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.
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.
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.
I’ve also done a second prototype with the tone control added which solved Mark’s comment about it not being bright enough. The addition of the simple passive tone control was easy enough and the layout for the front of the amp turned out to remain neat & clean.
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.
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!
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.
Another friend here locally asked about the possibility of a project build that sounded very interesting to me. The circuit itself is offered by many other amp builders but the thought of a JTM45 style LunchBox was just too good to pass up. The customer specified some specific details like the option of using the original 5881 or 6L6GC tubes like the JTM45 as well as the EL34 tubes that the JTM50 Plexi amp used. So after doing some different chassis layouts I felt like I came up with one that would work well with what the customer wanted so I committed to the build. I think the amp turned out nicely & the customer was very happy when he stopped by here to pick it up. So here’s the pics of the build for you.
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.
I’m often asked which amp would be my desert island amp and while I do love the 5F1 Champster a lot I would still have to say the 5E3 D-Lux would be the one I’d want to have with me. I do consider it to be a veritable “Tone Chameleon” as it can cover quite a broad spectrum of music styles, and it’s just a fun amp to play.
A lot of folks think of only Neil Young when you mention the 5E3 tweed Deluxe and while he has made it his own sound, I remind people that Stephen Stills also used a 5E3 tweed Deluxe during their time in the Buffalo Springfield to get some huge clean tone. Larry Carlton used the 5E3 tweed Deluxe for all of his work with Steely Dan as well, and Wes Montgomery was also known to use the 5E3 tweed Deluxe in the studio as well. Then when you add the fact that the amps were originally designed with the country player in mind who also used it for a “poor man’s PA”, you begin to see that there’s more to the amp than just overdrive. Speaking of the “poor man’s PA”, the amp channels were originally labeled instrument & microphone and the combo sat in front of the mic stand to prevent feedback when they were performing. That also explains why the controls were mounted in the rear & facing up which made them easier to adjust as needed.
So the next time you get a chance to play thru a 5E3 tweed Deluxe, whether it’s an original or a Li’l Dawg D-Lux I hope you’ll take the time to think about it’s 65+ years as a workhorse combo with a long & colorful history.
I’m often asked about which tubes can be used in my 5E3 D-Lux so I’ve put together the info in one spot for everyone and here it is.
You can swap any of the tubes out at any time in any order with the exception of the power tubes which need to be a matched pair. That’s what is referred to as “tube rolling” and it opens up a lot tonal possibilities.
Rectifiers you can try would be the 5Y3GT with the most sag & compression but also the lowest voltage which means less output. Then there’s the 5V4G which is a step up on voltage which would tighten up the feel of the amp as well as some increase in volume. Finally there’s the GZ34 which would give the amp the tightest feel as well as push the output up another notch.
Power tubes you can try would be the 6V6GT, 5881, or 6L6GC and they all have their benefits. The 6V6GT would be considered the darker of the three but it also has the early break-up and wonderful tone in my opinion. The 5881 is also known as a 6L6WGB and while it’s in the 6L6 family it does have some warm tone and a bit less output that the 6L6GC. The 6L6GC would have the most output but it’s also got a later break-up along with a bright & chimey tone to it.
You can try any 12A*7 or one of it’s variants in the pre-amp for different amounts of gain or tone too.