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Initial impressions - Fuchs Clean Machine

myles111

Member
Messages
2,954
This is part 1 of what will be a multi part series on this particular amplifier. I will be going into this amp in depth over many days or perhaps weeks. I will also be posting the thoughts of others who will be using the amplifier over time.

This particular amplifier is available for loan for live gigs, studio work or if you just want to check it out. I can be reached via my normal email address but you can also find me on www.musicplayer.com in the guitar area which is Guitar Player Magazine in the ongoing thread "Feel free to ask Myles" or on the Dr. Z Amp forum in the "Ask the experts" area at http://drzamplifiers.proboards41.com/index.cgi?board=xperts&action=display&thread=11242

On the subject of loan of the head:

If you are in Southern California in the areas of Hollwood, Burbank, North Hollywood, the West Valley such as Calabasas, Universal City, music clubs in these areas above or places such as Third Encore I will be happy to deliver the amplifier head to you upon prior arrangement.

A bit more about how I review amps. I do not test an amp for a few days. It typically goes on for months or even a year. A key part of the review process of any amp is the thoughts of others and travel. It is beneficial to have others use the amp and provide feedback. It is also best if the amp can spend a bit of time on the road. I cannot count how many amps may work on stage just to fail on the truck being moved from one city to another.

Initial first impressions:

The amp is very well built and uses first rate parts and shows first class workmanship.

The amp is very quiet at all settings.

The amp does not have what many refer to as a "sweet spot". The amp is full and toneful at any level. It does not require the tubes to be operated in a range where they come sound "on the performance curve" as a lot of other amps due to the design of the amp which targets a great full clean tone that can work great with pedals when agressive tones are needed.

The amp is very simple to use. In many channel switchers I find that a player may use just one of the channels, perhaps two at times but most generally have a particular favored channel. This particular amp can be utilized in a very simple setup with a few pedals to give the player something like a four, five, six or whatever channel amp that can be more easily dialed into their particular needs and then changed depending on the gig or application by changing the pedals they use for a given application.

Many folks are already aware of some of the amplifiers produced by Andy Fuchs or use his pedals. As a side note, Fuchs Audio Technology has an extensive line of pedals. You can find out more about their amps or pedals on their website at www.fuchsaudiotechnology.com where there are also downloads for the manuals of many of their products.

Rather than take a model such as their Overdrive Supreme or Tripledrive Supreme which are known by a lot of folks already and loved by a lot of folks I wanted to take a different path.

Today there are a number of amps which are high gain, channel switching, lower powered amps to break up and sound lovely at levels nicely suited for the stage when sound reinforcement is typical or amps of lower wattage that can be used with sensitive vocal mics in the studio for a huge sound when recorded.

Fuchs had a particular amp that really spoke to me in a few ways. One way was that nobody else out there was producing an amp of this type. The other way was my personal musical upbringing in my earlier years. When I was growing up there were basically three amps .... Fender, Marshall and Vox.

The Fuchs Clean Machine falls squarely in the Fender blackface camp. When I say Fender blackface I am not talking about a Deluxe Reverb or Super Reverb. I am talking more Showman. If you look at photos of the 1968 Jimmy Hendrix concert at the Hollywood Bowl you will see four Fender Showman heads to the right of the drum riser. Hendrix may bring the thought of Marshall to many folks but he also used big Fender amps often.

This amp is a single channel, non-complicated and even somewhat compact amplifier. It is available in 75 watt, 100 watt and 150 watt versions. This particular amp is the 150 watt version. The panel layout is clean and easy to use. Many of the players I support have extensive pedalboards which are the foundation of their tone. I have continue battles trying to get decent tone out of a high front end gain amp when a high output pedal squashes and compresses the front end of the amp. It is easy to get a feeling on if this may be happening to you. If your high gain channel switcher cannot get a lush, big, smooth lovely clean tone you are probably going to be in trouble.

GT (Groove Tubes) once tried to do what the Fuchs amp does. GT built a clean amp called the Soul-O 45 designed specifically for pedal use. The downsides to the amp were things like a sub standard reverb, output transformers that were billed to be optimized for any tube but were little more than a compromise for any tube and very cheap pots in the tone stack as well as cheaper parts in general. Maybe a good concept but not executed very well. In the case of the Fuchs Clean Machine Andy Fuchs took the clean channel from their Tripledrive Supreme and enhanced it with greater tonal flexibility. They then added an all tube effects loop which is fully adjustable and switchable for series or parallel operation and a four knob reverb section that is about as nice a reverb as I have ever heard.

