weighing in at a back-friendly 17 pounds and measuring a relatively diminutive 7.5” x 17” x 7.5”, it can easily travel in the front seat of any car and sits safely on a compact 1x12 speaker cabinet.

A pair of 5881s powers the No. 8 and, like the No. 7, it uses a pair of 6SL7 octal preamp tubes—which Clement favors over 12AX7s for their more power-tube like tone and less-bright character—and a GZ34 rectifier tube. The amp is meticulously wired in true point-to-point style and is an exercise in minimalism and perfection. In fact, I haven’t seen an amp so cleanly wired since I reviewed the No. 7!

Refreshingly, there are just three controls on the front panel: Presence, Volume, and Drive. A 3-way toggle for Off/Standby/On and a square red indicator light reside on the left side of the front panel and the input jack follows the controls on the right. On the back panel you’ll find a single speaker jack (8 or 16 ohms), a mains fuse, and an IEC input for the power cable.

Hidden Heaps of Tone
To evaluate the performance of the Amplifier No. 8, I ran the amp into both a 75-watt Eminence Governor-equipped 1x12 cabinet and a late ‘60s Marshall Basketweave 4x12 cabinet with original Celestion G12H-30s. Picking a ‘90s Epiphone Sheraton with Tom Holmes 455 pickups and the No. 8’s controls set to noon, I found the amp surprisingly loud (who ever said 25 watts was quiet?) and there was already a fair bit of gain coming through. The basic tone was not dissimilar to the No. 7, but slightly brighter and more aggressive with very Marshall-esqe fullness and bite.

The drive circuit in the amp was designed to produce both thick and clear clean tones as well as very high gain. And at these relatively flat settings, the Epiphone really sang and retained a wide dynamic range.

Moving from clean to a more aggressive tone was as simple as varying my pick attack. By pushing the amp volume to nearly full, I had access to as much sustain as I needed that bloomed gorgeously with overtones and dovetailed into beautiful harmonic feedback. Pick articulation and clarity was stunning at these overdriven levels. And as the 5881s were pushed to the point of breakup, the tone remained dense, thick, and detailed.




BC Audio uses true point-to-point wiring in all of their amps, with no turret, eyelet, or printed circuit boards connecting components

The Presence control was effective for brightening the tone—particularly with the 40-year-old Celestions in the Marshall cabinet. And the Celestion proved to be an excellent match for the No. 8, which delivered a wide variety of vintage Marshall-like tones. One welcome difference, however, is BC’s use of octal preamp tubes which give the No. 8 a rounder, thicker character than any of my Marshalls, which tend to cut more and have less bass.

With a Fender Stratocaster in hand, I backed the Drive way down set the Volume at around 2 o’clock. With bright single-coils pushing the BC, it was easy to capture chiming clean tones. And with just a little push of the Drive, I found myself in an ideal zone for lead work. One of the big benefits of simple circuitry is that each guitar’s voice comes through loud and clear. And the complete sonic signatures of the Epiphone’s humbuckers and the Stratocaster’s single-coils were audible in stark detail. While some modern and modeling amps I’ve played through tend to “homogenize” the sound and erase the fine characteristics of the guitar, No. 8 did just the opposite.

To test the No. 8 in a high gain environment, I used a Godin Redline HB with a DiMarzio Super D in the bridge position and dimed each of the three controls on the No. 8. The added gain of the Super D made the BC sound a little too raspy, but backing the Presence way down and pulling the Drive back to around 3 o’clock sweetened the tone considerably. Notes exploded off the pick with an aggressive authority, and the amp felt like it was ready to blow any moment—a great JCM 800 vibe that inspires energetic playing.

The Verdict
Bruce Clement has another winner on his hands with Amplifier No. 8. Not only does it offer huge tone in a small package, the simple amp enables a player to add heaps of high gain with style. It works well with a variety of cabinets (BC now offers both 1- and 2x12 Celestion-loaded cabs) and can easily keep up with a full band—even with a 1x12. The workmanship and build quality is worthy of a museum piece. And while features are few, it’s easy to get a great tone with any guitar you choose to plug into it. Whether you’re gigging or recording, the No. 8 is an amp you can count on.
Buy if...
you value simplicity and quality and want big tone and gain in a small but powerful amp.
Skip if...
you need channel switching and an FX loop.
Rating...


Street $1895 - BC Audio - bcaudio.com