THREE STUDIO PROS TEST NINE EL84-POWERED AMPS IN THE 15-WATT BALLPARK.
Since graduating from Musician’s
Institute in 2004, Justin Derrico
has toured with artists from the
Calling to Robin Thicke, and has
performed with Tina Turner and
Beyoncé at the Grammys. He is
currently touring with Pink and
playing in the house band for
NBC’s The Voice.
Steve Trovato has authored over
30 guitar instructional titles covering all facets, levels, and styles.
He maintains a full-time position
in the Studio Jazz Department
at the University of Southern
California. His latest album,
Country Jazzmaster, is saturated
with the influences and appreciation of country guitar and
Western swing’s essential greats:
Jimmy Bryant, Danny Gatton,
Albert Lee, and Hank Garland.
Taylor Locke is a guitarist,
singer, songwriter, producer,
and engineer. He’s currently
wrapping up a third LP with
his group Taylor Locke & the
Roughs, and is a founding
member of L.A. power-pop
band Rooney. He operates
a studio called the Velveteen
Laboratory in Los Feliz.
Dick Denny’s name may not have the same resonance with guitarists as Leo Fender’s, but for a generation of British guitarists and scores of amplifier builders who came in Denny’s wake, his work
is no less ingenious or important. Denny, you
see, was the brains behind the Vox AC15. With
his simple stew of EL84 power tubes, 15 watts of
power, and a 12" speaker, he created one of the
greatest, most timeless vehicles for electric-guitar
expression. Within a few years, Denny’s AC30
would supplant the AC15’s first masterstroke as
the standard bearer of British amplification—
effectively becoming for British Invasion bands
what the Spitfire was to the Royal Air Force.
But even if more powerful amps ultimately
got the headlines, the AC15 remained an article
of tone-generating perfection. Its combination of
glinting clean tones and delicious harmonic overdrive remained invaluable in the studio and on
small stages. As the legend of the forgotten Vox
grew in the decades to follow, small boutique
amp builders looked to the AC15 as inspiration
and a model of design elegance.
The nine amps given a workout here are, in
one way or another, children of Dick Denny’s
vision. They may vary a bit in terms of power and
features, but each looks to the magical formula
of EL84 power tubes and a ballpark of 15 watts.
For our roundup, we assembled three L.A. studio
and touring pros and let them have their way with
each of these lovely little machines. In the process,
we were all reminded just how near-perfect Dick
Denny’s tone recipe was from the beginning and
what a wonderful time it is to be in the market
for one of his masterpiece’s offspring.