Finland’s Bluetone Amps, which is run by Harry Kneckt and Matti Vauhkonen, has already garnered quite a reputation as a maker of high-quality valve amplifiers.
The company offers quite a large range of different models – starting with small combos, such as the Barfly, with large-wattage tube heads, such as the AcDcII– or the Bugaboo, at the other end of the spectrum. Bluetone also make bass amps, as well as guitar and bass cabinets.
Each and every Bluetone amp is made by hand, using point-to-point construction and top drawer components. This type of dedication to a pure tube signal path doesn’t mean, however, that we’re dealing with a backward-facing company. Quite the opposite is true – Bluetone amps include some of the most cutting edge features, when it comes to making their products user-friendly. One great example is a special metering tool the company sells, which makes it possible for a regular Jane or Joe to bias their amplifier’s output valves by themselves with the least possible amount of fuss.
Bluetone is a genuine custom maker, because virtually all of their amps leave their workshop with customer-specified modifications. Bluetone have their basic model range, but there’s a lot of scope for customisation, both when it comes to the technical specifications as well as on the cosmetic side of things (you can even specify the font used for lettering the front panel).
Kitarablogi.com has been offered a chance to follow the making of a Bluetone head, all the way from the customer’s order to the finished product:
This specific head is basically a Bluetone Crossroad amplifier with a 2+2 power amp. Bluetone’s own 2+2 power amp uses the four output valves in two pairs, with one pair being dedicated solely to the clean channel (usually running a pair of 6V6 or 6L6 tubes), with the second pair being reserved to handle all crunchy and lead tones (normally a pair of EL34s). The advantage of Bluetone’s 2+2-system lies in the fact that you’re dealing with the ”correct” classic tones of the power valves used, so there’s no need for any modelling or tube amp ”voodoo” to achieve Marshall-type drive tones from Fender-type tubes, or vice versa.
The list of specifications on this Crossroad 2+2 is more than impressive:
• Lead-channel: modified Friedman Brown Eye-type
• Crunch-channel: modified Marshall JCM800-type
• Clean-channel: modified Fender Deluxe Reverb-type
• Bluetone’s special valve spring reverb with dedicated controls for each channel
• Bluetone’s own buffered tube-based effects loop (with level controls)
• Channel- and effects-switching controllable via MIDI
• Main valve status control and biasing using the Bluetone ABC-system (Auto Bias Control)
• Power tubes can be biased either with a Bluetone ABC-metering tool or using a mobile device app via WLAN
• Power amp has built-in Variac (think: ”EVH Brown Sound”)
• Adjustable line output
• Adjustable headphone output
• Presence- and Resonance-control in master section
This is how the journey begins:
An empty steel chassis, a fibreglass eyelet-board of the correct size, and the customer’s order, which Harry Kneckt has already used to draw the necessary schematics and put together a list of the necessary components.