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

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

non-reverb WonderDawg LunchBox

I recently had a request by someone for a single channel, non-reverb amp that used the blackface AB763 circuit as the platform, and it needed to be a small head with 25 watts of output. After some discussion we settled on the WonderDawg for the platform to begin with, and after removing the reverb portion of the circuit I was able to fit the circuit into a 12×8 enclosure which was exactly what the customer was hoping for. One of the added benefits of this amp was that with the transformer set used it’s also possible to re-bias for use with 6V6GT, 5881, or 6L6GC power tubes. The amp does have external taps & adjustment pot for biasing without the need to remove the cage or bottom, or the need for an amp tech as I sent along detailed instructions of the process as well as pics of it being done on the amp to the customer.

WD LB lfWD LB rr

WD LB frontWD LB rear

WD LB bottom

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