An old-school look and choice modern features make a working player’s dream amp.

When executed right, new features can enhance even the most intrinsically perfect classic amp designs. Take the PRO-18 Tweed Tolex Combo, the latest amp from aerospace consultant and amp maker Art Nace. This EL84-powered PRO-18 (it also comes in basic black) looks like a child of Leo Fender’s ’50s amps and barks with the authority of an early Marshall combo when you crank it. But it’s arguably more versatile than either Leo or Jim’s early masterpieces for the presence of the V-Power dial—a variable gain device that allows guitarists to sweep through volume change—right down to whisper-quiet—without altering the amp’s distortion levels.

V For Vicious
Nace explains that the V-Power function is not a volume control, “brown-down” pot, power soak, or a device that removes tubes from the PRO-18’s power section. Instead, it is a variable power circuit that changes the gain of the power amp section and lowers the output while maintaining the desired level of distortion. (It’s something I wish I had when I got my first good amp—a 1966 Fender blackface Twin that wouldn’t break up until I got the volume to around 7—torturing the ears of every living creature in a two-block radius.)

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