Trainwreck, Komet, Alessandro, Matchless, Vintage Marshall, RubyWreck…

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
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TW Express, Komet KF50/LTD, Alessandro Bloodhound, Matchless Chieftain, RubyWreck from a few years back, 1965 JTM45….

What do these amps have in common? They're all single channel amps with relatively simple preamps and big iron/big output tubes. In my ongoing quest to master what makes a good amp I'm playing them back to back thru the same 69 Marshall 412 with early 70s G12H30s. The guitar is a DGT strung with nickel 11s. All of the amps have decent NOS preamp tubes and the appropriate power tubes (Siemens in the Matchless, Alessandro, Ruby and Express, GEC KT66s in the JTM45-more on the Komet in a minute). The Komet is the prototype "Blinky's Revenge" tuned by Ken Fischer. It differs from the production KF50s in that there are a couple of "mojo" caps in the signal chain and a single carbon comp resistor. The head box is hardwood but aftermarket, the tubes are decent modern tubes because it's not my amp.

KF50-first one I played on this odyssey. It has the typical Fischer hot-rodded but very simple 3 tube preamp, and the Komet overbuilt power supply (lots of filter caps and big iron). The result is an amp that can go from clean to mean with the twist of the guitar volume knob but that hits hard on the attack of the note. It tends to emphasize the first (octave) harmonic on sustained notes when it's cranked. And it's DAMN loud, even NOT turned up all the way. There's a fast/slow switch in the back, which can increase sag, but even on slow this is a fast amp! Definitely cool, but I didn't bite at the current $14k price tag.

Alessandro Bloodhound-this is a study in contrasts: a very light, very small box that packs a huge whallop! The prototype has EL34s, the production version now has 6550s. The amp seems way too small and light to sound this big! It has equal thump to the KF50, maybe tends to emphasize the tonic rather than the first harmonic. Cleans up great with the volume knob. Good amount of gain on tap.

Matchless Chieftain-the only master volume in the group, and being post-PI it's pretty effective. Not used today, however, I just cranked it! Reverb was left off, although it's nice to have to add some flexibility. Unlike the DC30, this has less of the hard edge to the attack-not as fast an amp. Breakup and range of crunch is similar to the Alessandro. No significant ghost notes when absolutely cranked. Cleans up great with the volume knob. There's some hum when this is turned on.

JTM45-by far the most expensive of the amps. With the KT66s it can generate more bass than the others (although, with the G12H30s I've kept the bass turned down to 1/4-1/3 on all of them so it doesn't overwhelm the stuff I want to hear). The breakup is a little different sounding-more "American" due to the Bassman influence and the unusual tubes. Still, lots of crunch, great EQ with the two channels, cleans up beautifully with the volume knob. The winner in many comparisons but in this group it's just really good. Little hum, no ghost notes.

Trainwreck-this one (Constance) was built in 2010 by John Mark, and then had the PT replaced when the first one died. Headbox is Zebrawood I think, has almost all mojo parts as this is one of the first few JM built. No question, the range of gain on this amp is wider than the others. 3/4 of the way up is about the same as all the way up on them. And the clean up with the guitar volume is nothing short of stellar-turn it down far enough and it's sparkly clean, turn it back up and the notes shift to the first harmonic and sustain forever. Perhaps it's a honeymoon since I've owned the others for years and this is my first exposure to a Fischer derived Trainwreck but I really love the sound and touch of this amp. I should say that the total volume of the TW is more on par with the JTM45 (35w) than the Alessandro (60) or the Chieftain (50). No hum, dead silent even if it's cranked. Ghost notes are just noticeable on the higher strings up around the 12th fret.

RubyWreck-had this one for a few years, and never having played a TW, I couldn't tell you how accurate it was. There are a difference, although I'd say it's pretty subtle. The RW may have a hair less gain and a hair more volume than the TW. That's about it. You might, if you believe the legend, even attribute the difference to the tolex covered cab the RW comes in vs the resonant hardwood headshell of the TW. Anyway, we're splitting hairs, they're both great amps! Little hum, no ghosting.

It's probably worth mentioning that I've also owned a Kendrick Climax Trainwreck (a collaboration between Ken and Gerald that didn't turn out well at all). It shared the high gain, NMV, British flavored preamp, with a LOUD and fast power section. Definitely the same DNA although the American section and the reverb didn't match up nearly as well. It's also worth mentioning that, while I plan clips to illustrate this comparison, it isn't going to help in some ways. I just don't think the attribute of the attack or speed of the power amp comes thru very well on Youtube. Further the character of the distortion tends to get anonymized (is that a word?) so it's hard to truly hear the differences.

