Posts tagged ‘Shadows Reverb’

29/01/2018

Review: Bluetone Shadows Jr.

Following in the wake of their very popular Shadows Reverb combo, Finnish boutique makers Bluetone Amps have recently introduced a smaller sibling, called the Shadows Jr.

The Bluetone Shadows Jr. (combo starting at around 1,300 €) is a hand-built, all-valve guitar combo, whose sound is based on the classic Vox AC15. Instead of being a straight, slavish copy, though, the Shadows Jr. incorporates many of the up-to-date features that have made Bluetone such a well-regarded boutique maker.

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The Shadows Jr. has the clean and business-like looks that active players truly appreciate. You don’t want to be slowed down on stage by a control panel that’s hard to decipher. The Bluetone is clarity itself.

This is a single-channel all-valve combo running in Class AB mode giving you maximum output power at just over 10 watts.

The Shadows Jr. is designed around a trio of 12AX7 preamp tubes and a pair of EL84s powering the speaker. The combo’s power valves are cathode-biased, which means that swapping tubes won’t necessitate a trip to your friendly amp technician.

Bluetone is one of the very few amp makers who use torroidal power transformers. These doughnut-shaped devices (the black thing in the upper left corner) are lighter and more dependable than traditional transformer designs, and they offer more exact tolerances. As a valve amp is highly dependable on a stable and electronically quiet power supply for superior tone, Bluetone decided on using torroidal transformers early on, and they’ve never looked back.

The Warehouse Guitar Speakers Green Beret is an excellent choice for a strongly Brit-flavoured combo. Bluetone break in all of the speakers they use with low-frequency sine waves.

Despite being a compact single-channel combo amp (weighing only around 10 kg), the Bluetone Shadows Jr. offers an amazing amount of different clean and gain tones, thanks in no small part to the amp’s PPIMV master volume and the three-step OPC-switch.

PPIMV stands for ”post-power inverter master volume”, which is the preferred way of master volume design at Bluetone Amps, because it eats up the least amount of an amplifier’s tone, when in use. And if you turn the master volume knob all the way up, a PPIMV design makes the master volume ”disappear” electronically, making it completely transparent.

OPC, on the other hand, stands for ”output power control”. On the Shadows Jr. you have a choice of three settings, giving you 0.2, two or the full 10 watts of power, respectively. The magic of the OPC circuit is that it will turn volume levels down very noticeably without changing the tonal character of your settings, while also leaving almost all of the dynamics intact. Many lesser output power designs will turn a clean setting into an overdriven sound when you select a lower output level. The Shadows Jr. will sound almost the same on ten, two or 0.2 watts – the small tonal differences are the result of the speaker being driven differently. With the OPC at the lowest setting you will get approximately 95 percent of the full ”Shadows Jr. experience” at bedroom/apartment block volume levels. That’s fantastic!

The back panel gives you a choice of using the internal speaker or an external 4- or 8-ohm cabinet.

Bluetone have also included their tasty buffered, switchable effects loop with a dedicated volume control. When the loop is not in use, the circuit can also serve as a handy lead boost.

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Are you looking for a cool little tone machine with a strong Vox-y flavour, and no-compromise build quality? You should do yourself a favour and try the Bluetone Shadows Jr.

The Shadows Jr. ticks all the right boxes:

You get that classic clean tone with that sweet mid-range ”attitude”. A clean tone that is lively, but never glassy or brittle.

With the front-end volume near the other extreme you’ll get overdrive and distortion that is more gritty and dynamic – think later era Beatles, windmilling Townshend, or multilayered May – than creamy and compressed.

But don’t forget to check out the wide scope of break-up Blues and Rock ’n’ Roll sounds to be had between 11 and 2 o’clock on the volume (gain) control (depending on the guitar used). You’re in for hours of wailing soloing and chunky rhythms without ever needing an overdrive stompbox.

Here’s a Gibson Les Paul Junior on its own:

Demo track number one features two rhythm guitar tracks – a Fender Stratocaster (stereo left) and a Gibson Les Paul Junior (right) – as well as a Hamer USA Studio Custom on lead duty:

The second demo track features a Gibson Les Paul Junior (rhythm left), an Epiphone Casino (rhythm right), and a Fender Telecaster (lead guitar):

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The Bluetone Shadows Jr. is a fantastic little tone machine for the Vox-inclined player, who likes warm clean tones, dynamic break-up sounds, and gritty late-Sixties/early-Seventies dirt.

The build quality is miles ahead of any mass-produced guitar amplifier – this is a handcrafted boutique-grade valve amp. Modern additions like the PPIMV master volume, the OPC circuit, and the switchable effects loop, also raise this amp above any vintage-style copies.

For many the crucial question with low-wattage amps is volume. How loud is the Bluetone Shadows Jr?

