Premier Guitar

Fryette Amplification Memphis Thirty 1x12 Combo Amp Review

August 17, 2010

Download Example 1
Clean - Toggling through each of the channel pre-gain voicing profiles: Bloom, Brite, and Spank. Power - 30W, Boost Off. Slash Les Paul, both pups.
Download Example 2
Fat Mode. Power - 30W, Boost Off. Fender VG Strat, middle pickup.
Download Example 3
High Gain - Crisp Mode. Power - 18W, Boost On. Schecter Solo-6, bridge pickup.
Download Example 4
Reverb - Spank Mode. Power - 18W, Boost On. Fender VG Strat, bridge & middle pups.
Download Example 5
Rock - Fat Mode. Power - 18W, Boost On. PRS Starla X, bridge pickup.
Download Example 6
Smooth Mode. Power - 30W. Boost Off. Fender VG Strat, neck pickup.
All clips recorded directly into the Fryette amp (guitar specific to clip) mic'ed with a Shure SM57 into Digidesign Pro Tools
Most fans of VHT amplifiers know Steven Fryette founded that company two decades ago. But while the amp designer is now building gear under his own name with Fryette Amplification, he’s building on the same legacy. The excellent build quality and killer sounds linked to Fryette’s past work are in full evidence in his current products, and many players praise his creations, including the Sig: X, Deliverance, and Pittbull amps.

The newest model from Fryette Amplification is the Memphis Thirty. A two-channel, class A, EL84-equipped 1x12 combo, this 30-watt amp is packed with features and is easy and intuitive to operate.

The Big Picture
The Memphis Thirty’s two channels—Drive and Clean—sport independent passive Treble, Middle, and Bass tone controls and a Volume control. The Drive channel also has a Gain knob. The amp features a master Reverb control for the custom, tube-driven, three-spring reverb tank, a series/parallel effects loop with level control and true bypass, a line-out jack, 16-ohm and parallel 8- or 4-ohm external speaker jacks, and a proprietary 12" Eminence speaker.

Each channel has a Power Shift switch for 30- or 18-watt operation. Using the amp’s footswitchable channel-select feature, you can not only toggle between the Drive and Clean channels, but also switch output wattage. And the Memphis Thirty is self-biasing, so the power tubes stay happy regardless of the output setting.

The output selection affects response, as well as loudness. In 30-watt mode, there is a little more clarity in the tone, with a bold, lower midrange and fast attack. With its lower operating voltage, the 18-watt setting smoothes out the response of the power tubes, resulting in a sweeter, rounder sound and slower attack.

Both Drive and Clean channels offer a selectable voicing feature. Using a pair of threeway switches on the front panel, you can choose between Smooth, Crisp, or Fat voicings in the Drive channel, and Bloom, Brite, or Spank voicings in the Clean channel.



Dialing in the Dirt

I wasted no time plugging in my Les Paul and firing up the Memphis Thirty. I usually call up an amp’s high-gain channel first for some instant gratification, and the Memphis Thirty didn’t disappoint. After selecting the Fat voicing and cranking up the gain, I was welcomed with a heavily distorted rock tone that was just on the border of high-gain metal. This amp can get loud. Even at only 2 or 3, the volume was enough to shake the ceiling tiles. I was amazed at the Gain control’s sensitivity. From a crunchy, classic rock tone to a dirtier blues-rock wail to a metal grind, the Memphis Thirty seemed capable of handling it all with no problems. The gain remained clear and punchy through all the tweaking of EQ and voicing modes, and the sound never got flabby or muddy.



When I switched to my Strat, I was very impressed with how the single-coils sounded through the Drive channel. Cranking the gain made them sustain like humbuckers. The Smooth voicing sounded great with the Strat, especially when I backed off the gain a bit for a medium overdrive rock tone. Soapbar pickups gave me some of my favorite sounds. I coaxed great British rock tones out of the Memphis Thirty, as well as fat, juicy distortion that would make any grunge or punk fan happy. The soapbar pickups responded well, and while soloing I was able to get some cool feedback.

With its three different voicings plus footswitchable power output and boost options, the Drive channel offers a huge palette of distorted tones. However, when I played sustained, single-note lines in the Drive channel, I sometimes heard overtones that were an octave above or a perfect fourth or fifth below the note I was playing. While some players consider this a cool effect, I found it could be distracting when playing slow melodies. (Fryette responds: “The ‘ghosting’ in the Memphis Thirty, like its historically important American and British predecessors, is an inherent ingredient and key to the harmonic signature of the amplifier. Overtones and subharmonic accents are so intertwined with the amplifier’s sonic quality that players often unconsciously incorporate them into their playing style.”)

Kick-Butt Clean Machine

I was just as impressed with the Clean channel. Going back to the Les Paul, I put on both humbuckers and set the voicing to Bloom. The tone was lush, full, and very well balanced. This tone could be perfect for traditional jazz. The other voicings sounded great as well, with Brite enhancing the high end and Spank adding low mids. With my Strat, I was able to get some funky tones à la Prince and dig into bluesy licks that sound great with the Boost engaged.

The Clean channel definitely offers a full spectrum of EQ. For example, playing a bridge-position single-coil with the Spank voicing on was a little too bright for my taste, even after bringing up the amp’s bass and turning down the treble. On the other hand, in Bloom voicing, a neck-position humbucker produced a full, clear tone without sounding too muffled or boomy.

Switching between 18- and 30-watt settings in the Clean channel, you probably won’t hear much of a change at a lower volume. But if you turn the amp up a bit, you can feel the tone beef up with bolder low mids in the 30-watt mode. If you kick on the Boost, the tone breaks up for a nice crunch sound. This works really well if you prefer to have a clean sound for rhythm playing, yet want an extra kick for leads.

