Gig Report: New Matchless Phalanx 35

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by shallbe, Oct 1, 2006.

  1. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    Last week I received Phil Jamison's latest creation--the Matchless Phalanx (serial #1, 35 watts, cathode-biased el34's, ef86 front end, reverb and tremelo). I got a chance to use it on gigs Friday and Saturday night.

    I know everyone raves about new stuff, but I've been so satisfied with my gear that I have not purchased anything new ampwise in years. This amp has just pushed my gear and sonic satifaction to a new level. I will probably be selling a few amps in the emporium soon.

    The amp is SO simple to operate---imagine a JJ30 head with el34's. I just set the tone switch to position 4 (which worked the best at my home and in the club as well), put the cut control at noon, plugged into the high input, set the volume to about 8:30. I used a Bob Burt vertical cab (C-Rex and Red Fang).

    The cleans were gorgeous and full, SO sweet and dynamic, and NEVER harsh. My bandmates loved it. If I hit the guitar hard, it would break up just right. A boost was all that was needed to send it into classic rock stuff, and my univibe never sounded so good. The trem and reverb were used a lot over the 2 nights, and I wouldn't change a thing about them. This is a tone machine and the most fun I've had in years.

    The first night I used a 58RI Paul the whole night. The second night I used a custom Suhr classic the entire evening. I made no changes on the amp, none were needed. We play a wide range of material, but I never touched the controls. WOW.

    Our drummer is our band leader and very particular about dynamics. This club has a very challenging sound on the stage (it is a glass box, basically) and this amp was so touch friendly (not just touch sensitive) that he was as happy as me. I only had to adjust my guitar volume once all weekend--the rest of the dynamic changes were done with hand pressure.

    Another factor had to be the sweet Bob Burt cab. Open yet punchy, full with no mush--handling the most dirty sounds to quiet/clean passages equally well. This amp and cab look great together and made an easy carry.

    As if that wasn't enough---fellow gear pager GuitarG (George) showed up last night at our last set. George is great blues/soul/r&b singer and an equally fine guitarist that has made his living playing music longer than I have been playing. We called him up, I handed the Suhr to him and got to walk out front and hear him tear it up on some SRV and Freddie King. He even whipped out the slide. Hearing the amp out front (plus seeing/hearing my own band minus me) was a real treat. It sounded just as good at the bar as it did onstage. George sang and played his ass off and we all had a fine end to the evening. Thanks George, and thanks Phil!
     
  2. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    Just an FYI---I have not checked yet (I would have to take the back panel off and I haven't had time) but I think Phil put a NOS ef86 tube in there. The rest I can see are a pair of chinese ARS el34's and an ARS 5AR4 rectifier. I'm going to put a Mullard rectifier in there for stability, but I like the sound so much I'm going to get more another pair of these el34's.

    The great thing about cahtode-biased (some call class A) amps is that you keep a pair of tubes as a spare and pop them in on the gig if necessary--no hassles or rebias. Plus I love the way these amps respond and have generally lower wattage but great dynamics.

    I was looking for an amp to play the larger gigs that had some of the features of my Jamisons, and let me use the Burt cab. It also needed to be a pedal slut. I got more than that. This amp can do smaller clubs/stages well AND do the louder gigs. My effects never sounded better. I'm a very happy guitarist right now. I get to use it again this weekend at our favorite club. Should be a blast!
     
  3. suhr_rodney

    suhr_rodney Supporting Member

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    Great review Steve. So you did not have trouble managing the overall volume of the amp? Did you use an attenuator? I loved the sound of my H/C-30 but had to sell it because it was just too loud for me to manage.
     
  4. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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  5. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    Great review, thank you. And it is extra cool that you got to stand out front and hear it played through the hands of a capable player in a live context. That is THE BEST way to judge a piece of equipment's worth, imho, along with hearing it recorded.

    Congrats on a great new amp. I know I love the way Robert Cray sounds through his Matchless
     
  6. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    You're correct. The perspective of hearing someone else play it was really nice and just affirmed my feelings on the amp. It really worked on stage, coming off the stage and with the band mix through the PA.
     
  7. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    Bob, actually we are playing Traders this Sunday afternoon starting at 5:30. Hope you can make it! Your gotta hear this thing through the Burt vertical.

    This amp is such a keeper that I measured and ordered protective covers today for the Burt cab and the Phalanx head. This is my new number one rig. I wan't to keep it new as possible, but it will be going from car to bar a good bit and the covers really do save gear.

    Thanks for your contribution to my fun!
     
  8. suhr_rodney

    suhr_rodney Supporting Member

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    Where can I find details on the Phalanx? Can't seem to find it on the Matchless web site.
     
  9. mprvise

    mprvise Member

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    Thanks for the review. I've got a JJ-30 and I've always wondered about a head version because the damn combo weighs about 70lbs. Very cool!
     