Let’s just say that if you’ve only ever tried 10-watt tranny combos before you’re in for quite a surprise! These are ten (-plus) watts of British-style valve amp majesty, with every last ounce of loudness wrung out of the power amp and speaker.

With the OPC and the master on full, this little chap will easily get you into trouble with your neighbours in your block of flats on clean tones alone. If you don’t need 100 percent clean tones, the Shadows Jr. will easily get you through many rehearsals and gigs in small venues. And there’s always the option to stick a mic in front of the speaker.

So, don’t expect a Heavy Metal-type volume onslaught, but be prepared for some serious business.

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Bluetone Amps Shadows Jr.

Prices starting from 1,300 €

Contact: Bluetone Amps

Pros:

+ Handmade in Finland

+ Master volume

+ OPC

+ Effects loop

+ Sound

+ Value-for-money*****Save

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09/11/2016

Review: Bluetone Shadows Reverb

For many guitarists the Vox AC30 is the greatest guitar amp ever made – bar none.

The combo was originally designed for the instrumental group The Shadows, but it became known worldwide as ”The Beatles Amp”. Over the decades, many other guitarists have favoured Vox’ best known design. Users include people like Brian May (Queen), Rory Gallagher and U2’s The Edge. Many Finnish Shadows-/Ventures-style bands (”rautalankka”) also favour the AC30.

Despite their legendary status, vintage Vox AC30s also do have their issues:

This large 2 x 12″ combo weighs quite a lot, making it a little hard to carry alone. Old Voxes also are non-master volume amps, which means that attaining natural distortion comes at the cost of serious sound pressure levels – often too much for small clubs and function gigs. Old AC30s also have all their valves – yes, also the power amp tubes – placed inside an almost completely closed metal chassis. This has led to vintage-Voxes getting an infamous reputation as relatively prone to catching fire.

vox-chassis-studiofreak-photobucket

(photo: Studiofreak/Photobucket)

Boutique amp makers Bluetone (from Helsinki, Finland) have recently come up with their special take on the beloved classic combo. Their new amp is called Bluetone Shadows Reverb, and it comes with a whole number of welcome improvements and modern features.

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bluetone-shadows-reverb-front-angle

Bluetone’s Shadows Reverb (reviewed version: 1,950 €) is a single-channel all-valve amp loaded with a genuine spring reverb. The combo represents the company’s view of what constitutes a perfect Top Boost-channel tone, all presented in a much more compact format.

The Shadows Reverb is a class AB amp, and it offers between 15 and 30 Watts of output power, depending on the setting of its built-in Variac.

bluetone-shadows-reverb-back-angle

The combo’s cabinet is made from high-grade plywood. The Shadows Reverb is a good deal smaller and less deep than its classic forebear from the 1960s.

bluetone-shadows-reverb-speakers

This reduction in heft is due mostly to the use of 10-inch Celestion Alnico Gold speakers in place of the AC30’s 12-inch speaker pair.

The speakers in the Shadows Reverb combo have been ”played in” for a number of hours (using an oscillator) to get rid of the typical tightness of brand-new Alnico Golds.

bluetone-shadows-reverb-power-amp-valves

This Bluetone-combo uses three 12AX7-tubes, and a single 12AT7 in its preamp section.

bluetone-shadows-reverb-premp-valves-transformers

The power amp runs on a quartet of EL84 valves. The Shadows Reverb is a cathode-biased valve amp, which means that replacing the power amp tubes doesn’t usually necessitate any rebiasing.

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bluetone-shadows-reverb-front-panel

Yes, the Bluetone Shadows Reverb is ”just” a single-channel combo, but it is far from a single sound guitar amplifier. In large part this is thanks to the brilliant modern features Bluetone has incorporated into this homage.

The Shadows Reverb offers you two guitar inputs – High and Low – for use with single coil- and humbucker-equipped instruments.

The preamp features a two-band Baxandall EQ-section – with typically interactive controls for Bass and Treble – as well as a three-stage Bass Cut rotary switch, which offers you two fatter alternatives to the famously bright and wiry Vox Top Boost sound.

The onboard spring reverb sounds fantastic and is a real treat to work with, giving you everything from completely dry tones to Surf Music antics.

The power amp section comes with three controls:

Cut allows you to make overall adjustments to the combo’s treble output.

Bluetone’s Master Volume-control is placed after the phase inverter, right at the end of the signal chain. This allows you to get juicy power amp distortion at low volume levels, and with only minimal changes in the amp’s tone.

As mentioned before, the Shadows Reverb comes with a built-in Variac circuit. Although the Variac also has a bearing on the combo’s output level, it works in a completely different way to the master volume, namely by dropping the voltage the power amp runs on. Turning the Variac down will result in a good deal less clean headroom and more power amp sag.