So, what should you buy? They're all great amps! The JTM45, even in these days of deflation will likely cost you in excess of $7k, so probably only go there if you're a collector. And there's not a lot of mojo to that circuit, so copies done by any number of boutique guys would be cool. Expect lots of touch sensitivity with great EQ and a saggier, more forgiving power amp. The TW is hard to find, $5k new and only a bit less used but I really like this amp (cognitive dissonance perhaps). The RW and other clones are REALLY close, perhaps with the Pacific Transformer set the RW would be identical, highly recommended, he does good work. The Alessandro is unbelievable for fitting all that tone in a small box, and I were gigging this amp, it'd be the one, hands down! The Matchless has that great MV, so if I were worrying about the neighbors, or gigging in smaller venues, that'd be the choice. The Komet? For a newer, faster amp, the Concorde is the KF50 in a tolex box at $3700, or you can find KF50s all over for $5k depending on tubes. I prefer the slightly slower power amp (and only slightly) in the TW for that money. The Climax which feels more like the Komet to me, can be had for less than $2k, or buy the kit. But if you're looking for a bargain in this type of amp, head over to AmpGarage and learn how to build your own! Me, I'll keep the TW, the JTM45, and the Chieftain and Alessandro for now. The RW is probably going to find a new home sooner or later.
 
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Nice post. These types of amps, to me at least, are the pinnacle. They are unsurpassed in getting out of the way and letting the player's sound be the focus. The advantage of a fast attack amp is that you gain a whole lot of nuance that's otherwise homogenised in the sag.

The JTM45 is sort of different enough to me to warrant having it and a wreck type; can't really see them as interchangeable.
 

flcmcya

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,435
Nice comparison........ I have a Hall built wreck that sings but am jonesing for a Concorde.............about the only thing I haven't owned,

Maybe im good and dont know it.
 

MRscratch

Member
Messages
7,405
Congrats on your purchase of Constance. She is the sister amp of mine. Desiree. The amp cab is zebra wood. The original owner saw mine and asked JM if he could make him one the same. JM had just enough wood to make Constance. The JM amps have been swarmed in controversy since he first started making them. The wood was picked out by Mona Fischer for my amp. Both the original owner of Constance and I wanted JM to use all original KF parts to build the amps. JM warned us against certain NOS parts and opted for some newer components. Both my amp and constance developed troubles from NOS parts. I believe Constance had the Pacific transformer short and mine had some resistors in the PI go sideways. Mine was fixed and Constance had another transformer installed. Both of these Express amps are more aggressive than some of the older KF builds. The Pacific Trannies have a big part of that.
That said, i have listened to countless opinions and "facts" of how the amp should be played. The usual is always crank it, and use the volume on the guitar to go form Clean to mean as they say. My amp sounds great at around 10 oclock. This leaves me lots of headroom to use delays, boosts whatever.
Its only 35 watts, but its loud as hell. I find that when i set the amp to just a hair breakup, it reacts wonderfully to live situations using pedals. Yes, it sounds unreal cranked. But if i want to use it in a real situation, for me its set at 10 oclock and i can use pedals like a normal amp.
Just experiment with it.
take care.
 

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
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28,530
Thanks for the information. Cool to know that Mona sourced the wood. And yes, the PT was replaced with an updated Pacific version, which is why it doesn't hum any more. I AM impressed with that bit of tech, most of my "big iron" amps hum a bit so dead silent is pretty cool. I haven't tried it with pedals yet, I'll get to that sometime this week, I hope.
 

MRscratch

Member
Messages
7,405
Thanks for the information. Cool to know that Mona sourced the wood. And yes, the PT was replaced with an updated Pacific version, which is why it doesn't hum any more. I AM impressed with that bit of tech, most of my "big iron" amps hum a bit so dead silent is pretty cool. I haven't tried it with pedals yet, I'll get to that sometime this week, I hope.
Just remember. The amp DOES sound amazing cranked and using guitar volume to control it. What I AM saying is that it compresses early and after 12 doesnt get that much louder but just gets wilder. So if you set it to just break up, which is early on most expresses, you can still have a great natural break up, a great clean sound, and still boost it with a quality drive. i like the OCD with mine. Wahs and delays sound amazing with it. But if you van play with the amp cranked , then yeah, there is nothing like it, and you wont need that pedal to boost it. I also find that low output pick ups sound the best. My tele is amazing with the wreck. and speakers. Those g12h 30 55hz are the bomb. I also liked V30 with mine. Much more modern though.
 

woof*

Member
Messages
8,489
Nice comparison, thanks for that.
My only experience with these types of amps are with my Ruby express I have had for about ten years. It performs about as you wrote...and I'm still lovin it.
 

