Premier Guitar

Dynamic 2040 HG DynaLead Amp Review

July 20, 2010
Every once in a while, a product breaks away from the norm and dares to be different than the rest of the pack. In the current golden age of gear, there are many, many great amps available—more than I’ll ever play in a lifetime—so it takes something extra special to stand out. In the case of the Dynamic 2040 HG DynaLead, I feel they’ve discovered a way to bring something unique to the table while still making it dead simple to operate and get great tones. Like any good design, you wonder why it hasn’t been done this way before. To be honest, I’d never even heard of the Dynamic brand until the amp arrived for review, but I’m sure that will change very soon. Again, I haven’t played every amp in the world, but the 2040 HG opened my eyes to a new design concept that works for me. Let’s take a look.


The Details

Download Example 1
Dynalead set to clean, Fender-like tone.
Download Example 2
Vox AC30-style tone
Download Example 3
Classic Rock rhythm tone with Vox-like midrange
All clips recorded with a 1974 Les Paul Custom, mic’d with an SM57 into a Chandler LTD-1 mic preamp directly into Pro Tools with no FX.
Built right here in the USA, the 2040 HG comes in a mid-sized head box nicely adorned with smooth black Tolex, chickenhead knobs, and a cool woven grille. The matching semi-open 2x12 cab (MSRP $895) is made from pine, with a multi-ply birch baffle and back panel, and it houses two Eminence Wizard and Red Fang speakers. The chassis is made from welded, .125"-thick, black-anodized aluminum and sports custom iron and high-quality components. The head I received was loaded with two EL34s, but it’s also pre-biased to accept 6L6s or 6V6s. Nice! Two 12AX7 preamp tubes, a 12AT7 phase inverter, and a 12AU7 reverb driver comprise the rest of the tube complement. Thoughtful appointments like the head’s blue logo backlight and top and side handles on the cab are both cool and convenient. The back panel includes an AC power-cord receptacle, two fuses, external bias meter connectors, a PowerStep knob (which switches between full, half and 10% power), two extension speaker outs, a main speaker out, an impedance selector (4 or 8 ohms), and three footswitch jacks.

The front panel looks similar to most amps at first glance, but I did a double take when I got closer. There’s a lot to take in here, so stay with me. From left to right, you have a standard input and, above it, a three-way bright switch, followed by a Gain A knob and two more switches—Grind and Channel A/B/DL. Channel A (the clean channel) consists of a five-way Voicing knob and a Thin/Fat knob. Channel B (lead) hosts Gain B, Thin/Fat, and Volume knobs. Next we have the DL (DynaLink) control—which functions effectively as a third channel—and a global Reverb knob. Standard Standby and Power toggles round out the front panel. The Clean channel’s Thin/Fat is a full-bandwidth tone control and is highly effective at tailoring just the right amount of body for various pickup and guitar types. The Voicing control is where the 2040 HG stands out: Positions one, two, and three offer varying degrees of mid-frequency dips, while position four engages just the tone control, and position five completely eliminates the tone stack. The DynaLink control, which is engaged with the Channel A/B/DL switch, combines the A and B channels in series to offer endless gain and voicing options. Very cool!

DynaLicous!
With all these options, switches, and nonstandard controls, you might think that it could be tricky to dial in good tones on the 2040 HG. Not so. In fact, I found it surprisingly intuitive and was immediately able to pull up a very wide variety of great sounds. For those who are gun shy, the amp includes a sample settings sheet that covers some serious tonal territory. Because the sample sheet was so helpful, I’ll use the three sample settings included and go over how they fared with various guitars.



Setting 1, “Blackface/Plexi/Bluesbreaker,” goes for a Blackface-like clean on Channel A, plexi-style grit for B, and Bluesbreaker-inspired tone on DL. With my Gibson Custom Shop 1958 Les Paul reissue, Channel A sounded shimmery and clean, with just a hint of breakup. While I wouldn’t exactly call it Fendery, it was an inspired tone that was easy to play, with just enough headroom to bark a bit when you lean into it. Channel B stepped into Bad Company and AC/DC territory and held its own very well. There wasn’t a ton of gain, but as I got more aggressive it gave it up happily and let my notes sing and scream. The DL function added harmonic complexity and more chime, though it sounded slightly darker to my ears—like a Bluesbreaker. What’s really nice about the A/B/DL design is that it logically moves the tone from clean to crunch to lead while maintaining a single sonic footprint. You can hear the DNA in the progression.

