Model 105 “Bimbo”
When PG editors told me about an amp
that claimed to have the sound, feel, touch
response and dynamics of a 1968–72 era
Marshall MK II, but at whisper quiet volumes,
I immediately jumped at the opportunity to
check it out. You see, I’m a Marshall fanatic.
Growing up in the ’80s, all any of us guitarists
ever wanted was a Marshall, but few of us ever
got one until later on. They weren’t exactly the
most practical bedroom amps. Since my first,
I’ve bought dozens of Marshalls in just about
every variation, and I’ve loved them all. Most
enthusiasts would agree that the late ’60s to
early ’70s was the era of Marshall, and there
are thousands of recordings out there to illustrate that point. It’s quite a tall order for any
amp to live up to that tone and be built for
home and apartment playing volume.
Who’s a Bimbo?
The review model is a head, but the amp is
also available as a 1x12 combo with a Celestion
G12T- 75 speaker. Similar in size to the new
crop of low-wattage heads on the market, it
comes in at 14"x8.5"x7.5" and 21 pounds. The
head is available in either black covering with
silver piping or red with gold piping; both feature a “plexi” colored panel that bears a close
resemblance to the classic Marshall style. Front
panel controls are very simple with just Gain,
Tone, Volume and Attenuation, followed by an
On/Off switch (Run/Rest) and red jewel power
indicator. The back panel is also simple and
straightforward with an IEC power cord input,
fuses, impedance selector (4/8/16) and single
speaker output. It comes stock with 3 JJ tubes:
an EL34, an ECC83 and a 12AX7B. Power
maxes out at 5 watts but can be brought down
to an astonishingly low 1/20th of a watt utilizing the licensed London Power Scaling attenuation, which is controlled by … you guessed it,
the Attenuation control.
Capturing the crunch and tonal characteristics
of a vintage Marshall isn’t an easy feat, but
the Bimbo did produce a sound very similar to
what I’ve heard many times before, albeit at a
much lower volume. How much lower? Well, if
you’ve ever had to attenuate a 50- or 100-watt
Marshall, this would be the “bedroom” setting
on most attenuators. In other words, you’d
need to be pulling most of the juice out of a
big amp to get it to a volume this manageable.
It’s still loud enough that you wouldn’t play it
with the family sleeping, but not so loud as to
bother anyone on an afternoon. What struck
me about the Bimbo’s Tone control was its
super-wide range, going from “Woman Tone”
darkness at 1 to blisteringly bright and slightly
ratty at 10. This is a welcome design choice
if you consider that most players will have a
range of guitars and pickups, as it will aid in
matching the guitar to the amp.
sound up considerably. Rolling back the volume
knob on the guitar further cleaned up the signal, but I had to pull back more than normal to
get it as clean as with a higher-powered amp.
It’s pretty impressive when you can get an amp
to clean up at such a low volume.
Speaking of quiet, it was time to check out
the Attenuation control. While playing the guitar I backed the Attenuation down to around
noon, which didn’t drop the volume in any
recognizable way. It wasn’t until the knob was
at 9 o’clock that it really kicked in, and did it
ever kick in! By then, I really had entered the
“whisper quiet” zone and got the true benefit
of the London Power Scaling. Is it perfect?
No, but considering the fact that the amp is
pushing a twentieth of a watt at that point,
you can’t fault the fact that the tone gets a
little fizzier (and we can’t discount that the
speaker isn’t being pushed at all).
To me, the classic guitar for a Marshall has
always been either a Strat or a Les Paul, so
that’s what I tested the Bimbo with. Although
the manufacturer recommends a Celestion 75,
I didn’t have one on hand. I did have a Krank
1x12 cab loaded with a ’70s Celestion 25
(Greenback with a tan dust cap), so I put that to
use. Because this amp is meant to be a low-vol-ume affair, it seemed like a logical choice to run
a 1x12 rather than a full-blown 4x12. Following
the advice of the manufacturer, I dimed all the
controls except for the Tone, which was set to
2 o’clock, and plugged my stock ’ 74 Les Paul
Custom straight in. From the first A-chord, it
was apparent that this amp means business.
Initially it didn’t feel like the Bimbo had as
much gain as a non-master volume Marshall
of that era, but the more I played it the more I
realized that was a byproduct of not being as
loud. Crank a high-wattage amp and there’s
interplay between the guitar and amp that
makes the pick explode off the strings, and
a singing quality that comes from the sheer
volume. By design, the Bimbo doesn’t have
that. It made me wish for more gain in some
situations, but the tone was definitely there.
Because of that I spent the majority of the
time with the Les Paul playing rhythm guitar
and enjoying the dynamic response it offered.
When you dig in, you get that great AC/DC
kerrang, and lightening up the touch cleans the
Once again cranking all controls, this time with
the Tone full up as well, I switched to the neck
pickup of my 2008 Fender American Strat and
rolled the volume on the guitar back to about 4.
This is a familiar sound as well. It was an impressive rendering of the same rolled-back tone of
a cranked Marshall in that clean zone that is so
conducive to the Hendrix vibe. Sure, it didn’t
have the same harmonic complexity or on-the-brink-of-feedback beauty, but it was definitely
on the right track. Ramping the volume up to
10 on the guitar exposed a too-brittle sound
that bit hard and had a grumbling fizziness to it.
Backing the Tone control on the Bimbo eased
that bite and made it much more comfortable
172 PREMIER GUITAR DECEMBER 2009