Founded in 1999 by Bill Krinard and Joe Mloganoski, Two-Rock aimed from the start to marry Fender-style cleans and Dumble-inspired drive tones in amps rendered with optimum attention to detail and component quality. The heart-stopping price tags that this venture entailed didn’t prevent major names like John Mayer, Carlos Santana, and Matt Schofield from flying the Two-Rock flag, but the company spread its umbrella wider a few years ago with the introduction of a more affordable—yet still handmade—series aimed at the working musician. On review here are two models from the line: the Akoya and its matching 2x12 XL cab and the Studio Pro 35 1x12 combo.
Just unveiled at Winter NAMM 2015, the Akoya is Two-Rock’s first effort to produce an amp with unashamedly ’60s-Fender inspirations, while retaining undeniably contemporary breadth and versatility. The 4x10 combo version that’s also available has drawn inevitable comparisons to the classic Fender Super Reverb, but this head and vertical 2x12 cabinet pigeonholes the overall design a little less, giving the dual-6L6-based 50-watt powerhouse plenty to work with. The Clean and Overdrive channels share a 3-knob tone stage, but have independent Master and Reverb controls; note that Clean cascades into Overdrive in OD mode, so all four knobs come into play. The Akoya is tube rectified, and uses two 5AR4s to keep the current flowing. Unlike most Two-Rocks, the FX loop is passive, although with tube-driven tremolo and spring reverb onboard, many players won’t need much from it. The Akoya also employs a new footswitchable Tone Boost deployable on both channels, which adds beef to the tone stack rather than bypassing it (as on the Studio Pro 35). The 2x12 XL extension cab has a tuned oval rear port, and carries a pair of Celestion G12-65 speakers.
The Akoya’s hand-wired circuit features high-grade components and has tube-driven tremolo and reverb. It makes 50 watts from two 6L6s with a pair of 5AR4 tubes for rectification.
Tested with a Fender Telecaster and a Gibson Custom Shop 1959 Les Paul reissue, I immediately tapped into superb clean tones, truly some of the most bountiful I’ve experienced in quite a while, with a full voice and punch more reminiscent of a vintage Twin than a Super Reverb (understandably, given the speaker complement). With either guitar this channel sounded good with the Master reined in, but it really wanted levels at or near top-whack to reveal its full potential. In other words, you’re pushing some air by the time you disrobe the Akoya’s full beauty! Plump and juicy yet spanky and snappy, with a broad, blooming, three-dimensional soundstage and superb clarity, this was a great sonic foundation all on its own. Add a watery vintage- voiced reverb and tremolo and, phew, it was a tone to be reckoned with. Stomping on Overdrive brought in a slightly rugged, hard-edged lead tone that was more “pushed Hiwatt” than the smooth, Dumble-style OD to which Two- Rock players have been accustomed. Again, I felt I really needed to push Overdrive hard and loud to hit the sweet spot, but it was a mighty, mighty voice when it got there, capping off an impressive package for the professional player who performs at big venues.
STUDIO PRO 35
To call the Studio Pro series a “budget line” would be misguided; let’s just say that the simplified feature set and commensurately reduced price has helped it become a company best seller since its release a few years back. The ethos here is to sacrifice the overdrive channel for a single-channel clean platform with a wealth of tone-sculpting features hidden in and around the seemingly traditional EQ and gain structure (see spec box for control details). The Studio Pro 35 generates 35 watts of fixed-bias (class AB) power from a pair of 6L6s, with tube-driven spring reverb and a half-buffered FX loop (on the return), and a Level Return control that also governs the amp’s overall output level. On top of these, a Contour knob controls an active wide-band sweep to tweak the amp’s overall voicing, and a Pickup Loading switch on the back panel has four settings (plus bypass) to load your guitar’s pickups to varying degrees. The goal is reducing inductive ringing in the coils and the potential high-end harshness that results, providing a smoother, rounder tone and a little less gain. All of this fits in a superbly compact cab, with an oval-ported back and a Celestion G12-65 inside.
The Studio Pro 35 generates 35 watts of class AB power from a pair of 6L6s,and has diode rectification, a tube-driven spring reverb, and a half-buffered FX loop (on the return).
I tested the Two-Rock Studio Pro 35 with a Gibson Custom Shop 1959 Les Paul reissue, a Fender Telecaster, and a range of pedals in the front end and in the loop. It’s worth pointing out straight up that it behooves the newcomer to spend some time playing with the balance between the Gain, Master, and Return Level controls to achieve an understanding of how the Studio Pro 35’s gain structure works, and where available ratios of clean-to-drive tones exist, since these three controls interact a little differently than on most amps. Once I got there, I was mightily impressed with not only the bold, rich, blackface-leaning clean tones achievable at reasonable “club” volumes, but also with the juicy, tactile crunch to be had by pushing the front end just a little harder. Get it singing—or add an overdrive pedal for even more drive—and this amp issues a sweet, vintagelike dimension enhanced by contemporary clarity and texture, none of which I was expecting from this “clean” platform. Pulling the Middle control to bypass the tone stack elicited a further bump in gain and a raw, somewhat gnarly voice that sounded great for garage-y leads, but was maybe a little unrefined for some applications. The sound and performance of both the reverb and the loop were outstanding, with a usefully subtle taper on the former’s dual controls that helps you avoid that all-or-nothing wetness that so many amps deliver. And, if the small combo format lends just a touch of boxiness to the Studio Pro’s sound, the amp opened up beautifully through the 2x12 XL cab. A compact and versatile package, the Studio Pro 35 earns an Editors’ Pick Award.
Taken together, the Akoya and the Studio Pro 35 reveal a manufacturer adept at satisfying different ends of the broadening “boutique” market, as well as one that achieves impressive classiness of tone and build quality at whichever end of the ranges you find it.
PRICE $3,495 head, $995 cab
CHANNELS Treble, Middle, Bass, Clean Gain, Master, Reverb, Overdrive Gain, Master, Reverb, Tremolo Speed and Intensity, Presence
POWER 50 watts
TUBES Five 12AX7s and one 12AT7, two 6L6 output tubes, two 5AR4 rectifier tubes
EXTRAS Passive effects loop, preset Tone Boost on both channels, 3-button footswitch (for Tone Boost, Overdrive, and Tremolo)
SPEAKER 2x12 XL Cab with Celestion G12-65 speakers
WEIGHT Head 46 lbs, cab 50 lbs
KUDOS Outstanding build quality. Enormously bold, rich clean tones. Sweet reverb and tremolo. useful Overdrive channel.
CONCERNS Balancing both channels’ Gain and Master controls in Overdrive mode takes some getting used to.
STUDIO PRO 35 1X12 COMBO
PRICE $2,695 list/street
CONTROLS Treble, Middle, Bass (pull for Bright, Boost, Deep), Gain, Master, Reverb Send and Return, Contour; Pickup Loading switch and FX Return Level (like a final master volume) on back panel
POWER 35 watts
TUBES Four 12AX7s and one 12AT7, two 6L6GC output tubes
EXTRAS Tube-driven reverb, half-buffered FX loop (on return) with Return Level control, 5-way Pickup Loading switch
SPEAKER 12" Celestion G12-65
WEIGHT 39 lbs
KUDOS Compact and extremely well built. Sweet sounding cleans. Versatile reverb. Excellent crunch tones when pushed
CONCERNS The interplay between Gain, Master, and Return Level controls can be confusing, but they prove extremely versatile once you get the hang of them.