Lone Wolf Outlaw Review
February 15, 2009
A look at Lone Wolf''s dual-channel, EL84-equipped 18-watt head.
|Download Example 1
Clean setting with Volume 1 at 8 o'clock and Master at 12 o'clock. Volume 2 at zero.
|Download Example 2
Blues setting with Volume 1 at 1 o'clock and Master at 9 o'clock. Volume 2 at zero.
|Download Example 3
Overdrive setting with Volume 1 and 2 at max and Master at 8 o'clock.
|Recorded with a Tom Anderson Cobra Special-S. For all clips, non-specified controls were at noon.
The bright channel runs a full-range signal. The two “channels” are then added together with a summing circuit, and from there on to the output section, which consists of two EL84 pentodes running in class AB (pushpull) configuration, and a very beefy output transformer. The power section uses a 6CA4 (EZ81) tube rectifier and a likewise very beefy power transformer. Other front panel features are two 1/4” input jacks, one labeled “high,” the other, “low” (both feed both preamps), an On/Off switch and a Standby switch. The rear panel reveals an IEC power plug jack (for the separate power cord), two fuse receptacles, a three-way 4/8/16-Ohm speaker impedance switch, two speaker jacks, a “pentode/ultralinear” switch (more on that later), effect send and return jacks, and a plugged hole labeled “footswitch” to be used on a future model. The chassis top shows us three 12AX7s (the first two being preamp tubes and the third the phase inverter), the previously mentioned output and rectifier tubes and transformers, plus a major-sized choke and two very large filter caps.
The chassis interior reveals very neat point-to-point and turret board solder joints. All small components, including the tone circuits, are mounted on the turret board, a nice reliability touch. The caps are high quality, and the resistors are low tolerance. The CTS pots are full size and have the look and feel of good quality units. The cabinets are sturdily built from multi-ply Baltic birch plywood with dovetailed corner joints and covered with black Tolex accented with white piping. The grill is an attractive woven fabric. There are heavy metal corner protectors on each and every corner. A large, Plexiglas Lone Wolf (howling at the moon) logo graces each cabinet, with the top one being back-lit at the flip of the power switch—too cool!
The speaker cab is loaded with two 12” Celestions: one Vintage 30 and one GH-12, both with 50oz ceramic magnets and 1.75” voice coils. Add the weight of the cab and the head and we come up with a total amp weight of 79lb. Before talking about the sound of this specific amp, it might be good to gain a bit of historical perspective. Back in the late fifties, Vox released the first amp designed for rock and roll: the AC15, which utilized, you guessed it, the EL84 output tube. They wanted to get away from the country and blues amps so heavily favored in the US and come up with something different for the burgeoning rock market. The EL84 has a tight (but not necessarily punchy) bass, a chimey mid, and sparkling highs—and when pushed, sounds downright raunchy.
Moving on to the audition, I couldn’t wait to let that Wolf out of its cage. This amp comes from the “less is more” tradition that most of us old vintage cats admire. I used multiple guitars with multiple styles of single coils and humbuckers to let her howl. I must say that we (my neighbors and I) were impressed. I didn’t find much use for the dark channel on humbuckers at clean, normal volumes. As I started to get into Strat and Tele territory, I found myself adding some dark channel to fill out the bottom… superb for pluckin’ that chicken. When I ventured into mild overdrive territory by turning up the gain and backing down the master, I basically got lost in one of the nicest classic blues tones my mini-humbucker Tom Anderson Cobra Special has ever generated. About three hours later, I decided to give my ears a rest before putting the pedal to the metal.
Turning the gain(s) and master up produced some very smooth and singing overdrive. The compression envelope of the power tubes, rectifier, and output transformer provided good attack and note definition along with that sweet song. I did not get up the nerve to dime both gains and master; I was sure something (other than the amp) would be damaged—like my aging ears. Here I want to reiterate that the preamp signals are additive, so things can get loud in a hurry—and when I say loud, I mean LOUD. These are 18 of the biggest watts on the planet, thanks to the straight-ahead circuitry, the huge output transformer and power section, and two growling Celestions. As with most amps (but not all) the louder volumes sounded best, and I think there is more to it in this case than the Fletcher-Munson effect (look it up). This amp was born and bred to be played in medium-sized clubs.
The effects loop worked well, as expected, using distortion, reverb, etc., and flipping the pentode/ultralinear switch—which actually converts the EL84s to triodes—lowered the volume and “browned” the sound a bit. At rehearsal the other night our harp player, who is an amp builder, modifier, and general fanatic, spotted the amp in the studio, plugged in and, using the dark channel, produced some of sweetest “Walter” tones at some of the highest volume (without feedback) ever to grace a small room. Not only is this a fine guitar amp, but as an added bonus, thanks to the dark channel, an A1-choice harp amp.
You love the sound of EL84s singing their hearts out in a roadworthy amp in medium sized clubs; and you can deduct or depreciate the cost; or price is no obstacle.
You don’t dig the sound, need more watts, can’t afford it.
MSRP $3050 - Lone Wolf Amplification - lonewolfamps.com