In the world of guitar amps, the revolt against the printed circuit board and transistors has been in effect for some time, and the amp geeks have effectively won.
Today’s boutique amp business is large and fertile, with contenders like Divided By 13, Victoria, Dr. Z, Headstrong, Milkman, to name but a few. The century-old science of tubes, transformers, capacitors, and eyelet boards is firmly re-established as the way to wring the best tone out of your axe. The root of great playing may still be tied to the fingertips, but the sympathetic response of a well-built, valve-powered amp is arguably the next most important link in the chain.
Enter Steve Carr’s latest, the Impala. Based on the circuit of the venerable blackface Fender Bassman, Carr’s Impala goes a couple of extra miles. Clocking in at 40 watts, and equipped with a master volume, you can saturate the power tubes on this baby for plenty of good old-fashioned blues-based swamp tone.
But where this amp really shines, like the proverbial new Chevrolet on a dealer’s lot, is its clean headroom. You want twang? You want jangle? The Impala delivers what you’d call responsive handling. It glitters, it bites, it purrs. Three bands of EQ let you really nail the sweet spot of your guitar. The reverb is long, clean and not a bit cloudy. All that clarity means your effects will shine like they’re supposed to. After test driving this baby with a few great guitar players, we were all sold.
Granted, the blue book on the Impala is on high end, but the amp’s performance absolutely matches the price point, with the versatility to play small stages and large venues. Bonus points for some sleek retro-modern design. Nicely done. Double pumper Holley not included.