Li’l Dawg 1 watt “Chainsaw” review

I sent the prototype of the 1 watt build off to a good friend of mine that was also the one that asked if I would think about adding this build to the amp line-up. So here’s the review from Mark aka “JakeBoy” as well as a sound clip that Mark put together.
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I recently took delivery of a 1 watt Lil Dawg Firefly-type head chassis to test.
The amp is typical Lil Dawg hand-wired Quality by an amp building expert who has the best customer service in the industry, bar none. 1 JJ 12au7 for single-ended class A power, and 2 JJ 12ax7s for the preamp.
There are no tone controls, just 2 volume controls and a switch to add in the boost circuit, which is presumably the 2nd 12ax7? It has a line out, and 2 speaker outs at 8 ohms. It also has 2 inputs, one hotter than the other.

I plugged in my tele with vintage wound pickups. It is probably my cleanest guitar. Even with the volume on the amp set to 2-3 on the hotter channel with no boost engaged, it was difficult to get a crystal-clean tone. That is not what this amp is for. With the tele I got some jangly cleanish tones and by backing off the pick attack on my right hand, it cleaned right up. You can hear it on the sound clip where I recorded Tele clean, Humbuckers clean (Shishkov Ultimate), Tele dirty, and buckers very dirty.

This little guy is a gain monster! I mean instant class A distortion that just rocks. I ran it through my brightest cab loaded with an Eminence Red Fang.

Engaging the boost makes both volume controls highly interactive. In fact, I was able to get the humbuckered guitar cleanest by engaging the boost and finding the clean spot by manipulating both dials. That said, clean with humbuckers is difficult. This is like a baby 5e3 tweed Deluxe with extra gain added. It has a similar spongey feel even though it has so,I’d state rectification. The bass is rather loose similar to a 5e3.

With humbuckers the amp just sings…right up into a 60s fuzz tone! With single coils I was able to get any shade of OD I wanted. Buckers are about class A distortion with this guy.

My only complaint is that it isn’t quite bright enough. I am a bit of a treble fiend and I found myself reaching for my guitars tone knob for more, even only very right tele which I normally turn down.
The key to this amp are the interactive volume controls. You can capture a myriad of useable tones for sure, particularly if you dig classic rock with a distortion pedal thrown on top!
The sound clip was straight in to the amp with no delay, reverb, or anything. Speaker was an Emi Red Fang in my Lil Dawg Champster pine cab. Mic was an Audix i5 right on the speaker grill. I played familiar riffs to give a sense of the amp while I switched through pickup positions. The middle position on both guitars provided the most chime, Sprite, and clean tone. I love middle positions on my guitars!

The sound clip is: Tele clean, HB clean, Tele dirty, then HB distorted

Though I didn’t record pedals with the amp, it took a 60s Rangemaster (my fave for added dirt) extremely well. Tightened things right up and gave me my treble and upper mids fix! I also tried a Klone on it as a clean boost with the treble up and it also tightened up the bottom in a pleasant way. So the sounds are endless with this baby monster! I also own a Marshall 1watt JMP-1H 50th anniversary. It similarly uses small 9 pin tubes (12at7s) for power and it also has a gain boost switch.

To compare the amps really isn’t fair….kind of like apples to clothes pins…..the Marshall is designed to do one thing: sound like a jumpered 1970s JMP 1959 Marshall 100 watter at a 1 watt volume. It nails this tone. It sounds exactly like a 70s Marshall cranked. The bottom is much tighter than the Dawg and it has plenty of treble on tap. The Marshall is a one trick pony….70s Marshall JMP. Not much sparkly clean on the Marshall, it wasn’t designed for that. The Marshall does have a power reduction switch which takes it truly to a conversation level with full JMP tone….something like 1/4 watt.

The Lil Dawg sounds like it’s own thing…not Marshall, Vox, nor Fender yet there are sonic similarities to a 5e3 Deluxe or even a 6g3 Deluxe, albeit with a LOT more gain on tap. This is a fantastic amp for recording. You simply engage the boost, dial in the tone you want via both volume knobs, and voila—instant rock and blues. If you need 6l6 big bottle cleans, look elsewhere. This true Lil Dawg Is all about the dirt. Oh, and wait until you try it through a 2×12 or a 4×12….one watt is still quite loud and can be coaxed into musical feedback quite easily when cranked! Loud enough to gig with, yes mic’ through the PA or through the included line out feature. We are talking USA made, top drawer boutique quality, for way cheaper than most Imported junk amps. A winner for sure!

