Elmwood Modena 60

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by rjmmusic, Jul 6, 2005.


  1. rjmmusic

    rjmmusic Member

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    I received my Modena 60 from Elmwood about three weeks ago. I've been on the high-gain channel switcher hunt for a couple years now, and this is my latest.

    The Specs:

    4 x 12AX7 (V1,V2,V3 are TAD 12AX7C, also known as the 7025 "Silver Specials", which recently went back into production. V4 is a Sovtek 12AX7A)
    2 x TAD EL34B-STR

    2 channels, each with a separate tone stack:

    Clean channel has volume, treble, mid, bass controls plus footswitchable boost with boost volume and gain knobs.

    Drive channel has volume, gain, treble, mid and bass controls plus footswitchable boost with a gain knob.

    There are two footswitchable master volumes, which can optionally be linked to the boost so that switching on Master 1 will also turn the boost on. The setup is a little unusual: Master 1 is set to the loudest level you wish to play at (solo level), then Master 2 can be set to be any level lower than or equal to Master 1 (cranking Master 2 makes it the same as Master 1). It's different than any other amp I've played, but is no problem once you get used to it.

    The power section has Fat and Edge controls, which are pretty much like the depth and presence controls on other amps (although Elmwood says that Edge has a higher corner frequency than the usual presence control).

    There's an effects loop with adjustable blend.

    There are two 8 ohm and two 4 ohm speaker outs. There is no 16 ohm output (you can use two 16 ohm loads in the 8 ohm jacks, but can't use a single 16 ohm load).

    The head is in a really nice looking red stained birch cab. The fingerjointing isn't exactly perfect (some small gaps), but otherwise looks solid. I'm a little worried about the nice wood getting all banged up, but I have a Studio Slips case on the way which should help. The head is around 45 lbs and on the small side - it just barely hangs over the sides of my Z-Best cab when the cab is vertical. Small and (relatively) light are important points for me.

    Inside, the amp is done on a good quality PCB and build quality generally looks good. The tube sockets are on the PCB, which is a bit disappointing, but they have installed standoffs on the chassis to provide additional reinforcement around the sockets.

    The Sound

    Clean channel:
    I'm not really a connoiseur of clean tones, so diehard clean guys might want to take this with a grain of salt... I think it's one of the better clean channels I've heard on a channel switcher. It's in the Plexi clean realm, although the mids are less pronounced, kinda scooped like a Fender. There's a little bit of everything in these cleans: a little bounce, a little grit, a little sparkle. As you increase the channel volume, you get warm, soft overdrive. There's a good amount of headroom for a 50 watt amp if you keep the channel volume around 10:00 or 11:00.

    The boost on the clean channel has its own volume and gain controls. This changes the channel's sound considerably. When I dial up a nice clean sound then kick in the boost, I get a warm sustainy sound that's very nice for the neck pickup blues thing. The boost gain is added on top of the channel volume setting, so you can get more than enough gain to get Marshall-style crunch if you don't mind having a somewhat dirty clean sound. The boost seems to add mids, but the mids aren't as pronounced as a Marshall.

    Dirty channel:
    The dirty channel on this amp is quite interesting and flexible. The gain is tight, with just a little give to it's feel. It's responsive to picking strength and cleans up well with the guitar's volume (well for a channel switcher, at least). The gain control is usable throughout its range, going from dirty to crunchy to grindy to sustainy as you turn it up.

    The tone controls are powerful and interactive. This is a tweaker's amp for sure. The mid control alone can drastically change the sound of the amp. It's almost too powerful - for me the usable range is about 12:00 (really scooped) to 3:00 (lotsa mids). In that range a tiny change in the mid control makes quite a large difference in tone. The bass and treble controls aren't quite as drastic, but they don't just affect tone, they affect the "texture" of the distortion, and they interact quite a bit with themselves and the mid control. On the power amp side, the fat and edge controls are crucial to getting the low and high end just right.

