Little Stiffy DirtHead 20 review by Stiff Amplification

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 7
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.5 (2 votes)
Stiff Amplification: Little Stiffy DirtHead 20

Price paid: $ 504

Purchased from: Stiff Amplification

Sound — 10
I play a Washburn X50 Pro FE with Madhouse Walter pickups in the bridge and neck, an ESP X-Tone PC-1V with Alnico Pro II pickups in the neck and bridge and a Jackson SLAT XMG Q 7 seven string with EMG 707's in the neck and bridge. I am running the head through a Blackheart 1X12 cab with an Eminence Swamp Thang speaker in it. The amp achieves more sounds than I thought it would. I had been playing through a Blackheart Handsome Devil and I was tired of using distortion pedals to get my gain. I thought would get a new amp for gain and keep the HD for cleans. I wanted an amp that can get heavy tones on its own. This amp can certainly do that, but I was also surprised at how good the cleans are. The cleans blew my expectations away. They are not Fender, sparkly cleans. If you want Fender cleans, buy a Fender. The cleans are so good, I'm not sure if I will hold on to the HD or not. This amp can certainly handle blues, rock, hardore or metal. With the gain around noon, it can handle Venom, Evile, Gwar, Slayer, or anything else along those lines. Lower the gain down and it can handle bands like Angry Samoans, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Sasquatch and the sickabillies or any other bands along those lines. The clean sounds are great, I wish I had a guitar with single coils because I bet this amp could handle playing some surf tunes very well. But bands like The Living End, Desendents, Buddy Holly, and the Talking Heads are easy to get. It is not very noisy at all. I play in pretty small room, so feedback when the gain is kranked is to be expected. The voice knob really gives the gain channel a wide variety of possible tones. The voice knob turned down gives the tone a very dark and gritty character, while turning it up decreases the bass and gives it a more sharp/cutting edge distortion. This amp has enough gain on tap to meet anyone's needs. I have a bunch of pedals, but my favorite way to play this amp is plugged straight in, on both the clean and dirty channels. I couldn't be happier with the tones that I am getting out of this amp and I don't see myself even thinking about getting a new amp for a very long time, if ever. If you are a pedal enthusiast, it plays nice with every pedal that I own, even my Black Forest OD, which in my opinion is very picky about what amps and guitars it is going to sound good with.

Overall Impression — 10
I mostly play metal and this amp suits it perfectly. I also like to play punk, garage, rock, and blues and the amp handles them all beautifully. I have been playing guitar for about 5 years now. I wouldn't say that I am good, but I don't suck either. There is really nothing that I had wished I had asked about before purchasing the amp, because I did ask several questions. Tony has his email posted on his site and I asked him several questions before I made the purchase. Tony answered my questions quickly and personally. I would certainly order a new one immediately if it were stolen. The thing I love the most about it is the range of amazing tones I can get. Clean, dirty or outright brutal, it does them all incredibly well. There is really nothing that I hate, but do wish it had metal input jacks. One of my favorite features of the amp is that it is plug and play with tubes. No need for biasing. The 50 and 100 require biasing when changing tubes, but the 20 watt does not. Another favorite feature is that it doesn't matter what OHMs your speakers are. There is no switch or matching up or anything. The amp can handle, 4, 8 or 16 OHMs witout having to make any adjustments. I was looking for an amp that can achieve killer high gain tones on its own. I looked at the Mini Rec, the Tubemeister, Vengeance, Baron Snot Watt, Dark Terror, and JR Terror. I chose the DirtHead because it can get as good or better tones than any of those and was half the price of some of those amps and it is made here in the US, not in China. If you're looking for a lunchbox amp that sounds good at low volume, can get a wide range of tones, can get really loud if needed and can handle pretty much any kind of metal you're looking to play, then look no further than Stiff Amps. The DirtHead is a darker voiced amp, but Stiff also produces 2 other models - the FistPump and the 90-AD. This not a honeymoon, all top scores review. I have had this amp over a month, have played the living hell out of it and I still need to change my shorts everytime I'm done playing. I am absolutely in love with this amp. Video from YouTube:

