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Budda Twinmaster 1x12 Combo

February 8, 2012
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Budda might have made a more long-standing impression on the scene with its footswitchable Superdrive series, but the company is keen to remind us all that it was a major name at the front end of the lower-wattage boutique amp craze. And what better way to do that than bring back the amp that set the pace for Budda in 1995? The reissued Twinmaster 1x12 combo recaptures all the hand-wired construction and hot-tubes tonality of the original in a basic format that has become very familiar over the past 16 years, but which still presents plenty of worthy twists when done Budda-style. The brass tacks here are 18 watts of EL84-generated power, a butt-simple array of Volume, Bass, and Treble controls, and a sneaky pairing of Normal and High Gain inputs to tap your preferred degree of sizzle. You also get a series effects loop and Budda’s own large-magnet Phat 12 speaker in an open-backed finger-jointed solid pine cabinet.

A peak inside the chassis reveals a preamp circuit laid out on a turret board, with the larger filter caps and power supply circuitry built across a pair of turret strips—all hand wired in the U.S.A. using quality components from Mallory and Illinois Capacitor. The power and output transformers are also hefty, custom-designed units. Budda calls the Twinmaster a “class AB” amp, although it is cathode-biased with no negative feedback, just like a Vox AC30 and many other amps that are liberally described as “class A,” and which tend to offer plenty of chime and harmonic saturation when pushed into distortion.

 I tested the Twinmaster with a Gibson Les Paul goldtop and a 1957 Fender Telecaster, both of which tapped plenty of body, chime, and clarity through the Normal channel. There’s good tonal depth here, and an easy, playable touch-sensitivity, with the ability to segue into edge-of-breakup territory when you get the amp’s Volume control up past one o’clock (a hair sooner with the Les Paul). For me, though, the fun really began when I jacked each guitar into the High Gain input. The increased gain here is significant, and the volume jump is also noteworthy. So much so that it would be tough to use an A/B pedal to convert this to a channel-switching amp, but that isn’t really the idea. Just about anywhere on the Volume dial the High Gain mode issues meaty, chewy, sweetly saturated overdrive with plenty of harmonics, but no hint of harshness. The grind is far more “overdriven-vintage” than “contemporary high-gain”—which is to say the gain is plenty high, but voiced more like a cranked 18-watter with a booster pedal flooring the front end. In short, this mode is a blast to play, and exhibits the true heart of the Twinmaster: Almost along the lines of a mini-Trainwreck-style amp, this thing wants to be driven hot, and it gives you everything from pliant, sustain-soaked lead tones to gritty, ringing guitar-governed clean sounds.

A welcome return amid a flock of more chime-oriented EL84-based combos, the Twinmaster brings together some of the best aspects of vintage and modern amplifiers in a format that fans of aggressive, EL84- generated rock tones will truly enjoy.

Specifications

CONTACT Budda Amplification, (877) 866-3439; budda.com

Twinmaster 1x12 Combo

PRICE $1,999 street

CHANNELS One (with high-gain/lowgaininputs)

CONTROLS Volume, Bass, Treble

POWER 18 watts

TUBES Two 12AX7 preamp tubes, two EL84 output tubes, 5U4 rectifier tube

EXTRAS Series effects loop, dual speaker outs with 4/8Ω switch

SPEAKER Budda Phat 12

WEIGHT 40 lbs

BUILT U.S.A.

KUDOS Impressive build quality. Admirable simplicity. Scorchingly fun high-gain tones.

CONCERNS None.

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