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

The Hot Dawg is here

Here’s some info on the newest member of the Li’ll Dawg family, & it’s the Hot Dawg which is based on the blackface Bassman circuit. It’s equipped with the normal channel only but the tone stack has been expanded to treble, middle bass which offers more flexibility in fine-tuning the amp’s tone. The Hot Dawg is offered in outputs of 12-50 watts in a head cab or 12-35 watts in a 1×12 combo. So here’s some pics of the first production build going to my friend Matt in FL for use as a 1×12 combo pedal platform for his line of pedals “Stomp Under Foot”.

Updated 6G6B single channel head info & pics.

I did find the time work up a new amp circuit though & this is based on the 6G6B brown Bassman but since I seem to get asked more often for downsized builds this is only a single channel version. It’s running the normal channel only but I tweaked the tone stack over to a treble/middle/bass/presence set-up which allows for more fine-tuning of the tone that the traditional tapped treble pot offered. It’s also running at 50 watts looking for a 4Ω load, & it fits nicely inside a Princeton Reverb chassis & head cab. The transformers used are too big for a PR combo but you do get to use whatever 4Ω total speaker load configuration you’d like with it. So here’s the first couple of pics of a finished amp for you now.

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.

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

Stereo tube table top build

Once again while I wait for some parts I decided to try another project that I’d been thinking about. This one was going to be a small tube stereo table top style build for someone that might want to use their pedal board, multi-effects pedal, or even an iPad or iPod for true stereo at a lower volume. So this is a stereo single-ended amp running with 3 1/2 watt output transformers as well as high & low inputs and a volume control for each channel. I used a 5Y3GT to power the circuits with a 6V6GT & 12AU7 on each side, and found it turned out exactly as I had hoped it would be. It can also handle 5V4G & GZ34 rectifiers as well as 5881 or 6L6GC power tubes and any of the 12A*7 pre-amp tubes. It can also run different preamp & power tubes on either side at the same time as well so there’s lot of options for the gain structure the sound pressure level.

In a 16x8x2 enclosure I could also scale this circuit up to be a stereo build with push-pull output transformers running pairs of power tubes if needed.

So here’s some pics of my prototype in a 12x8x2 chassis.

stereo-tabletop-front

stereo-tabletop-rear

stereo-tabletop-interior

AC15 LunchBox

While I waited for some parts to show up I remembered a friend asking if I ever thought about a Vox AC15 style build. I had a number of times but finally thought today is the day to work out the details for the build.

The layout seemed fairly straightforward to me as I’ve done so many LunchBox builds already, so what I ended up with was a 2 channel (normal & top boost) but not the tremolo channel as not many players used that anyway.

When everything was said & done I was pleasantly surprised with a great sounding amp full of the Vox tone that I had been missing from my line-up for so long. So it’ll be available in my catalog of circuits as a LunchBox head for now, and maybe a head or combo if I can find a suitable chassis to work with there. In the meantime here’s some pics of my prototype.

ac15-front

ac15-interior

ac15-rear

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

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

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Thanks for the interest in the amps as I really do appreciate it.

Several years ago I was asked what my business model was for the amps, and I didn’t have to think long before giving an answer. It’s what I believe in, and hopefully I succeed in following it. It’s a very simple plan with just three objectives. Provide a good product at a fair price, treat the customer well and with honesty, and finally have fun. You can always add more things like making money, etc., but I honestly believe those first three are the most important to follow.

Another thing I’ve learned is that satisfied customers are the best advertising you could ever hope for. So other than this website, I rely solely on my customers for their “word of mouth” advertising about the amps. That also lets me stay focused on doing things right rather than on a new ad campaign to boost sales the next quarter.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have, I do love to talk about Lil Dawg Amps.