All pre-WWII guitar amps are muddy-sounding and uninspiring pieces of junk. Right? No, wrong!
Granted, some of those old-timers are almost completely geared towards clean Jazz tones, but you might be surprised by some of the forward-thinking features many of the early guitar amplifiers include.
The brand-new Bluetone Atlantis Reverb combo (1,950 €) is a handcrafted Finnish all-valve amp, that is based on one of the most fascinating old designs, the Gibson EH-185 (c. 1940). The original Gibson combo included an active two-band tone stack, which is a feature still only found in a handful of guitar amp designs.
For Bluetone’s Harry and Lauri the ball started rolling, when a customer ordered a quasi-replica of the EH-185 from Bluetone. Intrigued by the challenge, the guys came up with a number of ways to realise the vintage circuit with modern components.
The Bluetone Atlantis Reverb takes these updated circuits, and combines them with a number of Bluetone’s modern features, to arrive at a modern and roadworthy alternative to the late-1930s original.
This is what the Atlantis Reverb looks like on the inside – super clean workmanship and top-notch components in a easy-to-service PCB layout.
The Atlantis is a single-channel guitar amp; the input section comprises controls for volume (gain) and the two-band active EQ (cut and boost), as well as a switchable preamp boost and a Bright-switch.
The effect section features an Accutronics spring reverb unit and Bluetone’s own, beautiful bias-modulated tremolo. Both effects can be switched on and off.
The output section sports a switchable Solo-boost and a post phase-inverter Master-volume control. The post phase-inverter design means that turning the Master full up takes the control out of the circuit completely.
The back panel offers additional speaker outputs, an unbalanced line-level output – with its own, built-in dummy load and level control – as well as the DIN-port for the footswitch unit.
A three-switch footswitch unit is included with the Atlantis Reverb combo, as is the necessary cable.
The Bluetone Atlantis’ preamp isn’t your run-in-the-mill 12AX7-based design, but instead runs a pair of NOS 6SL7-tubes and one 6SN7 to achieve its special tones. Both models were very popular among tube HiFi enthusiasts in the 1990s, but are extremely rarely seen in modern guitar amps.
The power amp can run most of the common octal power amp valves, such as the 6V6GT, the EL34, the 5881 or the KT66. The design is cathode-biased, which means you can drop in a new pair of tubes without the need for manual biasing. The only thing to remember is that if you want to use a pair of 6V6GTs you have to put the small switch (hidden in the picture by the back panel) to ”6V6GT” to prevent any damage to the amp. All other valves are supposed run on the 6L6GC setting.
From the workshop the Bluetone Atlantis Reverb comes equipped with a pair of 6L6GCs, giving you a Fender-style power amp with an output somewhere between 25 and 30 watts.
The black round thing in the picture’s right-hand corner is a toroidal mains transformer. The guys at Bluetone swear by toroidal mains transformers, because of their reduced weight, great reliability and superior (read: lower) hum-induction levels.
The combo’s cabinet is a traditional Fender-type open-back design. The speaker is a 12-inch Celestion Neo Creamback unit rated at 60 watts.
The cabinet is made of lightweight and ecologically sound solid paulownia wood, making the Bluetone Atlantis Reverb far lighter to carry than what you’d expect from a 12-inch speaker equipped traditional design.
The Bluetone Atlantis Reverb combo’s forte definitely lies in its clean and break-up tones. The cleans have a charming chime to them that’s all their own – the sound, at least to my ears, is even sweeter than on a Fender ”Blackface” offering a lot of three-dimensional depth to your playing.
The two-band active EQ allows you to tailor the amp perfectly to any guitar you might pick, proving to be a very effective tool both on stage and in recording situations.
Overdriven sounds have their charms, too, as long as you don’t expect any creamy distortion from the Atlantis Reverb on its own. This combo’s crunch is of the late-Sixties/early-Seventies type, perfect for early-Santana, classic The Who, or T. Rex style excursions, which put dynamics and attitude front and centre.
The Atlantis also works exceedingly well with all types of effect pedals.
If you have an opportunity to test drive one of these beautiful handcrafted gems, you should definitely grab it!