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.


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.

6G11 Brown Vibrolux

I was asked about a 6G11 brown Vibrolux as a 1×12 combo, & since there are no reproduction chassis available for the 6G11 brown Vibroverb, I needed to look for a suitable platform that would work for it and happened to find one that was just right. We added a custom faceplate with brown cosmetics & barrel knobs, then the brown cab with wheat grill cloth finished off the look. The customer loves the look of the amp & more importantly the sound of the amp as it sounded exactly liked he had hoped it would.

austin's finished amp front

austin's finished amp rear

austin's finished chassis interior

6G15 Reverberator

I’ve offered the 6G15 stand alone reverb as part of my line up in the past when I was doing my own cabs here, but never really pushed them once I began outsourcing my cabs. So it seemed timely right now to offer them again & here’s the first look at what I call the Li’l Dawg Reverberator.

While this one is done in the traditional brown cosmetics it’s also available in tweed, black, or other colors as well. While I like the chicken head knobs myself, I know a lot of folks prefer the barrel knobs so you get a choice on that as well.

reverb unit front

reverb unit rear

reverb unit with chassis

Single channel 6G16 LunchBox

Then I was asked again for another single channel build and this time is was a brown 6G16 Vibroverb in a LunchBox. While the amp retained the vibrato circuit we dropped the reverb portion off. The upgrades for this build included a Mercury Magnetics a 4/8/16 ohm multi-tap OT, Sprague Atoms, & SoZo Blue Molded caps, as well as a bright switch.

patrick's finished amp front

patrick's finished amp rear

patrick's finished amp rf

patrick's finished amp rr

patrick's finished amp bottom

Single channel 6G14 Showman

I was also asked about a 6G14 brown Showman head as well, and once again it turned out to be a single channel build. Since the customer didn’t really need the quad of 6L6GC’s that the 6G14 traditionally used, we dropped the power tubes down to a pair of 6L6GC’s to run in the 40-45 watt range with a set of Mercury Magnetics which included a 4/8/16 ohm multi-tap OT. Other upgrades included another personalized faceplate, switchable tube or diode rectification, switchable fixed or cathode bias, switchable boost on the first pre-amp tube, Sprague Atoms & SoZo Blue Molded caps. This amp was built in a Princeton Reverb chassis & head cab with the traditional blond cosmetics, and the amp turned out to have a very throaty growl as well as the great cleans that the 6G14 circuit offered.

kevin's finished amp front

kevin's finished amp rear

kevin's finished chassis interior

Single channel AA165 Bassman LunchBox

Then I was asked about a single channel blackface AA165 Bassman, and this time the order was for a LunchBox head. The upgrades were a 50 watt 2/4/8 ohm multi-tap OT, and I surprised myself when I agreed to add an effects loop which I very seldom do. After talking with the customer about the loop I decided that it would be very useful to him so we added it to the build sheet.

tim's finished amp front

tim's finished amp rear

tim's finished amp rr

tim's finished amp rr

tim's finished amp bottom

Single channel 6G6B chassis build

I’ve had a few interesting requests for amps so far this year, and I figure it’s about time to put some info & pics out for folks to see what’s I’ve been having fun with the last few months. I’ll be going thru the various amps one by one and try to give a good description of what each amp was designed to be.

First we have a brown 6G6B Bassman build that I was asked for, but the customer only wanted to have a single channel (normal only) running in the 25 watt range for use as a stage monitor as everything gets mic’d in his band. So after numerous emails we came up with the idea of using a Princeton Reverb chassis for the build which would be small enough for use as a grab & go club amp. Some cap upgrades were added as well as a personalized faceplate and we had a nice & clean build put together, and it sounded just like expected so off it went to the new owner.

frank's finished chassis front

frank's finished chassis rear

frank's finished chassis interior