O’l Yeller review by Mark Revel

The Ol’ Yeller Review

As an owner of 5 Lil Dawg amps, I have figured out what master amp maker Jim Nickelson is going for, top quality hand-wired remakes of classic amp circuits at a price the working musician can afford. Jim’s most recent masterpiece, Ol’ Yeller, the Normal Channel of a 6G6B Blonde Bassman did not disappoint. Since I had Jim build me the original Ol’ Yeller a clone of the two channel 6G6B back in 2014, it just made sense for me to compare the new single channel head to the original Ol’ Yeller as I was more than happy to do so & provide a review.

The 6G6B circuit has been popularized by Stray Cat Brian Setzer since the early 80s. But this circuit has been used on many hits by the Who, Stones, Wilco, Tom Petty, and especially the Beatles, who made it their most recorded movie on both bass and guitar. Ol’ Yeller is an incredible circuit. The 6G6B Normal channel is a fabulous guitar circuit that splits the difference between the 5F6A tweed Bassman (considered the greatest guitar amp made) and the later AB763 Blackface circuits. Ol’ Yeller sounds blackface except with a bit more midrange which makes it perfect for guitar, IMO. The original 6G6B  Normal channel has a a tapped 70k treble control which adds gain and as well as the upper midrange.  This is a distinguishing feature of the blonde Fender amps. My original Ol’Yeller has this feature while the demo amp, Jim’s latest design does not. In its place Jim has installed a dedicated middle control which is a game changer.  Ol’Yeller has a full TMB tone-stack as well as an all-important presence control (just like the originals) which adds treble to the power section.

But how does it sound? Just perfect.  Ol’ Yeller does Fender cleans better than any amp, IMHO. In fact, these are my favorite clean tones to be had on any amp, period. The cool thing is that the cleans are just as glorious on a volume of 2 as they are on 5….barely crack the amp on, and you get beautiful sparkling cleans which somehow retain some warmth and fatness which keeps them from the ice-picky land of most Blackface Fenders. Advance the amps volume knob beyond 4-5 and (depending upon the out put of your guitars pickups) and you get a pristine and beautiful edge of breakup tone with wonderful touch-sensitivity. Keep rolling the volume up and you get a wonderfully natural amp overdrive which is simply to die for. At this level, the amp is extremely loud. As in, an attenuator is your friend loud!

Ol’ Yeller has a High and Low Sensitivity input, just like all the classic Fender and Marshall amps. This helps to balance the difference between guitar pickups like hum-buckers and single coils. I was initially worried that not using the tapped 70k treble control wouldn’t sound like a blonde Fender, but I needn’t had worried. The middle control on the amp adds the needed mids to sound exactly like a blonde Fender, but also allows you to scoop some mids out to get closer to Blackface land, if that is your thing. You can also crank the mids for a more tweed style tone. The treble control adds gain starting around 3 o’clock, just like the tapped 70k treble control on a stock blonde Bassman. You’ll want to balance out the amount of high end with the effective Presence control, which also adds some gain. The Bass control is completely independent of the other tone controls. You can dial in the treble to your taste and then add or subtract the Bass as you see fit. VERY effective! I don’t know why Fender didn’t keep this tone control scheme. It is easy to dial in.

I ran the amp into a 2×10 with Celestion Greenback 10s and into a beefy 1×12 cab with an old but minty EV SRO alnico. Both sounded heavenly with the GBs going into breakup faster than the SRO, especially with hum-buckers. The amp has a solid state rectifier, just like the original 6g6b circuit, so it provides a quick attack and serious punch. The amp can get wonderfully bright but that can also be dialed back with the treble and presence knobs. In fact, the amp gets very chimey, not unlike a Vox with the Presence knob cranked. This is a killer circuit for retro, rockabilly, all classic rock, and blues genres. Oh, with pedals, the amp will easily do hard rock and/or old school metal with ease. Jim’s working on getting some sound clips I made clean, dirty and with pedals up on his website but you can contact him directly via email for them now. You can also contact me revelmark@yahoo.com and I can point you to some recorded tracks with this amp channel.

Speaking of pedals, this amp is a stellar pedal platform. It takes everything from dirt, phasers, verb, echo, and Trem with ease. I ran a variety of Lovepedals through it and found it to take them all very, very well. After all, this is a 50 watt amp with 2 6L6GCs in the power section and 2 12ax7s in the preamp. So it has plenty of headroom to function as a clean pedal platform. In fact, it simply killed in this application. It should be noted that the amp loves 5881 tubes and can also run with JJ 6V6s tubes which are the only 6V6s that can take up to 500vdc  on the plates. The JJ tubes sound very 6V6ish and greatly reduce the amp’s volume ..,be advised it is still loud, even when running JJ 6V6S sets! But it is a killer tone, no  matter what power tubes you install. And Jim has wisely installed bias points on the outside of the amp so that anyone with a multimeter can check and set the amp bias with removing the chassis. A simple, yet intelligent addition.

This amp is yet another winner in the Lil Dawg kennel. It sounds fantastic, and very much vintage Fender. Jim Nickelson is a master amp builder. All his amps are hand-wired by a one-man shop. It is a labor of love to provide working musicians with incredible tone at reasonable and friendly prices. His customer service is the best in the biz..,he sends pics of the build as it progresses and quickly answers each and every email. I encourage you to check out Lil Dawg Amps. As previously stated, I got onboard early and have had 5 Dawgs and am currently talking with Jim about Dawg #6!

