My experience with the Germino Lead55LV

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by DM426, Feb 27, 2015.

  1. DM426

    DM426 Member

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    So I've had the Germino Lead55LV for quite a while now and have tried it with a number of different guitars. Here are some semi-coherent thoughts.

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    First, this amp isn't for everyone. This isn't one of those amps that can be described as "flexible" and suitable for every style of music out there. No, the Germino Lead55LV is pure, unapologetic Marshall of the old school variety. It's the old four input design, so there are a lot of tones to be had in there, including the ability to bridge the inputs with a cable to create even more combinations. But in the interest of being clear, all of the tones you will get are classic Marshall tones. If you're looking for the soul-crushing vibe of, say, a Triple Rectifier, you won't find it here because that's not what this amp is about. Apples and oranges.

    I won't waste time trying to describe the general type of tones the Lead55LV produces, because chances are if you're reading this then you're already a fan of the Marshall flavor and are well familiar with what that sounds like. But just to be a bit more specific, this is plexi territory and not JCM800. In other words, there's an instantly recognizable sizzle and rawness to the top end that has a different overall tone than the later Marshalls. In laymans terms, this amp is great for early AC/DC and perhaps some old school metal, but it won't go into modern metal territory without help. And, no, it doesn't have an effects loop, in case you're wondering.

    So let's get down to the good stuff. You've been trying different amps looking for the elusive tones from those old cult records of the '70's and want to know, is the Lead55LV the amp to get you there? Well, yes and no. Mostly yes, just as long as you know what you're in for.

    First, let me start by saying this amp does faithfully reproduce many of the Marshall tones people still love. It does them and it does them well. The problem is, this amp not only replicates all of the good characteristics of those original amps, it also suffers from the same weaknesses. This isn't a new design where Germino attempted to "fix" some of the perceived shortcomings of the old Marshalls by adding more features while trying to maintain the same classic tones. Instead, this amp is really just a high quality recreation of a classic old design, and it makes no apologies for being what it is. There's only one channel here, and there aren't a bunch of switches and toggles to help you tweak the sound in different ways. If you like old Marshall amps, then you'll probably love the Lead55LV and feel right at home. But if you find the lack of a dedicated clean channel annoying, or you don't like playing by messing with the volume on your guitar, then you'll probably find the Lead55LV a tad cumbersome and somewhat one dimensional.

    But don't judge this amp on what it isn't, judge it on what it is.

    So what did I mean when I said "yes and no" regarding this amp's ability to get you into old school tones territory. Well, obviously as I've already said this amp can do the thing, meaning it can get you those tones. However, there is a price to be paid if you want to cross the river Styx, and that price is volume. Make no mistake, this amp is LOUD. (By the way, don't mistake the LV in the name for meaning low volume, as that stands for "low voltage." It has to do with the internal voltage and how the amp is setup, not what's going to come out of your speaker cabinet). At half volume, this amp peels the paint right off the walls, and at full power it's no joke. I tried it cracked wide open -- briefly -- and my liver almost died...

    But do you really need to run it at such outrageous volumes to get the good tones? No. But it is fair to say it starts to lose a lot of its magic when you cut the volumes down to reasonable levels. The rawness of the top end sort of turns into mush and the mids wash out at lower volumes. And it doesn't react the same way to the pick attack, either.

    But what about the master volume feature, you ask? Yes, this particular model is one of the new Lead55LV's with an integrated master volume on the back panel. But as Greg Germino himself has commented, the MV feature is best used to tame the amp just a little bit and not to cut it down to family-friendly levels. Understand, I'm not a purist when it comes to having to have am amp loud for it to sound good. But in this case, even I am forced to admit the amp just isn't the same when turned down, and unfortunately I found the master volume to be of questionable help in that regard. If you crank the MV too far (i.e. where it actually makes a meaningful difference) it tends to suck the soul right out of the amp. I also found I got some rather nasty, weird harmonics with the master volume cranked down. YMMV.

    I also ran the amp wide open with an attenuator to see how that worked. The only attenuator I was able to test it with was a Rivera Rockcrusher, and I personally found that was a vast improvement over the amp's own master volume. With the Rockcrusher, I could run the amp wide open and still retain most of the character that makes an amp like the Germino Lead55LV special. There is a lot of debate out there over which attenuators work best with specific types of amps and a lot of differing opinions regarding attenuators in general, so that's really another discussion for another thread. I'll just say I was reasonably happy with the results I got using an attenuator, but not the master volume.

