I got together with a few chums and a barn full of kit yesterday. On the rack were :
Combos : Lazy J 20w; Divided by 13 EDT 13/29; Matchless 30/15, Swart Atomic Space Tone
Heads : 633 custom 36w; Ceriatone 50w Overtone Special; Two Rock Matt Schofield signature 50;
Speakers : Vintage EV12L in Thiele-ported cab; Celestion G12/65, Eminence Red Guv’nor; Two Rock 2×12 with Celestion Blue & G12/65
Stomps (this is where it gets silly) : Klon Centaur silver; Rockett Archer; Vemuram Jan Ray x2; 633 Chipotle; Barber Small Fry; Mad Professor Simble; Hermida Dover Drive; Ika-modded Joyo Ultimate Drive; Okko Diablo; Mojo Hand Iron Bell; Digitech Screamin’ Blues; Tanabe Dumkudo/Zenkudo custom. We could have brought yet more, like Ethos, Freekish Blues, Hermida Zendrive, Rothwell Hellbenders, Providence SOV-2………
Guitars : ’55 Junior; ’73 Tele; ’62 Strats (2!); Huber Orca; SVL Strat; Dave King custom lefty Tele; Gibson ES 356N; Ibanez Artist. Again, we could have brought dozens more…!
We had a switching system so we could quickly compare all amp/speaker combinations and stomps side by side too. The possibilities were endless, but a few key takeouts :
Runaway best value prize : the Joyo Ultimate Drive continues to hold its own against stomps costing many times more. Granted, it improves with modding but it’s still astonishing. The other cheap pedal, the Digitech Screamin’ Blues didn’t do quite as well, though I wish we’d had yet another cheapie, their Bad Monkey, to hand as I’ve heard it sound terrific.
You can still hear a subtle difference between a Klon and a Rockett Archer if you listen very carefully and A/B them side by side as we did. But in real conditions and or with studio EQ, you couldn’t tell. Given the price and size difference, the Rockett is therefore the much-awaited Klon killer.
The prototype 633 Chipotle also sounded excellent against the reference Small Fry – slightly towards rock which is likely good for its market.
It’s taken me a while but I’ve been getting some good sounds from the Simble recently, but it didn’t stand out in this session.
As you’d expect (and hope) at this level, every amp and speaker combination was a winner, delivering different things to different ears. Deep, lustrous cleans, chimey jangles (Matchless excelled) and singing overdrives aplenty with lots of dynamics. There was a definite preference for combinations of speakers (eg the Two Rock cab or pairs of 1×12’s) with the blending and phase advantages on offer. The Swart charmed everybody with its lush detail and tube trem.
The pedals divided into those stronger at creating drive themselves, and those which preferred to push the amps further into breakup. The audience tended along similar lines, cleaner players tending to prefer the former, drive players the latter. Though to be fair, you’d have been happy playing a gig with the worst combination! The Dover Drive drew comment for combining higher drive without losing articulation and detail.
We also had very pleasant mid-session break to rest our ears, and played a selection of high-end acoustics. Yet more candy.
For my part, I was very happy to audition my Ceriatone and 633 amps side by side and switch speakers too. Both fantastic and complementary. I can’t imagine needing another amp (though it probably won’t stop me buying the odd one, like maybe a Swart, another 633 or a 20w version of my Ceriatone).
Sincere thanks to M for hosting a really great day!