*Edit - forgot to include 'Mini' in the Title. This review is for Dirty Shirley Mini. Thankfully, the misses worked from home and was able to sign for delivery of my new (barely used, Reverb.com buy) Friedman Dirty Shirley Mini. I exhausted the internet for the last couple months to make a halfway informed purchase and, with and opportunity to pay $200 less than new I pulled the trigger. Last night, I was able to put the amp through its paces with two cab setups, both in home and at rehearsal space, using a variety of guitars and effects. Spoiler alert – I’m absolutely thrilled with this amp. To gauge the value of my opinions, I’ll provide the following: 39 yrs old, playing since 13, in bands since 15 (continuously for the most part), and heavily into the recording engineering and mixing aspect (not professionally) for 10 yrs, having released 4 EPs with my current band. I don’t and can’t shred but my guitar skills align more closely with the Adam Franklin, Johnny Marr style, more chordal with leads. I don’t know my Phrygian from my Lydian, so to speak. Now for the sea trials: In my home, I have an Egnater Tweaker open back cab loaded with a Celestion G12H30 Anniversary. Guitars used were a Warmoth build Jazzmaster with Curtis Novak JM90 and JM-Vintage (neck) pickups and a 1990’s Gibson Les Paul Standard with Seth Lover PAFs. I bet the DSM's eq and gain settings as I found them were where the prior owner had them: Bass 6 (number, not o’clock), Mid 6, Treble 6, Master 2, Gain 4, 3 way switch to bottom (mid gain). For the first glorious ‘kerrang’ I wanted the gain up a bit, so up it went to 6 on the dial. I noticed a nice thick articulated crunch, with just enough ‘sting’ in the mids to upper mids – I’m thinking ‘this is going to cut just fine in the band room.’ I twisted the gain down, then up. This amp provides a pretty spanky clean if you want it! Admittedly, for my own music I’m not relying on fendery clean settings but these were just beautiful! As I dialed up the gain incrementally, I started to wonder if I’ve ever played a nicer, richer sounding amp… I don’t think I have but I don’t have a stable of boutiques (owned a Budda SD18, but I think the DSM is a lot nicer). Let me say I’ve never played a ‘big box store’ amp that equaled the DSM. For me, I like a distortion that hangs together but isn’t too tight or stiff. I like, if you can picture it, a particular ‘grit’ size or ‘grain’ size of the distortion characteristic. To further describe this, we’ve all played cheapo high gain amps where, to my ears the grain size is small but jagged, shedding off from the core sound in a way we’d describe as fizz or hash. Not pleasing to me. I recall another nasty distortion, from the Fender ‘Evil Twin’ whereby the grain size seemed overly large and crooked, resulting in an undefined slosh with full chords. The DSM has an ideal ‘grain size’ for classic to contemporary rock/alt rock. This is my wheelhouse. For giggles, I tried to abuse the inherent definition of this amp with exaggerated bass settings, cranking it all the way. While I wouldn’t record with this normally, I was surprised the amp didn’t totally mush out. The range of each tone knob, in my view is thoughtfully done whereby you don’t have obnoxious ranges at either end of the twist. All knobs maxed sounded kinda cool. Mids maxed sounded very cool and this is the one control I would actually use maxed and not just for some strange tone for recording purposes. Now, I had to get my VH on! I don’t have a guitar for it, but my Seth Lovers in my LP are the closest things I’m going to get to pushy humbuckers. I dialed in a plate-like verb and tape-like delay, both pedals going through the loop. Now, maybe I don’t have the right guitar, but I didn’t find exactly what I think of as early VH tones that I've heard better done on Youtube from dudes playing truer plexi-replica amps. Ballpark, yes but not on the nose. 1980’s ‘butt rock’ tones were to be had and these are a guilty pleasure of mine when no one’s looking, even though I try to pass myself off as an alt-rock connoisseur. With the Jazzmaster, I summoned some modern Dinosaur Jr tones which I could sort of approximate with my Vox AC30cc but not exactly nail. After an hour with the amp it was time to go to the band room. New toys to run with the DSM: Avatar 2x12 Classic oval-open back cab, loaded with an Alnico Blue 50 watt and a G12H30 55 hz – both of these are Weber offerings. Guitar used was a 2013 Fender Tele Deluxe, rosewood fretboard with the sometimes-loathed-around-here N3 noiseless pickups. Oh my god. Bigger, better speaker cab, better speakers and this amp just came alive. My drummer was willing to entertain my twiddling for a little bit but I didn’t re-tread all the various dial settings, rather I made sure I was hitting the right band