and Vishay low-noise resistors. There’s certainly no cost-cutting going on here.
All the guts are housed within a 14. 5"
x 9. 5" x 9. 5" enclosure, which essentially
makes the CEC the size of a tall shoebox.
Dressed from head to toe in a leather-textured, gunmetal gray vinyl, the amp
has the appearance of a futuristic military
device. The dovetailed corners are adorned
with robust metal brackets and a tightly
woven black-and-silver grille cloth is home
to the CEC Amplification logo. Weighing
in at a touch over 20 pounds, the Toll-Free Express is sturdy, to say the least, and
it feels like it will weather just about any
storm—nice to see in an amp that’s billed
as portable and road-ready.
I tested the Toll-Free Express using an 8
Ω 4x12" cab with Celestions Vintage 30s,
as well as a Gibson Les Paul, a Fender
Stratocaster, and a Fender Telecaster.
After dialing up a tone recipe that
seemed fit for the Les Paul, I turned the
Master volume a little more than half way
up, set the Gain at about 20 percent, and
got a sweet, harmonic break-up. Trying
to achieve this level of tube saturation on,
say, a 50-watt, non-master volume head
would get you an eviction notice in most
neighborhoods. But the Express managed
to communicate the wholeness of the Les
Paul tone without ripping the roof off the
house. Rolling down the Master even to
the 30 percent range still gives the amp a
surprisingly weighty tone, most notably in
the bottom end. And there was no need
to aggressively re-EQ the treble at this