Setting 2 is labeled “Hot/Clean Crunch/ Dumbleford.” Using my Epiphone Sheraton with Tom Holmes PAFs, Channel A was much hotter than I expected, despite the label. It had more chime and sparkle than setting 1’s Channel-B plexi setting, and it lit up like a bonfire when I pushed the dynamics of the guitar. The more aggressive I got, the bigger the sound got,—and backing off the volume cleaned up the sound to a tone Tom Petty would use in a heartbeat. The Clean Crunch tone was a little darker and not too gainy, but again it felt comfortable and familiar. One of the most exciting sounds in the batch was the Dumbleford, which was beautifully saturated and nearly out of control with the Epiphone (in a good way). Notes instantly bloomed into harmonic feedback that I could control and alter with just a slight movement of the guitar. I loved this tone, and if it’s anything close to what people like about Dumbles, it all makes sense to me. Throughout the tone experiment, I toggled the bright switch to various settings and found that it swung very wide and could easily accommodate a variety of pickups. With the Epiphone, I preferred it in the middle position, but with a Strat it sounded best either in the middle or in the darkest position. The Les Paul seemed to like the brightest setting, which made sense because its humbucker has a relatively low output. Another bonus was flipping through the PowerStep switch. Although it technically reduced the volume, it didn’t seem as apparent as you might think. It actually changed the feel and tone more (at least in the half-power setting). You could tell in the lowest setting that it didn’t have quite the headroom and that it wouldn’t project as far as the half- and full-power settings, but it did let me push the amp a bit farther without going ridiculously loud. That switch alone added another three tones to the amp.

Using a Hamer Korina Special with two Lollar P90s, I found that the “Clean and Fat” portion of Setting 3, “Clean and Fat/Old JCM/Fat, Old JCM,” was exactly that. I hate the term 3-D, but that’s just what this tone was: Clear, big, rich, and expressive. Usually clean tones aren’t my preference for soloing, but there was something about this sound that was so evocative that I couldn’t put down the guitar. It was almost liquid in feel, and notes just slipped right out of my hands and through the amp. Beautiful. The “Old JCM” setting was a low-gain, Marshall-like tone that did a good job of that in-between sound that a nonmaster Marshall gets at about 9 o’clock on the volume. This would be a perfect platform for an overdrive pedal because of the amount of gain and the mid-favored voicing. But of course that’s unnecessary, because the DL was set for “Fat, Old JCM”—another winner. It had enough gain to really crank up the leads but wasn’t so over-the-top that it felt squashed or overly compressed. I never felt that the low end was too flubby, but it didn’t have that uncomfortable stiffness that other amps I’ve played exhibit when set up this way.

How about that reverb? It held its own nicely and complemented clean sounds with its full, robust quality. It tended toward the wet side, so I found myself setting it conservatively but that’s more of a preference than a problem. The lack of an effects loop seemed a little strange until I noticed that Dynamic offers it—as well as other speakers, output tube choices, wattages, and footswitches— as options. Even so, the 2040 HG takes pedals well, and the Thin/Fat control enabled me to pull away any woofiness or unwanted thickness without losing the essence of the original tone.

The Final Mojo
The 2040 HG DynaLead delivers, plain and simple—everything from great American- and British-sounding cleans to classic rock tones and modern, boutique luxury sounds. I can’t think of another amp that can cover such a wide range. And I’ve only scratched the surface of the 2040 HG’s capabilities. I threw just about every guitar possible at it, and was always pleased with the results. Being able to switch between three different sounds that all feel congruous was a real treat. If you can’t dial in an inspiring sound with this many options, it may be time to look for a new career or hobby.
Buy if...
you’re looking for one amp to deliver many amps’ worth of killer tones.
Skip if...
you like tradition and aren’t one to try new things.
Rating...


