For the last 5 years I have been content with my Pair of Zwreck Combo’s, love my sound and truly was not on the hunt for anything fresh or different… then comes the Zmaster, a Dr Z spin on the 3x10 Tweed Bandmaster, custom tuned for Joe Walsh. As both a Blues Guitarist and hard core Z amp user, how could I not get a Zmaster? I’ve had tweeds (and ton of other amps!); Fender Re-Issue I bought the year they first came out, original 5E3, and 5f6a clones by Kendrick, Victoria(s), Grammatico and a Victoria 35310. I’ve played 2 original 59 Bassmans both had an immediately identifiable ‘ring’ in their sound, an elusive quality for the repros. But even if you do find a great sounding Bassman, they are a handful in small clubs, too much for me and I’ve not had luck attenuating them. The Zmaster is not a Bassman, though its in the ballpark. The Bandmaster design has less headroom then a Bassman and a different character in general, it’s a chunkier, dirtier tone, with less presence and punch. To me, the Zmaster is inbetween, it can get those chunkier tones with that meaty top, but I can also dial in a tighter, more present ‘Bassman’ tone that rings like a bell and sparkles like Buddy Guy Chess era sound, at a friendlier level. The Zmaster is basically the same size as the Dr Z 1x12 or 2x10 light combo amps, exact same footprint though 1” taller. The cab is similar to the Zwreck combo with the vented top. I love these cabs, they are light, resonant and fill the room nicely. The Zmaster 10’s are Dr Z custom Alnico’s that both sound great and weigh nothing so the amp is very light weight, significantly lighter than my Zwreck 1x12. I use my Dr Z 1x12 combo cover which is about an inch short, but works fine. 4FAB9AC2-3661-4CDD-B5D8-36368A458483 by PerryR posted Jun 29, 2019 at 11:29 AM The controls are Vol 1, Vol 2, Treble, Bass, Presence. I’m glad he chose not to use the 4 input, but rather a single input that feeds both channels. No Y cables or jumpers, no loss in signal due to splitting or jumping, a sonic improvement for certain when you want to mix the channels. Vol 1 uses a slightly smaller coupling cap then Vol 2, and Vol 2 has a bright cap. This took a bit to get to know (I’ve had my Zmaster for 2months now), to my ear Vol 1 is the ‘Normal’ channel and Vol 2 is the ‘Bright’ channel. But here is the catch, once you get Vol 2 past noon the bright cap effect lessens and the larger coupling cap becomes more audible in a warmer and deeper tone. The Volume Pot tapers are gradual and the entire range is usable, fairly clean as you approach noon, increasing crunch and drive as you head towards max. Dr Z opted for a GZ34 rectifier, so glad he did this as it firms up the character and is one of the reasons it has a tighter bass response and gets into the Bassman tone zone. The 5881’s sound stellar! I have a beautiful NOS pair of perfectly matched brown base Tung sol 5881’s that I installed just to hear the difference. To my surprise the bias was nearly exact as the re-issues (within 1ma). My NOS 5881’s measure exactly the same on my Compubias (sweet pair) but did not improve the tone, the re-issues sounded better in this amp. The NOS may have wanted a hotter bias, but I didn’t mess with it, not worth the trouble as the re-issues sound great. The Treble & Bass controls work like the original design, as you turn them up the gain increases! Turn treble up, the treble content increase but so does the drive in the upper mid. Turn the bass up, the bass and low mid drive increase. And its not subtle, you get the Treble up to 3pm and its screamin’! Turn the bass up to 3pm and its huge! Turn both to Zero and its as if you turned the volume nearly off. These are primitive controls, but there is serious mojo to be found and they really shape the character and aggressiveness of the amp. The presence seems subtle at first, but if you step out in front you can hear its effect, it adds presence without dramatically increasing the ‘sizzle’ like a Bassman does, it really works nice. Live I’m using my Zmaster with pedals, I can dial in a sweet, big, tweed clean tone and use OD’s, Fuzz, Vibe and occaisional verb for a variety of tones. For those wanting the classic cranked tweed vibe, Lance Keltners video demonstrates how much roar is there if you want it, and he also shows how beautifully it cleans up, it has amazing cleanup. It retains the highs, and I was somewhat surprised at just how well it does this. I can get a broad range of killer tones without pedals, it’s a joy to just plug in and noodle at home through the range of chunky blues tones, screamin rock tones or big sparkly clean tones with that 3x10 mojo. The more I play it, the more I appreciate the ‘single input / dual channel Volumes’. I can dial in a tone with Vol 1 and then use Vol 2 to add a little ‘bright cap’ effect, or I can dial in a big clean sound with Vol 2 and add a little more mid density with Vol 1. They blend perfectly when just riding them at equal levels (great default setting). Cool trick, turn the Treble & Bass fully off and crank both Vol 1 and Vol 2 wide open, then gradually raise the Treble control and turn up the presence for a crunchy overdriven master volume effect! Killer dirt at a much less than wide open volume level. My amp is probably halfway broke in, it was sweet straight outa the box, and I’m sure will get sweeter as the hours stack up. Its such a great amp, especially for the music I play. Its one of those amps you must play in person to hear how it fills the room, and how those 3x10’s serve up clear, bright tones without being fatiguing straight out front, an awesome club combo amp. The tweaks are so well thought out and executed, I’m sure Leo wouldn’t mind a bit, nicely done Dr Z!