two rock

Rig Rundown - Ariel Posen

The soulful slide wiz shows off his Teisco-inspired baritone and several "different" tone tools that have inspired his pandemic projects—including a knockout Custom Shop Jazzmaster.

Ariel Posen entered as a sideman. His scintillating work with the Bros. Landreth made him a guitarist’s guitarist. He’s since stepped out on his own to show he’s more than just shadowy specialist.

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Can you have EL84 sparkle and bounteous bottom?

It’s easy to understand why the Vox AC15 provides the template for so many contemporary boutique amps. The model has half the power of the AC30, Vox’s iconic British Invasion amp, but it generates similar thrills: harmonically rich overdrive, taut clean tones, and explosive treble energy that always makes me think of Chief Engineer Scott from Star Trek: “She cannae take anymore, Captain—she’s gonna blow!”

But despite its classic status, the nearly 60-year-old design is ripe for modifications that make it more suitable for modern players, styles, and gigs. That thinking has spawned many modern AC15 spinoffs, and Two-Rock’s Cardiff combo is one of the most inspiring offspring to date.

Retro Be Damned
Cardiff is available in a $1,595 head-only version, but we reviewed the newer $1,895 1x12 combo. Most previous Two-Rock models are descended from the Fender family tree, so the Cardiffs represent Two-Rock’s first foray into EL84 territory. The EL84 was the ubiquitous Vox power tube until the company lost the thread in the late 1960s with their widely reviled solid-state amps.

Cardiff makes no nods to vintage cosmetics. The single-channel amp is a utilitarian gray box with a front panel consisting of one input, four knobs, and a power switch. It’s minimal around back, too, with only speaker outs and a simple passive effects loop. A passive loop works fine for patching in a delay or reverb pedal, but it’s probably not a good idea to run an entire pedal chain through one.
Cardiff’s circuitry is a thing of beauty.

Flashy, Cardiff ain’t. But the hardware and construction are superb. The cabinet is stout, solid wood. The control panel is slightly recessed, shielding the chicken-head knobs from damage. The compact chassis is tucked in tightly above the Two-Rock-branded 12" speaker. The cabinet is open-backed, but a rear panel with a circular cutout protects the tubes without blocking access to them. No gear is indestructible, but this is probably about as close as tube combos get.

Pretty on the Inside
Cardiff’s circuitry is a thing of beauty. It’s true point-to-point wiring with no circuit board or turret board—just a few bits of terminal strip. The wire routing is immaculate, with perfectly braided cables and a clean, almost geometric layout. Wires are secured in places with glue. If you’re accustomed to poking around inside amps, your first thoughts are likely to be, “Wow, they knew what they were doing” and “I bet this sounds great!”

And guess what? You’d be right.

Sizzle, Meet Thump
At risk of oversimplifying, the Cardiff sound combines the qualities players tend to love about AC15s, minus other traits sometimes viewed as drawbacks. You get the crackling high-end excitement of a vintage Vox, but with loftier headroom. And while old AC15s can be anemic on the low end, Cardiff is a bottom-end beast.

Ratings

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Check out our special coverage of Amps to go along with the August 2016 issue of PG.

Hughes & Kettner

TubeMeister Deluxe 20

Small enough to comfortably carry on a plane as hand luggage, TubeMeister Deluxe 20 takes you from pure, pristine clean tones to an authentic brown sound and devastatingly powerful modern-day high gain at the tap of a footswitch. Other groundbreaking made-in-Germany Hughes & Kettner features – like a power soak for enjoying amazing tube sounds at any volume, and the FRFR-ready Red Box AE DI that lets you connect your guitar direct to your recording setup or the PA – make the Deluxe 20 your ideal amp partner whether you Rock on Stage, Play at Home or Record at Night!

CHANNELS Two: Clean and Lead (+ Boost)
POWER 20 Watts
POWER SOAK 5, 1, 0 Watts
TUBES 2 x EL84 (power amp), 2 x 12AX7(preamp)
EFFECTS LOOP Serial
DI OUTPUT Red Box AE
SPEAKER OUTPUTS 1 x 8-16 Ω
DIMENSIONS 14.02 x 6.14 x 5.91”
WEIGHT 11lbs
PROTECTIVE COVER Included


Street Price: $699


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Check out our special coverage of Amps to go along with the August 2016 issue of PG.

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