Review: Revv Amplification D20

In this modular age of handy hybrid rigs, this is an amp any modern-minded player should consider checking out.
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Revv Amplification D20

Revv Amplification D20

Canadian manufacturer Revv Amplification is probably best known for its highly functional, high-gain, all-tube 120-watt Generator 120 head and the other handmade amps in its Pro Series. But the company is also looking to the future of studio and onstage guitar-tone generation, and the D20 is the result. 

Outwardly, the D20 is a simple 20-watt tube amp, switchable to four watts, with fairly standard control features. However, a deeper dive finds it’s primed to link you to the brave new world of hybrid tube-digital performance, with built-in Two Notes Torpedo speaker-cabinet emulation and a world of clever connectivity, plus a front end designed for optimal pairing with Revv’s own amp-voiced G Series drive pedals or your own. All that, and it’s a compact, ultra-portable package in the “lunch box” vein.

To give it the current terminology, the D20 is intended as a “pedal platform” amplifier, which means it’s designed to deliver useful clean-to-crunch tones on its own but excels at translating external overdrive and distortion pedals into seamless lead tones. (To help prove the point, the Revv G2 overdrive pedal is included for review, but we tried some third-party stompboxes as well.) 

While that’s a growing sector in and of itself, this is the first amp we know of that pairs this intention with a digital back end in the form of high-quality cabinet emulations, making the amp head itself quite a different sort of link in the chain. As such, Revv considers the D20 part of a “modular rig solution,” and one that can be adapted to many different recording and performance needs.

As for the core of the amp itself, the output is generated by two 6V6GT tubes with a pair of 12AX7 preamp tubes in the front. Front-panel controls include gain (with pull-boost), treble, middle, bass and volume (master), with push buttons for 20-watt/four-watt operation and pre/post, a headphone output with level control and a rotary switch to dial up any of the six available onboard Two Notes Torpedo cab presets. 

Factory selections include classic 4x12, 2x12 and 1x12 emulations, each with and without studio-quality room reverb, but near-countless others are available from the Two Notes library, and third-party impulse responses (IRs) can be used as well. All can be tweaked to your heart’s content using the Torpedo Remote app.

Revv Amplification D20

Revv Amplification D20

Around back, there’s a connection for cabinet lighting (to link to Revv’s light-up speaker cabs), MIDI in, bias test points for the output tubes and a USB connection to link to your Mac or Windows PC for cab editing. Audio I/O include an XLR balanced output (with ground-lift switch) to DI the cab-emulated signal to your front-of-house mix or recording interface, FX send and return, and speaker out for your dry amplified signal. There is also a switch to select eight-or four-ohm cab output and another to engage the internal load when no physical speaker cab is used.

Of the above, the pre/post switch on the front might warrant the most explanation. It determines whether the signal fed to the embedded cab emulation is taken before or after the amp’s output stage, allowing you to make use of the Two Notes Torpedo’s selectable power-amp emulations to tap the flavor of EL84s, 6L6s or EL34s for your digital DI, for example, rather than sticking with the amp’s own 6V6GTs. Add it all up, and it’s an extremely clever and versatile package.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Revv presents the customer with a first-class “unboxing” experience akin to that of a certain popular phone-and-computer manufacturer and other 21st century luxury consumer goods. The amp arrives in a sleek, black inner box that gracefully unwraps to revel accessories, a certificate of ownership, a complementary pack of gummy bears and the compact head itself in its matte-black metal shell.

As noted above, to get the full “modular rig” experience, we tried out the D2 with the Revv G2 pedal ($229 list). It’s a versatile single-space overdrive with a three-mode gain switch and three-knob EQ, and is designed to work equally well with analog, digital and hybrid rigs. The whole modular marketing concept begs the question, Aren’t guitarists seeking a pedal-platform amp likely to have their own selection of favorite drive pedals and prefer not to purchase a new one to fill out the rig? That, of course, is down to your personal preference.

I tested the Revv D20 with a Gibson 1958 Les Paul Reissue and a Novo Serus J with Lindy Fralin P-90s into both a traditional 1x12 cab with Celestion Ruby Alnico speaker and DI’d into my Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface and studio monitors, with the internal load engaged and no cabinet connected. To begin with, the ease of the latter provides a quick example of how handy this amp can be in the studio, and the six cab presets - plus the G2 overdrive pedal - provided instant gratification at levels in my third-floor studio that never threatened to wake the terrier napping on the ground floor.

The D20 itself has an admirable clean sound that pushes into some characterful grit with the gain control advanced. The pull-boost sounds great and gooses the D20 into juicy, vintage non-master-volume-like crunch territory, but it also induces a perceived level hike, so it isn’t really usable for mid-song lead boosts without also tweaking your volume knob.

Revv’s own G2 does indeed pair well with this head. It has a naturally tubey character of its own and great dynamics, and it offers three levels of low-gain to medium-high-gain overdrive that are very musical and playable and offer a broad range of EQ adjustment within them. That said, the D20 also worked beautifully with a JHS Angry Charlie, an original Ibanez TS10 Tube Screamer and a Bogner Wessex, so by no means do you need to stay in-house to achieve satisfying lead tones.

Through the 1x12 guitar cabinet, the D20 in full-power mode takes on the character of a more traditional 20-watt, 6V6-loaded guitar amp, a role in which it proved itself able. Moreover, it’s an extremely capable pedal platform, lapping up the above-mentioned overdrive pedals and interacting seamlessly with delay and modulation effects in the loop.

Its fairly neutral voicing means you can throw just about anything at it, and, with the right distortion pedal in front, it even tackles classic metal pretty well, though it’s more at home with anything in the broad range of rock and roll. All in all, the D20 is an impressive and well-implemented concept from Revv, and an amp any modern-minded player should consider checking out in this modular age of handy hybrid rigs.

SPECIFICATIONS

CONTACT revvamplification.com
PRICE $1,199 list

CHANNELS 1
CONTROLS gain with pull-boost, treble, middle, bass, volume, virtual cabinet switch
POWER 20 watts
TUBES Two 12AX7 preamp tubes, two 6V6GT output tubes
EXTRAS 20-watt/4-watt output switch, pre/post output-stage switch , switch for 4Ω and 8Ω speaker output, MIDI in, bias test points, USB port, FX send and return, XLR DI out, load/speaker switch
DIMENSIONS 12.5” x 7.5” x 6.5”
WEIGHT 9 lbs
BUILT Canada

KUDOS A creative concept and a clever package that marries a good-sounding, compact tube head with embedded cabinet emulations
CONCERNS No major issue, but appeal might be limited to those who buy into the entire concept

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