Archive for joulukuu 10th, 2011

10/12/2011

Review: Diamond Del Fuego – English summary

In Europe Jeff Diamant’s company Diamond Amplification is still a new name in the amp business.

Each Diamond amp and cabinet is hand-made from start to finish at Diamond’s factory in Houston, Texas.

Diamond amps are thoroughbred, hand-soldered valve amps, but this doesn’t mean that Jeff Diamant and his team are stuck in the past. The company’s products are modern amplifiers designed for maximum reliability.

In this video Premier Guitar goes on a factory tour:

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Kitarablogi.com tested a Diamond Del Fuego -head (current price in Finland: 1.750 €) and a matching Open Back 1×12 -cabinet (current price in Finland: 650 €).

The Del Fuego is a 22-Watts class A amplifier with a vintage two-channel layout. ”Vintage” means there are two channels – one with tremolo (Ch 2) and one without (Ch 1) – but you cannot switch between channels on-the fly, unless you use a separate A/B-box in front of the amp.

Both the Del Fuego’s cabinet as well as the speaker enclosure are crafted from Scandinavian birch plywood, and they seem to be as sturdy as their vinyl-covering is stylish. The head’s large grilles keep the airflow uninhibited.

The chrome control knobs sure look great, but I do wonder about their visibility under stage lighting.

The amp was designed by valve-guru Roy Blankenship. Under the hood we can find three 12AX7 preamp valves, one 6CA4 rectifier valve, as well as two EL84s in the power amp section. Mercury Magnetics are renowned for their quality transformers, some of which can be spotted right behind the valves.

The Del Fuego’s back panel offers two speaker outputs along with a three-way rotary selector for impedance switching.

The Diamond Open Back 1×12 -cabinet is as sturdy and stylish as the head, and is equipped with a Celestion G12H -speaker.

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Let’s get one thing straight right away: The Del Fuego isn’t really suitable as a living-room amp, even if it is rated at ”only” 22 Watts. This Diamond Amp is a true all-valve head without a master volume control, which means it is loud – and I mean loud!

The Del Fuego is brimful with authentic British Blues Boom -mojo, but upping the gain reserves a little for more modern tones. Of the two channels, Channel 2 is slightly warmer sounding, while Channel 1 offers a smidgen more grit and gain.

There’s not a lot of clean hedroom on offer here, so this model perhaps isn’t quite the right choice for people who prefer a Fender-style clean tone. This isn’t a ”fault”, but rather down to the way this head has been designed – it’s meant to be this way.

For guitarists who have been reared on channel-switching master volume amps, here’s how you handle an amp like the Del Fuego: You set up the amp’s volume control to the highest setting you will require during your set, and then control the volume and distortion using your guitar’s volume control, as well as your playing technique. If you want to find out what the valve-anoraks mean, when they go on endlessly about an amp’s tactility and interactivity, the Del Fuego is an excellent place to start!

The amp’s overdriven tones are deeply rooted in a Vox AC30/Marshall Bluesbreaker -vibe – dense and delicious, with the right amount of bite. The clean tones are warm and organic, while the tremolo has already become one of my personal favourites. The intensity-control can take the tremolo from a mere whiff of an effect all the way to full-blown on/off-chopping.

The Open Back 1×12 -cabinet is the perfect partner to the Del Fuego, with it’s open-backed tone lending added authenticity to the head’s British soul.

The following soundbites have been recorded using a Fender Telecaster and a Hamer USA Studio Custom. Reverb and echo have been added at the mixing stage.

Telecaster – ch 2 + tremolo

Studio Custom – ch 2 + tremolo

Telecaster – ch 2 – drive

Studio Custom – ch 2 – drive

Telecaster – ch 1 – drive

Studio Custom – ch 1 – drive plus guitar’s volume control

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Diamond Del Fuego – 1.750 €

Diamond Open Back 1×12 – 650 €

Finnish distributor: Soundtools

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Pros:

+ tones

+ high output

+ workmanship

+ small size

+ low weight

cons:

– high output