TNJ

Gold Supporting Member
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28,827
I wonder where the ZWreck fits into the KF Wreck scheme of things?
I own one and it is flat out my best sounding clean platform.

S.
j
 
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1,471
Thank you for the write up. Can you please elaborate on the similarities and differences between the Alessandro bloodhound and the JM trainwreck/Ruby

I had a chance to buy an el34 'hound but since I couldn't play it first, I hesitated and it of course got sold out from under me. I knew that it would be a great sounding amp, but I wasn't sure how close (if at all) it comes to the sound/feel/dynamics of a trainwreck express circuit.

Thanks
 

dumbell78

Member
Messages
4,957
Thanks for the time in writing that up. I always wanted a Ruby Wreck and have spoken with him about his build. Would love to hear yours when you get the chance.
 

cnardone

Member
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2,100
But if you're looking for a bargain in this type of amp, head over to AmpGarage and learn how to build your own! Me, I'll keep the TW, the JTM45, and the Chieftain and Alessandro for now. The RW is probably going to find a new home sooner or later.
great review. I've only been around 1 real TW, Ginger. Man she sounded good. I attempted to build my own. It did not turn out well. It soundsed great until 10:00 on the volume knob, then it started to screech :(. I did not look for enough help though. Tried to do it mostly myself. I wound up selling the parts to Paul Ruby. He is a super nice guy. I would have loved to have been in the room with all those amps.
 

Vox66

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
657
Yesterday, somewhere in Jersey I played and listened to eight various JM Trainwrecks. I had the pleasure of listening to a couple of truly gifted guitarists put the amps through their paces. The amps sound devastating and are beautifully built. My Rocket should be in my anxious hands by the end of the month!
 

skhan007

Member
Messages
9,701
I can attest to the Alessandro magic, currently owning two of those high-end monsters. Great little amps that pack a really big punch.
 

woof*

Member
Messages
8,489
Yesterday, somewhere in Jersey I played and listened to eight various JM Trainwrecks. I had the pleasure of listening to a couple of truly gifted guitarists put the amps through their paces. The amps sound devastating and are beautifully built. My Rocket should be in my anxious hands by the end of the month!
Awesome!
 

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
28,530
I think, all said and done, the TW has just a bit more overall gain available than the Alessandro. If you're not cranking the amp up all the way, it's not really perceptible. Also, the Alessandro may be a tiny bit less compressed, that is, the clean sound is somewhat quieter than the distorted sound, whereas the TW is almost the same volume, clean to flat out.

I gigged the Alessandro at a blues jam once and it made a killer pedal platform. I think for a flexible amp that can cover a lot of territory, it's probably a better choice. That said, I might sell it since I have a Hiwatt and a Laney to cover the big, EL34 cleans.
 
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1,471
I think, all said and done, the TW has just a bit more overall gain available than the Alessandro. If you're not cranking the amp up all the way, it's not really perceptible. Also, the Alessandro may be a tiny bit less compressed, that is, the clean sound is somewhat quieter than the distorted sound, whereas the TW is almost the same volume, clean to flat out.

I gigged the Alessandro at a blues jam once and it made a killer pedal platform. I think for a flexible amp that can cover a lot of territory, it's probably a better choice. That said, I might sell it since I have a Hiwatt and a Laney to cover the big, EL34 cleans.
Thank you for the comparison. For me, I love that fact that the TW circuit
Maintains volume and clarity as you ride the guitar volume lower to get cleans.
That was the key area that I was courios about with respect to the bloodhound.

I have amps that sound great, are pick dynamic, and have a similar slight drop in volume when you ride the controls on the guitar. They are also outstanding pedal platforms.

So while I would always consider a bloodhound or say a Black N Tan because George makes very harmonically rich amps (which I'm drawn towards), I think that the TW circuit would add more diversity to my current line up.
How I would love to compare those amps side by side!

How's the EQ on the bloodhound?

Thanks.
 

stratovarius

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,075
I seem to recall that the Redbone is the model most comparable to the Trainwreck, but I've never had the pleasure to try one myself.
 
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1,471
I seem to recall that the Redbone is the model most comparable to the Trainwreck, but I've never had the pleasure to try one myself.
From what I've read and clips I've heard, I seem to remember the redbone being similar in touch sensitivity,
But it didn't have nearly as much gain as a trainwreck express. IIRC the bloodhound Was supposed to be similar in gain and response to an Express, but "smoother" and "less aggressive".

One of these days I hope to trek up to alessandro with some $$$ and play a few of his amps
Side by side to see if any are right for me.

The OP must have a blast playing all of those great amps side by side.
 

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
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28,530
It was a fun couple of days, although my wife thinks my brain is going along with my hearing!
 




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