It’s rare when we receive a combo amp these days with four speakers, let alone one with a quartet of eight inchers, but that’s what the Fifty from San Francisco-based RC Davis houses in its birch-ply cabinet. A shrunken Fender Super Reverb you might ask? After all, it uses a pair of 6L6 output tubes, and it has hand-wired circuitry and spring reverb. Despite these similarities with the mid-’60s Fender, however, the Fifty is quite different in that its dual speaker outs have Send and Return paths that allow you to patch in a power attenuator of your choice without disconnecting the internal speakers. I’ve never seen this on an amp before, and it’s a convenient way of dealing with something that would normally leave you scratching your head for a solution.
The dual inputs provide very different levels of sensitivity, making it easy to configure it to sound cleaner or more overdriven. In high mode, the Pre control started generating breakup at around 1 o’clock with a Les Paul, and continued to get meaner and fuzzier sounding as the knob was turned up. On the flip side, the lower gain input kept things very clean-sounding, yielding crisp, balanced tones with single-coils and humbuckers. The Low, Mid, and High controls are well voiced and effective, and there’s also a Presence knob on the back for fine-tuning treble response at the output stage. The reverb, which is based on a vintage Ampeg Gemini’s, is a little bouncy sounding and doesn’t deliver the airy reflections of a longer tank, but it’s nice to have it nonetheless.
The Fifty’s headroom makes it a fine candidate for stompboxes, and I got some cool tones using a Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone micro pedal, which increased sustain and made it easy to get very smooth distortion tones. Delay and Modulation boxes also sounded great though this amp, as did reverb pedals from DigiTech and Dunlop.
The Fifty is easy to move around thanks to casters on the bottom (I also can’t recall the last time we got a combo that rolled), and it has all the right stuff to be a solid amplifier for working players. The four speakers produce a big sound from this fairly compact cabinet, and the mismatched 8s are well chosen, as they add their own interactive complexity to the sound. It all makes for a fun and interesting 50-watt combo that would be a good complement to any backline.
PRICE $2,695 direct
CONTROLS Pre (gain), Low, Mid, High, Reverb, Master
POWER 50 watts, class A/B fixed bias
TUBES 3 x 12AX7, 1 x ECC99, 2 x 6L6, 5AR4 rectifier
EXTRAS Presence control on rear panel. Reverb bypass jack (footswitch not included). Dual speaker outs with Send & Return function that allows for a power attenuator (not included) to be inserted without disconnecting the internal speakers. Impedance selector (4, 8, 16Ω).
SPEAKER Four 8" speakers: Two Celestion Eight 15 and two Jensen PR8
WEIGHT 49 lbs
KUDOS Solid build. Good clean to mildly overdriven tones. Send and return function on the speaker outs provides an easy way to patch in an attenuator.
CONCERNS Reverb is a little weak.