Price paid: C$ 250
Purchased from: Kijiji
Features — 8
This amp was made in Japan in the late sixties, however, with more investigation, it may have been built in Vietnam and exported from Japan through Elk/Eko. The unit I have consists of the twin amp head and a 2x12 cabinet, the latter being on wheels which is a definite asset for a roadiless, aging wannabe. The amp itself is an all tube two channel amp with some really nice features for amps of its day.
The channels are not footswitchable though - Yikes! However, I overcame this by placing a Behringer AB100 (A/B switch) in front of it to direct my guitar signal into the two separate inputs. The first channel is a really high output that can be used for solo's or a "spank" tone (I have no better way to describe) and also includes both tremolo and vibrato which are controlled by a footswitch (RCA inputs on back of the amp. The second channel is where I play 90% of the time because that is where the tone appeals most to me - pure Fender Bassman.
All the controls are on the front of the amp including the speed controls for the tremolo and vibrato, these latter controls are oddly placed in line with the second channel that does not feature these effects - not a bad point, just an observation. Comes with the basic controls: volume, bass and treble for each channel; reverb level on channel 1 and speed & intensity for the reverb/vibrato also on channel 1. There is a two button footswitch to turn on/off each of the reverb and vibrato. (lower score is due to the channel switching, two prong to three prong conversion, odd RCA jacks for the footswitch and the power & standby switches are on the back in a groove so not too easy access - love my equipment but can't give them all tens!
Sound — 9
If you have ever heard an original Fender Bassman then you have heard the tone out of this amp. Wonderful full, rich, bright sound that will match or blow away the tone from an amp ten times its price tag with a vintage tube "mojo" that you can only get from an amp of this era. It suits my style of playing very well - I play classic rock and blues which this delivers very well and makes me sound good which is no small feat.
This amp has a little noise to it when kranked up, but nothing distracting or annoying - just lets you know it is ready to go. For practice/jamming I usually have the volume set between three and four which is plenty loud for our space and can definitely be heard over the drummer. Have gone just past seven in gigs where mic'ing the amp is not required and the amp maintains it's composure if not a little better with it pushed a bit.
Reliability & Durability — 8
This amp is almost fifty years old, made its way to Canada, has likely had a few owners in its day and did require some work when I got it. Took it in to have the two prong plug swapped for a three prong and to have a hum looked at. My amp tech did replace a few components like capacitors and a round cylindrical thing (sorry for the tech-talk" which all came out to around $150. The tubes are all readily available and fairly common, so no problems there as with other tube amps I have... I have had the amp for just over a year now and have had no problems with it other than the initial go-over by my amp technician. This amp has been very reliable, have only gigged it twice though with no problems and would again without worry although I always have a backup obviously. An amp that sounds as good as this one that holds up fifty years later seems pretty durable.
Overall Impression — 9
This amp is truly a clone of the Fender Bassman with a price that has had it's decimal point moved one to the left. It's loud, gig-worthy, goes clean to dirt and everything in between. I play classic rock and blues being where this amp seems to really shine. Sounds best with single coils - I play a Tele, Dano and Jaguar through it and it just has to be heard. It does humbucker pickups well too, but really exploits the single coil sound - my opinion. If you can find one give it a try or let me know as I would love to add another to the collection.