A LOT OF PLAYERS DIG TEISCO GUITARS,
but few may realize that the company also made
amplifiers, and they actually made a lot of them.
There are tube amps and solid-state amps in
many configurations—perhaps all made to be
a “point of sale” companion when a potential
buyer was trying out a Teisco guitar. I’ve had the
opportunity to play through a few of them, and I
have to say—not too impressed. But even I can’t
deny the crazy coolness of the Checkmate 30.
As amps go, this one isn’t too terribly weird—
except for the fact that it’s round, and has a
cheap wood veneer that makes it look like it
belongs in the Brady Bunch’s family room. The
engineers at Teisco were not known for innovative
amplifier design, but they surmised that
pointing a speaker up at a cone might produce a
360-degree sonic spread. And guess what? The
“surround” sound dispersion actually works so well that I wonder why few (if any) major amp
makers have experimented with that approach.
PLAYABILITY & SOUND
The Checkmate 30 is a solid-state amp that
cranks a whopping eight watts through a top-facing
6" speaker. The whole thing stands about
a foot and a half high, and is about the diameter
of a snare drum. It has two parallel inputs—
one for you and one for your bass player—and
two controls for the surprisingly nice tremolo
unit. A footswitch jack lets you turn the tremolo
on and off, and there’s also a speaker output,
which would seem to belie the whole “360
The Checkmate’s clean tone rules, and I
embrace the amp’s unique sonic spread by miking
it from two sides of the room to get a cool stereo
delay. But, man, this is a very quiet amp. It can’t
keep up with even an extremely soft group without
breaking up, and the overdrive tone isn’t the cool, tube-amp grind—it just gets grainy and ugly.
As a result, I use my Checkmate as a practice amp,
as well as an end table in my studio. Double duty!
An amp exactly like this one sold online recently
for more than $700. That’s a tough one, when
you can buy a used Vox Pathfinder or a Peavey
Rage for 50 bucks and make a big sound. I love
Teisco stuff from the ’60s and ’70s, but I still can’t
understand the company’s mythical allure and
the almost mystically inflated selling prices for
its gear. But I’m glad the stuff is out there—and
I mean out there!
WHY IT RULES
It’s functional art. But wait—there’s more! It’s
also a drink holder, a storage surface for picks
and slides, a nice amp for quiet rehearsal and
songwriting sessions, and, best yet, it makes
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