    You can find more discussion on the volume issue of Germino amps here:
    Is a Germino too much amp for me?

    In closing, if you're looking for old school Marshall tones, the Lead55LV will certainly do it. I'm surprised that there aren't more Youtube videos showcasing what this amp can really do. The ones I found generally show the amp being played at lower volumes to produce a nice blusey sound. But make no mistake, turn it up and it will morph into a fire-breathing, rock 'n roll beast . But unless you play in a stadiums on a regular basis, this amp is way too loud to use without an attenuator to tame it. And although I had reasonable success pairing it with an attenuator, if you mostly play at more moderate volumes there may be other options out there better suited to that.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2015
  2. JPW

    JPW Supporting Member

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    I have had a 2006 Lead 55 LoVo for nine years now. I bought it brand new and still have it. I have used JJ 6v6's in it for 90% of the time. It's my main gigging amp. Never had a issue and always get compliments on my tone. Can't go wrong with this amp!
     
  3. tone?

    tone? Supporting Member

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    I have the Germino Headroom 100 and absolutely LOVE the amp.

    Lets get some things straight.
    The LV means "Low Voltage" not "Low Volume".
    Big difference.
    This is achieved by the optional use of a tube rectifier.
    So B+ voltage of the Power transformer is lower which makes the amp achieve a smoother overdrive sooner.
    I have a real variac and one can hear the differences in implementing low voltages to the power section.
    In saying that..........

    IMHO these amps are anything but one dimensional.
    they do have their drawbacks for sure because they are loud as F44K and need some sort of attenuation to be driven full out.
    The Germino plexi has more of a 3 dimensional sound than the Bogner. Almost like it has some reverb in it. Kinda if you get what I mean.

    But with attenuation you can get 70 rock tones in their purest form and all the way up to rip roaring VH when dimmed.
    I also have a Bogner Helios and the Bogner is awesome for the FX loop and getting awesome Marshall tones but there are differences between the Bogner and my Germino Plexi.

    The Germino plexi is more raw sounding . Not too much more raw since Bogner did a really good job of capturing that in the Helios.
    The Bogner can get more gain at lower volume settings which is great but it is achieved in a different manner which also results in a different tone and feel.
    There is a thing of beauty when cranking a Plexi because the output section is being pushed to its brink and the harmonics that come out and touch sensitivity is something the Bogner simply cannot do.
    When i dime my Germino plexi it gets more sustain and compression than the Bogner.
    Just amazing sounding .
    Plus the Germino because it is pushing the output section gets insane harmonics that the Bogner cannot.
    Roll back on the volume with the plexi only about a quarter on your guitar and the amp cleans up substantially. You have to roll back the volume on the Bogner a lot more to do this and it still doesnt clean up in the same way.

    The cleans on the Germino plexi also blow away the Bogners.
    The Helios weak spot is its clean channel IMHO.
    The Germino gets you that sparkly chimey hendrixy cleans that we have in our head.
    The Helios does not.

    Does this mean the Plexi is a better amp than the Helios?
    No.
    Its different.
    I LOVE the FX loop in my Helios and it sounds juicy and just plain awesome.
    But back to back if I want 100% on AC/DC sounds or 100% VH sounds the Germino is there in spades.
    I can do a great AC/DC sound with my Helios but there is something missing. and that is the power section differences that translate into a different tone.

    Plexis are amazing "mistakes' lol .
    They are touch sensitive and because of their design they let out characteristics of your guitars like no other amp.
    I say "mistake" because who would have thunk that when dimming a plexi it would get over the top gain and sustain and compression?

    I am in love with my plexi and am glad i took the plunge.
    Yes they need attenuators.
    I run mine with a torpedo reload and it sounds great. Sure there is some feel loss but it is outta the park amazing sounding.

    cheers


    Nick
     
  4. shovelhead82

    shovelhead82 Member

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    My 2010 Germino 55LV went back to Greg for a PPIMV back in Dec. In my opinion the MV made this amp much more usable. The ability to knock off a few db's without ruining the tone really helps. For "bedroom" volumes, an attenuator is a better choice. As posted above, you will not get the best tone with the volume knob cranked and the MV on the back panel barely on. Using inefficient speakers also help to tame the 55LV volume issue. At home, I have been running my amp thru a couple Celestion 10" Greenbacks with a 95 db sensitivity rating.

