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Straub "Cantus" Amplifier Has Landed

Messages
728
The following is a description and review of the 50 Watt Cantus
amplifier designed and built by Harry Straub. The Cantus is a 50watt amp drawing heavily from the design of a 1968 JMP Small Box Plexi and is powered by 2 x EL34s, dual Hexfred solid state rectifiers and 3 X 12AX7s. It can also be driven by 2 x KT66s and a GZ34 tube rectifier. The amp reviewed here is the EL34, dual Hexfred rectified masterpiece and the controls on the front panel are as follows: Power, Standby, Presence, Treble, Middle, Bass, Master, Boost Switch, Volume & Input. All transformers are
from the Mercury Magnetics Axiom series, and you will find carbon comp resistors where tone is the issue and wirewound/metal films where noise is an issue. You'll find Mallory 150s, and Solen Fast Caps throughout the circuit, and they are happy to replace these with any custom parts you might request. This impressive internal package is coupled with a superbly built external housing. The casing is an exquisite fingerjointed cabinet made from Striped African Mahogany. You can also choose from Walnut,
Cherry, Oak and Birch and they will also accommodate custom designs and patterns and mixes of different woods. Control knobs are also made from wood and accent the cabinet nicely. Topping all this off is a front Plexiglas panel which comes backlit in your choice of color. Adding to it's cool looks the control names are etched out of the Plexiglas so the letters glow the color you have picked for the panel. This makes for a great look and very easy maneuvering in darkly lit clubs and theatres.

Now let's move on to the fun part and get into the sounds of this amp. I'm finding that there is a tremendous selection of top notch
stellar tones available from both the Normal and the Boost modes
of the Cantus. To me the real key to dialing in these tones lies mostly in the interplay between the master and the regular volume control. This is where the real action is, as the tone stack is so simple and so effective that it makes it really hard to dial in a bad tone unless you are amongst the tone deaf. One thing to remember about the tone stack is that the interaction between the Middle & Treble is dynamic so moving one will affect the other just like in the older Marshalls. I'm finding that the best way to work with the Cantus is to set everything at 12:00 with the exception of the presence control which I would start
at 9:00 O'clock. From that point I would dial in additional gain (to taste) by using a combination of moves with both the master and regular volume control. By simply raising the volume you are also increasing the high end spectrum of the overdrive, but by increasing the master you are not only increasing the overall volume but you are adding thicker and more even output distortion and harmonic content and this is where the Cantus speaks more articulately than any other Marshall type amp
I've worked with. From that point on, it's very simple to work the tone stack to increase or decrease any frequencies you may want to tweak. One final visit to the master/volume section should take you to tone heaven at that point. In the Normal non boosted mode, this amp is capable of delivering very fat JTM 45 fronted sounds all the way through to the higher end more sizzling sounds of the late 60s to early 70s Marshalls and the classic overdriven sounds of the late 60s JMP 50 watt series as well.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL: Now add the boost function and you have just transported these classic tones to a level that is beyond the beyond. Imagine your favorite Marshall tones but now add gobs of infinite sustain and distortion while preserving the original Marshall vibe and tone. This is a new sound, it's a classic sound taken to a new level in a way no one has done before. Again, the interplay between the Master and the Volume and the use of the tone stack and presence come into play in the identical fashion as in the non boosted mode. (very simple and user friendly)
The one area to be careful is when engaging the boost function, one must back off the master volume (preferably to about 9:00 to be safe) and than adjust upwards from that point while also working the volume control to find your preferable mix of low frequency to high frequency gain and distortion.

This amp is more responsive my guitars pickup volume settings than any other amp I've worked with. It gives you a tremendous amount of control over the dynamics of the amp and makes it a true joy to plug in and play. Set this amp up to scream and than just back your guitar volume down and you'll have a tremendous palette of sounds at your disposal. Many, or almost all manufacturers make this claim and IMO most fail to deliver.
Straub has never made this claim but delivers bigger and better than any amp designer/builder whose product I've had the pleasure of playing.