    The boost on this channel does pretty much what you'd expect. I was a bit surprised to find that the boost mode was actually brighter than the normal mode. I would've expected it (and preferred it) to be a little darker and smoother for leads. Careful setting of the controls (edge control in particular) and a tube swap have alleviated the problem.

    I have noticed that the amp is very sensitive to the pickup you use. If you want aggressiveness and bite, you need a higher output pickup like a JB. Lower output pickups give you a warmer, smoother sound. I feel that this amp could go from jazz to metal and do anything in between as long as you had the right guitar and cab plugged into it.

    The tubes shipped with the amp are really quite good, but that didn't stop me from experimenting. I did a couple swaps that gave me a little improvement. Currently I'm using:

    V1: TAD 12AX7C (stock) - nothing sounded better than the stock tube in this position!
    V2: RFT ECC83 - The TAD was a close second, and I preferred the TAD's midrange, but the RFT holds together a lot better in higher gain settings, most notably boost mode. (this tube is used only in the dirty channel)
    V3: Early 90's Chinese 12AX7 (grey plate) - this tube added some gain to the boost mode of the clean channel and made the amp sound a bit bigger.
    V4: Sovtek 12AX7A (stock) - Yes, really. This is still the best sounding tube in the PI position. The guys at Elmwood say that they use this tube to warm up the overall sound of the amp. I still can't believe it, so I'll probably keep trying others. :rolleyes:

    As you can tell, this amp has become a favorite of mine. Great tone and versatility in one package. I'm always looking for the next cool amp, but this is definitely the one to beat. No other amp has gotten this close to my ideal. Sure, there are things I'd like to see changed: add a 16 ohm speaker output, external bias adjustment and measurement, maybe even another tone stack. But really, that's all fairly minor so I won't complain too loudly.
     
  2. Braciola

    Braciola Silver Supporting Member

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    Nice review Ron!
    As you know I just got mine yesterday.
    I'll have a chance to play it in a live jam situation this weekend, but from what I'm hearing so far, it's definitely in the top 3 all-time favorites for me.
    I just spent the last 2 hours A/Bing it to my Cameron modded JMP (my current favorite) and I just walked away scratching my head as to which I like better.
    Very cool amp! :dude
     
  3. rjmmusic

    rjmmusic Member

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    Cool, I'm glad you're digging yours, too. I'd be interested to hear a comparison between the Modena and Cameron mod.
     
  4. matte

    matte Senior Member

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    my body.
  5. Braciola

    Braciola Silver Supporting Member

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  6. rjmmusic

    rjmmusic Member

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  7. matte

    matte Senior Member

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    my body.
    I'm waiting quite patiently for the 100 watt Modena. The Elmwood guys totally rock. Great people, great amplifiers.
     
  8. Braciola

    Braciola Silver Supporting Member

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    Comparison, OK I'll do my best.

    The Cameron modded 100 watt JMP is flat out THE best hot rodded marshall I have ever played.
    I'm talkin 80's hard rock done right, with a great master volume to boot. Everytime I plug into her, I have a blast playing.

    The Modena, I'm loving more & more every day I play it.
    It might not do the 80's shred tone as well as the Cameron, (though it comes very close) but it more than makes up for that with its huge sound stage, and some of the sweetest mids I have ever heard.
    IMHO, when high gain soloing, the Modena out classes the Cameron with a harmonically rich thick lead tone to die for, and no matter how high the gain, notes are clear, juicy and thick, with just the right combination of sag, tightness and bloom.
    Also, the Modena has one of, if not THE best master volumes of any high gainer I have owned.

    Bottom line, I LOVE both amps very much. I prefer the Cameron for that hot rodded Marshall rhythm tone, and the Modena for the sweetest high gain lead tone I have yet to hear from any amp.
     
  9. rjmmusic

    rjmmusic Member

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    Thanks! That's exactly what I was looking for.

