With an artist roster consisting of monster jazz and fusion guitarists (Frank Gambale, Biréli Lagrène, and Dean Brown among them) DV Mark has acquired a reputation as a serious player’s brand. Now the company has collaborated with fusion-shred virtuoso Greg Howe to produce the signature-model Maragold—a 40-watt, EL34-driven, two-channel amp that runs from subdued to fire-breathing.
Ready for the Road
The Italian-made Maragold is a relatively compact affair, stuffing two EL34s (and a ECC83 phase splitter) in the power section, three ECC83 preamp tubes, and a solid state rectifier into a 27-pound head. There are other features that seem designed for touring musicians: The handle is on the right side of the amp rather than the top, which makes loading and carrying easier. There are also rubber feet on the side opposite the handle (as well as the bottom) so the amp can be situated horizontally or vertically—nice for cramped stages. A dual-voltage switch ensures that you won't encounter power issues when touring abroad.
The front panel is straightforward: Each channel has bass, middle, high, gain, and master controls, and there’s a global presence control. The large DV Mark logo shines bright green when the clean channel is on, and red when you're playing the overdrive channel. The lights are also visible through the exposed vent on the amp's left side.
Hitting the Mark
I tested the Maragold with an Ernie Ball Music Man Axis Sport and a Mexican Fender Strat through a DV Mark Neoclassic cab (which, at 27.3 pounds, is one of the lightest 2x12 cabs I've come across). On the clean channel with the EQ knobs and gain at noon, the sound was rich, meaty, and midrange-heavy. The extra mids don’t make the amp particularly sparkling or crisp, but its tones are exceptionally warm.
Maxing the gain on the clean channel adds depth and just a touch of crunch. Here you notice the Maragold’s sensitivity to picking dynamics. Even with the gain wide open I could shade tones by varying my attack. Strumming hard yielded great gritty tones for open and barre chords. Fingerpicking with a softer attack sounded clean but lively.
Oddly, given DV Mark’s focus on practical design, no channel-switching footswitch is included, though any two-button latching footswitch should work. And of course, you can switch via the front panel’s mini-toggle.
Big Red Roar
The lead channel is where the Maragold really roars. I initially set the EQ knobs at noon and the gain around 9:00. Even this relatively low-gain setting sounded monstrous for everything from hot Larry Carlton-style leads to blazing shred tones once I put the Music Man’s humbuckers in the mix. With the gain advanced to about 1:00, the Maragold still maintained amazing note-to-note clarity. Even in streams of hammer-ons and pull-offs, individual notes were clear and massive. Long legato lines were a little less clear at these settings, but only comparatively so—in general, single notes shine and remain distinct.
Like the clean channel, the lead channel is remarkably touch-responsive—you can move from brutal to bluesy via the intensity of your pick attack. Even high-gain settings retain great note separation for harmonically dense chords. (A13b9 sounded remarkably rich and detailed!) This channel is also highly responsive to guitar volume knob changes. With the guitar’s volume knob lowered to about 8, the Maragold sounds less like a raging stack than a cranked tweed. Lowering the guitar’s volume to about 4 make things clean enough for funk-jazz tones, even when digging in hard.
Overall, the lead channel is well balanced, if a bit dark and smooth. And even when exploring EQ extremes—the high knob at full, and the bass and mids scooped entirely, for instance—the output remained musical.
The Maragold lacks built-in reverb, but the sounds I got through the closed-back cab were resonant and three-dimensional. As much as I love reverb, I didn't miss it here. There are effect send and return jacks in the back with a 0/-15 dB selector switch, though you need a footswitch to activate the loop, and again, the amp doesn't come with one.
While the DV Mark Maragold is ideal for fusion players, its broad, adaptable personality translates to almost any application. This amp doesn’t make you adapt to its characteristics—it provides a blank canvas that you can color to suit your style.