WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, THE “BOUTIQUE” and “high-gain” crowds gather in two different corners of the playing field, espousing hand-built and PCB-based circuitry respectively. But a relatively new maker, Carol-Ann Amplifiers, has been generating some buzz in the amp world by blending the two camps. The cornerstone of their range is the OD-2, a 50-watt, 6L6- based all-tube head with footswitchable clean and lead channels that was designed with consultation from Joe Bonamassa. As with all Carol-Ann amps, the OD-2 is designed and built in Pelham, New Hampshire, by transplanted Englishman Alan Phillips, a former electronics engineer who even goes so far as to personally test-gig every amp before shipping to its respective dealer.
Simpler than many a high-gain channel switcher, the OD-2’s intuitive front panel boasts a single input, a shared Pre-Gain control that sets the first gain stage’s level for both channels, a Drive control on Channel B (the overdrive channel), independent Bass, Middle, and Treble controls for each channel, and independent Channel A Master and Channel B Master controls. A Bright switch affects both channels, a Shift switch changes the range of Channel A’s tone stack and also adds or cuts a little gain, and a Presence control acts on both channels. Further, while one button on a two-button footswitch changes channels, the second provides a preset boost to Channel B.
On the rear panel, Send and Return jacks for a series effects loop are accompanied by a Level control (which also acts as a second global master volume, even with no effects in the loop), and dual speaker outs for matching with 8Ω or 16Ω cabs.
While the OD-2’s exterior is rather businesslike, the interior should set tone fiend’s hearts palpitating. The circuit is laid out entirely on a rugged, hand-soldered eyelet board and populated by SBE 16PS “orange drop” signal caps and carbon-film resistors.
For consistency and efficiency, high-voltage power stages and switching circuits are laid out on thick PCBs, while all tube sockets, pots, switches, and jacks are chassis mounted. Power and output transformers are chunky beasts, too, contributing to this compact head’s 38 lbs heft.
Tested with a variety of guitars alternately through a birch-ply 2x12 loaded with Celestion Classic Lead 80s and a pine 1x12 carrying an ASW KTS60 speaker, I found the OD-2 a powerful performer at all settings. Channel A was bold and clear, with excellent body and definition, and a fine clean response by any standards. Channel B, however, got me far more hot and bothered. According to your blend of Pre-Gain, Drive, and Master settings, this channel issues exceedingly smooth, creamy lead tones with outstanding dynamics and impressive note definition within chords. And Phillips’ build quality keeps it super quiet even when cranked. Wind up the Drive, hit the boost footswitch, and use your guitar volume to segue seamlessly from crunching power chords to singing, sustain-all-day solo lines with a rare, sweetly vocal quality that makes you want to just keep playing. And to sweeten the pot, you can achieve these tones at virtually any volume, thanks to one of the more effective dual-master volume circuits I have encountered.
A welcome addition to the limited market of hand-built, high-gain guitar amplifiers, the Carol-Ann OD2 is bound to be a bracing experience for anyone who thinks they’ve seen and heard it all in boutique land.
CONTACT Carol-Ann Amps; carolannamps.com
PRICE $2,995 retail
CONTROLS Pre-Gain (shared), Bass, Middle, Treble on both channels. Channel A Master and Shift switch. Channel B Drive, Master, Presence. Global Sparkle (bright) switch
POWER 50 watts
TUBES Three 12AX7 preamp tubes (unbranded), one Groove Tubes 5751 preamp tube, two Ruby 6L6GC-STR output tubes. Solid-state rectification
EXTRAS Series effects loop with Level control, two-button footswitch with XLR connector cable (included)
WEIGHT 38 lbs
KUDOS Bold clean tones. Creamy, sweet, and extremely dynamic overdrive tones. Superb master volume circuit.