Cornford Carrera

January 8, 2008

The new British-made amp adds a 12" Celestion Vintage 30 speaker, a top-panel mounted effects loop, a Midrange control to bolster the Treble and Bass knobs, and a full-size spring reverb. More significant, however, is the Carrera’s selectable output stage feature, which allows you to switch between an octal base (8 pin) tube (such as the 5881, 6L6, 6V6, 6550, EL34, KT66, KT88, etc.) and a 9-pin EL84/6BQ5 tube. The power rating in either mode is between 5 and 8 watts, depending on the tube type. The Carrera’s standard preamp tube complement of three 12AX7s can also be swapped with any combination of lower-gain dual triodes like the 12AT7,12AU7,12AY7 etc. The amp features a neat point-to-point wired circuit and a solid-pine cabinet with the baffle board permanently dadoed into the cabinet. The black covering is custom made vinyl, which contrasts well with the cream control panel and cream piping around the grille. Other quality touches include a stitched leather handle and a classy enameled logo plate with engraved lettering.

The Carrera easily qualifies as one of the richest sounding single-ended amps I’ve ever heard. Used with an Ibanez George Benson guitar it pumps out deliciously burnished tones when plugged into the Low input. This amp likes to romp on the grittier side of the tracks, however, and even when using the low-gain input, you can only turn the Gain control up about one quarter before distortion becomes part of your life. (Installing one or more lower-gain preamp tubes is the thing to do if more clean headroom is needed.) With a Les Paul it was easy to get very happening blues/rock distortion tones with the Gain cranked to halfway or more. Switching between the tube types is fun. The EL84 (9 Pin setting) yields more chime and compression, while the 8 Pin position with the stock 5881 produces a brawnier, tighter tone. With a 6V6 in place the Carrera sounds like a very gainey tweed Deluxe, while an EL34 made it sound more muscular and Marshall-like. The Carrera has great dynamic response and cleans up well when you lighten your picking attack or turn down your guitar. The Reverb control has a lot of range and can go from very light textures to huge washes of reflection. The sproinginess at high settings isn’t quite up to Fender standards (i.e. the surfy drip is bit wanting), but the more hi-fi response of the Carrera’s ’verb is not a downer by any means. Plug into the High input and start wicking up the Gain knob and the Carrera’s preamp really pours on the Brit-flavored grind. You can get practically endless sustain in this mode, and at very low volumes too, thanks to the well-implemented Master. The Carrera sounds most savage with its output stage running flat out, but it’s great that the touch sensitivity and stringy detail isn’t lost when you have to clamp down on the loudness. The Carrera would only be suitable for small, low volume gigs, but if you want superb overdrive tones for home or studio recording (or just want a great boutique amp for tube “tasting”) it’s an outstanding choice.


Kudos Sweet sounding. Excellent distortion tone. Selectable tube types.

Concerns Chassis is held in place with only two screws and doesn’t feel solidly anchored to the cabinet

Contact Cornford, (011) 44 0 1227 771158; 

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