I play a 200 seat room in a small town 40 minutes south of London, Ontario where the owners, staff, and patrons, indeed everyone- just says “crank it”, and until getting my hands on the Epiphone Blues Custom 30, I could never do this particular situation justice. The great thing about this room is the old, wide hardwood floor that enhanced the Sweet Authority of the BC 30. You know that Pete Townsend A major chord that we all do? Well, just getting levels at the beginning of the night saw this little move pushing back the first couple of tables …Sorry, I grinned to myself, thinking this was going to be a great night. Sure, you say: “This is just a tube amp turned up, what’s the big deal?” To explain, I’ve lived a somewhat fettered sonic existence for the last decade or more using a 90 watt European hybrid amp with one 12″ speaker and one 12ax7 tube, but mostly solid state. Compared to the BC 30 with two 6L6 and five 12Ax7 tubes, the old amp just didn’t cut it. I spent years getting my quick PA tweakage down, and in my opinion, my weakest link was my guitar sound. Things are now complete for me.
So, with a volume setting of only about 2, in A/B mode, I work through my repertoire - The Cars, ZZ Top, Led Zep, SRV, Clapton, Joe Jackson, Men at Work, Peter Gabriel- dialing in every specific thing for each piece, surprising me at every turn. The tone patch that I usually use for my David Wilcox numbers (not the talented American folkie, but the bluesy rockin’ Canadian guitar icon) were what came alive for me on this night. Fat, juicy, full spectrum, all-you-could-ask-for TONE in what otherwise, in my old amp, was always this little Pignose type sound out of a 12” enclosure. In pushing the new amp to its limits on this night over four hours, I realized why the Blues Custom 30 was constructed so heavily. The levels, peaks and valleys that this baby produced demanded 11 Ply Birch! Incidentally, the weight of the amp, flat on the hardwood floor, with no flight case in between, seemed to make a difference, I think. The crowd was watching every reaction to what I was getting out of the amp and on my breaks there were a few guitar players that wanted to immediately put this amp on their shopping list. I knew they were serious because they mentioned it in whispering tones, as their wives were sitting at the table!
Something Everyone Can Afford
A few years ago, I went in to our largest music store in town, and pointed at a new box that I hadn’t seen before built by a well known British manufacturer. The salesman that day said, “oh, that’s an 18 watt class A amp.” “How much?” I asked. “About 2200 dollars” came the reply. I’m a working fella, and I wasn’t going to entertain the thought.
Growing up, there was some kind of rule in our neighborhood that automatically put musicians in the league of tire-kickers at a used car lot. “How many cylinders, and how many miles per gallon?” was the oft used query of the frugal buyer. Akin to that, we always expected a certain “dollar per watt” which is hilarious knowing what we know now to be true. “How many watts? How much?”- “You gotta be jokin!” or…”hey, that’s not bad….”
That aside, over the years, there was this ‘brand building’ and accompanied snobbery which some amp makers were capable of merely because their products were in the hands of Hendrix, Clapton, Brian May, et al. Folks, I’m here to tell you that those days are gone with the advent of amplifiers like the BC 30. “Something everyone can afford, that everyone wants to hear.” The folks at Epiphone are on to something.