This amp makes things so easy. A classic Brown sound is 10 seconds away at any given time, as is a vintage Plexi or hot rodded 50 watter and the best part is that you can dial in all these sounds with a tremendous depth, punch and clarity or you can thin them out and bring in as much sizzle as you want
depending on your preference to tone. You are given a tremendous deal of flexibility with this amp, the learning curve is simple and in terms of dollar value and the "Bang For The Buck", I believe that the Cantus is the best deal out there for anyone looking for Marshall heaven.

The Cantus amp, just like a great new guitar, is inspiring. It makes you want to play and helps bring out the best of your abilities, thus making the entire playing experience a more enjoyable and rewarding one. It also, like all great amplifiers, has the ability to expose your weak points as well but there is something about the Cantus that pushes you to work through those weak points and keep striving for the magic moments
that make you feel as if your sitting on top of the world. It is truly inspiring and fun at the same time, and it’s my belief that is exactly what all this is supposed to be about. The Cantus delivers the goods big time………
 

chubbywolf

Member
Messages
399
Cliff,

The last I heard your were going to pull the trigger on Dabeck Custom Head. Dave has got several amps on the bench right now, so if you are still considering it, I would give him a call before the wait list is 6months long.
 

LoveThemBones

Member
Messages
27
Of all the Marshall plexi-type amps out there, the Straub Cantus has that Master Volume that I have been looking for at a great price tag!

Have you compared it to any other plexi-type amp?

How long was the wait time?
 
Messages
728
I've compared it to just about everything I could get my hands
on and that's quite a bit to say the least. I currently have about
20+ amps in my studio and several are loaners for trial or revue
periods, from a cross section of boutique and mainstream builders. From Brunos to Peaveys.

For wait time, your best off contacting Harry Straub direct. He's
a pleasure to work with.

Contact: harry@harrystraub.com
 
Messages
728
Steve,

The Cantus has been a great deal of fun so far which is exactly
what I've been in need of, especially due to the health related
issues. Be prepared for a great ride with this amp. If you want
Marshall, your gonna get it bigger and badder than ever before.
 

larrylover

Member
Messages
925
I have one coming in August or Sept. and was eagerly awaiting it. Your thoughts have only increased my anticipation.
 
Messages
728
You're one of the lucky ones, as I would expect the demand for
this amp to skyrocket shortly. It is more than worth the wait,
especially the short wait time you have. I wish you the best
with it and that you use it in good health for a long time to come.
 

MikeyG

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,080
Originally posted by chubbywolf
Cliff,

The last I heard your were going to pull the trigger on Dabeck Custom Head. Dave has got several amps on the bench right now, so if you are still considering it, I would give him a call before the wait list is 6months long.
Chubby, PM sent ...
 
Messages
728
I'll get some pics posted ASAP. Sound files will take a minute
as my studio is in the process of being re-assembled and there
is a lot involved but it should all be done within the next 10 days.
Well, it has to because I have sessions resuming a week from
Friday.
 

rwe333

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
16,395
Appreciate the review, Cliff.
Been curious about these for a while now.
 
Messages
728
Wayne,

Obviously it's safe to say that I'm really loving this amp.
It fills the EL34 spot and goes well beyond the call of duty. This
head coupled with the Fargen Custom 6L6 High Gain head
is going to be a deady duo. An EL34 head and a 6L6 head that
both go into super high gain singing modes puts a nice finishing
touch on my amp room recording setup. I have a second Cantus on the way, as I know I'll have situations where more than one
guitarist will want to be using it, and I also would not want to
be without a backup regardless of how reliable the amp is.
 
J

JimBo

Cliff,

Great Review...!!! I've heard great things about Staub's... I was very curious about them ... Is the boost function foot switchable...?
 
