Budda Collector's Edition Twinmaster

In celebration of its tenth anniversary, Budda Amplification has produced 100 very special versions of the Twinmaster—the 18-watt combo that helped establish the San Francisco, California-based company as one of the top makers of tube amps for discriminating players. So it’s not surprising that the Collectors’ Edition Twinmaster ($4,995 retail/$3,996 street) has been given a royal treatment for its limited return to the Budda line. The chassis and logo plate feature mirror-polished, custom-purple anodized plating.

The circuitry is completely handwired point-to-point, and the finger-jointed, solid-pine cabinet is covered in suede-like beluga vinyl. The cab’s corners and handle are made from hand-stitched cowhide—dyed purple, of course—and the piping that surrounds the black cloth-weave grille is hand-sewn cream leather. The interior of the cabinet is lined in imported German automotive cloth, and sports a metal plaque that is signed by Budda designer Jeff Bober. A purple leather brim hat (handy for fishing trips and sunny outdoor gigs) and a hand-sewn purple leather slipcover complete the package. Other cool details include engraved control-panel labels, neat tag-board circuitry, and high-grade components such as gold-plated tube sockets and custom-made transformers.

With its dual EL84s, the Custom Edition Twinmaster sounds like a cross between a Vox AC15 and a JMP-era Marshall 20-watt. Plugging into the Normal input produces the cleanest sounds, and you can turn the Volume knob up to two o’ clock before any significant distortion begins to work its way onto the scene. Past this point, the tones get stringer and more harmonically engorged—very cool for heavier rhythm work. The High-Gain input has a good range of cleaner textures, as well, but once you go past two o’ clock on the Volume control, the tones become progressively more muscular and overdriven. The passive Tone controls require only scant attention to yield well-balanced sounds, and with the Volume knob pushed past three o’clock, the gutsy sustain is impressive. Grab your Les Paul and head for the Tres Hombres zone! Higher volume settings provoke more intense, feedback-ready tones, but even in its most overdriven modes, cleaner tones are easily obtained by rolling down your guitar’s volume. It’s this dynamic quality that makes the Twinmaster a happening thing for players who just want to plug in and rock. This is a loud 15-watter, and when using it solely for your lead and rhythm tones (as opposed to adding a distortion pedal) you may find yourself doing tricks like aiming the cabinet sideways, or letting its sound bounce off a back wall to keep from overpowering a small room. This is a cool little amp, and the only drag is that Budda has no plans to bring the Twinmaster back in standard—read affordable—guise.