NAD: Dr Z Z-Master 3x10 Combo Amp

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by PerryR, Jul 7, 2019.

  1. PerryR

    PerryR Supporting Member

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    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.

    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!
     
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  2. dumbell78

    dumbell78 Member

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    The dual volume single input is such a cool idea. Wish I could try one out here.
     
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  3. jAcKoFsPeEd

    jAcKoFsPeEd Member

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    A lot of this sounds similar to a Fender Vibro-King........minus the VK's stellar reverb and trem.
     
  4. ddog

    ddog Supporting Member

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    My experience with vibro king is limited...but I do know Z's ...don't think this thing is going to be a knock off of a vk.
     
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  5. zekmoe

    zekmoe Member

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    Nice, but I’m thinking the market for $3000 combos is pretty small, and driven by trend ( where is Matchless these days? Certainly not the topic of many threads).
    I wonder how practical it is for most gigs.
     
  6. ddog

    ddog Supporting Member

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    Driven by players/pros that can afford the $ ...Z has a few amps in his line up....sure hell be alright...Z doesn't build anything that's a cookie cutter amp...

    Yeah 3k is an expensive amp for me too...but I remember saying that about my 1st maz 18...the price of admission was a jump up from the normal pc board stuff... knowing what I know now that was a jump that now seems not so unreasonable...his amps are still priced reasonable (compared) for a bullet proof build...
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
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  7. Figaro

    Figaro Supporting Member

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    My favorite Fender circuit (tweed Bandmaster, Super and Pro) because of the interaction of the tone controls, gain and volume. Makes them much more versatile than other tweed Fenders. Congratulations!
     
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  8. DeadLazy

    DeadLazy Member

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    Huge Z fan myself.

    Right now just a Maz18 wr Mk1 but has been sent back to Z for updates and refurbishment.

    I also have a ZLux new that I love just as much.
     
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  9. Jeff Gehring

    Jeff Gehring Silver Supporting Member

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    Nice touch that Z redid the amount of local negative feedback in the preamp to permit the amp to run with all 12AX7s, while still having the response of a 12AY7 loaded original.
     
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  10. Figaro

    Figaro Supporting Member

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    Apparently, you’ve never played a tweed Bandmaster, Super or Pro. Read my earlier post that includes the OP. They can be adjusted for just about any gain level and volume for any gig.
     
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  11. PerryR

    PerryR Supporting Member

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    They both use 3x10's, but the input, tone stack and phase inverter are completely different. The Zmaster is close to half the weight, not as big and lower powered. They share tweed inspired character, both are awesome amps, but are quite different in design.
     
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  12. Jeff Gehring

    Jeff Gehring Silver Supporting Member

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    Nope, nope and nope. Almost as dissimilar as comparing a 5E3 to a Hiwatt 50.
     
  13. wreckmark

    wreckmark Supporting Member

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    Great description and review of the ZMaster Perry!

    Glad you got your hands on one. I love mine too.

    And very usable at just about any gig. Sounds great at low volumes with a pedal for dirt. About the same size and just as light as most 1-12 combo’s...but sounds WAY larger!
     
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  14. DeadLazy

    DeadLazy Member

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    One reason I like Z’s so much is how effective the mast volume is.

    When I first got my ZLux I was genuinely stunned.
     
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  15. Figaro

    Figaro Supporting Member

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    @PerryR you said... “Turn both to Zero and its as if you turned the volume nearly off.”

    I no longer have a tweed Bandmaster but I remember the tone controls affecting the volume, but not that much. Do the Zmaster’s tone controls affect the volume more than an original?
     
  16. ggwwbb

    ggwwbb Member

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    My Fender Tone Master and Prosonic both have active EQ and will do this. Works very well as sort of an attneuator.

    Congrats on the new amp! Sounds like a winner!
     
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  17. PerryR

    PerryR Supporting Member

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    Well, 'nearly off' is probably not the most accurate term, but that is how I heard it as I was messing with the overdriven range of tones.. for instance, if you have both Vol1 & 2 maxed and the Treble at 3pm, the amp is flat screamin'. From that point of SPL reference if you then turn the T & B to zero, its like 'nearly off' (relatively) LOL.

    If you turn both Vol 1 & 2 to Max and the T & B to zero, its a muffled sound, there is still some bass but the treble content is minimal. Put the Treble to 9am and the tone balance corrects and you now have a distorted old school Blues sound that 'might' be enough to hang with a drummer. Its definitely a significant reduction in level to the phase inverter (a pre phase inverter master volume effect), and the front end is as overdriven as it will get.

    The closest to an original I've played is the 35310 and that was 20 years ago, cant recall if I even tried that trick. The Zmaster uses a 12ax7 (and tweaked it for a 12ax7) so I imagine the Original with a 12ay7 would be similar maybe even less volume with the T&B at Zero. It's a cool trick, but for the most part I was trying to describe how interactive the controls are and there's a surprising amount of range when dialing in the tone depending on what you want from it.
     
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  18. wreckmark

    wreckmark Supporting Member

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    I just tried this on my recently acquired Clark Tyger (Bandmaster repro) and it work just as you say. So the Bandmaster and ZMaster front-in and tone stacks are very similar. Even the muffled tones with both volumes on zero. I didn’t have to try it on my ZMaster or set these amps up side by side. But will soon.

    Love Dr Z & Joe’s take on this classic, under appreciated circuit!
     
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  19. PerryR

    PerryR Supporting Member

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    Oh right on, i think you meant to say ‘muffled with both tone controls on zero’, but ya, when I was first getting to know the T&B controls I was surprised how potent they were above noon. I took a look at the originals schematic at the tone control section and was like ‘wow’, that is different!
     
  20. wreckmark

    wreckmark Supporting Member

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    Exactly! I actually didn’t mean to say that, but that’s what I meant. I guess I should have meant to say that.....lol

    Thanks for the tip!

    I just had knee replacement surgery 3 weeks ago so I don’t have both of these amps in the same place. I will get them together soon.
     

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