Silver Supporting Member
When I was building my Signature amp with Stephens Amplification, I was particularly concerned with the way the business and moved in the last 10 years and where it is going in the next 10. Big amps are really becoming dinosaurs in that most places don't want you to be that loud. Even in places that are loud they are often using the PA and want the stage sound to be lower for a more even mix. Now of course there are occasional out door shows or rare exceptions, but for most gigging musicians who play 10 times a month they encounter this more often than not. Part of the magick of a plexi is pushing both the amp and the speakers, ad if you can't do that it just doesn't deliver. So how can you make a rig that can be pushed without losing you the gig?
Then there's the two sides of the coin for most players - there's the "clean pedal platform" guys, and the "Crank it and ride my volume all night" guys. How to accomplish both, and accomplish both well, and do it in such a way that you can deliver the goods at today's volumes without having to wrestle with built in [arguably tone robbing?] attenuators?
Finally, it had to have a solid, classic appearance that would appeal to new and old fans alike, and it had to be built with no board mounted tubes or heat elements... for that matter, I didn't want a PCB at all. I wanted it built to last 3 lifetimes so that with proper maintenance and repair it could nearly always be serviced.
We chose to go with a 1987 circuit for the preamp, with the bright cap completely removed. The gain was lowered on the normal channel and raised a tiny hair on the bright channel. It's worth noting Marshall did exactly this on later models but raised the gain too far and every time you touched a pot it sounded scratchy - we didn't raise it even 20% of what they did. At the second preamp tube [v2] we added a cathode protection to the cathode follower - this lets the cathode come up slowly to avoid getting slammed with full voltage all at once. It protects the cathode and increases tube life. The phase inverter is a blueprinted phase inverter - all parts are within 1% of blueprint stated value. We changed the resonant peak at the presence control - the original was truly very, very high, and it was also in the power section so it added those ice pick tones, and increased gain there in the power section. We've lowered it so that it actually beefs the mids a touch and increases the gain there [which is where the guitar cuts through a band mix, not in the tinny high end]. The power section was changed to 2 6V6's for 20 watts of power, on paper bobbin transformers. This means you can turn the amp to '10' across the board and it sounds exactly like a 50 watt without the ear shattering volume. The speaker out was given a proper selector for 4, 8 and 16 ohms for versatility. We also added speaker protection - if you turn it on without a load or if you blow your speaker and thereby no longer have a load you won't blow your amp.
All the capacitors and resistors are hand matched and metered to be within 1% of spec.
All jacks are heavy duty English Cliff jacks. Extra heavy duty switches installed, and they are using the Hoffman turret board for the guts. All pots, jacks and tubes are chassis mounted and are hand wired. Extra heavy gauge wire used throughout.
Here's one "in build" so you can see when we say "all hand built" we really mean it
Paired with a 2x12 of 25 watt green backs, you can push the speakers safely and run the amp as hard as you'd like, and not be deafening. Of course, it will accept an attenuator if you find yourself on a "silent stage" somewhere, like any tube amp.
What does all this mean?
It means its super filtered [almost over filtered], and over built, and over protected throughout. It's built to last 3 lifetimes, and can be repaired almost no matter what happens to it. you can use it as a pedal platform but just using one channel - I prefer the bright channel, but the normal channel will be even cleaner and warmer - the normal low gain channel is almost impossible to get it to overdrive! So you can have as clan of a pedal platform as you would like. For Van Halen type tones, jump the two channel [or even better yet use a 'Y' Cable], and turn everything to '10'. Ride your volume knob and you've got everything from van halen to ac/dc to even jazzy cleans - all in your volume knob.
For those unconvinced that they can "get it done" with 20 watts, there is also available a 50 watt version and a 100 watt version [in these version they use larger but still proper paper wound transformers and larger tubes].
But how does it sound? Well...
Here's two of them being used together, live with no edits other than for length/time and the fade in/out...
Now I know this all sounds like a self advertisement, but that was really not my intention. I really just wanted to show how much thought has to go into a particular amp design. Now even with all that does this make it the "perfect amp"? No, I have no illusions about that - I'm sure some vintage purists would had my changes, and there may be some that do not like the heavy mids. I freely admit there are plenty of great, great amp builders out there today who can build you lots of great amps - Ceriatone makes a fine product, as does Germino, the hand wired friedman amps are wonderful, Suhr makes some wonderful products, and many more - and who knows how many small one man shops out there too! This was just my take on how to get a multitude of tones from one amp, at today's volumes, built to last, with band mix tone being the ultimate goal. I think we did rather well.