Due to large public interest, I had to return the Shadows Reverb much earlier than anticipated, but I still managed to record two different demo tracks with the Bluetone amp.

The first (clean) track features rhythm guitar tracks played on a Fender Telecaster (left channel) and a 1970s Japanese copy of a Gibson ES-335 (Kasuga; right channel). The lead guitar part was played on a Fender Stratocaster. All guitar tracks have been recorded with an AKG C3000 microphone placed approximately 80 cm from the combo’s front:

The second track (overdriven) has been recorded with a Stratocaster. The distortion comes from the Shadows Reverb (no pedals used), and all tracks have been close-miked with a pair of Shure SM57s:

bluetone-shadows-reverb-master-section

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Bluetone’s Shadows Reverb is an outstanding boutique amp take on the Vox AC30 motif. Like all other Bluetone amps, the Shadows Reverb is carefully handmade in Finland to the company’s strict quality standards. This results in reliable top-drawer tools for the musician, with extremely low levels of hiss and negligible AC hum.

I had a great time test driving this combo. The Bluetone Shadows Reverb simply delivers all it promises with style and panache. The combo weighs approximately half of the original classic (AC30s usually weigh between 31 to 36 kg, depending on their specific vintage and the speakers they come loaded with). The reduced size means you won’t be having any problems lifting this beauty into the boot of a small car, such as a Ford Fiesta.

Thanks to the additional features of this Bluetone combo – like the Bass Cut and the Variac – you will be able to enjoy the great sound of the Shadows Reverb anywhere you want, be it at home or on stage.

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Bluetone Shadows Reverb

Prices starting at approx. 1,700 € (reviewed version: 1,950 €)

Manufacturer: Bluetone Amps

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Pros:

+ handmade in Finland

+ size

+ weight

+ valve-powered spring reverb

+ Variac- and Master Volume-controls

+ sound

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04/11/2016

Testipenkissä: Bluetone Shadows Reverb

Monelle kitaristille Voxin AC30-kombo on se yksi ja ainoa varteenotettava kitaravahvistin.

Alun perin brittiyhtye The Shadowsia varten kehitetty AC30 tuli kuuluisaksi The Beatles -vahvistimena, mutta se on löytänyt tiensä monien erityylisten kitaristien backlineen. Tunnetuimpiin käyttäjiin kuuluvat mm. Brian May (Queen), Rory Gallagher sekä U2:n The Edge. Myös Suomen rautalankabändien keskuudessa AC30 kuuluu vakiovarustukseen.

Suosiosta huolimatta vanhoilla AC30-komboilla on myös huonot puolensa:

Isokokoinen, kahdella 12-tuumaisella kaiuttimella varustettu putkikombo on melko painava ilmestys. Vanhoissa Voxeissa ei myöskään ole master volume -säädintä, mikä tarkoittaa sitä että vahvistimen omaa säröä pystyy hyödyntämään asianmukaisesti vain isoissa keikkapaikoissa. Lisäksi vintage-Voxeissa kaikki putket – kyllä, myös pääteputket – on sijoitettu lähes kokonaan suljettuun metallikoteloon, minkä takia vintage-AC30:t voivat (käyttötavasta rippuen) syttyä palamaan herkemmin kuin moni muu vanha kombovahvistin.

vox-chassis-studiofreak-photobucket

(kuva: Studiofreak/Photobucket)

Helsinkiläinen vahvistinpaja Bluetone tarjoaa nyt oivan ratkaisun klassikkovahvistimen ongelmiin Bluetone Shadows Reverb -nimisen putkikombon muodossa.

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Bluetone Shadows Reverb (testattu versio: 1.950 €) on yksikanavainen, jousikaiulla varustettu täysputkikombo, joka lupaa aitoa Top Boost -soundia selvästi pienemmässä paketissa ja nykyaikaisilla ominaisuuksilla höystettynä.

Shadows Reverb on AB-luokan vahvistin, joka tarjoaa 15-30 wattia tehoa, riippuen Variac-säätimen asennosta.

bluetone-shadows-reverb-back-angle

Shadows Reverbin kaiutinkotelo tehdään vanerista, ja se on selvästi pienempi ja litteämpi kuin 1960-luvun esikuvansa.

bluetone-shadows-reverb-speakers

Pienempi koko on osittain mahdollistettu käyttämällä klassikkokombon 12-tuumaisten kaiuttimien sijaan 10-tuumaisia Celestion Alnico Gold -kaiuttimia.