    55LV does not stand for low volume by the way. LV is Low Voltage.

    "The 1202-118 power transformer which is stock for the LV model supplies 425vdc in ss rectifier mode. This model PT was used in the majority of JMP-50 amplifiers from 1967 thru 1969."
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2015
  5. lgehrig4

    lgehrig4 Silver Supporting Member

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    I love Germinos. I had a LV55 about 10yrs ago and since had a classic 45, Monterey, club 40 and HR100. The LV55 is still my favorite, with the club 40 running a close 2nd.

    So when first I saw the title of this thread I immediately got excited to hear a fresh perspective of my favorite Germino.

    I do appreciate you taking the time to report but why write so much telling us what we already know about the amp? Everyone on TGP knows that it's a 50w Plexi clone from 67-68 era. We know what it's capable of and are not expecting rectifier tones from it. Nor are we expecting it to sound like a metal panel from the 70s.

    Now tell us something that we don't know, like your opinion of the tone and feel compared to the same period marshall it's modeled after. That's what I want to hear. That way anyone who has played an original has a baseline for comparison.

    I personally never played an original plexi. My oldest marshall was a 1974 JMP 50. My guess is that the cleans on the originals are not as good as the Germino counterparts and I also probably don't sound quite as full and rich at lower volumes. Am I wrong? At lower volumes my 74 was thin. Real thin.
     
  6. bbaug14

    bbaug14 Supporting Member

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    It sounds like a perfect clone of a 68 50w Plexi. OK. Got it. We know this.
     
  7. Sean French

    Sean French Supporting Member

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    I owned a 55LV. Wonderful old school Plexi goodness. Just like the originals. That's what this amp does. I've played and owned a vintage Plexi.
    Hats off to Greg.:dude

    Yes, the LV stands for low volt.
     
  8. BADHAK

    BADHAK Member

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    Hey OP
    How do you run your gtr vol control with the Germino? ?
    With my 1980 2203 I use my gtr vol between 2 and 9.....turns what is a pretty basic amp into the most versatile amp I've played.
    Lots of shades of cleanish/overdrive.
    Sure, the amps loud with the gtr on 9, but through a 2'12 with 12-65s its a perfect lead volume for my regularly working cover band.
     
  9. BADHAK

    BADHAK Member

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    That said, i had a Ceriatone 1987 lead nmv,and that thing was ridiculously, overbearingly loud.
    I however, hadn't learnt to use my gtr controls when I had it, so who knows.
     
  10. trailrun100s

    trailrun100s Member

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    Geez, he was just making a comparison that the OP referenced(yeah, he actually mentioned a recto, which is obviously nothing like a Marshall) regarding more "modern" amps with clean channels and loops...And a Helios is in the Marshall sounding camp, soooooo...

    Onward...
     
  11. lgehrig4

    lgehrig4 Silver Supporting Member

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    I have a Helios and I like it a lot. A lot of really really good tones. That said, no other amp I've played beats a Germino when dialed in to get the tones that the Germino covers. I think it all starts with the clean platform. The Club 40 cleans were insanely good. The 55 as well, but I prefer the added aggression and sustain of the 55.
     
  12. sulrichs

    sulrichs Member

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    I recently had Jamie Scott from 3rd Power Amplification put his Hybridmaster Plus in my LV55. It was not without significant internal debate that I finally decided to go this route. Modding a classic circuit amp like Greg makes or any great 4-holer was to some degree sacrilage, I know. Having read the pros and cons of the PPIMV and/or attenuator approach to knocking volume, combined with all of the positive commentary and videos re HM+ I moved forward.

    In short i made the right decision. HM+ allows one to crank the volume and literally get beautiful, harmonically rich tones that sound and feel like the amp cranked without needing to do so. This can be done across the vol spectrum without changing tone or feel. It makes the amp so much more versatile and the dynamics are amazing when rolling guitar volume up and down. I dont play the amp any differently than I had previously, but no longer have to do damage to my ears to get there. Clean to very mean with just the guitar vol and pick attack and the tones blow away the amp vs a pedal approach with say vol 4-5 (start of breakup) with pedals ( in my case timmy, TS9, Archer). The amp still sounds great as a pedal platform, but again not even close to the cranked/rolled back tones of the amp by itself.

