[This review was written by Mike Fugazzi, the excellent harp player and front man for the NightRail blues band.]I know how important tone is in the quest for gear, but to start, let me comment on something I believe is even more important – volume. I have had two Double Trouble amps now, and they are by far the best amp I have yet to play for tone. The sound is huge, it is feedback resistant, and it is easy to carry. If you can get away with a Pro Jr., Princeton Reverb, etc., you can easily gig with a DT or a DT on an amp stand. Towards the end of this post, I have some comments about changing tubes and speakers in the amp to tailor it to a variety of needs.
This is a gigging amp and too loud for home use. My band has been playing some larger stages and I have acquired the need for a larger amp (HG50 1210), but the DT has worked to this point from small gigs to medium (we always mike for the front of house mix, but I often wouldn’t need to). It has also served me well on large stages – like outdoors for thousands of people – miked into the monitors. So in many gigging situations, the 18w this thing pumps out should be totally legit. My settings with the mods discussed below are almost always on 7 with the tone up to the verge of feedback.
I personally go for a tone on the clean side. I use an Ultimate 57 and my favorite tones are off of Carlos del Junco and Jason Ricci albums. I think this amp is terrific for that, but in the end, it didn’t have the volume headroom 50w could provide me with my current band. This is extremely disappointing to me, but logistically speaking, a move I had to make. Many of the medium to large stages we play run their own sound and the monitor set-ups are very frustrating. Therefore, my goal with an amp is to avoid needing monitors, but to not be so loud as to not be in the PA. One of the many things I love about the DT is how easy it is for me to using my technique to go from clean to really dirty. Even on 7 this amp has clean headroom, but if you lay into it it goes totally Chicago.
I decided against the stock AlNiCo for the simple fact I decided a while back I don't like buzzy speaker distortion (couldn't replicate it with an AlNiCo in a Vibro Champ). I am not saying that speakers or bad of the DT should come with different ones. It might seem strange, but for harp, I am not a fan of lots of speaker distortion. I like compression, but not the sound of an 8” distorting. I think the DT is any louder now, and it does have a bigger bottom end. Neither ceramic speaker seemed to fart out even with a Low F harp and tone all the way down.
For speakers, I’ve tried nearly every 8” you can find out there. It was a every expensive yet enlightening experience. Ultimately, I decided to go with a Weber Sig ceramic and Weber 8F125 with H dustcap. I tried 2 AlNiCo, 1 AlNiCo with the Sig and then the 8F125 and then the current combo. The amp seemed to feedback at the same point regardless of combination on the amp numbers. For each combo I placed the amp in the exact same spot. I then stood in the same spot with the mic a foot off the grill on one speaker. I then turned the volume up until the first squeal (tone on 10). I then did that for the second speaker. There was the same feedback volume (4) on the dial within a 1-2mm twist of the volume knob for each speaker. Next I set the volume on 7 and tone on 6. I then stood about 6 feet away from the amp and played to check tone and feedback. I switched speakers out and then repeated. Eventually I added a BBE Two Time in line. The delay seems to be warmer/darker with this amp than the Fenders I've tried it with. That is a good thing. It really sounded excellent…but bare in mind this is all being done in the family room. I think the room tends to create feedback more than most stages, but the amp will surely sound different at a gig.
I decided against the stock AlNiCo for the simple fact I decided a while back I don't like buzzy speaker distortion (couldn't replicate it with an AlNiCo in a Vibro Champ). I am not saying that speakers or bad of the DT should come with different ones. It might seem strange, but for harp, I am not a fan of lots of speaker distortion. I like compression, but not the sound of an 8” distorting. I think the DT is any LOUDER now, and it does have a BIGGER bottom end and more CUT. Neither ceramic speaker seemed to fart out even with a Low F harp and tone all the way down.
With only 2x8 and 18w, I like a ceramic mix of speakers. The 8F125 has more bottom, but seems to be the same volume as the Sig. I couldn't get a 8F125 or the like to fit in the top speaker slot…one 8A125 and one 8F125 might have been sweet!
For tubes, I much preferred a 5751 over anything else. The 12ay7 wasn’t hot enough and a 12ax7 was too feedback prone. For the power tubes, I am a huge fan of JJ6v6 tubes for their bottom end and clean headroom.
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Here is a short clip of Mike playing through the Double Trouble amp. His singin' ain't bad either!