The Li’l Dawg 1 watt amp

I had a good friend & Li’l Dawg owner ask me recently if I’d ever thought about building a 1 watt amp, and honestly I never had but the idea made me think. So I worked up a good layout for the circuit board & chassis and gave it a go. This is the basic FireFly style circuit but I added both a hi & lo gain input to it along with parallel speaker outputs & a line out. The circuit already had a switchable boost function designed into it but with the different inputs you really get a variety of gain structures to play with. The tube compliment is a pair of 12AX7 for the pre-amp, and then a 12AU7 running push-pull for the power tube which the result being a smooth overdrive that goes from clean thru over-the-top crunch and anywhere in between. I’m thinking of adding a simple tone control to the amp but that’s not a problem at all for me as I have the room. While this one was a straight chassis build I think offering it as a LunchBox would be a good idea as well. I’m ready to run with it right now but I’d like to get some feedback (pun intended) on the amp first to make sure I’m on the right track with it. So here’s some pics of the prototype build for now.

1 watt front

1 watt rear

1 watt bottom

New JTM45/50 Plexi style LunchBox build

Another friend here locally asked about the possibility of a project build that sounded very interesting to me. The circuit itself is offered by many other amp builders but the thought of a JTM45 style LunchBox was just too good to pass up. The customer specified some specific details like the option of using the original 5881 or 6L6GC tubes like the JTM45 as well as the EL34 tubes that the JTM50 Plexi amp used. So after doing some different chassis layouts I felt like I came up with one that would work well with what the customer wanted so I committed to the build. I think the amp turned out nicely & the customer was very happy when he stopped by here to pick it up. So here’s the pics of the build for you.

JTM45 front

JTM45 rear

JTM45 lf

JTM45 rr

JTM45 bottom

Li’l Dawg 5F10 Harvard builds

I recently had the opportunity of building a different circuit from my usual offerings, and what was an added bonus for me was that I had two different customers within 30 days asking for the same amp but in different configurations.

The amp circuit was the 5F10 Harvard which in my opinion was one of the most under-rated of the Fender tweeds, and an incredible amp to play. The first of the two amps was done in a traditional chrome chassis but since there aren’t any available for the 5F10 I substituted the 5F2A Princeton chassis and added the extra input jack & tube sockets. The second was a LunchBox head which affords me the fun of extra layout work as well as more time drilling & punching the chassis.

So here’s some pics of each of the builds to show how they turned out.

5F10 chrome chassis interior

5F10 chrome chassis rear

5F10 chrome chassisfront

5F10 LB  rr

5F10 LB amp lf

5F10 LB bottom

5F10 LB front

5F10 LB rear

The Li’l Dawg 5E3 D-Lux

I’m often asked which amp would be my desert island amp and while I do love the 5F1 Champster a lot I would still have to say the 5E3 D-Lux would be the one I’d want to have with me. I do consider it to be a veritable “Tone Chameleon” as it can cover quite a broad spectrum of music styles, and it’s just a fun amp to play.

A lot of folks think of only Neil Young when you mention the 5E3 tweed Deluxe and while he has made it his own sound, I remind people that Stephen Stills also used a 5E3 tweed Deluxe during their time in the Buffalo Springfield to get some huge clean tone. Larry Carlton used the 5E3 tweed Deluxe for all of his work with Steely Dan as well, and Wes Montgomery was also known to use the 5E3 tweed Deluxe in the studio as well. Then when you add the fact that the amps were originally designed with the country player in mind who also used it for a “poor man’s PA”, you begin to see that there’s more to the amp than just overdrive. Speaking of the “poor man’s PA”, the amp channels were originally labeled instrument & microphone and the combo sat in front of the mic stand to prevent feedback when they were performing. That also explains why the controls were mounted in the rear & facing up which made them easier to adjust as needed.

So the next time you get a chance to play thru a 5E3 tweed Deluxe, whether it’s an original or a Li’l Dawg D-Lux I hope you’ll take the time to think about it’s 65+ years as a workhorse combo with a long & colorful history.

have fun

Tube Rolling in the Li’l Dawg 5E3 D-Lux

I’m often asked about which tubes can be used in my 5E3 D-Lux so I’ve put together the info in one spot for everyone and here it is.

You can swap any of the tubes out at any time in any order with the exception of the power tubes which need to be a matched pair. That’s what is referred to as “tube rolling” and it opens up a lot tonal possibilities.