  10. GuitarG

    GuitarG Member

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    It was a real treat playing Steve's new Matchless. First off, he was running the amp @ 8:30 on the volume. Now I've been playing, for the most part, vintage Fender amps for 25 years where if you don't have the volume at 12 or 1:00, the amp isn't breathing and it can sound a little sterile. Well that definitely wasn't the case with this amp. Even at that low volume setting the amp sounded full and was incredibly responsive. Unbelievably responsive actually. With a light touch it was clean, with a beautiful bloom to the note, sweet highs and a fat, fat low end. But as you laid into the guitar, the notes would jump out with a sweet breakup that retained all the clarity and definition of what you heard with a lighter attack. Just what you want from an amp right? As I played with the band I used Steve's FullDrive that sounded like it was set to a lowish gain setting. It was a great sound that enhanced what the amp was delivering, but just gave it a little push.
    You know the old adage you hear about Dumbles (or other high end amps) that you had better be a good player or the responsiveness of the amp will tell on you? Well this Matchless was right there. The responsiveness of the amp, the way that the notes would jump out of the amp with changes in playing dynamics, was almost disconcerting at first. I'm used to playing a very responsive rig, but this amp was something else. Every note jumped out with such amazing clarity that it really made you aware of any changes in your picking attack. When I stashed the pick and played finger style or slide, man the 'skin on string' sound was gorgeous. It was all right there.
    I was playing Steve's Suhr, and the neck pickup (Strat single) was such a nice tone. The humbuckers in the guitar were big and meaty, each pickup having it's own voice, all which were very usable. But that neck pickup tone was something else!
    Steve, congratulations on your new amp. It is honestly one of the best sounds I have ever heard from a live rig. It was a pleasure to be able to play it.
     
  11. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    There is nothing there yet ane probably won't be for a while. It was an idea I mentioned to Phil and he designed a new model based upon our conversations. He plans to introduce it at the next NAMM and see if there is any dealer interest. Here is a pic:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    George,

    I couldn't have said it better myself. Saturday night was a real treat, hearing you with the band through the new rig. It was also my 45th birthday---so the whole experience was really cool. Thanks again. I need to come see Catfish Flats soon.

    The Fulldrive you stepped on has a rubber washer underneath the volume pot to keep it in the comp-cut, just boost with 'tude mode. It is also set at a low volume. It sounds like the amp turned up, and is very dynamic. Its an old Fulldrive ('96) and I've never found another that sounded like it does in that mode (I've owned 3 others that were not even close---I now have another plain metal box '96 for a backup that has a similar sound and feel, but I've never had to use it, thankfully).
     
  13. GAT

    GAT Gold Supporting Member

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    Steve,

    What is the difference between the Phalanx and the Phoenix? They seem somewhat similar.
     
  14. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    The Phalanx is similar to the second channel of the Phoenix, but Phil voiced it even sweeter and richer. He was very pleased at the richness of the amp upon completion, as am I. Of course, the Phalanx has only one channel (ef86), where the Phoenix has 2. The Phalanx has killer reverb and tremelo, and the Phoenix has neither. Also---for some reason, it has (at least mine doesn't) have a jewel light. :)
     
  15. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    Here is gig report #2. We played last night at a bar where the patrons LOVE music and just want to hear you really express yourself.

    The Phalanx was again a joy to play through. It is so sweet and dynamic---early in the night, we were playing a slow tune, and I was getting this FAT, swirly clean tone playing with my fingers, providing a nice, full bed for the vocalist. The bass player leans over (he knows my solo is coming up) and says, "You can turn up a little." I smiled at him and dug in with the pick and had all the volume I needed to really stand out in the mix with a full, bluesy sound.

    With the amp at 9:00, I was plenty loud when hitting the amp hard, but could play the most delicate/dynamic stuff and gets the sweetest clean sounds. A clean boost was all that was needed for hard rock tones, and the amp just loves pedals. My Vibe Unit sounds so good, its intoxicating. I have to be careful not to use it too much. During the night I also used wah, delay, chorus along with the onboard trem and reverb. I couldn't be happier. Very, very versatile.

    I used my custom Suhr all night and had several people comment on the guitar sound and the band in general. Phil built a great, deep amp that could not be easier to operate and play. It responds as good as any instrument I've ever owned.
     
  16. GAT

    GAT Gold Supporting Member

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    Steve,

    Can us regular guys buy these now?
     
  17. suhr_rodney

    suhr_rodney Supporting Member

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    I'm GAS'ing for one! :horse
     
  18. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    I bet you can. Call Phil at Matchless to find out. The wait time for me was about 3 months, but it was worth it. Maybe it would not be so long since this was the first one, and he was doing all those things like voicing it and measuring things, designing the faceplate, etc.. He told me I could report my findings on the amp prior to any real news release. I'm trying to record some clips soon.
     
  19. davros

    davros Member

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    Thanks for the review Steve. Sounds like a cracker of an amp. I gather it's a bit quieter than the Constellation?

    One could ask all kinds of questions regarding tone - are you still planning on doing a clip or two? - would be much appreciated if you get around to it.

    In the meantime, enjoy the little sucker!!

    D
     
  20. JimmyR

    JimmyR Member

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    Sounds like a killer amp! Wish I could hear it. I have a Badcat Wildcat (wish it had trem built in!) and it is a bit similar - I absolutely love it! I think the EL34s give it all a bit more than the 84s. I really like the concept of the the amp.

    I also have a Badcat Hotcat but almost always just use the clean channel. I would be prefectly happy with a version of the Hotcat that just had the clean channel, so the controls would be Vol and Cut. A MV would be icing on the cake. Even though it's 12ax7 based and not EF86 it works in a similar way to what you describe.

    That Phalanx sounds like my kinda amp. Not sure about the name - knowing my friends it would be called the Phallus in no time...
     

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