May 18, 2013
This afternoon I spent some time at NZ’s home of boutique amps, The Amp Shop, with the intention of spending some time with a very special little amp from boutique makers 65 Amps – the London Pro. Here’s a short blurb about it:
65amps introduces its new Red Line of amplifiers with the first model in the series, the London Pro. Like its brother, the original 65amps London, the low-powered but extremely toneful London Pro tube amp is hand made in the USA, and takes advantage of 65amps’ renowned expertise in small amps with big feel and tone. With the Red Line, 65amps now offers its high quality construction and tone to working guitar players at a more accessible price than the current 65amps Blue Line models.
Powered by 2xEL84s, the 18-Watt tube rectified London Pro offers two distinct channels, the EF86 Colour Channel and the 12AX7 Channel. New on the London Pro, these two channels can be combined for a third, high-gain option. When the channels are combined, the volume and tone knobs on each distinct channel now control the gain and tone for just the tubes on the channel they are assigned, allowing extreme tonal versatility. All channels can be controlled by the included footswitch.
65amps also has included its unique Master Voltage feature, which reduces the voltage and output of the amp in a unique way that enables the amp to be played at extremely low volumes without losing its rich tone and feel. The London Pro is housed in a streamlined head and cabinet design constructed from void free Baltic birch, is equipped with handmade American transformers, and sports a new red badge logo.
So basically this:
- Two channels, one AC-ish EF86 and one Marshall 18W-ish, with the option to combine
- Master voltage (a form of power scaling)
Hey… um, that’s it. A very brief spec rundown of an amp that while skimping on knobs and EQs and etc, is rich in the most important ingredient - TONE.
I spent the next hour putting it through its paces, and I thought I’d write down some thoughts for you guys, though at this point I don’t have any of my own soundclips (but hopefully that may change soon!).
I had the pleasure of using the shop guitar – a Radian Guitars variation on the Telecaster, with TV Jones pickups and a lovely Korina body.
This is the Marshall 18W-style channel, powered by the good ol’ 12AX7 preamp tube. You get two controls: Tone, and Volume. Because of the Master Voltage control, you can basically wind up the Volume (as you would a gain knob), and cinch back the MV to taste. However, I soon found out that the MV control is pretty effective down to about 4, but once you go below that it does start to choke the tone back a little.
So, running loud and proud through the matching 1×12″ cab, I juiced the Volume and set Tone for about 1 o’clock.
Thick, juicy Marshall tones were instantly achieved. Very nice stuff. Not sure what else I can say about it, except it’s very much what you’d expect from a Marshall 18W – you can get goodly amounts of drive, but it does have that ever so slightly boxy tone compared to the Marshalls with the big iron in them.
This is where the amazing tone lives, for me. In the past few years I’ve become somewhat partial to Vox tones, both cleanish and driven, but the uncontrollable sonic beast that is an AC30 means I will probably never end up owning one.
The EF86 channel on the London Pro is everything you could want from an AC15/30, but with just a little less ringing ears. That’s not to say that it doesn’t get loud – it is indeed a RATHER loud amp for its size (and the 1×12″ cab does well to fill the room with sound, and isn’t particularly directional), but it’s a fair bit easier to rein in than an AC30.
You’ve got Tone and Volume again, but this time you’re equipped with “pull” knobs for additional Bright and Boost controls.
The base tone is chimey chimey bliss, and notching up the volume takes you into break-up territory very gracefully. Playing dynamically is an amazing experience – pull back a little to get clean tones, and then wind your guitar’s volume up to 11 and dig right in to get big, driven tones with that distinctive Vox high end.
The Pull Bright seemed to have a fairly subtle effect to my ears (the channel already has plenty of the chiming highs you’d want from a Vox-inspired amp), but the Pull Boost was great fun for adding gobs of gain to get into Brian May territory.
Red + Blue
Of course, one of the other key features of the London Pro is being able to combine the tone of both channels. With the click of a footswitch, you can combine that Marshall grind with the chimier high end of the EF86 – a really interesting proposition, with a multitude of possibilities. You can do a LOT with this depending on how you set each individual channel – you can pretend it’s a Marshally Vox, or a Voxy Marshall, or just plain balls to the wall ROCK. No, I’m not joking – with both channels’ volumes set pretty high, you can actually get a very respectable, and very ballsy palm muted chunk out of the London Pro!! Not something that most players who buy 65 Amps would be looking for, but I guess I’m a bit weird.
^ I think that says it all. A super cool amp, perhaps a bit limited in terms of switching compared to many modern amps, but what it lacks in controls it more than makes up for in TONE.
Okay I have to go now, need to scheme about what I can sell to buy this. Oh, and did I mention that it’s VERY affordable compared to its big brother the London? That’s part of the allure – a 65 Amps line for the working man.
… still, it’s a coupla thousand bucks. Anyone want to gift me some cash?
Hope you enjoyed the mini-review. Here’s a vid of the London Pro with 65 Amps founder Dan Boul. (Sorry for the initial typo Dan!! Heh)