Boutique amps at mass production prices with top-shelf quality and the best customer service, bar none.

Mark

Li’l Dawg Pickups

For a while I have been wanting to change the pickups in a couple of my guitars but I also wanted a low output set for my needs which I was having trouble finding at a price I was willing to pay. So I came up with the idea of winding my own, & that’s just what I did. I ordered in a winding machine, the various parts that I needed for what I wanted, and took a wild guess as to how many turns would be right for me.

After a few attempts I got the process down and away I went. My first set of pickups for my Strat turned out to be 4.8KΩ on the bridge, 4.6KΩ on the neck, & the middle was calibrated nicely at 4.4KΩ as a RW/RP unit.

The true test was gong to be what pickups sounded like though, & I was very happy with the result as I have a tight low end to them with moderate midrange, and lots of chime on top.
Long story short, I decided to venture into the pickup winding side of things as well. I’ll be sticking to single coils only and putting together sets for Strats & Tele’s as well as individual pickups as needed & I can also custom wind to spec or rebuild pickups upon request. The upside of the pickups is that I now have something to do in between amp builds.

6G11 Brown Vibrolux

I was asked about a 6G11 brown Vibrolux as a 1×12 combo, & since there are no reproduction chassis available for the 6G11 brown Vibroverb, I needed to look for a suitable platform that would work for it and happened to find one that was just right. We added a custom faceplate with brown cosmetics & barrel knobs, then the brown cab with wheat grill cloth finished off the look. The customer loves the look of the amp & more importantly the sound of the amp as it sounded exactly liked he had hoped it would.

austin's finished amp front

austin's finished amp rear

austin's finished chassis interior

6G15 Reverberator

I’ve offered the 6G15 stand alone reverb as part of my line up in the past when I was doing my own cabs here, but never really pushed them once I began outsourcing my cabs. So it seemed timely right now to offer them again & here’s the first look at what I call the Li’l Dawg Reverberator.

While this one is done in the traditional brown cosmetics it’s also available in tweed, black, or other colors as well. While I like the chicken head knobs myself, I know a lot of folks prefer the barrel knobs so you get a choice on that as well.

reverb unit front

reverb unit rear

reverb unit with chassis

5F8A high power Twin LunchBox

I was recently presented with another interesting amp build and this time it was a 5F8A high power tweed Twin, but the customer wanted it in a LunchBox head. So after some thought I figured out I could fit the circuit into my 16×8 chassis enclosure so I committed to the build. When everything was said & done the amp turned out be be a very nice fit in that chassis, and it really was a tone monster with a loud, throaty growl & bark when it got pushed. I also added individual bias points so each tube’s bias can be measured just to make sure that each pair match or even the entire quad. I’ll be waiting to see if the owner sends any sound clips to share but in the meantime here’s some of the build pics.

jeremy's finished amp lf

jeremy's finished amp rr

jeremy's finished amp bottom

jeremy's finished amp rear

jeremy's finished amp front

ChainSaw review from Charlie Shapiro

It’s taken me a while to put this review of the Chainsaw up that my friend Charlie Shapiro did for me, but here’s it is now.

Lil Dawg Chainsaw Stand-alone review:
I am going to leave the stand-alone practice amp for Mark Revel’s review. He covered it all and I am in agreement with his findings.

Lil Dawg Chainsaw first device in the pedal chain:
I tested the 1 watt with the tube complement of v1: 12AX7 , v2: 12AX7, v3: 12AU7, silver pin JJ’s. I ran the 1 watt in the first position of my pedal chain with the guitar going into the 1 watt.
The sonic fingerprints was dead on for that elusive Black Faced Twin Reverb sound of Clarence White, Marty Stuart, and Jerry Garcia at their best.

Testing the 1 watt Chainsaw with the tube complement of v1: 12AX7, v2: 12AX7, v3: 12AU7, Gold pin JJ’s. I ran the 1 watt in the first position of my pedal chain with the guitar going into the 1 watt. The Gold pins created a wider creamer sound than the Silver pins with what appeared to be an earlier break-up that was fatter sounding. Starting to encroach upon British amp territory. By manipulating the Volume and single tone control, I was able to achieve a convincing Hi-watt, Orange, and Marshall type sound. I spoke to Euro Tubes and they said that Gold pins are more linear than the Silver pins in guitar amps.

Lil Dawg 1 Watt Chainsaw as last device in the pedal chain:
The most interesting position, for my ears and tastes, is placing the Lil Dawg 1 watt at the end of my pedal chain and outputted into the amplifier’s input. Volume and single knob tone controls were varied below and around 9 o’clock. The Lil Dawg 1watt in this potion, adds an amp’s ‘output section’ of distortion and tone to the chain. Further, the Lil Dawg 1 watt is very reactive to pedals and changes tone greatly depending on the pre driving pedal. All the sustain, that Mark spoke of was present.

The Lil Dawg Chainsaw creates a real sound that is totally believable and is absent in all pedal chains that I have heard or experimented with.

thanks Charlie

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!