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!

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