Briefly on the reverb: When I first looked at the amp I knew there were going to be problems. When you have a reverb tank less than 1/3" away from massive power and output transformers you are going to have a noisy reverb and hum. That is just the laws of physics.

Well gee whizz and golly gee! Even at 59 years old and decades of amp tweekage behind be I learned something new! The amp is dead quiet. Even at higher level settings and the reverb cranked there was no hum. And ... the reverb sounds amazing. What is the secret? I will be talking to Andy more but some of what he says is .... When he set out to design a reverb, it simply had to be better than the best. The original reverb in the Overdrive and Tripledrive Supreme amps was known as an outstanding reverb. Most players were unaware that the reverb was even solid state ! Featuring a servo-loop push-pull drive stage and a low noise Op-Amp return stage, it was both spacious and warm. The Clean Machine reverb builds upon this already stunning circuit, by adding an input dwell and tone control, as well as an output level and tone control. This allows the reverb to be adjusted from a mild and smooth cathedral reverb, to a deep and surfy reverb tone. Like all our other reverb equipped amps, it features an Accutronics 6 spring reverb pan, considered by many to be the best reverb pans made today. All our efforts on the preamp, loop and reverb would be wasted if we were to deliver it through anything less than a stellar power amp.

This is the end of part 1. I will be writing more later on.
 
Last edited:

Chadley

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,087
Thanks for the great review, Myles. I am really looking forward to the rest of them. I have been dying to try this amp out for a while now.
 

myles111

Member
Messages
2,954
Thanks for the great review, Myles. I am really looking forward to the rest of them. I have been dying to try this amp out for a while now.
You are quite welcome. This will probably turn out to be a multi part review that will span a somewhat long time frame.
 

unvs

Member
Messages
290
Yes, thank you Myles! Not enough info out on this amp, you picked the right one to review for sure!
 

myles111

Member
Messages
2,954
Yes, thank you Myles! Not enough info out on this amp, you picked the right one to review for sure!
You are welcome.

It was something of an easy pick. It addresses a market where there are really no other amps that pull off what this amp does. There have been a few other attempts at this design goal. One of them I mentioned was the GT S-45. There is also an amp from Two Rock called The Custom Clean but it does not have an effect loop as usable or switchable from parallel to series, the reverb is not nearly as full featured and toneful (from my personal point of view ... others may or may not share my feelings on this as it is subjective), and the Two Rock amps are between two and three times the price as the Fuchs. The retail on the Fuchs heads at 75, 100, and 150 watts runs $3000 to $3300. The posted retail on the Two Rock in 50, 100 and 150 watts runs from $7000 to $8,000.

So far looking at the Fuchs, their metal work, parts, details of workmanship and those sorts of factors I cannot see much room for improvement so it is very hard for me to understand what one could expect at 2-3 times the price. The again I may be missing something and I'd be happy to be educated by anybody out there to bring me up to speed.

I cannot see how one could improve on the reverb on the Fuchs amp. It has full controls, is big and lush, works at all settings really nicely and uses a six spring tank. It is very very quiet. There are plenty of folks who are not reverb users but in a clean amp I think reverb is very desirable if not downright necessary.

The other aspect is the amp in the Fuchs case is a design of Andy Fuchs. I have met a lot of designers in my day and work with many of them today. Andy is one of those really great folks that knows what he is doing. Andy Marshall at THD is another, Michael Zaite is yet one more, Paul Rivera is another, Bruce Zinky in Flagstaff can be added to my short list as well. There are perhaps less than 10 folks out there that are thought of as designers that I can count on my hands and Andy Fuchs is one of the ten.

I have also never had a reliability issue with Fuchs stuff and I have worked very closely with folks like John March (Zen Blues) and Carl Verheyen when they used Fuchs amps. At the last L.A. Ampshow the Clean Machine was used by Carl Verheyen and Steve Trovato for their show. Carl has the best ears in the business and you might not know it but you hear him every day if you turn on TV, watch a movie or listen to a number of records. You can see what I mean from his bio which is somewhere on his website at www.carlverheyen.com

Bottom line ... so far it is a very cool amp and I am impressed.
 




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