Despite bearing the Teisco name, the Checkmate 45 delivered the goods: soulful tones, sweet reverb and vibrato, and enough 6L6 output to power a dance party at a beach bar. So did its louder sibling, the Checkmate 60.

Teisco Checkmate 45

This obscure piggyback Teisco dates to late 1965 and was one of the first large Teisco amps made for the American market, with the proper U.S. voltages. This Checkmate 45 eventually morphed into the more common Checkmate 50 in 1966 and was being made alongside the even more common Teisco Checkmate 25. Many players scoff at even the mention of the Teisco brand, since the company has always had a reputation for making cheap guitars and inferior products. But if you simply use your ears and avoid popular opinion, you can have a great sounding amp that offers up some inspiring tones.

During the mid 1960s, Teisco was working hard to improve their products for the U.S. mass market. The company’s engineers labored tirelessly to up the build quality in an effort to gain a foothold at middle price points.

In reality, these 1960s piggyback tube models were among the best ever produced by Teisco, and this level of quality continued until the late 1960s. The Teisco amp line was never farmed out to different companies, which meant these amps were made in the same Tokyo factory for many years.

This Checkmate 45 runs on a pair of 6L6 power tubes and cranks out a good amount of volume, though it can sound a little strained depending on the guitar and pickups you use. There’s also a cute “E” oscillator tuner switch to help you tune your guitar, complete with a headphone jack.

The amp has dual channels (each featuring two inputs) with reverb and vibrato. Experimenting with the channels and inputs yields a great array of tones, and, for whatever reason, this amp just sounds tight. It’s hard to describe, but this is the kind of amp that was destined to play surf music or vintage spaghetti-Western movie soundtracks.

I also want to mention the larger Teisco Checkmate 60, which dates to 1968. One option offered to players of that time was the ability to pair amp heads with various cabinet configurations. Occasionally you’ll see odd pairings, such as 2x15 speaker cabs or two 10" cabinets that both sport the same amp head model. The idea was to purchase the cabinet that best fit your audience. It was a short-lived concept, but the number of cabinet choices was something to behold. The Checkmate 60 runs on EL34 power tubes and just sounds über-aggressive with the 2x12 alnico speakers in a lightweight, yet solid cabinet.