What do you do when your lifeblood amps are getting raves from major stars for their ability to cop that Big-D tone, but you just can’t bring them in at a price that appeals to the pockets of the greater mass of working players? Simplify, reconfigure, consolidate! And voila, Fuchs’s new Casino Series—four U.S.-made amps designed to snuggle up in the lower end of the boutique range, while still delivering two footswitchable channels and the Dumble-esque overdrive tones that are Fuchs’s bread and butter.
The Four Aces Combo( $1,495 street) and Full House-50 head ($1,795 street) complete a lineup aimed at a range of power requirements. All four are built using the same single circuit board in the same aluminum chassis, and therefore have more in common than not. As a result, these two boast the same controls and features, differing only in their output tubes and variously sized transformers.
The preamp is derived from Fuchs’s flagship, the Overdrive Supreme, and offers a versatile range of gain and EQ controls, plus onboard digital reverb derived from Fuchs’s Verbrator pedal, which is not footswitchable. In addition to the clean/OD switching, however, the two-button footswitch included provides boost switching for both channels, tapping a preset, non-tone-bypass that retains full use of the EQ section. The backside presents speaker outs, a single TRS jack for series effects loop, the footswitch jack, and the standby switch. Curiously, the power switch is on the front, which seems a little inconvenient from a gigging perspective.
Four Aces Combo
This four-watter’s firepower comes courtesy of two 6SN7 octal preamp tubes, with each of the squat dual triodes used in a push-pull output stage. The user can pull one 6SN7 for half power, although rebiasing is advised for extended half-power use. The compact, cube-like cabinet houses a 12" Eminence The Wizard speaker, and makes up in depth what it lacks in width and height to fill out the low end. Unleashed with a Fano JM6 with P-90s and a Grosh Set Neck with humbuckers, this combo proved robustly vintage sounding, although the reverb exhibited some dissonant overtones and its decay would start off heavy, even on the lowest settings, then die unnaturally quickly. (Fuchs tells us that this was caused by the reverb clock starting at an incorrect frequency, and it only applied to some early production models.)
Otherwise, the Four Aces performed as it should, offering decent headroom for a low-wattage design, though even the Clean channel segued into juicy breakup pretty early on the dial. The overall voice is an interesting blend of push-pull Class AB tautness and triode-output-tube roundness and give. Too much gain on the OD channel sends it all a bit blubbery, but it’s a thick, creamy, delectable texture that couches a great cranked-vintage lead tone, yet has the broad sonic flexibility of Fuchs’s versatile preamp. The OD Tone control is a real bonus as it broadly shapes the core voice, irrespective of EQ settings, to rock you from London to Fullerton and several points in between. A total blast for the bedroom player, the Four Aces makes a great studio tool, and with this sensitive Eminence speaker and the bigger-than-expected soundstage from the harmonically rich ODS-style preamp, it stands a good chance of keeping up with a drummer, too.
The big boy of the Casino lineup does its thing with a pair of 6L6s in Class AB for a full 50 watts driving through Fuchs’s Buzz Feiten-designed Vintage 2x12 Cabinet, a diagonally loaded box with one Eminence Texas Heat speaker mounted to the front of the baffle and the other to the rear, “for a larger perceived tone,” Andy Fuchs tells us. The chassis is mounted in a cab with a little daylight showing through on the end—a gap of about 1/8" at the right edge of the control panel—but it’s tidy work otherwise.
In this format the same preamp used in the Four Aces translates to a tighter, more contemporary performance. The Clean channel’s bold tones offer almost limitless headroom, and the OD churns out creamy modern lead tones at will. The OD Tone control is a little dull or harsh at its respective extremes, but there’s a great range in between which helps to expand the lead channel’s EQ exponentially. The Dumble reference is often bandied about in Fuchs land, and this does indeed approach some D-style character, which is to say it’s a modified American overdrive tone with an open, balanced voice and a firm low-end foundation, the kind of sound favored by more refined musical styles, which is not to say “tame” or “clean” in the least.
The reverb sounds better on this amp, perhaps functioning more as it should, although many might still miss the watery sproing of traditional springs. Also, a global master could make this bigger amp more versatile, allowing you to dial in a little more bite from the Clean channel if needed. As is, your clean tone is somewhat at the mercy of your volume restrictions, although it sounds stellar at all settings. All in all, though, the Full House-50 is a muscular, dynamic performer that punches above its weight class and would be a great candidate for gigs where you need a lot of clean range along with rich high-gain tones in a package that is suitable for stages of any size. —Dave Hunter