The EL84 rambler champions three legendary British ’60s to early ’70s sounds embracing their classic chime, crunch, and kerrang packed into a modern design.
Fronting a dual-EL84 output stage that generates 16 watts of power, the Bel-Ray sports a front end of two 12AX7s plus a fat British-voiced EF86* pentode tube in a triple-threat preamp that delivers Top Boost chime, Plexi grind, and H-Watt punch at the twist of a switch.
Juicy, tactile dynamics and multi-dimensional playing feel are ensured by tube rectification courtesy of an EZ81—an essential part of the power supplies in the smaller ’60s AC combos and 18-watters alike—and atmospherics are maximized by a tube-driven, bias-modulated tremolo circuit that oozes a warm, lush, swampy throb.
Atop this versatile foundation, the Bel-Ray carries the kind of feature set that has made Carr Amplifiers famous for their ability to deliver vintage-caliber tones to modern playing situations. The Level (aka Volume) control is coupled with a High/Low volume-taper toggle which selects between a direct signal or one with a partial Master Volume inserted after the following EF86 stage. In High, the volume comes on fast and furious, hitting the output stage harder for increased crunch. Set to Low, the volume rolls up gradually and drives the EL84s less aggressively, perfect for at-home nighttime playing and quieter settings.
The Bel-Ray’s decibels are further dialed in with Carr’s acclaimed built-in attenuator: a toggle switch flips between the full 16 watts and anywhere from 0 to 2 watts of power. And behind it all is Carr’s hand-wired, point-to-point circuit construction, acknowledged as among the finest in the business, using military grade power components, signal elements from the golden age of analog amplification, and other high-end parts to optimize clarity, depth, and playing feel.
The Bel-Ray — legendary British tone via top-flight American engineering.
A smooth user experience and standout high-gain sounds distinguish this powerful modeler.
Easy to create new rigs. Bluetooth, amp cloner, and cloud features are very useful. Solid high-gain tones.
Some clean, breakup, and fuzz tones can sound thin and a bit stiff.
The Headrush Prime is an extremely deep all-in-one floor modeler that brings a few distinctive features to a very competitive space. With just seven knobs and a full-color touchscreen, navigating through the various menus and options is relatively easy—a big plus for those hesitant to take the digital plunge. The array of included effects, amps, and cabs is impressive and the main food groups are all represented. One of the most intriguing features is the Amp Cloner, which “clones” any amp, preamp, overdrive, distortion, or fuzz pedal. I tested it out with a homemade clone of a Zendrive and the process was very easy. The Prime captured the essence of the pedal without much digital stiffness.
This space doesn’t permit an exhaustive look at every feature on the Prime. But I was very impressed with the graphics on the touchscreen. Pedals and amps look much like their real-world counterparts and, thanks to a few routing templates, creating nearly any imaginable rig is a relatively smooth process, though the manual remains essential. High-gain sounds are among the strongest here, and models of Soldano and Mesa/Boogie amps are standouts. At $1,299, the Prime holds its own against other floor modelers in its class, and it’s a worthy option for players who want authentic tones without navigating endless screens of menus.
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