Hot on the heels of their Lil’ Elvis model, 65 Amps now offers the Tupelo, a 20-watt, 6V6-powered tone machine. I gave it a run through with a Gibson Les Paul and a Godin Freeway SA.
The Tupelo’s look is rugged but elegant. I dig the metal vents on the top and love the way the front panel is split up like an oldtimey radio. The Tolex is perfectly clean and the gold piping adds a touch of bling. The top-mounted controls are straightforward and intuitive. At 47 lbs, the Tupelo is a pretty easy schlep.
Cranking the Master Voltage knob (more on that in a bit) and setting the Volume low produced a bright, ringy clean sound with nice harmonics. Sweeping the Tone control took me from brighter to darker, but the entire range of the knob was very musical. There’s a two-position toggle called the Smooth switch, which eliminates crossover distortion. To my ears it sounds and feels like a gain boost. There is also a footswitchable Bump switch for increasing gain. It’s not channel switching, but that’s an easy way to think about it. Engaging this function upped the girth and grind and made for a meaner tone with more lows and more sustain.
Nudging the Volume control up gives the Tupelo a throaty, authoritative bark with nice definition. With the volume at 7 and the Bump switch on, I was able to get singing sustain anywhere on the neck. The amp stayed dynamic, though, and I could conjure lively clean tones by rolling the guitar’s volume back or lightening up on my pick attack.
The Tupelo’s tube bias trem circuit is yet another unique feature. It has the interesting characteristic of not really affecting the attack of the note, only the decay. So if you slam a power chord, it keeps all the initial punch. Likewise, solos don’t have that dropout that can occur if you strike a note during the low part of the trem sweep.
For a 20-watt amp, this thing can get loud, and to tame some of the roar, there’s a Master Voltage knob that can drag the Tupelo down to three watts or so, all the while maintaining the feel and complexity of the higher volume settings. This is a really neat feature and does indeed seem to work in a different and cooler way than standard master volume controls. The only surprise had to do with the trem. As I lowered the Master Voltage, the tremolo reacted in a much choppier fashion and got kind of sputtery at the lowest level. Not a big deal, but a little curious.
The Tupelo is a super-cool addition to the 20-watt amp field. It can handle pop jangle, bluesy clang, Stonesy raunch, singing leads, and much more. Nicely done.
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