Dr. Z Z-Lux
The classic 1x12 tube combo has long been one of the most essential tone tools ever created for guitar players. In the guise of the Fender Deluxe Reverb in particular, the format has been part of untold numbers of recordings over the decades, and, of course, when the session was over this workhorse was often carried straight to the live gig for more hours of delivering great tones. There are more choices today in small combos than ever before, and Dr. Z alone has some 34 tube models that carry single or dual speakers in sizes ranging from 8" to 12". And among them is the new Z-Lux 1x12 combo (a head is also available), which incorporates popular features like spring reverb and tremolo (both footswitchable), while adding things like a footswitchable boost function that bypasses the tone stack for a little extra gain, and a four-6V6 output stage that makes 40 watts and can be throttled back to 20 watts via a half-power switch. Power is fed into an Eminence-made Z-12 12" speaker fitted into a redesigned cabinet that is lighter and more friendly to players who haul their amps around on a regular basis.
As Dr. Z reports, the Z-Lux’s front end is borrowed from the MAZ amp, and features hand-rolled Jupiter caps, Mallory 150s, and classic “orange drop” caps that are selected for each stage. The output stage is lifted from the Remedy model, and the reverb and tremolo are both tube driven. The circuitry is very neatly hand-wired, and the tube sockets, pots, and jacks are sturdily mounted to the aluminum chassis. Rugged and easy to service, the hand-soldered innards of all Dr. Z amps are one of the factors that make them extremely good values in the world of boutique guitar amplification.
True to form, the Z Lux has a richly detailed clean sound that is awesome for rhythm playing, and gets even better when you lay on some lush sounding reverb for a touch of airy reflection or a drenched “surf” effect. Setting the Volume knob to around 3 o’ clock and the Master to suit the room, harks to the best clean tones I can get from a Deluxe Reverb, but the Z Lux has yards more headroom and can take things significantly higher in volume without becoming flubby or ragged. The 3-band EQ is voiced so well that it was possible to set the knobs at noon and adjust them a little to either side to get great sounds from a Gibson Historic ’59 Les Paul or a John Page Ashburn with three single-coils). The tremolo throbs deliciously, and its range of depth and speed allow for anything from hypnotic, Bo Diddley-style rhythmic pulse to highlighting a break or a song ending with some shimmering modulation.
The Z Lux isn’t a super high-gain amp, and although it will get fairly distorted when the Volume is cranked up with the Boost engaged (even more so if the power stage can run free), I found it more practical to use overdrive pedals (an Xotic SL Drive and a Seymour Duncan 805 among others) in the front end for more sustaining rhythm and lead tones. With or without pedals, however, this dynamically responsive amp readily follows where your guitar wants to go, and always clean up beautifully when you roll down the volume. But if you are a pedalboard user, you’ll definitely appreciate how well the Z-Lux integrates distortion, delay, and modulation effects into its core tone.
A fine combo by any measure, the Z-Lux is a welcome addition to the Dr. Z line. It’s kind of a Deluxe on steroids, but it is also a very open and complex sounding amp that’ll go in any direction you steer it: country, blues, rock, jazz … you name it. With 40 watts of backbone in a package that doesn’t weight much more than many amps of half its power, the Z-Lux is one impressive machine and it earns an Editors’ Pick Award. —Art Thompson
Watch a demo of the Z-Lux https://goo.gl/D4PlGT
PRICE $2,399 street; head $2,049
CONTROLS Volume, Treble, Bass, Mid, Master, Reverb, Speed, Depth
POWER 40/20 watts
TUBES Five 12AX7s, one 12AT7, four 6V6 output tubes
EXTRAS Hand-wired circuitry with top shelf components. Half power switch. Footswitchable reverb, tremolo, and boost (two footswitches included). 4Ω, 8Ω, and 16Ω speaker jacks. Fan cooling.
SPEAKER Z-12 50-watt 12" (made by Eminence)
WEIGHT 45 lbs
KUDOS Excellent build quality. A very toneful and flexible amplifier with excellent reverb and tremolo.