Fuchs ODS Classic Review
The latest version of the Overdrive Supreme is almost absurdly versatile.
The ODS Classic from Fuchs Audio Technology is ridiculously versatile. It’s ridiculously well made. Its tones are ridiculously rich and defined, with ridiculous headroom and touch response. All that ridiculousness adds up to one very serious amplifier.
The ODS Classic comes in four flavors: 50-watt and 100-watt, with both sizes available as heads or 1x12 combos. (We reviewed the 50-watt head version.) This new Classic line is builder Andy Fuchs’s latest iteration of his long-running Overdrive Supreme model.
The head houses two 6L6 power tubes and a pair of 12AX7 preamp tubes, with two additional 12AX7s driving the effects loop and phase inverter. The rectifier is solid-state. The amp comes with a remote controller in a stage-worthy metal enclosure, with switches for overdrive, two boost stages, mid boost, and reverb—each with an LED status indicator.
About that reverb: It’s not from a spring, but from a Spin FV-1—a digital chip used in many current reverb and modulation stompboxes. I prefer a spring sound myself, yet it’s a good-sounding, low-noise effect that I suspect many players would choose over a spring in a blind-listening test. (Check out the demo clip and judge for yourself.)
A Dumble Debt
Andy Fuchs freely admits that Howard Dumble’s amps influenced his own models. He started out building Dumble clones before going pro. Even the very name of his flagship model recalls that other ODS: Dumble’s Overdrive Special. After 15 years of production, Fuchs’s designs have branched off from Dumble’s, with re-voiced tone controls, extra gain-stage options, reverb, a sophisticated effects loop, and more. Still, this amp definitely resides in the Dumble quadrant of the amp galaxy.
It’s been 20 years since I’ve played a Dumble, so I’m leery of making direct comparisons. But ODS Classic certainly nails the qualities guitarists cite when rationalizing the surreal six-figure prices for Dumble originals: extreme touch sensitivity, seemingly limitless quantities of gain/sustain, and magnificent harmonic clarity even at ultra-distorted settings.
I confess that the signature Dumble sound—that throaty, super-saturated, blues-rock overdrive—isn’t my thing. (Though judging by guitar mags, it’s the pinnacle of tone for many artists and readers.) But while ODS Classic excels at that fat studio-cat sustain, that’s just one aspect of this freakishly multifaceted amp. The glorious clean sounds are warm and stunningly dynamic, with etched-in-marble clarity. The vast range of distorted tones encompasses subtle burn, edgy punk squawks, meaty chunk, and all points between. Every setting displays extraordinary harmonic clarity. The notes within chords just seem to hum together. And even with gobs of gain, there’s remarkably little noise.
You might want to pack a lunch before we discuss the ODS Classic’s controls. There are lots of knobs and switches here, including numerous dual-function concentric and push/pull pots. To be clear: It’s not hard to concoct good sounds here—it’s hard not to! But this amp’s complex topology will probably appeal most to players who appreciate subtle tonal distinctions and have the ears and patience to dial them in.
I’d hog too many magazine pages if I described every control, so I’ll only cite the unconventional ones:
• The gain control at the start of the clean preamp stage is powerful enough to create fine distorted sounds without even activating the overdrive portion of the circuit. It’s also great for fine-tuning the amp’s response to suit pickups of varying output.
• The 3-position bright switch offers a traditional treble push, a wider-range boost that extends well into the mids, and a bypass option.
• There’s a bass-boosting “deep” switch.
• The EQ toggle changes the response of the bass, mid, and treble controls. One setting has a relatively subtle vintage vibe, while the other has a more assertive hard-rock profile.
• The high and mid tone pots are push/pull, with vintage-style response in one position and a more aggressive, wider-range profile in the other.
• The overdrive stage has adjustable input and output levels that can dramatically alter the amp’s response. There’s also a dedicated low-pass filter for taming unruly treble.
• An accent control alters the amount of negative feedback at higher frequencies. (You can think of it as a smarter-than-usual presence control.)
• You can specify both the level and length of the digital reverb.
• The buffered, tube-driven effects loop has adjustable input and output, so you can insert everything from funky stompboxes to line-level pro audio gear, with precise control over levels.
• You can switch between series and parallel effects loops. In the former, effects are in-line with the amp’s signal path. In parallel, wet and dry signals are summed at the amp’s output.
• The 100-watt model (not reviewed) includes a half-power switch.
I’m too crappy at math to calculate the number of possible permutations, but I know the total is … ridiculous.
Yes, it’s a complex circuit, but crafting tones is more manageable than it might sound. It may be best to approach the controls as if you’re being fitted for glasses: “What’s better—A or B? Okay, how about C or D?”
Built Like a Brick
The head weighs 38 pounds and measures 19" x 11.5" x 8.5"—and there’s a lot crammed into that solid wood cabinet! Inside is a large motherboard plus three ancillary circuit boards. I’m not sure it would be possible to duplicate all ODS Classic functions without a circuit-board build, at least not in such a compact head cabinet. But this is no robo-build. All components are handsoldered, with sockets, pots, and switches mounted to the chassis, not a board. The off-board wiring and soldering are stellar. The quality parts include custom-spec Heyboer and ClassicTone transformers, classy metal knobs, orange drop caps where it counts, ceramic tube sockets, and an aircraft aluminum chassis cooled by a 3-speed fan. Despite the use of a circuit board, this is an exceedingly labor-intensive build, which largely explains the lofty price.
ODS Classic is a remarkable machine that can make decent playing sound good, and good playing sound great. It could be a godsend for recording guitarists who need to fine tune sounds to fit into mixes. The tonal range is phenomenal, yet the amp is probably small enough to transport on the floor of your car. The master volume behaves beautifully. You can truly generate massive rock tones at kids-are-sleeping levels. Between its lofty headroom and full-featured effects loop, this is a terrific stompbox amp. Its price is formidable, but the build, sound quality, and sheer versatility are everything you’d hope for in an ultra-premium amp. ODS Classic is a ridiculously good piece of gear—seriously!