Messages
728
The boost function is not foot switchable at this point, although
it probably could be rigged that way. The reason it is not foot
switchable is that the boost function is a studio tool and not a
live performance tool. I had mentioned that when engaging the
boost function you must be careful and make sure that you have
backed down the master volume. I usually back it down to about
9 or 10 O'Clock and then adjust it upwards once the boost has
been engaged. The reason for this is that engaging the boost
will give you a significant increase in the overall volume output
of the amp and you do not want to start blowing speakers or
eardrums.

It's a true single channel amp so at this point it's not possible
to have the boost kick in at a pre determined level by using a
volume pot of some sort. The boost function is something that
works over the entire circuit of the single channel of the amp
so the only way to tame it is by using a combination of the
master volume and regular volume settings. The same way
you control the other gain & drive features of the Cantus. This
is why the Cantus is able to maintain the distinct Marshall voicing
with such huge amounts of singing gain and distortion. You are
not changing the basic circuit when engaging the boost.
 

SQUAREHEAD

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,006
Originally posted by CliffC
The following is a description and review of the 50 Watt Cantus
amplifier designed and built by Harry Straub. The Cantus is a 50watt amp drawing heavily from the design of a 1968 JMP Small Box Plexi and is powered by 2 x EL34s, dual Hexfred solid state rectifiers and 3 X 12AX7s. It can also be driven by 2 x KT66s and a GZ34 tube rectifier. The amp reviewed here is the EL34, dual Hexfred rectified masterpiece and the controls on the front panel are as follows: Power, Standby, Presence, Treble, Middle, Bass, Master, Boost Switch, Volume & Input. All transformers are
from the Mercury Magnetics Axiom series, and you will find carbon comp resistors where tone is the issue and wirewound/metal films where noise is an issue. You'll find Mallory 150s, and Solen Fast Caps throughout the circuit, and they are happy to replace these with any custom parts you might request. This impressive internal package is coupled with a superbly built external housing. The casing is an exquisite fingerjointed cabinet made from Striped African Mahogany. You can also choose from Walnut,
Cherry, Oak and Birch and they will also accommodate custom designs and patterns and mixes of different woods. Control knobs are also made from wood and accent the cabinet nicely. Topping all this off is a front Plexiglas panel which comes backlit in your choice of color. Adding to it's cool looks the control names are etched out of the Plexiglas so the letters glow the color you have picked for the panel. This makes for a great look and very easy maneuvering in darkly lit clubs and theatres.

Now let's move on to the fun part and get into the sounds of this amp. I'm finding that there is a tremendous selection of top notch
stellar tones available from both the Normal and the Boost modes
of the Cantus. To me the real key to dialing in these tones lies mostly in the interplay between the master and the regular volume control. This is where the real action is, as the tone stack is so simple and so effective that it makes it really hard to dial in a bad tone unless you are amongst the tone deaf. One thing to remember about the tone stack is that the interaction between the Middle & Treble is dynamic so moving one will affect the other just like in the older Marshalls. I'm finding that the best way to work with the Cantus is to set everything at 12:00 with the exception of the presence control which I would start
at 9:00 O'clock. From that point I would dial in additional gain (to taste) by using a combination of moves with both the master and regular volume control. By simply raising the volume you are also increasing the high end spectrum of the overdrive, but by increasing the master you are not only increasing the overall volume but you are adding thicker and more even output distortion and harmonic content and this is where the Cantus speaks more articulately than any other Marshall type amp
I've worked with. From that point on, it's very simple to work the tone stack to increase or decrease any frequencies you may want to tweak. One final visit to the master/volume section should take you to tone heaven at that point. In the Normal non boosted mode, this amp is capable of delivering very fat JTM 45 fronted sounds all the way through to the higher end more sizzling sounds of the late 60s to early 70s Marshalls and the classic overdriven sounds of the late 60s JMP 50 watt series as well.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL: Now add the boost function and you have just transported these classic tones to a level that is beyond the beyond. Imagine your favorite Marshall tones but now add gobs of infinite sustain and distortion while preserving the original Marshall vibe and tone. This is a new sound, it's a classic sound taken to a new level in a way no one has done before. Again, the interplay between the Master and the Volume and the use of the tone stack and presence come into play in the identical fashion as in the non boosted mode. (very simple and user friendly)
The one area to be careful is when engaging the boost function, one must back off the master volume (preferably to about 9:00 to be safe) and than adjust upwards from that point while also working the volume control to find your preferable mix of low frequency to high frequency gain and distortion.

