attack to curling the plectrum under my index
finger and strumming with my thumb. With
the Strat, I got deliciously detailed quacki-ness in the in-between positions—perfect for
Southern rock flavors or funky chording like in
Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” With
the Schecter, I got raw, in-your-face indie-rock
sounds using the bridge pickup. The PRS
yielded everything from Zeppelin-esque PAF
sounds to fat neck-pickup tones that would
make SRV proud.
The Matchless Avalon 35 features a hybrid circuit with both PC-board-mounted components and point-to-point-wired, chassis- mounted tube sockets and controls.
The front panel features Hi and Lo instrument
inputs, Standby and On/Off rocker switches,
and six “chicken-head” knobs—Volume, Bass,
Treble, Cut, Master Push/Pull, and Reverb. Like
the front panel, the rear panel is simple and
intuitive. It features jacks for an extension cabinet and the built-in 30-watt Celestion G12H
speaker, a three-position Impedance selector,
jacks for the series effects loop and optional
reverb footswitch, a fuse receptacle, and a
standard IEC power-cord receptacle.
Volume knob control both gain and output. For
rock and hard-rock sounds, turn Master Push/
Pull to a lower setting (so you don’t get blasted
in the face) and crank Volume toward its upper
regions for rich distortion. As with most master-volume amps, this convenient feature is very
practical, though it slightly darkens the timbres
and decreases some of the to-die-for dynamics.
With Volume and Master Push/Pull nearing their
limits, things can get splatty and fizzy, but the
same can be said of a lot of classic amps.
The amp weighs a hefty 62 lbs. and measures
21 ¼" W x 23 ¼" H x 11 ¼" D. My construction niggles are very minor. First, though the
Avalon’s dimensions are comparable to the
original SC- 30 1x12 combo, the unusual height
may be an awkward schlep for shorter players,
who may have difficulty carrying it straight-armed without bumping or dragging it on the
ground. Second, though there are labels above
the front-panel controls, they’re hard to read
without squatting. Otherwise, there’s almost
nothing to fault in the Avalon’s construction.
The black covering is virtually flawless, the
silver piping is cleanly cut and applied, and the
salt-and-pepper grillcloth looks fantastic. And
let’s not forget the badass rear-lit logo—one of
the most iconic looks in all of ampdom.
The Avalon’s EQ is remarkably interactive, too. As with classic Vox and Matchless
circuits, Cut shaves off high-end frequencies
as you turn it clockwise. When it’s completely counterclockwise, you get those glassy
sounds made famous by the Who and the Fab
Four. With it maxed, you get a thick, scooped-out tone that could accommodate jazz cats
or rock guys looking for notched mids. While
jazz cats won’t be the first to gravitate to an
amp like the Avalon—and the same probably
goes for hardcore rockabilly guys—I got fat,
neck-pickup jazz tones and bristling rockabilly
bombast with the Gretsch.
The Final Mojo
Like a lot of aficionados of high-end anything,
guitarists can get pretty hung up on certain
details before they’ve even tried a product.
They might dismiss an amp for even minimal
PC-board construction or because it wasn’t
designed during a certain period of the company’s history. There’s a kernel of wisdom in
some arguments over such minutia, because
the longer you play, the more you realize your
sound is the sum of all the little things—from
your pick gauge to how hard you fret and
what kind of tubes are in your amp. But we
all know such obsession can be crippling, too.
The trick is to do your homework and find
great equipment, and then focus more on
your playing and your ear than on your gear.
That’s what most of our heroes did (or do).
And that’s why I really dig the new Matchless
Avalon 35. It offers an excellent balance of
flexibility, durability, and quality tone.
you revel in bristling, dynamic EL34
tones and simplified flexibililty.
Wielding the Blade
I tested the Avalon with a nice variety of guitars,
including a ’60s Strat reissue with Custom Shop
Fat ’50s pickups, a PRS Ted McCarty DC 245
with 57/08 humbuckers, a Schecter Ultra III
with splittable mini-humbuckers, and a Gretsch
G6118T-LTV with TV Jones Classics. With each
axe, the tones were dynamic, detailed, and
varied. The key to the variety is the Master
Push/Pull knob, which enables you to go from
needling AC30 glory to higher-gain, Marshall
plexi-type sounds at less problematic volumes.
For the former, you’ll want Master Push/Pull
disengaged (pushed in) so you can experience
the open, airy feel that comes when you let the
The Treble and Bass knobs work like they do
on other amps, and the latter in particular
has much more impact than many other tube
amps. Dime it, and you get more mids for a
honkier sound—but in a musical, absolutely
usable way. Bring it back a bit, say, to three or
four o’clock, and you get muscular, in-your-
face tones. My playing runs the gamut from
heavy-handed rock/rockabilly riffing and
chording to a lot of hybrid picking, so I even-
tually settled on Volume at two or two-thirty,
Master Push/Pull off, Bass at two o’clock,
Treble dimed, Cut off, and Reverb—a three-
spring unit that adds nice dimension but less
depth than I’d hoped—at two o’clock. This
let me get the broadest array of tones, from
all-out brashness and crystalline detail to full,
rounded notes by going from a heavy pick
you want more sophisticated control
of surf-able reverb.
or use a mobile
device to read
this QR code
to watch a video
review of the
Avalon 35 at
PREMIER GUITAR JULY 2010 181