Review: 3rd Power Wooly Coats Spanky

Jamie Scott was a guitarist with major-label bands in the ’80s and ’90s before moving into music electronics, where he spearheaded digital guitar-wireless products at Xwire and X2 Digital.
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Jamie Scott was a guitarist with major-label bands in the ’80s and ’90s before moving into music electronics, where he spearheaded digital guitar-wireless products at Xwire and X2 Digital. His founding of 3rd Power in 2010 brought him back to his core love of guitar tone, and the company’s success since then has led not only to the cleverly updated MkII series for 2015, but to a recent expansion into larger new facilities in Nashville, Tennessee. One of several new models that were unveiled at the 2015 Winter NAMM show, the Wooly Coats Spanky is a Fender Princeton-inspired package that establishes a simple and firm foundation upon which the customer can build features as required. Add reverb to this base model for $200, add tremolo for $200, or go smaller with the 1x10 combo for $1,650. It delivers 20 watts from a pair of 6V6s with a 5U4 rectifier, and the traditional circa-’65 preamp is expanded with a Midrange control in addition to Bass and Treble knobs, which enables you to sweep the voice from meaty tweed to scooped and snappy blackface. In addition, the standard small-amp phase inverter circuit—an ingredient partly responsible for the Princeton’s characteristic early breakup—has been upgraded to a big-amp-style long-tailed pair PI, which delivers more headroom and a broader, fuller frequency response. The open-back cab houses a Celestion G12M Greenback, and the quality of construction and componentry inside the chassis is on par with that of the British Dream MkII.

With my Telecaster, the Wooly Coats Spanky exuded small- to medium-sized blackface tones with a quacky top end and tight, springy lows. The Mid control definitely helped to wind up the grind when I wanted things to snarl a little more, revealing an amp with some 5E3-like bite and texture, but more body and clarity overall. Even with the Les Paul, this combo retained an impressive amount of headroom. With the Volume between 9 and 11 o’clock, I enjoyed everything from easy jazz runs to smoky blues, all with a broadly sculptable EQ range. Pushed up to around 3 o’clock, the Les Paul elicited some serious crunch, and the Greenback 12 did start to lose its low-end cool a little when hit with aggressive power chords or wailing leads (note that 3rd Power is now using an Eminence George Alessandro 12 in this model). But that in itself proved a cool tone in the “pushing a vintage amp past its limits” vein. At these levels the Tele screamed plenty too, although it all held together more tightly for a sound that would be right at home in a Delta juke joint or a Bakersfield honky-tonk. Like the blackface amps that inspired it, the Spanky is arguably somewhat limited of range—the bells and whistles just aren’t there—but it does what it does very well, and is a handy package for any gig that needs soulful, ’60s-style tube tone.

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PRICE $1,750 street as reviewed; reverb and tremolo optional @ $200 each. Base model with 10” speaker $1,650 street

CONTROLS Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass
POWER 20 watts
TUBES Two 12AX7, two 6V6 output tubes, 5U4 rectifier tube
EXTRAS Dual speaker outs with 4/8Ω selector
SPEAKER One 12" Celestion G12M Greenback (Currently shipping with an Eminence George Alessandro 12)
WEIGHT 32 lbs
KUDOS Excellent build quality in a great-sounding and stylishly retro grab ’n’ go club amp that somewhat expands the horizons of mid-’60s voicings.
CONCERNS A little pricey by the time you add reverb and tremolo.