This amp is more responsive my guitars pickup volume settings than any other amp I've worked with. It gives you a tremendous amount of control over the dynamics of the amp and makes it a true joy to plug in and play. Set this amp up to scream and than just back your guitar volume down and you'll have a tremendous palette of sounds at your disposal. Many, or almost all manufacturers make this claim and IMO most fail to deliver.
Straub has never made this claim but delivers bigger and better than any amp designer/builder whose product I've had the pleasure of playing.

This amp makes things so easy. A classic Brown sound is 10 seconds away at any given time, as is a vintage Plexi or hot rodded 50 watter and the best part is that you can dial in all these sounds with a tremendous depth, punch and clarity or you can thin them out and bring in as much sizzle as you want
depending on your preference to tone. You are given a tremendous deal of flexibility with this amp, the learning curve is simple and in terms of dollar value and the "Bang For The Buck", I believe that the Cantus is the best deal out there for anyone looking for Marshall heaven.

The Cantus amp, just like a great new guitar, is inspiring. It makes you want to play and helps bring out the best of your abilities, thus making the entire playing experience a more enjoyable and rewarding one. It also, like all great amplifiers, has the ability to expose your weak points as well but there is something about the Cantus that pushes you to work through those weak points and keep striving for the magic moments
that make you feel as if your sitting on top of the world. It is truly inspiring and fun at the same time, and it’s my belief that is exactly what all this is supposed to be about. The Cantus delivers the goods big time………

Very cool, Cliff!!!
Thanx!!
Hey...check your pm box, Bro!!
and your email!!
 

shallbe

Deputy Plankspanker
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
11,875
Great review on what must be a very impressive amp. Have you tried that mint 70's Telecaster Custom through it yet?:)
 
Messages
728
I've put some incredible Teles through the Cantus so far and all
have shone in their particular way. I have been playing a GVCG
1953 Blackguard, and a 1967 Rosewood cap Tele mostly and
they sound incredible. The Soloway maple top and mahogany top
Swans sound monstrous through it also.

Unfortunately the 75 tele turned out to have some serious hidden
issues in the Seth Lover Humbucker, but they were very decent
and refunded my full $$ plus shipping without anything having
to get crazy. That was a bit of a heartbreaker as the guitar was
in such great shape, but some fool saw fit to rob 4 pole pieces
and swap them out for ones of the wrong length. Talk about
a stupid crime.

I since have commissioned Jonathan at GVCG to build me 2 more
teles and a 57 Mary K Strat. A much smarter move on my part.
The GVCG '53 Blackguard Tele is simply crushing through the
Cantus. That particular Tele was built around an original '53
flatpole bridge pickup.
 

Fretmaster

Member
Messages
2,179
Awesome to hear another happy Cantus owner. I own the very first Cantus (Harry's proto-type Cantus in Mahogany and Lace wood) and was the owner of serial #1 (Mahogany with flamed maple face) and love them both. I stupidly sold serial #1 during a downsizing move but will NEVER sell my Cantus Proto. It is quite simply the best sounding 50 watt plexi style amp I've ever heard or played period. I felt that way way back when I first got the amp and wrote the very first Straub review on Harmony Central and still feel the same way today over two years later. And Harry's a genuinely great guy as well as having an incredible ear for tone.
 




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