Download Example 1
Download Example 2
Clean with boost for soloing
Clips recorded with Gibson Les Paul and mic'd with a Shure SM57 into Apogee Duet into GarageBand.
Any gear geek attending a Wilco show recently has probably noticed guitar wizard Nels Cline playing through a mysterious red amp head. Cline’s amp is a prototype handbuilt by gear guru Tim Schroeder, who also tackles the formidable task of maintaining Wilco’s enviably overflowing stable of gear. (Full disclosure: Schroeder also writes a regular Tech Tips column at Not long ago, Schroeder visited the band in their rehearsal loft to look over their road gear before a tour. He brought a new amp he’d built and solicited the band’s opinion. Cline—who’s known to prefer relatively clean, medium-wattage amps like the Jess Oliver and Marshall JTM45 he’s used in recent years—plugged in and was so smitten he bought the amp on the spot.

Schroeder used Cline’s input to design and build the DB7—a 6L6-driven, 45-watt, amp similar to Cline’s original—which is graced with elegant operational simplicity and tons of headroom. We checked it out and, like Cline, were blown away.

Top-Notch Build, Streamlined Features
The DB7 head is handbuilt from stem to stern using point-to-point wiring and a thick-gauge aluminum chassis. The first gain stage is driven with a 6SC7 tube—a variety that’s not common on modern amps, but which powered early versions of the Fender Super and Deluxe. There’s also a pair of 12AX7s in the preamp section.

The front panel of the DB7 is refreshingly simple. The single-channel head sports one 1/4" input and Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, and Presence controls. A footswitchable boost control adds a little midrange for soloing, and a 3-way bright switch offers flat, bright, and hyper-bright modes. (The latter is designed for situations where a guitar requires extreme high end to assert itself in a busy mix.) The rear panel is equally streamlined, housing just a power-cord jack and 1/4" outs for 4-, 8-, and 16-Ω speakers.