THIS LITTLE RED 19-WATT WONDER excels at cranking out traditional rock and blues tones—but it gets there via atypical approaches to old-school amp technology. Designed by Wade Goeke, renowned for crafting crackerjack studio gear inspired by classic Rupert Neve and Abbey Road circuitry, this cathode-biased, class-A amp brings that same respectful but innovative perspective to guitar tone.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about the GAV19T is that the controls are clearly nonstandard. For example, the Input volume control is accompanied by a 5-position Bias switch that adjusts the bias of the ECC83 preamp tube from slightly overbiased to two flavors of underbiased, with Marshall- and Selmer-like settings along the way. The resulting tone shifts are subtle but noticeable, and playing response and feel are also affected.
Then there’s the Drive section, comprising a 6-position Boost control that increases gain incrementally, and a 5-position Tone control labeled Off, Treble Boost, Full Range, Aggressive, and Mids. This section changes the tone dramatically—from upping the edginess in various ways to changing dynamic response to seriously increasing gain and saturation— and working in tandem with the Tone switch’s Normal and Intense settings, provides lots of sound-shaping power. The behavior of these controls is also greatly altered depending on whether you are plugged into the High or Normal input. And, in an interesting twist, the Drive controls affect the dual-EL84 power section, not the preamp section, resulting in uncommonly robust crunch and punch even at lower volumes.
The Bass and Treble controls are not your garden-variety tone stack, either, but rather a Baxendall-style EQ (related to those found in some Magnatone, Orange, and Ampeg amps), powered by an ECC803 tube, and providing appreciable amounts of boost and cut. Cranking both controls scoops the mids, rolling them back provides the equivalent of a mid boost, and setting them straight up results in an essentially flat response. Chandler says the Baxendall-style EQ was chosen because it best preserves the natural tone of the amplifier, which at least in this case is a good thing, as the amp’s natural tone is superb.
I tested the GAV19T with a Bad Cat 4x12 cabinet loaded with Bad Cat Proprietary Celestion speakers (Chandler recommends Celestion-loaded 2x12 cabs, but none were at my disposal during the review period). Guitars included a PRS Custom 24 Brazilian, a Fender Stratocaster, and a Gibson Les Paul Custom.
For a 19-watt amp, the GAV19T is loud, and it had absolutely no trouble driving the great-sounding Bad Cat 4x12. The various controls offer so many tone-tweaking options that you’ll need to spend some quality time experimenting if you hope to fully grasp their myriad properties and the subtleties of their interactions, but you’d be hard pressed to get a bad tone out of this thing even if you tried. The overall sound is big, wide, firm, rich, and clear, with minimal operational noise other than on the most extreme settings. The best tones spanned a range from the clinical clang of a vintage Hiwatt to the riotous roar of an early master-volume Marshall, but it was also possible to push the amp into even higher-gain territory with convincing results.
The GAV19T is one wicked amp—delivering tons of classic tones, considerable flexibility, primo components, and superior build quality in a classy and relatively lightweight package. Dig!
CONTACT Chandler Limited, (319) 885-4200; chandlerlimited.com
PRICE $2,385 retail/$2,050 street
CONTROLS Boost, Tone, Bass, Treble, Input volume, Bias, Tone switch.
TUBES Two EL84
POWER tubes, ECC83 preamp, ECC803, EZ81 rectifier. Power 19 watts
WEIGHT 23 lbs
KUDOS Spectacular tones. Quiet. Versatile. Excellent build quality.