Review: Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb

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OK, people, let’s go wild here and start with the summary for a change:

In my view the good people at Bluetone Amps have outdone themselves with their Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb Combo.

I will stick my neck out really far by claiming that the Fried Eye 2+2 is the best-sounding and most-versatile compact two-channel boutique valve combo I’ve ever come across. This guitar combo is all tone and no hype!

If the demo video and this summary are enough to whet your appetite, I’d suggest you head over to Bluetone Amps’ website right away.

If you want to know more, read on…

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Helsinki-based Bluetone is a small boutique amp maker that handcrafts each and every one of their guitar and bass amplifiers, combos and cabinets. Bluetone offers a wide range of customisable options, both on the electronic as well as on the cosmetic front.

Our review combo (price of this version: 2,400 €; incl. footswitch and cover) is a two-channel all-valve affair comprising a Bluetone Clean channel partnered with a Fried Eye crunch channel, which is Bluetone’s take on the hot-rodded Marshall theme.

The 2+2-monicker in the combo’s name points to the special power amp architecture applied here. Instead of trying to emulate or approximate the different power amp sounds of, say, a Blackface-style clean channel and a Marshall-style crunch channel using heavy filtering and electronic trickery, Bluetone Amps go for maximum authenticity.

The 2+2 power amp uses two different pairs of output tubes – one pair for each channel. Selecting the clean channel switches on the power amp’s pair of 6L6GC-valves, while switching over to the Fried Eye channel will see a pair of EL34s spring into action.

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(Photo courtesy of Bluetone Amps)

Bluetone Amps have recently been moving away from building their complete model range using only point-to-point building techniques. Certain models are now available as modular designs, which makes production less time-consuming, and thus more affordable. Still, like the point-to-point amplifiers, Bluetone hand-solders all its PCB-based modules at their workshop.

The Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb has been made in this modular fashion.

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Like most Bluetone combos the Fried Eye is constructed with an open back.

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Our review sample is one of the first Bluetone amps to feature a Celestion neodymium speaker.

The 12-inch G12 NEO promises genuine Celestion Creamback tones coupled with the benefit of considerably lighter weight.

The Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb uses an MOD reverb tank and Bluetone’s own valve-driven circuitry.

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This Fried Eye combo comes with some interesting back panel features:

There’s a Front End signal booster, amplifying the signal right at the beginning of the signal path.

The Fried Eye’s switchable effects loop is an active affair, complete with a dedicated level control. If you don’t run any effects in the loop, you can use the loop’s make-up gain as an additional, foot-switchable boost in the signal path.

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A chunky three-button footswitch unit is supplied with the Bluetone combo.

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Bluetone’s Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb combo offers a wide range of options on its front panel. Thanks to the logical layout and the clear lettering, the front panel never seems complex or crowded, though.

The Fried Eye Crunch channel offers you a 3-Band EQ-section, plus Fat and Bite switches, to fine-tune your crunch tones.

The Bluetone Clean channel’s High/Low-switch offers two different pre-gain settings, which change the amount of available clean headroom.

Each channel features its own reverb level knobs – so you don’t have to compromise lush reverbs for clean tones with drier settings for crunch – as well as dedicated master volume controls.

Using all the different front panel and back panel features offers you a mind-boggling array of different tonal and drive options. With just a couple (or three) well-chosen guitars, Bluetone’s Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb will give you access to virtually any classic guitar tone you could dream up (with the exception of contemporary Metal).

Bluetone’s clean channel will take you from pristinely shimmering cleans well into Blues break-up territory.

This clip steps through the different boost options offered by the Fried Eye’s clean channel (using a Hamer USA Studio Custom). The sequence is Low dry –> Low plus reverb –> High –> High + FE Boost –> High + FE Boost + FX Boost:

Being able to use the FX loop as an additional booster turns the Fried Eye 2+2 into a two-channel-plus-solo-boost machine.

This clip steps through the different boost options offered by the Fried Eye’s crunch channel (using a Hamer USA Studio Custom). The sequence is Crunch –> Crunch + FE Boost –> Crunch + FE Boost + FX Boost:

Cleaning up the crunch channel using your guitar’s volume control works like a dream here. The Bluetone’s Fried Eye Crunch sounds juicy and lively, even with the guitar turned down to almost zero:

The demo track’s rhythm guitar parts were played on a Gibson Melody Maker SG (stereo left) and a maple-necked Fender Stratocaster (stereo right). The lead part was recorded with a modern Tele-type guitar, using the instrument’s volume control to adjust the amount of overdrive:

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bluetone-fried-eye-22-front-angle-2

In my view the good people at Bluetone Amps have outdone themselves with their Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb Combo.

I will stick my neck out really far by claiming that the Fried Eye 2+2 is the best-sounding and most-versatile compact two-channel boutique valve combo I’ve ever come across. This guitar combo is all tone and no hype!

Messrs. Kneckt and Vauhkonen don’t run around wearing strange clothes or wild hairdos, pretending to be exalted tone gurus. You also won’t be required to send in mp3s of your guitar playing to prove you’re worthy to join the ”Bluetone Cult”.

Bluetone’s dynamic duo are down-to-earth guys, out on an ongoing quest to bring you maximum tone and usability, and no bullsh*t.

For a genuine boutique-grade amp of its calibre, I can only call the Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb’s price tag extremely fair.

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Bluetone Fried Eye 2+2 Reverb Combo

This version: 2,400 € (including footswitch unit and dust cover)

Contact: Bluetone Amps

Pros:

+ handmade in Finland

+ lightweight

+ multiple boost stages

+ versatility

+ reverb sound

+ dedicated reverb and master controls for each channel

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