    Still having lots of fun tweaking and playing the Modena here! I haven't had this much fun playing an amp since the Mad Professor, and this amp is better suited to my style.
     
  10. Optimus Prime

    Optimus Prime Member

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    I see you like Swedish amps!?:D
     
  11. rjmmusic

    rjmmusic Member

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    I'm pretty sure that the Mad Prof is made in Finland, even though Bjorn himself is in Sweden.

    However, it does seem I have this thing for exotic amps from that part of the world. You guys have some amazing stuff going on over there. :)
     
  12. Optimus Prime

    Optimus Prime Member

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    Yeah, the MP is great, I played it at a guitar show. I have an Elmwood 3100 and matching cab. It's very loud, but I'm really happy with it. I spent almost a year on a tone quest, trying and buying amps from all over the world, however, ended up buying the 3100, an amp made about 2 hours drive from my town of Gothenburg. Isn't that ironic?
     
  13. MikeyG

    MikeyG Supporting Member

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    I heard Braciola's Elmwood tonight .... killer amp. Very unique. In channel 2 with mega gain, we could back down the guitar volume and get pristine cleans. I've never been able to do that with a mega-gain amp.

    The amp has way more gain and low end than I'd ever use or need, and I was having fun playing it with the gain around 9 o'clock or so.... even with gobs of gain, it still stayed extremely punchy.

    It has the same strident thing going on in the mids that I disliked about the Cornford MK50.... (I like this amp WAY better than the MK50, big time) but I think by experimenting with cabs and speakers, you could overcome that ....

    Overall, I was very impressed.
     
  14. rjmmusic

    rjmmusic Member

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    Cool! I agree that there is some midrange "squonk". I'm probably going to try some speakers other than Vintage 30s, see if it's the V30 mid thing that I'm hearing.
     
  15. rjmmusic

    rjmmusic Member

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    Tried a little experiment today. I was still finding that the amp compresses and smooths out the preamp grind when the master gets past 9:00 or so. A little of that is good, but I was getting more compression than I like. I dropped in a pair of Sovtek 6L6WXT+ and biased them up. Earlier, I had asked the Elmwood guys about doing this and they said it was okay, the only concerns being that not all 6L6 tube bases will fit through the holes in the chassis, and the bias range might not be wide enough to handle the 6L6s.

    The Sovteks worked just fine, and they did what I wanted. Less power tube compression, and the preamp sound comes through better. These 6L6s break up later and have more of a crunchy breakup than the EL34s. I have to be more careful to keep the high end under control now - it can get harsh if it's not dialed right - but otherwise it's great. I can dial a really nice balance now where playing moderately hard gives an articulate, clear sound (even at fairly high gain) and playing harder brings in a lot more grind. Fun! :dude:
     
  16. saxophonist56

    saxophonist56 Supporting Member

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    ...with the mark cameron mv mod? i liked the CAA overdrive bigtime...is it that good? or just an 80's modded marshall tone?

    the splawn pro mod i had was gone very quickly but although it sounded great in the right hands i didn't get along with it at all....
    so is it much different than that amp?
     
  17. MikeyG

    MikeyG Supporting Member

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    The Elmwood is it's own beast, it's not like any of the amps you mentioned. Much more modern, aggressive, bigger low end. (if you're asking to compare those amps against the Elmwood?)
     
  18. Randy

    Randy Member

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    I just got mine last night. I've only had an hour or so to spend with it but so far I'm really impressed. It reminds me a lot of my SLO but is thicker and smoother. The quality of the distortion is really unique. It seems to stay clear and tight no matter how much gain you dial in and never gets overly saturated.

    As was previously mentioned the tone stack is very interactive and very sensitive to slight adjustments so the amp is very tweakable. I don't have it dialed in perfectly yet but I can tell that the tone I'm looking for is in there.

    I'll have more to come after I've spent more time with it but so far I can safely say it's as good an amp as any I've plugged into.
     

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