    Its like I have a new amp that does what it could do originally (jamie explained to me that when HM+ vol is all the way up in stage mode it is entirely out of the circuit) with the added flexibilty of having the amp do what it does at any volume. Yes, there are still sweet spots and those tend to be when the amp is pushing some air. I really dont play at what some call bedroom levels as volume is fun and does put the music in your soul.

    Lastly, no holes or permanent changes are needed for this mod, so it is entirely reversible if desired.
     
  13. big mike

    big mike Moderator - EL34 Emeritas Staff Member

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    Jamie's master is awesome.
     
  14. Butch1970

    Butch1970 Supporting Member

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    I spent a lot of time trying to get my JCM 800 2204 to do what comes naturally to the 55LV, which I grabbed from a fellow TGPer this past Summer.

    It didn't take too long after plugging in for me to start nodding my head and realize that THAT was the sound I was trying to get out of '83 2204 that I used to have, and the '89 I have now.

    That said, I still appreciate the 2204 for what it does and will probably never get rid of it (or my Club 40 for that matter).
     
  15. LPMojoGL

    LPMojoGL Music Room Superstar Supporting Member

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    Sounds like a nice collection of Marshally amps! :rockin
     
  16. DM426

    DM426 Member

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    Thanks for the comments. Yes, I'm well aware what the LV in the name stands for, I just made a typo when writing that big wall of text above. Thanks for pointing that out. I've now corrected it so as to avoid any further confusion.

    Some have asked why I referenced obviously different designs like the triple rectifier. Because, if you look at what I wrote, I was explaining that this IS a completely different amp design than what a lot of players might be used to. Yes, I'm well aware the vast majority of TGPers are intimately familiar with all forms of Plexi, both old and new, so this overview is perhaps of limited value to them. That said, it doesn't hurt to spell some of this stuff out in layman's terms once in a while because not every potential reader is a gear veteran who owns 50 amps.

    I would have liked to include a section on how the Lead55LV stacks up compared to, say, a Metropoulos or even a vintage Plexi, but I don't have the luxury of having a vintage Marshall available for a direct comparison. It bears mentioning (just as the title suggests) that these were just some of my own experiences and impressions with the amp, and certainly not intended as a comprehensive review where the amp was put through it's paces and directly compared to an assortment of vintage and boutique gear. I'll leave such an endeavor to others. So take my impressions as worth exactly what you paid for them...

    Speaking of comparing dissimilar amps that may cover some of the same sonic turf...how does the Lead55LV compare to something like the Fargen Olde 800? That's harder to put into words. I guess I would say the Germino has a more raw, aggressive tone to it, especially when cranked. The Fargen is friendlier at lower volumes and can go into JCM800 territory, whereas the Germino is fun to play with because of the four hole design. They both cover Marshall tones, yet they're entirely different animals when you get right down to it. The a Fargen is meant to be sort of a bunch of Marshall flavors in one box, where the Germino is a high quality reproduction that covers one type of Marshall tone exceedingly well.

    I would like to compare the Lead55LV to a Headroom 100, but that's not easy to arrange. At some point I may, however, be able to compare the Lead55LV to the Plexi side of the Metropoulos Metroplex. That could be interesting.

    Again, these are some random thoughts and impressions, sort of thinking out loud. If this doesn't come across as a professional review, that's because it isn't and wasn't intended to be.
     
    haslar likes this.
  17. haslar

    haslar Member

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    Thanks for this excellent review!
     
  18. saltydogg

    saltydogg Rock & Roll Enthusiast Gold Supporting Member

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    Indeed, a nice review!

    I'm a Germino fan, and I use a 55LV on a regular-basis these days. I love it for its simplicity, and that everytime I plug into it, I know exactly what to expect- no guesswork, and great Marshall tone all night. I usually run it jumpered, at 4-6 on the volumes, though I taper the bass-volume down a shade. A few dirt pedals and a WET reverb, and it's off to the races...
     
  19. Butch1970

    Butch1970 Supporting Member

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    I'd have to say that the Lead55LV and Headroom 100 (Super Lead) are sonically cut from the same cloth, but the the Lead55LV will break up much earlier and compress more. The Headroom 100 moves more air, has a more percussive attack with a firmer bottom end, and might serve as a better pedal platform if that's what you need it to do.
     
  20. davidespinosa

    davidespinosa Supporting Member

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    DM426 -- Thanks for taking time to write a nice review!

    To the "review critics" -- please be more polite. If you don't like the review, no is forcing you to read it. You got more than you paid for, which is rare these days!
     

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