Category 5 "Allen" review!

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by JackButler, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. JackButler

    JackButler Supporting Member

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    So a few weeks back I gave Cat 5 a call and spoke with Don, who is a member on here btw. I first heard of Cat 5 amps as Joe Bonamassa plays them. One thing I REALLY like about them is that aportion of their sales go towards school funding and good charity-type organizations, so big plus there!

    I was basically interested in one their upcoming Jubilee style amps which are still being designed as I understand. Don was so cool to speak with and down-to-Earth, didn't have that "attitude" like a few of the makers seem to I have spoken with. We talked abous various aspects of gear and playing styles, etc. In the midst of it all, he mentioned a new model they have out called the Allen. Joe just ordered a 100w version of it I guess. So Don sent me out the 50w prototype to demo! Whoo hoo! Basically said it was a Fender meets Marshall amp with power dampening.

    A few weeks later the demo amp arrived in the flight case so I plugged her in.
    Cosmetically, just great. A shorter stout looking amp and they was superbly built.

    I first tried the cleans, whoa, he said Fender and that's what I got! Nice full, fat, and sparkling typical Fedner cleans. Crank the clena channel and it goes into a nice controllable pushed tone very nicely, hit this with a boost or OD of choice and you are there.

    Now came the gain channel. Wasn't sure what to expect, but here's what I heard...straight up Marshall plexi-liek tones...without that annoying high-end fizz everyone (well most everyone) trys to always dial out. At lower gains I also heard some pissed-off tweed Bassman tones happening. Crank the gain up and it goes into heavier saturation, I wouldn't call it JCM800 type of tone or a super hot plexi, but very useable and nice. Some aspects ont he gain range sounded like a hot plexi and some sounded like a cross between a hot modded 800 and plexi...all without that fizz I hate! Thickened up nicely.

    I play loud usually, run my Soldanos around 7 on the master usually and my 50w Marshall at 9 on both channels jumpered. What I did notice, heh, use that dampening (on the back) and it did what it was supposed to do! kept great tones and backed the volume way down. I like it, would be great for you guys with that concern. Works better than any attenuator I have owned too.

    My overall impression fo the amp was, wow, someone actually did what they said they were going to build...good Fender meets Marshall in one amp w/o all that extra BS. One thing to note, the amp seemed smoother than most straight up Marshall amps, which depending on your likes can be great or not. If you ever wanted a true "two amps in one" with some refinements and the added value of a dapening sytem that works, this amp might be right up your alley!

    I spoke with Don some more as I had the amp, he said the 100w one seemed like a whole other amp, I think that would be more in my realm. I'd love to try one their straight up Marshall amps, they would kill w/o a doubt. But I am holding out for the Jubilee style one coming hopefully by early summer per Don's notions.

    Need one amp to cover the two most famous designs ever, this is right up your alley guys! Guys needing a wide range of classic tones in a useable package, here it is or I see it being loved by the praise and worship crowd as well, the good old tones with that dampening.

    Also, weird, but as soon as I spent 5 minutes on this amp I instantly realized why Joe B. likes them, seem to be mid focused and right in-line with all his tones.

    So, keep an ear out for Cat 5 and get ahold of Don on here, he's alll about listening to your thoughts and wants, sure he can build you what you want!

    for the record, I am in no way affiliated with Category 5, just a lucky guy who got to try out one of their amps and look forward to trying a few more down the road.
     
  2. voojo

    voojo Gold Supporting Member

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    Jack, thanks for the great review! Cat 5 is one of the companies I have been keeping my eye on, they seem to have some great amps! Plus, Joe Bonamassa, 'nuff said!

    Seth
     
  3. JZG

    JZG Member

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    Great review Scott! Got my juices flowing as I have a Cat 5 getting burned in as we speak. To my understanding, it's a new model called the "Tempest" which was originally built for Jimmy Thackery. It's a Plexi-based amp with a JTM-45/Tweed Bassman channel, and a full tone stack Plexi channel. Don's been great working with me to meet a few of my "quirks" such as a non-global fx loop and adding the tone stack from the Bonamassa amp. Footswitchable reverb and mid boost, and power scaling round out the package. I should have it in house be the end of the next week or so. I'll be sure to give a full report. He mentioned the Allen to me when I placed my order, which at the time was a little beyond my range. I'm reconsidering that after hearing a first hand report.
     
