Download Example 1
Strat, clean tone on Blackface channel at 22-watts
Download Example 2
Les Paul, mean and dirty tone, Brownface channel at 10-watts
Download Example 3
Richmond Dorchester bluesy-clean open tuning tone, Blackface channel at 22-watts
Clips recorded with a Shure SM57 into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre directly into Pro Tools.
3rd Power Amplification may be a fairly new name in the amp business, but don’t mistake that for inexperience. Designer Jamie Scott has chased perfect tone for several decades, a quest that began in his early days as the original (and current) guitarist for the San Francisco metal band, Vain. Debuting at the 2010 summer NAMM show in Nashville, the handwired, Fender Deluxe-inspired American Dream is the second amp to be released from 3rd Power.

American Built, American Vibe
The American Dream is a 1x12 combo utilizing a Celestion Alnico Gold speaker housed in a very striking and unique cabinet. The cab incorporates 3rd Power’s triangular speaker chamber, which is designed to eliminate standing waves and enhance clarity. There are two vents that let sound escape through the sides of the amp, as well as a removable triangular back panel that lends a touch of open-back sound. With its white Tolex and salt-and-pepper grille cloth, the American Dream looks very mid-century American. And adorned with a black control panel with white chicken head knobs, heavy-duty toggles, and a red jewel light, the amp looks cool, classy, and functional.

The front panel is fairly sparse, given there are two channels available. From left to right, Channel 1 (the “brownface” channel) features an input, Bright switch, Volume, and Tone controls. Channel 2 (“blackface”) also has an input and Bright switch, but is followed by Volume, Treble, and Bass controls. A global Presence knob and 3-way switch with settings for 22 watts, standby, and 10 watts is adjacent to the Power switch and jewel light. The back panel has an IEC power input, fuses, and four speaker outputs (16 Ω external, 8 Ω internal, and 8 Ω internal + 8 Ω external).

The American Dream runs on a pair of 6L6 power tubes and boasts a two-stage preamp that uses 12AX7 preamp tubes. Staying true to the vintage concept, there is no effects loop or reverb on the amp.

Plug and Play
Because it’s not bogged down by bells and whistles, getting a good tone with the American Dream pretty much comes down to plugging in and playing. You’d have to work hard to get a bad sound out of the amp, but make no mistake—that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of tonal variety inside. Plugging my Les Paul into the Brownface channel, I dialed in a killer, dirty tone that conjured up sounds reminiscent of the first Montrose record. There was some of the low-end splatter that comes from a cranked Fender, but that’s part of the charm of playing this style of amp. Note definition and clarity was superb and dynamic response was excellent. This is a very touch-sensitive amp. Without accessing the guitar’s volume knob, I went from clean to dirty just by digging in harder with the pick—and this amp likes hard picking!

Like many vintage brownface amps, there is less headroom and the mids bark a little more. But the triangular internal design and side vents open up the sound and give it a wide, dimensional quality that feels like full-blooming stereo compared to the highly focused and compressed projection of a normal, closed-back cab. Removing the triangular back panel lets the amp breathe even more, and the tone opens up accordingly. Engaging the Bright switch adds more top-end spank and chime, while the Tone control, though somewhat subtle, offers plenty of range.

As I explored this channel, I found the global Presence control becomes more effective as the amp revs up in volume. This control is voiced in such a way that the tone never gets harsh or brittle, just fuller and more cutting in the mids.