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ROAD TESTED mATCHLESS LiGHTNiNG 15 GUiTAR AmP ComBo state practice amp, right? The craftsmanship is flawlessly superb, as is Matchless custom. It’s a very sturdy, heavy, chunky amp, and it means business.

Matchless has made their name on beautifully minimal ‘no more than is needed’ amp circuits designed to give you all of the good stuff, and to pretty much stay out of the way between you and your ideal tone. They make a great variety of amps in different sizes, and this here Lightning combo is one of the lower-powered ones. LIGHT A MATCH, MAN The Lightning 15 is a 15-waiter with a single 12 inch speaker (although you can also get a head and 2x12” combo versions). There’s only one channel, although you have the option of low

and high inputs. The power section houses a pair of EL84 tubes, while there are three 12AX7s in the preamp and a 5AR4 rectifier tube. There are two speaker outputs - 4 ohm and 8 ohm. And the control system is deliciously simple: there are pots for Volume, interactive Bass and Treble, and Master Volume. And that’s it. You’re pretty much left on your own from there. Matchless has designed it with a scooped midrange compared to the Spitfire and Nighthawk amps, and because this is a tube amp and because it says Matchless on the front, you already know that it’s going to out-volume your 15-watt solid

AN EN-LIGHTNING ExPERIENCE For testing I brought along my Gibson Les Paul Traditional with low-output Seymour Duncan Seth Lover PAF-style humbuckers and my trusty overdrive pedal. Now, when you look at this amp, you might think “Ooh, that’s gotta have some classy clean tones. Maybe I’ll use it for country or maybe some kind of gentle indie kinda thing… well, you, sir/madam, are in for a shock. This amp is capable of sounding… how do I put this politely… absolutely filthy. Matchless has based the tone stage off an early Vox Top Boost circuit but with some unique modifications. The interactive tone controls really bring out the versatility within this circuit. You can clear the tone up by backing the Bass off or you can get it to go to an utterly hairy place by blasting it. The Treble control adds top end when you turn it up (of course), but it reduces midrange at the same time, giving you an angry, scooped sound when you blast the Treble, or a smooth, midrangeenhanced tone when you roll it back. Crank up the Volume, turn the Treble down and the Bass up and you’ll get a tone that’s reminiscent of an old fuzzbox. Sit everything at about halfway and you’ll get a responsive, tactile Joe Bonamassastyle tone that turns into Tony Iommi with a simple twist of the Volume pot. When I hit the input with an overdrive pedal set for a boost it sounded phenomenal, with the Lightning’s preamp being coaxed into a Robert Fripp-style sustain. Yet when you turn the Volume control down and increase the Master instead you’ll get a beautifully clear clean tone which deserves to be heard free of effects. It has all the string detail and fingertip articulation you could ever want from a clean channel.

BRIT-STYLE GRIT This is an awesome amp whether you play blues, vintage 70s metal, country, alternative, punk or dirty rock it really has some bite about it. Still, the clean channel is so dang pretty that you can happily use this amp for all sorts of more delicate musical settings. BY PETER HODGSON

RRP: $3099 DISTRIBUTOR: GLADESVILLE GUITAR FACTORY WEBSITE: www.guitarfactory.net PHONE: (02) 9817 2173 SPECS

POWER: 15 Watts CHANNELS: One POWER TUBES: 2 x EL84 PREAMP TUBES: 3 x 12AX7 FEATURES: Dual Inputs WEIGHT: 15.9 kg HITS

• Utterly killer distorted sounds • Beautiful crisp clean tones • Looks the business MISSES

• No reverb. Would have been nice!

SEBATRoN AxiS200VU STEREo VALVE PRE-AmP

Any professional audio engineer who is considering adding to their studio collection of microphone preamps will need to look into this. With that said, any home studio enthusiast will also need to pay attention, as this could be the device that changes how your sound is captured and ultimately heard. For those of you who are unaware of Sebatron, I am sure you will like what you hear. Based right here in my home town of Melbourne, Sebatron have been producing high quality microphone preamps and compressors for more than a decade now and are beginning to get the international recognition they deserve, but that doesn’t mean we at home shouldn’t be able to enjoy them too. This month I got to give the AXIS200VU Stereo Microphone Preamp a test drive. SIMPLICITY IS BEAUTY I think the one thing that first stood out when I removed this unit from its plain cardboard packaging was just how simple it was. It reminded me of many early vintage looking compressors and preamps that were designed to do a job and were not trying to improve their image with looks. The rear of the unit houses

most of the inputs and outputs, but none are labelled. The grey front panel is very unassuming and the decals appear to have been applied by hand. This unit looks the part if you want hand built quality and attention to detail.

RRP: $1850 (October 2014 Special Price)

IN OPERATION Obviously, looks are not everything, and how a mic preamp sounds is really what it’s all about. Now, this is not strictly a stereo preamplifier, as the title suggests, but more so a twin channel pre. There is no latch switch to bring both channels together under a single control, but with its simple selection of controls, it isn’t too hard to double up both channels. That said, you can use it as two separate units should you like and even run a microphone on one side and an instrument DI on the other. This makes it perfect for home studios that require a little bit of flexibility when relying on a single piece of front end hardware to improve their sound. And improve your sound it will. A rich tone is delivered that brings just about any microphone to life. This is just how a valve mic pre should sound. It brings character, liveliness and warmth to your microphone and delivers plenty of headroom too. On vocals it’s

SPECS

PG. 50 / mixdowN No. 246 / oCToBER 2014

DISTRIBUTOR: SEBATRON WEBSITE: www.sebatron.com PHONE: (03) 9484 3789

MAxIMUM GAIN (MIC INPUT): +68 db MAxIMUM GAIN (DIRECT INPUT): +62 db MAxIMUM INPUT (MIC INPUT): +6 dbu MAxIMUM INPUT (DIRECT INPUT): +12 dbu MAxIMUM OUTPUT: +30 dbm WEIGHT: 4.5kg FREqUENCY RESPONSE: 20hz to 90khz HITS

a treat, but even more on acoustic guitars as it really brings their sound to life. Put simply, why would anyone want to look to overseas manufacturers for quality sound, we have it right here on our very own doorstep. BY ROB GEE

• • • •

Classic look and classic sound Handmade detail and quality construction Brilliant tone with very little operating noise Made right here in Australia

MISSES

• Really stuggled to find any

MIXDOWN MAGAZINE #246 OCTOBER 2014  
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