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Kendrick So-Lo 7

February 14, 2012
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My ’67 Fender Super Reverb spends much of its life under house arrest because I’m too scrawny to lift it in and out of car trunks, so I was way jazzed to try Kendrick’s latest creation, the So-Lo 7—an amp that’s designed to cram 70 pounds of big-bottle vintage soul into a 22-pound package.

The So-Lo is an impeccably-finished gold and tweed beauty that oozes Cold Warera chic, but a closer look reveals many modern twists, starting with the 12BH7 power tubes, which are similar to 12AX7s and generally found in the preamp sections of tube hi-fi gear. However, the So-Lo 7 mimics a big-wattage amp by running the two sides of a single 12BH7 as a “push-pull” output stage for 7 watts of surprisingly strong and punchy Class AB power. And that output can be doubled to 14 watts by adding a second 12BH7 (included), or reduced to a whisper by using the built-in attenuator.

The So-Lo 7’s preamp is based on a Fender Super Reverb’s, but a 3-way Voice switch sculpts the bass response and compression by borrowing from classic Marshall and Ampeg circuits. There’s also a Texas Tea control, which blends in raw “tweed”-like tone, adding midrange fullness and bark to the amp’s naturally clean and sparkling voice.

I tried the So-Lo 7 with several Strats, a Tele, and a PRS, and with all of ’em it did a remarkable job of delivering the snap, sparkle, and smokey warmth of a vintage amp. The So-Lo stays clean until about noon on its Volume control, then gets dirty with a smooth and dynamic grind that begs for classic blues and rock. At full volume, the bottom end gets a little mushy just like a vintage American amp, but switching the Voice switch from position 3 (Fender) to position 1 (Marshall) tightens up the lows and focuses the midrange to add clarity and crunch. The So-Lo never delivers the righteous clang of a British amp, so I wouldn’t recommend it for heavier rock or fusion styles, but it definitely has attitude: My poor ’66 Fender VibroChamp cowered meekly as the So-Lo intimidated it like a brutish soccer hooligan, delivering way more gain, headroom, and aggressive punch than the similarly-sized Fender.

The So-Lo’s all-tube footswitchable reverb is gorgeous and lush; it ranges from subtle ambience to full-pipeline surf, and doesn’t splatter when the amp is pegged. Nice! And smooth jazz tones abound on Voice setting 2 (Ampeg), popping with clean, juicy compression, although I wish this voicing had more available volume. I wouldn’t personally use the headphone output (Kendrick recommends using cheap headphones in order to roll-off treble as a speaker would), but into an outboard speaker simulator it makes an excellent recording DI with its integrated dummy load.

Though primarily a recording/practice amp, the So-Lo has enough headroom at 14 watts to hang mostly clean with a drummer, and it sounded positively huge when I miked it in a medium-sized club. And with the option of pulling a tube or engaging the attenuator (which dulls the tone slightly, but remains musical at all settings), the So-Lo serves up output-tube crunch at essentially any volume level.

So is this amp a 22-pound low-volume Super Reverb? Pretty darned close. Kendrick is definitely onto something with the micro-sized push-pull output stage—this might be the biggest and boldest sub- 15-watt amp I’ve ever tried. Of course, at some point physics takes over, and there’s a limit to how big a compact 1x12 combo can possibly sound, but the response from the So-Lo’s 1/2"-thick resonant pine cab and Greenframe speaker is impressive, and I easily found monster tone running through a 2x12 extension cab.

The Kendrick So-Lo 7 is one of the best-sounding low-wattage amps I’ve heard. It’s expensive, but given the tone, features, madein- USA point-to-point construction, and overall quality, I’d say the price is justified.

Specifications

CONTACT Kendrick Amplifiers, (512) 932- 3130; kendrick-amplifiers.com

So-Lo 7

PRICE $1,995 direct
CONTROLS Volume, Treble, Bass, Reverb, and Texas Tea. 3-way Voice switch (selects Marshall, Ampeg, or Fender cathode resistor and bypass cap values)
TUBES 12AU7, 12AT7, two 12AX7s, two 12BH7 power tubes, 5Y3 rectifier.
POWER 7 watts, 14 watts (two power tubes)
EXTRAS Onboard power attenuator, speaker-muting headphone/ DI output with dummy load. One- or twotube operation (cathode bias; no adjustment needed when pulling tubes). Footswitchable reverb
SPEAKER 12" Kendrick Greenframe
WEIGHT 22 lbs
BUILT USA
KUDOS Delicious range of Fender-inspired bigamp tones. Easy one-hand carry.
CONCERNS Expensive.

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