room volume levels, tweaked my pedalboard a bit through the loop (reverb and delay settings needed to be a tad different than they were going through my Vox AC30ccH effects loop). Bass on 4, Mid 6, Treble 6, Master 5, Gain 6… I could just leave it here forever and be fine with it! Oh yeah, gain switch in bottom, mid-gain position. Compared to my Vox, there is no lack of low end wallop. Chesty and defined. It’s strange cranking the amp to 5, halfway on the master volume – this is a volume level my other amps would never, ever see either in the rehearsal room or especially playing live (recording, maybe). At this volume, compared to drums and vocal PA level, I was fairly matching the volume of my AC30, and I’ll note this is also a volume level I tend to hover around live (but get told to turn down sometimes). I have no volume concerns whatsoever with the DSM for my uses. To experiment, as I turned the Master up towards 8, I heard a distinct increase is distortion and I presume the power tubes were now heavily saturating. So far, I see I have easily another couple notches on the dial beyond my normal playing level if I need it. I’ve not yet dimed the Master and incrementally worked my way up from zero on the gain knob – I’m interested in what overdrive textures I’ll get. With my settings as described above, rolling back guitar volume to roughly half yielded nice hairy cleans that didn’t seem to lose sheen or, surprisingly, workable volume. Sounded like a full on guitar volume pot into a hairy-clean amp! Normally the drums won’t be pounding when you’re playing and rolling off to clean, so slight volume decreases by rolling off guitar volume are, by default, mitigated by natural decreases in band dynamics. With all my other amps, there is some degradation and darkening of the signal when using guitar volume roll off. I will admit, I’ve mostly been a fan of keeping that guitar volume on full. I might revisit this position. I will also say some amps aren’t kind to middle or neck pickup positions where bite and clarity are concerned. I’ve always gravitated to the middle position and have played and recorded a great deal, especially with my Jazzmaster in this position. DSM provided as much clarity and bite as needed in the middle and neck positions of my JM, LP and Tele. Wow. Also, I heard no difference connecting and disconnecting my pedalboard, which has buffered pedals though I was wearing my custom earplugs (light filtering, just 9db) while doing this particular test, so there’s the caveat. In front of the amp, I use a Wampler Euphoria with distortion on zero, volume up high, no bass and 10 o’clock on the treble set to ‘open’ setting to go from solid crunch to bigger crunch. I’ll have to revisit my pedal settings, as I got more cut with this pedal through my Vox set to crunch tones. Kicking on the Euphoria in front of the DSM added more gain but added a smoothing butter layer without as much cut I was hoping for. Now, I did have the DSM dialed in with more gain than my Vox, so maybe that has something to do with it. Hmm…. Couple final notes. I was surprised to hear more similarities with my Vox than I expected. Definitely different amp family (and way more mojo, juiciness, refinement and all the other intangibles you might expect) but there was a mid to high mid chime that was familiar to my ears. I was bracing myself for a darker amp, a description I’ve read from some reviews. I don’t find this to be the case at all. This amp is bright-eyed and balanced. On a 5 star scale for all those little tone intangibles, the DSM is a 5+ and my Vox is 3.5. My Egnater Tweaker at home is a 2.7. I’m very fortunate and have worked hard to be in a financial situation where I could drop $3000 on an amp if I wanted to, but I really don’t want to and I have other responsibilities, priorities just like everyone. I also have other hobbies (recording being a not-free one, either). For $1500 new (or $1300 used) I feel I entered, for the first time the ‘boutique’ hand wired top notch amp world and gained undeniable tonal dividends in doing so. The DSM and the price point achieved, presumably from its modest features and power output makes this a more palatable entry into high-end amps. I suspect there might be a point of diminishing returns right around the corner from this price/feature set. I’ve now tasted a newer ‘depth’ of tone capabilities, including the feel under the fingers, the way the notes ring out and decay so beautifully, the nebulae of chewy organic harmonic overtones… I just wanted a reason to say those words together. The DSM is a special little beast with instantly recognizable merit that, at least in my view sets it beyond the pack. I hope someone may find this review useful as I benefited greatly from all the other contributions here and elsewhere.