  4. FFTT

    FFTT Member

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    These amps caught my interest just on the specs alone and that's why I've
    been mentioning them as something cool to consider.
     
  5. JackButler

    JackButler Supporting Member

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    I recall him talking about a few amps they did for Thackery, I imagine yours is going to be killer!
    Also, curious as to what plays out, Gary Moore was just sent one of their amps as well. If he gets on board that will surely open up the Cat 5 name to many.
     
  6. JackButler

    JackButler Supporting Member

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    Ooops, forgot to mention something that might be very useful to some of you...dual effects loops. I never use loops so I cannot comment on them, but ironically the dual aspect sorta hit a light bulb with me.
    My old bandmate from years ago (plays in a Metal band still) has been poking around lately asking abotu amps. He has been a/b'ing amps the past few years and wants to go with one amp. As we were discussing his needs, something sorta different popped up. He only uses effects on his clean channel and never on his gain channel. So we started discussing options he could try to simplify his live methods (and these guys just kill live and I'm not a Metal guy!) Anyways, I said something with two loops would be perfect for him, so there is a use for two loops afterall! Just a little tidbit you might find amusing and useful.
     
  7. JackButler

    JackButler Supporting Member

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    Anyone play their straight-up plexis?
     
  8. lespaul6

    lespaul6 Senior Member

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    I'm waiting for the jubilee model with great anticipation....I have a marshall 4-12 without a head just waitng to be used!!!
     
  9. dankayaker

    dankayaker Supporting Member

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    Great . .my wallet feels lighter already . . thanks for the GAS.
     
  10. JZG

    JZG Member

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    Scott--did you try out the FX loops? I'm kinda curious how they work out with the power scaling.
     
  11. JackButler

    JackButler Supporting Member

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    No, I don't use loops at all, tus why I initally forgot to mention them.
    One thing, at a 50w amp, cranked it did not strike me as being as loud as other 50 watters.
     
  12. Category 5

    Category 5 Member

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    JZG,

    Should not be a problem with the power scaling-it scales the whole signal.

    Scott, That amp actually measures 55 watts of clean power. Don't know if you cranked it all the way to ten, but from 8 to 10 there is a considerable gain in volume on that amp. It does not collapse at the higher volumes. We ran it through some very efficient speakers(jenson neo's and ev12's) and it nearly ran us out of the room. But then, marketing watts and real watts and volume are all relative. I'm sure you have heard louder 50 watt amps, but that one can be very loud with efficient speakers. Thanks for the great review!!

    DonR
     
  13. Bloosman21

    Bloosman21 Member

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    Hey all...can't really argue with anything Scott said regarding the Allen head. I am currently demoing this head as we speak. Don R of Category 5 Amplification(an outstanding guy and one you will want to talk to RE Cat 5 products or just about anything else for that matter)was kind of enough to ship the prototype to my front door step and allow me to push it around a little.
    First off, its as Scott says. Real good parity IS Fender meshes with Marshall. And I would say the Marshall side of this amp I prefer the most (although the clean Fendery channel is very nice as well)but then I have the Allen partnered currently with the FIRST (beside Joe Bonamassas') Bonamassa speced Plexi in a 50 Watt version that Category 5 was nice enough to build and these two together partner very well in a stereo configuration. They run real close in volume as the knobs are rotated towards 10...
    I love the Allens Marshall (ch2) side for all my "gettin down and dirty type tones" but make no mistake about it, you can twist a couple of dials and get that plexi type sound out of this amp as well...basically its a very versatile head and would work great for all you modern country rockers, classic rock and absolutely a great tone machine for blues and blues rock.

    NOTE:I am running a 1960A cab, vertically baffled within and both sides wired for 4 ohm inputs. Running Weber CAs and Celestion GT75s currently...subject to change!!!