Rectifiers you can try would be the 5Y3GT with the most sag & compression but also the lowest voltage which means less output. Then there’s the 5V4G which is a step up on voltage which would tighten up the feel of the amp as well as some increase in volume. Finally there’s the GZ34 which would give the amp the tightest feel as well as push the output up another notch.

Power tubes you can try would be the 6V6GT, 5881, or 6L6GC and they all have their benefits. The 6V6GT would be considered the darker of the three but it also has the early break-up and wonderful tone in my opinion. The 5881 is also known as a 6L6WGB and while it’s in the 6L6 family it does have some warm tone and a bit less output that the 6L6GC. The 6L6GC would have the most output but it’s also got a later break-up along with a bright & chimey tone to it.

You can try any 12A*7 or one of it’s variants in the pre-amp for different amounts of gain or tone too.

have fun

How to Bias a Wonderdawg

Biasing is simple to do and I’ll start with the formula first. There are two different voltages that you’ll be checking and your meter should be able to read both DCV (at least 500 VDC) & DCmV (200 mV DC) which are common to most digital meters. I also suggest using a clip on the ground lead so you only have to have one hand inside the chassis at a time.

There is a standard called maximum plate dissipation (MPD) and your power tubes should run somewhere between 50-70% MPD. In the case of the 6V6GT the MPD is 14 watts. So the formula goes as follows: 14 watts x 70% = 9.8 watts. Then 9.8 watts / plate voltage = bias in mV. So here’s an example of that with the plate voltage being 415 VDC. 9.8 / 415 = .0236 or 23.6 mV. You’ll find that as you adjust the bias to 23.6 mV you may see the plate voltage change as well, so you do the math again and after a couple times back & forth. Another aspect is if one tube draws more current than the other like 22mV & 25 mV, then you want to balance the bias in the middle between them.

So here is a pic of where your bias adjustment pot is located.

 bias adjustment pot

bias adjustment pot

Then the ground location.

ground location

ground location

Next is where you measure the plate voltage.

plate voltage

plate voltage

Now where to measure the bias on each power tube, and it’ll be measured on the 200mV scale between the tube socket and the resistor going to ground.

measure the bias on each power tube

measure the bias on each power tube


measure the bias on each power tube

measure the bias on each power tube

Now measuring the plate voltage.

Now measuring the plate voltage.

Now measuring the plate voltage.

Now measuring the bias voltage on each power tube.

Now measuring the bias voltage on each power tube.

Now measuring the bias voltage on each power tube.


Now measuring the bias voltage on each power tube.

Now measuring the bias voltage on each power tube.

That’s all there is to it, and it shouldn’t take any more than a couple of minutes to re-bias the amp when swapping the rectifier or power tubes.

The SuperMutt is here !!

I recently had a customer ask for a custom build that was very interesting, and after discussing how to put everything together in a nice looking package we were able to accomplish both the appearance as well as the tone & feel of the amp that he was hoping for.

What he wanted was a tweed circuit like the 5F4 Super but he needed a full tone stack like the 5F6A Bassman, and he wanted to keep the overall volume down some as well. So what we came up with was a hybrid circuit using the 5F6A pre-amp married to a 5F4 power section. With the output lowered to the 25 watt level the customer was also able to run either 6V6GT or 6L6GC tubes with a simple re-bias. The amp turned out great and it fits inside the 5F6A chassis like it was made for it. It also retained the nice feel & response of the 5F4 Super but had the added clarity & detail that the 5F6A pre-amp added to the mix.

chrome front

chrome rear

chrome interior

I mentioned this as a possible new amp to offer to another customer and he decided on the same amp but as a LunchBox head. He also thought the name that I first thought of calling it was appropriate so the SuperMutt is going to be the next amp from Li’l Dawg now.

LB front

LB rear

LB interior

The 5E8A DoubleDawg LunchBox head is here.

I’m always curious as to what someone might suggest for me to build for them, and the most recent request was for a 5E8A low power tweed Twin. What made this one unique was that he was looking for that circuit in a LunchBox head. After some planning it looked like it was a definite possibility so I committed to working up the build for him. The 5E8A DoubleDawg LunchBox is now a reality with the result being a very nice fit for the chassis and the circuit turned out to be “loud & proud” just like it should. So here’s the pics of the first 5E8A DoubleDawg LunchBox.

kevin's finished amp lfkevin's finished amp rrkevin's finished amp bottomkevin's finished amp frontkevin's finished amp rear