The Memphis 30 boasts a Baltic birch cabinet covered in Elephant Hide Charcoal vinyl and a classy woven grill cloth. The amp employs a quartet of EL84 power tubes in a class A cathode-biased push-pull configuration yielding 30 watts, though flipping the Power Shift Select switch drops it to 18 watts. Rather than simply disabling two of the four power tubes to get lower output wattage, however, all four of the Memphis 30’s EL84s continue to operate, just at a lower overall voltage—an approach Fryette says results in better dynamics, more natural distortion harmonics, smoother tone, and longer tube life. Note, however, that this method does not result in a significant change in volume, as does the alternative method. And speaking of tubes, a handy removable hatch on the front of the amp makes accessing the four 12AX7AC preamp tubes in the “tube compartment” a breeze.
The Memphis 30 features two channels. The Drive channel has controls for Gain and Volume, along with three passive tone controls, a pre-gain Channel Voicing switch that toggles between Smooth, Crisp, and Fat settings, and a Boost switch that activates an additional tube gain stage. The Clean channel provides nearly the same level of toneshaping power, sans the Gain control, though its Channel Voicing switch offers Spank, Brite, and Bloom as choices. Both channels have Boost switches, one of which may be assigned to the included footswitch. The Reverb control is common to both channels, but is optimized for use with the Clean channel, and the sensitivity is automatically reduced when using the Drive channel on high-gain settings.
Despite their designations, both the Drive and Clean channels can produce sounds ranging from clean to overdriven—but they differ in the type and degree of overdrive. I found the Clean channel to be particularly impressive, as no matter how I set the various controls and switches I heard nothing but seductive sounds that made me want to keep playing. Toggling the Spank/Brite/Bloom switch introduced very subtle shifts in tone and dynamic response that were almost undetectable on some settings (Brite was the most noticeable), but cranking the Volume control elicited a magnificent crunchiness, and kicking in the 6dB Boost notched things up just the perfect amount for killer classic rock and hard rock tones with the heft, bite, and tightness of, say, an early-’70s Hiwatt. Additionally, the amp was so responsive to even slight manipulations of the guitar’s volume control that I could easily imagine playing an entire straight ahead rock gig using just that one setting.
The Drive channel also produced some nice clean tones with the Gain control about a quarter of the way up, but it excelled at big, beefy crunch tones at higher-gain settings, and flipping the Boost switch dramatically increased the sustain and allowed me to get controlled feedback with ease. The three tone controls on both channels were expertly voiced and interacted nicely with each other and the various switches.
The spring reverb sounded very nice, but turning it past the first fifth of its range transported me directly to sub-aquatic realms— and it got deeper from there. The configurable effects loop functioned flawlessly, as did the direct output.
The Memphis 30 is a versatile, dynamically responsive, and beautiful sounding amplifier suitable for any style of music this side of death metal—including jazz and jazz fusion—but its old school rock and blues tones are truly to die for.
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