    The JB Plexi has beatiful cleans and I can take this amp to 10 without ever breaking up. Cleans, sweet harmonics, natural feedback are all there, just a matter of where you want to dial this machine to. The amp is equipped with effects loop, two channels(Volumes only, NO master)and great equalization. On the back is a Mid scoop switch which I use in the UP position and Joe B seems to love this little feature...try it, you'll see why...just a really neat, scooped, vintage tone and has three positions to meet your desires.

    Like I said, I use this amp in a stereo configuration currently with the Allen 50 Watt head Scott has reviewed above. I use an amp switcher and can use any combination of these two amps at a moments notice.

    Now back to the Allen for a minute...

    A question was raised regarding the Allen effects loops.
    Loops I say because the Allen has a set of effects loop I/Os for EACH Channel...
    I "stole" one of Joes tricks, who btw said he kinda "borrowed" the idea from Eric Johnson but anyway, I run a delay through the JB plexi effects loops and a digital (BossRV5) through the effects loop on the Allen. Together, its not as nice as Joe Bs swirl hes got going, but it sure does sound sweet. Very full...very believable.
    In a nutshell, so far, I have no problems with the effects loops Category 5 has offered up on any of the amps I have played through which I will go ahead and throw in the other head I enjoy is their 1900 model...Category 5 is building one currently for myself and I will say that the effects loops on that demo were very good also...nice and quiet!!!
    The 1900 can be dialed in to just about any type of crunch tone you would want and I use it with the JB Plexi stereo config as well...these two togeter are heaven...lots of options...

    This was supposed to be a REPLY to the Allen head post but I kinda got side tracked on these other models as well...Scott pretty much summed it up pretty well and I just want to add that ALL of the heads I've received from Cat 5 thus far were built well, very nice detail and cosmetics and they all have a real solid feel to them.

    NOTE:I am not in any way affiliated with Category Five Amplification and am merely a very satisfied customer...
    I have always been a lover of boutique amps and Category Five has my full attention.
    One other thing I must say again is that the customer service I have received from Category 5 (Don R) to be exact is unmatched.
    Don has allowed me to demo numerous products, and I have rewarded Cat 5 and myself with two orders...
    Reference their web page and take a look at the story regarding proceeds of sales, charities that are supported, as well as the outstanding warranty Cat 5 offers up with their products...in my eyes, a stand up company.

    A personal thanks to Don Ritter and Category Five for all their support and thanks for listenin!!!

    Tim Van Horn
    Oakley, CA
     
  14. le_plastique

    le_plastique Member

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    I'm surprised there isn't more attention for this amp. According to the description I read a long time ago it was supposed to have a first channel that was similar to a Super Reverb and a second channel that was supposed to have a Trainwreck with 6l6s vibe. Sounds pretty cool to me.
     
  15. JZG

    JZG Member

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    You guys are killing me. I haven't got the first Cat 5 yet, and I'm already jonesin' for the second one. The Allen sure sounds like a great all around amp, and from what I'm reading, seems like the perfect amp for me. I might have to get ahold of Don this weekend...
     
  16. JackButler

    JackButler Supporting Member

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    Don, maybe it didn't seem brutally loud like some becuase my ears were bleeding from the blazing riffs the Allen allowed me to unleash!
     
  17. littlejohn

    littlejohn Member

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    Been admiring the Andrew as well from afar for a while now, amps/construction/clips all nice.
     
  18. Category 5

    Category 5 Member

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    Scott, That could be! It's also not harsh at loud volumes, so that might also be part of it. I just remember the day we stuck it in a 2 x 12 combo with ev12's - and it literally ran us out of the room. Wait till you here it with a 100 watts:) That one is called Isabelle and she is one mean b*&#h DonR
     
  19. Ironman

    Ironman Member

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    Cat 5 has my attention! If they finally do come out with a Jubilee flavored amp I will most definitely get one! Any ETA's out there yet?
     
  20. JackButler

    JackButler Supporting Member

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    Don, that could easily be it and I never factored that in actually. My LOUD amps are usually spikey in the highs (vintage Marshall and such) with the fizziness, the Allen doesn't have that trait so that could has made me misperceive the volume thing.
    I still say it wa smy blazin licks as I unleashed the F'ing Fury! :>)
     

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