VVT Amps Lindy Fralin Model
Review Date: Tuesday 7th of April 2009 04:18:40 PM
Last Updated: Monday 14th of December 2009 03:19:20 PM
Reviewed By: Huw Price
Lindy Fralin is famous for fine pickups, and now he’s launched a combo that bucks the current trend for hairy-sounding valve amps with no clean headroom. Review: Huw Price
There's an undeniable Fender influence as soon as
you flick the standby switch, but you can't really pin it down to any
specific era. At low volume it's blackface all the way, but as you
crank it, the high end softens and the midrange gets thicker in a
tweedy sort of way. The 15" speaker is also fundamental to the sound of
this amp. Anybody who associates them with bassy tone should think
again. This Eminence Legend is just as bright and chimey in the treble
as it is deep in the lows, and it creates a massive sound.
volumes things are bold, big and zingy, and the Fralin has that way of
bringing out the tonal character of a guitar that's redolent of the
best post-1950s Fender amps. Flick a Strat or Jazzmaster onto the neck
position, add reverb and the surf’s up, or plug in a semi-acoustic and
it’s cool jazz time.
Maybe, like me, you've sometimes found that amp
spring reverbs are usually either too much or not enough – but rarely
just right. With the Fralin the reverb can be set to provide that
delicious springy halo without making everything murky or indistinct.
Perhaps it's because the dwell time isn't excessive – which is
something you quickly learn when you try adding reverb to recorded
guitar sounds when you're mixing.
The Bright switch, which seems to
operate at a frequency slightly above the centre frequency of the
Treble control, is very powerful. Unless you're after a glassy tone it
might prove excessive with some Fender-style guitars, but it's dynamite
for coaxing twang out of Gretsch Filtertrons or P90s. You can also
activate the Bright boost and roll back the Treble knob for a hint of
upper midrange scoop. So the Fralin certainly fulfils its design brief
for country, surf, spaghetti, clean blues and even funk – but push it
harder, and there are surprises in store.
With regular Strat
single coils things stay pretty clean up to about 4 or 5 on the Volume
control, then the overdrive glides in ever so smoothly. At first you'll
only hear a touch of hair if you hit big chords hard, but single notes
stay bouncy and snappy. At halfway up the Fralin starts to edge into
more obvious overdrive. The low volume clarity is still there but you
get a degree of single-note sustain reminiscent of a higher-gain amp.
gradual progression into overdrive continues until the Volume maxes out
at 12. By that point things sound very big, fat, juicy and loud. In
fact this is just about the most convincing early Stevie Ray tone that
I've ever coaxed out of an amp – no Tube Screamer necessary!
6L6 tubes are designed to run at higher plate voltages than 6V6s, it’s
recommended that only modern 6V6s should be used in the Fralin. We took
our chances with a pair of Russian-made Tung-Sols and were surprised to
discover that breakup doesn’t happen earlier.
The Fralin is
actually cleaner at equivalent settings with the 6V6s, but when you
push things above 6 you get the same creamy overdrive, just at lower
volume. The 6V6s generate a darker, raunchier tone but you lose some of
the glassy presence and bite that actually make the Fralin sound so
exciting with the 6L6s. Still, the 6V6 option is the perfect solution
if you want to crank it at a small pub gig or in the studio.
This amp sets itself apart by its dynamic response and the way it cleans up. By running the Fralin hot I found I was able to access all its great sounds by backing off the guitar volume – although it helps if you have a treble bypass capacitor across the pot. This amp’s old-school tone is eminently suited to a whole range or retro and roots styles, but its inherent clarity also makes it superb in conjunction with effects pedals.
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