MSRP $2370 - Dynamic Music Technologies - dynamicamps.com



Setting 1, “Blackface/Plexi/Bluesbreaker,” goes for a Blackface-like clean on Channel A, plexi-style grit for B, and Bluesbreaker-inspired tone on DL. With my Gibson Custom Shop 1958 Les Paul reissue, Channel A sounded shimmery and clean, with just a hint of breakup. While I wouldn’t exactly call it Fendery, it was an inspired tone that was easy to play, with just enough headroom to bark a bit when you lean into it. Channel B stepped into Bad Company and AC/DC territory and held its own very well. There wasn’t a ton of gain, but as I got more aggressive it gave it up happily and let my notes sing and scream. The DL function added harmonic complexity and more chime, though it sounded slightly darker to my ears—like a Bluesbreaker. What’s really nice about the A/B/DL design is that it logically moves the tone from clean to crunch to lead while maintaining a single sonic footprint. You can hear the DNA in the progression.

Setting 2 is labeled “Hot/Clean Crunch/ Dumbleford.” Using my Epiphone Sheraton with Tom Holmes PAFs, Channel A was much hotter than I expected, despite the label. It had more chime and sparkle than setting 1’s Channel-B plexi setting, and it lit up like a bonfire when I pushed the dynamics of the guitar. The more aggressive I got, the bigger the sound got,—and backing off the volume cleaned up the sound to a tone Tom Petty would use in a heartbeat. The Clean Crunch tone was a little darker and not too gainy, but again it felt comfortable and familiar. One of the most exciting sounds in the batch was the Dumbleford, which was beautifully saturated and nearly out of control with the Epiphone (in a good way). Notes instantly bloomed into harmonic feedback that I could control and alter with just a slight movement of the guitar. I loved this tone, and if it’s anything close to what people like about Dumbles, it all makes sense to me. Throughout the tone experiment, I toggled the bright switch to various settings and found that it swung very wide and could easily accommodate a variety of pickups. With the Epiphone, I preferred it in the middle position, but with a Strat it sounded best either in the middle or in the darkest position. The Les Paul seemed to like the brightest setting, which made sense because its humbucker has a relatively low output. Another bonus was flipping through the PowerStep switch. Although it technically reduced the volume, it didn’t seem as apparent as you might think. It actually changed the feel and tone more (at least in the half-power setting). You could tell in the lowest setting that it didn’t have quite the headroom and that it wouldn’t project as far as the half- and full-power settings, but it did let me push the amp a bit farther without going ridiculously loud. That switch alone added another three tones to the amp.

Using a Hamer Korina Special with two Lollar P90s, I found that the “Clean and Fat” portion of Setting 3, “Clean and Fat/Old JCM/Fat, Old JCM,” was exactly that. I hate the term 3-D, but that’s just what this tone was: Clear, big, rich, and expressive. Usually clean tones aren’t my preference for soloing, but there was something about this sound that was so evocative that I couldn’t put down the guitar. It was almost liquid in feel, and notes just slipped right out of my hands and through the amp. Beautiful. The “Old JCM” setting was a low-gain, Marshall-like tone that did a good job of that in-between sound that a nonmaster Marshall gets at about 9 o’clock on the volume. This would be a perfect platform for an overdrive pedal because of the amount of gain and the mid-favored voicing. But of course that’s unnecessary, because the DL was set for “Fat, Old JCM”—another winner. It had enough gain to really crank up the leads but wasn’t so over-the-top that it felt squashed or overly compressed. I never felt that the low end was too flubby, but it didn’t have that uncomfortable stiffness that other amps I’ve played exhibit when set up this way.

How about that reverb? It held its own nicely and complemented clean sounds with its full, robust quality. It tended toward the wet side, so I found myself setting it conservatively but that’s more of a preference than a problem. The lack of an effects loop seemed a little strange until I noticed that Dynamic offers it—as well as other speakers, output tube choices, wattages, and footswitches— as options. Even so, the 2040 HG takes pedals well, and the Thin/Fat control enabled me to pull away any woofiness or unwanted thickness without losing the essence of the original tone.

The Final Mojo
The 2040 HG DynaLead delivers, plain and simple—everything from great American- and British-sounding cleans to classic rock tones and modern, boutique luxury sounds. I can’t think of another amp that can cover such a wide range. And I’ve only scratched the surface of the 2040 HG’s capabilities. I threw just about every guitar possible at it, and was always pleased with the results. Being able to switch between three different sounds that all feel congruous was a real treat. If you can’t dial in an inspiring sound with this many options, it may be time to look for a new career or hobby.
Buy if...
you’re looking for one amp to deliver many amps’ worth of killer tones.
Skip if...
you like tradition and aren’t one to try new things.
Rating...


MSRP $2370 - Dynamic Music Technologies - dynamicamps.com