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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.