A Tweaker’s Delight
After getting to know the Memphis’ many features, I went back to thoroughly explore each channel’s voicing options. I found that the Drive channel’s Smooth setting is perfect for medium-gain solos with nice sustain. This setting sounds great with Strats or mapletop humbucker guitars. Crisp offers more emphasis on upper mids and works well with darker-sounding guitars or guitars with EMG pickups. The Fat voicing adds more mids to the tone—especially with high-gain settings— and adds some punch to low-gain modes.

In the Clean channel, Bloom enhances sustain even at a low volume, and offers a clear and balanced voice. Brite is an enhancement of Bloom and adds some high end to the tone. Spank has the Brite voicing with some added low-mid emphasis. It’s good for soloing with an overdrive pedal, and also for guitars that emphasize lower frequencies.

If you’re a tweaker, you’ll appreciate how the Memphis makes it easy to explore different preamp tubes—which are easily accessed via a hatch on the front panel. It came with a Tung- Sol 12AX7 and three Chinese 12AX7ACs, and changing the order of the tubes alters saturation and gain. For example, I swapped the Tung-Sol in the first stage with a Chinese tube in the second stage, and that increased the bite and attack of distorted tones.

The Final Mojo
The Memphis Thirty is capable of everything from twangy country to metal power chords. With the three-position voicing switch, footswitchable boost, and Power Shift in each channel, the Memphis Thirty packs a wide variety of tones into a high-quality combo amp.
Buy if...
you’re looking for a versatile, great-sounding combo for stage and studio.
Skip if...
you play one style of music and don’t need a lot of tonal options.
Rating...


Street $1649 - Fryette Amplication - fryette.com



When I switched to my Strat, I was very impressed with how the single-coils sounded through the Drive channel. Cranking the gain made them sustain like humbuckers. The Smooth voicing sounded great with the Strat, especially when I backed off the gain a bit for a medium overdrive rock tone. Soapbar pickups gave me some of my favorite sounds. I coaxed great British rock tones out of the Memphis Thirty, as well as fat, juicy distortion that would make any grunge or punk fan happy. The soapbar pickups responded well, and while soloing I was able to get some cool feedback.

With its three different voicings plus footswitchable power output and boost options, the Drive channel offers a huge palette of distorted tones. However, when I played sustained, single-note lines in the Drive channel, I sometimes heard overtones that were an octave above or a perfect fourth or fifth below the note I was playing. While some players consider this a cool effect, I found it could be distracting when playing slow melodies. (Fryette responds: “The ‘ghosting’ in the Memphis Thirty, like its historically important American and British predecessors, is an inherent ingredient and key to the harmonic signature of the amplifier. Overtones and subharmonic accents are so intertwined with the amplifier’s sonic quality that players often unconsciously incorporate them into their playing style.”)

Kick-Butt Clean Machine

I was just as impressed with the Clean channel. Going back to the Les Paul, I put on both humbuckers and set the voicing to Bloom. The tone was lush, full, and very well balanced. This tone could be perfect for traditional jazz. The other voicings sounded great as well, with Brite enhancing the high end and Spank adding low mids. With my Strat, I was able to get some funky tones à la Prince and dig into bluesy licks that sound great with the Boost engaged.

The Clean channel definitely offers a full spectrum of EQ. For example, playing a bridge-position single-coil with the Spank voicing on was a little too bright for my taste, even after bringing up the amp’s bass and turning down the treble. On the other hand, in Bloom voicing, a neck-position humbucker produced a full, clear tone without sounding too muffled or boomy.

Switching between 18- and 30-watt settings in the Clean channel, you probably won’t hear much of a change at a lower volume. But if you turn the amp up a bit, you can feel the tone beef up with bolder low mids in the 30-watt mode. If you kick on the Boost, the tone breaks up for a nice crunch sound. This works really well if you prefer to have a clean sound for rhythm playing, yet want an extra kick for leads.

A Tweaker’s Delight
After getting to know the Memphis’ many features, I went back to thoroughly explore each channel’s voicing options. I found that the Drive channel’s Smooth setting is perfect for medium-gain solos with nice sustain. This setting sounds great with Strats or mapletop humbucker guitars. Crisp offers more emphasis on upper mids and works well with darker-sounding guitars or guitars with EMG pickups. The Fat voicing adds more mids to the tone—especially with high-gain settings— and adds some punch to low-gain modes.

In the Clean channel, Bloom enhances sustain even at a low volume, and offers a clear and balanced voice. Brite is an enhancement of Bloom and adds some high end to the tone. Spank has the Brite voicing with some added low-mid emphasis. It’s good for soloing with an overdrive pedal, and also for guitars that emphasize lower frequencies.

If you’re a tweaker, you’ll appreciate how the Memphis makes it easy to explore different preamp tubes—which are easily accessed via a hatch on the front panel. It came with a Tung- Sol 12AX7 and three Chinese 12AX7ACs, and changing the order of the tubes alters saturation and gain. For example, I swapped the Tung-Sol in the first stage with a Chinese tube in the second stage, and that increased the bite and attack of distorted tones.

The Final Mojo
The Memphis Thirty is capable of everything from twangy country to metal power chords. With the three-position voicing switch, footswitchable boost, and Power Shift in each channel, the Memphis Thirty packs a wide variety of tones into a high-quality combo amp.
Buy if...
you’re looking for a versatile, great-sounding combo for stage and studio.
Skip if...
you play one style of music and don’t need a lot of tonal options.
Rating...


Street $1649 - Fryette Amplication - fryette.com