www.premierguitar.com PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2009 185
are also two toggle switches on the front
panel: a “Smooth” mini-toggle and a “Bump
On/Bump Off” switch. Impedance can be set
to 16 or 8 ohms, and there are two speaker
output jacks in case you want to power an
external cab. The combo sports a Celestion
70th Anniversary G12H- 30 speaker and a passive effects loop that 65Amps appropriately
labels “FX loop.”
While the amp isn’t small, it’s still quite portable and not too heavy for its size. My old
Mesa MK III 1x12 combo weighed as much as
a half stack, so picking up the Lil’ Elvis was a
welcome change. Looking very much like the
little brother to the rest of the 65Amps line,
the amp has a black and cream color scheme,
basketweave grille, a split front and the
unmistakable vents on top front of the amp.
A nice touch is the beautifully designed and
comfortable handle that makes carrying the
amp so much easier than the typical harder
and thinner handles on some of the other
combos I’ve had over the years. Who says
little things in life don’t matter?
Enough of my yapping ...
During the time I had with Lil’ Elvis I was
also in the midst of several recording projects that required a wide variety of guitars,
stompboxes and pickups. The first guitar I
played through it was a Les Paul Standard
that was temporarily modified (no holes
drilled!) to house a P- 90 in the neck and
a mini-humbucker from an old Epiphone
Newport Baritone in the bridge. I set the
Volume and Tone controls to a conservative halfway point and kept the Master
Voltage full up. Right out of the gate the
amp showed a wonderful, gritty tone that
barked rudely with the P- 90—a bit dark, but
this was the neck pickup so it was expected.
Cranking up the Tone knob proved that 10
was too much for that combination, so I
backed it off to about 7… a perfect balance
of clarity and grit with just enough edge to
cut through the mix. The amp was set to
the “Bump Off” position, so I toggled it on.
Clearly a mid bump, it totally pushed the
tone into angrier and more authoritative territory with a punch you could feel. The Bump
toggle could easily be renamed “rude” and
nobody would ever be the wiser.
The next guitar I plugged in was a stock
2008 Fender American Strat. This amp loves
single-coil pickups. Back on the “Bump Off”
position it took me into SVR territory with
the Volume up at 7 and Tone at around 5.
Once again I was treated to great clarity,
dynamics and chime, as well as a “bigness”
The third guitar was my trusty Danelectro
Hodad Baritone from the mid-’90s. Three
lipstick pickups never sounded so good. I
pushed the Master back up to full and pulled
the Volume down to around 11 o’clock while
turning on the tremolo—instant surf-meets-
spaghetti-western! The tremolo has a nice
range of speed, from dripping-molasses slow
to cardiac-arrest fast, and the Intensity knob
can be backed down so the tremolo is barely
leaking through, which was perfect for adding
depth to the sound without calling too much
attention to the effect. In my opinion the
tremolo is one of the shining features of the
Lil’ Elvis—and anything but an afterthought.
I engaged the Bump switch and drove the
amp harder. The way this amp moves from
clean to overdrive is a thing of beauty. Even
with the controls full-tilt you can simply roll
back the volume on any guitar and instantly
get into clean territory. And while this isn’t a
modern-sounding amp or a metal amp, the
distortion effortlessly rubs elbows with both
Marshall and Vox tones and has plenty of
gain on tap for most players.
Speaking of gain, I ended up trying a variety
of pedals with the amp over the review period and found it very pedal-friendly. Perhaps
it’s the simple front-end design that allows
the signal to be bumped up so gracefully. It
acts very much like an older Marshall to my
ears; it doesn’t get soggy with more gain
before the amp. The design exposed the true
nature of the pedals, good or bad, without
hesitation. Similarly, each different guitar’s
characteristics were instantly identifiable,
which is something I miss on designs that get
too complex or add unnecessary gain stages.
Pure tone is all you get.
The effects loop is simple and to the point.
If you’re looking for more control over the
Elvis Has Left The Building
signal levels it may be too simple for your
needs, but I had no problems plugging in an
Echoplex EP- 3, as well as several delay ped-
als. Some signal loss is going to happen on
a passive design but it didn’t take away from
the tone, in my opinion. One feature that you
won’t notice too much at lower volumes is
the Smooth switch. Basically, it’s a crossover
distortion removal circuit that comes into
play at louder volumes. Flip it on when the
amp is revved up and it removes the fizziness
that comes along with crossover distortion.
According to Dan Boul at 65Amps, your mic
will notice it before your ears will, so those
of us using it for recording will be happy the
switch is there.
There is so much to like about this amp.
It packs a man-sized wallop in a bite-sized
package and serves up as greasy a tone as
a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Killer tremolo and easy to set up, it pairs up
great with any guitar you throw at it. Top it
off with a range of tone from clean to beautiful, blooming distortion and the fact that
it’s pedal friendly and you’ve got a winner.
65Amps nailed it on the Lil’ Elvis. So, thank
you … thank you very much.
MSRP $1850 (head); $2295 (combo)
you want a compact, simple amp
with complex tone at any volume.
channel switching and more knobs
float your boat.
Rating... 4. 5
Click here to hear sound samples
of the amp in action at