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Reliability & Durability — 7
This amp is small and built like a tank, except in one aspect. The input jacks are plastic, not metal. I don't like plastic input jacks and would have surely paid even an extra 50 bucks for the amp if it had metal jacks. If I were a gigging musician, I would replace them immediately, but since my amp just sits in my room and no one touches it but me, I am not that concerned and didn't consider it a deal breaker. I mean come'on, 500.00 bucks for an amp that sounds this awesome, just replace the jacks, your're still coming out way ahead of the game pricewise. If it had metal jacks, I would it give it a 10 on this catagory, but since it doesn't, I can't, so I'll give it a seven, because the inputs are cheap enough and easy enough to replace yourself and the rest of the amp is bulletproof.

Features — 8
I paid 504.00 for the amp and that included shipping. The amp was built in late 2012/early 2013. If you didn't know, Stiff Amps was founded by Tony Krank, former founder of Krank Amps. I got the 20 watt version of the DirtHead, but there are 50 and 100 watt versions also. The amp has two channels and comes with a footswitch. The clean channel has knobs for volume and tone. The dirty channel has knobs for bass, mid, treble, volume, gain and voicing. There is a presence knob located on the back of the amp. The amp has a tube driven FX loop that can be bypassed and the FX loop volume can be used as a master volume. The amp runs on 2 12AX7's in the preamp, 1 12AX7 in the fx loop and 2 6L6 tubes in the poweramp. No need to bias when changing tubes on the 20 watt version. I am a home player that doesn't gig, so I wasn't worried about gigging volume, if I was, I would have bought the 50 Watt version. This amp can achieve volumes that will shake walls and I was actually surprised at how loud it is.

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Hey this is TonyKrank. Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. I understand the concern about the jack BUT... they are nylon and not plastic. Nylon wont break or crack. So the jacks should be problem free for many many years. Again thanks and keep rocking!!!! TK
    I feel the same as you about this Amp It rules and whats cool about this is I use a Black Forest also. Wow..
    I will never deal with tony krank ever again very rude and left me hanging with 2 bad krankenstein new old stocks that he built from the parts Ben from krank a couple of months ago the volume fluctuates up and down on one on the other one the 8th oma selector wasn't connected and it sounds like the presence is all the way down very muffledI have driven over 500 miles back and forth to try to get this problem solved Also my ad90 have a messed up effects loop that hums very loud my dirt had was bulletproof never a problem Tony told me to take them to em-tronic said he would pay for them to be fixed he wasn't going to touch them and that I was banned from his store I had to go to Namm and stand in the same booth with him all week and keep my mouth shut and not say anything rude. then one man was over I was able to tell him that he should be fixing my am and not Patrick Flanigan I feel that Patrick should not have to fix Tony's mistakes this has been a nightmare for me when I sent him a text after 9 a.m. And told him that he should be fixing them he insulted me and called me fatass ignorant sect then said he would get a restraining order against me well long story short I'm over it selling all my crank and Steph gear and moving on it sucks because I really liked the tone that's all I have to say
    Sorry about that Tony. Ok, jacks are good to go, start ordering people. And thank you Tony for ending my quest for an amp.
    I had a 100 watt version for about 6 months;but for the life of me could not get a good tone out of that thing.Granted, the clean channel was great but the dirty channel was just to dry and the sweep knob was almost useless.I had high hopes for it but finally had to sell it at a big loss.
    I recently got the 100 watt version of the Dirthead. Having owned a Marshall JCM800, Mesa Dual Rectifier, as well as several other amps, this amp definitely has a very unique yet very usable variety of tones. The cleans are amazing, and the gain channel goes all the way from classic Rock to the thresholds of more gain than I could see needing for the heaviest band. For me that's perfect. Being an amp collector (also owning 2 Krank Amps), this has become my new secret weapon. I could see it being used for a wide variety of music styles and covering them all great, but if you're looking for a great amp for Metal or aggressive music, this amp shines. I say that not taking the price into consideration either. For a hand built amp of this quality, I see this as a no-brainer.