Shadows Reverbin kaiuttimia on, siniaaltogeneraattoria käyttäen, ajettu sisään useamman tunnin ajan, minkä ansiosta on saatu vähennettyä uusille Alnico Gold -elementeille tyypillistä alkukireyttä.

bluetone-shadows-reverb-power-amp-valves

Tässä Bluetonessa käytetään etuasteessa kolmea 12AX7-putkea, sekä yhtä 12AT7:ää.

bluetone-shadows-reverb-premp-valves-transformers

Päätevahvistin tuottaa tehonsa neljän EL84-putken voimalla. Shadows Reverb on katodibiasoitu kombo, mikä tarkoittaa sitä, ettei pääteputkia yleensä tarvitse biasoida vaihdon yhteydessä.

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bluetone-shadows-reverb-front-panel

Vaikka Bluetone Shadows Reverb on ”vain” yksikanavainen kombo, sen soundimaailma on selvästi laajempi kuin uskoisi. Kiitos siitä kuuluu Bluetonen monipuolisille ominaisuuksille.

Shadows Reverb tarjoaa kaksi kitaratuloa – High ja Low – single coil- ja humbucker-mikrofoneja varten.

Etuasteesta löytyy kaksikaistainen Baxandall-EQ – interaktiivisilla basso- ja diskanttisäädöillä – sekä kolmiasentoinen Bass Cut -bassoleikkuri, joka tarjoaa aidon Vox Top Boost -soundin lisäksi kaksi hieman muhkeampaa vaihtoehtoa.

Reverb-säätimellä hallitaan kombon putkivahvistettua jousikaikua. Kaiun soundi on erinomainen, ja säätimen skaala yltää täysin kuivasta kaikuisaan Surf-vatkaukseen.

Päätevahvistimelle on varattu jopa kolme säädintä:

Cut-säätimellä voidaan säännöstellä kombon kokonaisdiskanttia.

Bluetonen Master Volume -säädin on signaaliketjun loppupäässä (vaihekääntäjän jälkeen), ja sen ansiosta voidaan tuottaa päätesäröä myös pienillä volyymeillä.

Shadows Reverbissä on myös kolmiasentoinen Variac-tehonsäädin. Variac toimii eri tavalla kuin perinteinen master volume -säädin, se nimittäin muuttaa pääteasteen sisäistä jännitettä. Tehoa laskettaessa päätevahvistimen puhdas headroom ja putkikompressio muuttuvat.

Testikombon palautuksen suhteen tuli ylättäen hieman kiire, mutta ehdin kuitenkin äänittää kaksi erilaista demobiisiä Bluetone Shadows Reverbillä.

Ensimmäisessä kappaleessa komppikitarat soitettiin Fender Telecasterilla (vasen kanava) ja vanhalla japanilaisella puoliakustisella (Kasuga, oikea kanava). Soolokitarana toimi Fender Stratocaster:

Toisessa biisissä särösoundi tulee pelkästään kombosta itse. Kaikki raidat on soitettu Stratolla:

bluetone-shadows-reverb-master-section

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Bluetone Shadows Reverb -kombo on erinomainen boutique-luokan muunnelma Vox AC30 -teemasta. Kuten muutkin Bluetone-vahvistimet, Shadows Reverb rakennetaan kokonaan käsin Suomessa tiukkojen laatustandardien mukaan, mistä kielivät mm. kombon erittäin alhainen kohinataso, sekä käytännössä olematon verkkohumina. Vahvistimen laatuun suhteutettuna pidän Shadows Reverbin hintaa erittäin reiluna.

Testikokemuksen perusteella voin vain todeta, että Bluetone Shadows Reverb lunastaa lupauksensa avokätisesti ja tyylikkäästi. Bluetone-kombo painaa lähes tarkalleen puolet vanhan klassikon painosta (AC30 painaa noin 31-36 kg, vuosimallista ja kaiutinvarustuksesta riippuen), ja sen pienempi koko tarkoittaa, että Shadows Reverb mahtuu helposti esimerkiksi Ford Fiestan takakonttiin (kokeiltu on).

Bluetonen lisäominaisuuksien – kuten bassoleikkurin ja Variacin – ansiosta Shadows Reverbin tarjoama soundikattaus on yllättävän laaja, ja kombon erinomaisista soundeista voi nauttia sekä omassa olohuoneessa että keikkalavalla.

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Bluetone Shadows Reverb

Hinnat alk. 1.700 € (testattu version 1.950)

Valmistaja: Bluetone Amps

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Plussat:

+ käsintehty Suomessa

+ koko

+ paino

+ jousikaiku

+ Variac ja Master Volume

+ soundi

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27/10/2016

Bluetone Shadows Reverb – The Kitarablogi-video

Contact: Bluetone Amps

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25/10/2016

Coming soon… *** Tulossa… *** Bluetone Shadows Reverb

bluetone-shadows-reverb-master-section

bluetone-shadows-reverb-front-angle

Contact: Bluetone Amps

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