Diavlo RD5C review by Randall

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  • Features: 9
  • Sound: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.3 (3 votes)
Randall: Diavlo RD5C

Price paid: $ 290

Purchased from: Local guitar shop

Features — 9
Assembled in China 2013, designed by Mike Fortin. It's 5 Watt 1x10 all tube combo amp with one channel. It has one 6V6 Ruby power tube and two 12AX7 Ruby preamp tubes. Closed back. I was looking for an amp that I can play at bedroom levels but also that it sounds great and that I can crank the power tube.

The frontal penal features:

  • Input - 1/4 guitar input
  • Gain Knob - Amount of preamp gain
  • T.S.S. Switch - Tone Stack Shift (left: midrange boost, center: even freq, right: midrange scoop with boosted bass and treble)
  • Tone Knob - Tonal sweep
  • Volume Knob - Overall volume output, this feeds speaker output and balanced XLR speaker emulator output
  • Power Switch
Rear panel features:
  • Effects Loop - Send and return Class A instrument level effects loop
  • XLR Ground Lift - Changes the ground connection
  • Speaker Emulator - XLR Balanced output, simulates the sound and response of a mic'd up Randall 4x12 speaker cabinet
  • Speaker Output - Any 8 ohm or greater speaker cabinet, automatically mutes internal speaker
  • Mute Switch - It mutes the output of the internal speaker for silent operation
Feature wise, I gave a 9 because it lacks true bass, mid, treb knobs. Otherwise it's really feature packed and it's rare to see such a small watt tube amp with ground lift, true effects loop.

Sound — 10
I am very sensitive and perfectionist when it comes to sound. So in general I don't understand people when they give a high rating for some mediocre amp, guess subconsciously they don't want to look stupid for what they just bought. I am not that way and if it sounds bad and I bought it I won't lie to myself. I mostly play Tool so I always aspire to that beefy sound of Adam Jones. In one word, this is an awesome amp that really delivers full and rich, harmonically saturated sound.

Clean Channel - Even though it has only one channel, when you turn the gain to 8:30 and volume to full, surprisingly you get very good clean tones. There isn't much headroom, past 9:30 you get into crunchier sound.

Distortion - Distortion is really where this amp shines and the first amp where I am trully satisfied with how the distortion sounds, just beefy and full, American amp sound. I usually keep the gain at around noon, tone knob to 10:30 and volume to 2 o'clock to get my "Diezel" sound for playing Tool. To get that power tube distortion you gave to dial the power tube to about 1:30 to 2 o'clock for it to kick in which is not for late night but you can get away with it during the day.

One thing is for sure, you wouldn't need a distortion or boost pedal with this amp. The T.S.S. switch is very useful if you want solo, rock, or metal sound and it is a great feature to additionally shape the tone. Another great thing is the amp's dynamics, pick softly and it cleans, dig harder and you get that growl.

The amp lacks a little bass (bass emanates from top port), which is understandable for it has a 10 inch speaker, so I recommend to use your tone knob to compensate. Also, bass freq get better when the speaker properly breaks in, it took about 3 weeks. I haven't had a chance to record with it, but from what I can hear from others it sounds great. I don't think you can gig with it without mic.

Sound wise I gave this amp a 10, cause it truly deserves it, but only after I changed the power tube from Ruby 6V6 to JJ 6V6s because the Ruby power tube seemed a little too harsh in the upper frequencies, but JJ power tube fixed that and now it sounds perfect. Preamp Ruby tubes are great and don't need changing in my opinion.

Reliability & Durability — 10
The RD5C amplifier looks very well built, solid plates covered in tolex, metal grill on the front with Randall logo. The dials are plastic but seem firm. The front main panel is metallic with a devil logo. It has frontal and upper opening to cool the heat generated from tubes. I haven't moved it around much, just using it for home use, but i suppose you could transport it safely and that it would last. Also, because it's a new amp altogether, I cannot vouch for long-term reliability. So I gave it a 10 based on how it looks and feels at the moment.

Overall Impression — 10
After a long time of searching for my "perfect" sound, this is the amp I am willing to settle for. I have owned Fender Champion 300 - thin sounding, Vox AD15VT - mediocre amp with mushy distortion, Line 6 X3 Live - mediocre sounding, HD500 - ok sounding but still missing fullness.

I play Les Paul with SH-4 JB humbucker in the bridge and it fits this amp perfectly because it has a darker voicing. Like I said, I like playing Tool and this amp has great sounding distortion, T.S.S. switch which really helps, true effects loop, all tube amp, great at bedroom levels, and for a reasonable price - what more can you ask for. Not that important, but it has 3 red coloured led lights inside which look kinda evil.

Also, I tried RD1C, the 1 watt combo version and I recommend that you pay a couple of dollars more to get the 5 Watt version, the 1 Watt doesn't have good headroom, not very loud, sounds thin, not so great and rich distortion like the RD5C. So if you are looking for a small combo full tube amp for bedroom playing at a lower price I truly recommend you get this one and when the word spreads out everyone will want one.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Small update, after owning the amp for half a year: - feature wise, i would give a score of 7, miss the bass, mid, presence knobs so you are kind of limited in your tone shaping despite T.S.S., you cant fine tune - after trying cheaper tubes and AB testing (jj ecc83s, ruby 12ax7, jj6v6, eh6v6), my favorite combo is: jj ecc83s + eh6v6. I think jj6v6 just doesnt sound right in this amp despite being more agressive, something goes wrong in the high freq. and it doesnt sound right. Eh 6v6 sounds more natural. Ruby 12ax7ac5 and jjecc83 are both great, it depends what tone you are after. I play high gain tone with the knob at around 2:30, and the jj keeps definition and distortion is a bit darker, has more bass and mid, which i personaly like. Ruby loses definition at higher gain and is brighter. So if you play mid gain and like extended treble then go with Ruby, if you like high gain that doesnt lose definiton and is tighter and darker sounding go with jj preamp. Also my favorite setting is: gain 2:30, tone 11, volume 1 o¨clock. T.S.S - middle
    This is a great amp, really love it. But two notes - 1.) the 10 inch speaker is just small, it lacks bass. I like it much more with a 12" cab. THAT's beefy... 2.) The build quality/cost savings - well, the speaker cables in my unit were so short I had to dismount the speaker to mount back the amp after switching tubes. 1-2 inches more of that cable would do; was quite angry. Appart from that, I'm happy to have this beast, I enjoy it a lot!
    Forgot to mention,you would very much benefit from an eq pedal put in the loop to act as a tone shaping control. I use my Boss Ge-7 to boost the mids.