Old Dog X-Cab

WHEN I JOINED GUITAR PLAYER IN 1998, IWASN’T a wannabe rock star anymore. I became an editor and a part-time musician. The roadies were long gone, so as my rig had to fit in my car, I said goodbye to my beloved half-stacks and switched to small combo amps. Now, as I wasn’t huffing and puffing away my last scraps of dignity while humping gear into seedy clubs, I was content.
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But then, GP Associate Editor Jude Gold ruined everything by playing me a rehearsal tape he made while testing the Marshall Vintage Modern half-stack. What a roar! The creamy overdrive, punch, and airy dimension brought me back to the days when my backline was a revved-up phalanx of heads and cabs. I knew right then my combo days were numbered.

A further persuasion occurred when I stumbled across the Old Dog X-Cab ($1,799 retail/ $1,439 street) at Winter NAMM 2008. The 4x12 cabinet is quite an eye-catcher (Old Dog president Bob Stevens says, “I never knew how many bands had an ‘X’ in their name until I made this thing”). It’s constructed entirely from Baltic birch, and loaded with four Celestion Vintage 30s—each cone modded with a foam diffuser to reduce audible hiss and abrasive mids. Anxious to renew my bond with halfstack snarl, I paired the X-Cab with Marshall’s JVM 210H (we reviewed the 410H in the Feb ’08 issue), plugged in an Epiphone Elitist Country Deluxe and a Collings 290, and rolled the 100 lb. cab to a series of shows with the Trouble with Monkeys (punk pop) and Ol’ Cheeky Bastards (Celtic-flavored folk rock).

I parked the Marshall at Crunch/moderate gain/no reverb, and went for a Mick Ronson- styled growl. The X-Cab immediately throbbed to life, spitting out macho timbres reminiscent of AC/DC and Buxton/Bruce-era Alice Cooper. Midrange articulation was taut and sweet, the thunderous low end flapped my pants like a tornado yet never sounded muddy, and signal dispersion was wide enough to hear myself clearly wherever I stood onstage. Dynamics were stunning, as the Marshall/XCab rig reproduced every nuance from softly thumbed strings to ferocious picking. The diffusers, however, didn’t significantly diminish amp hiss when compared to conventional cabs. The X-Cab’s indented sides made wrangling it into the back seat of a ’97 Mercedes C230 a breeze. Pretty trick—I can fit a half-stack in my car! I had one mishap when the vinyl covering ripped a bit after the cab was laid down on a stone driveway, so a slightly tougher covering may be in order. Also, unless you’re double-jointed, the cab’s angled handles are difficult to grasp.

Due to the labor required to craft its glambam form, the X-Cab is expensive, but if you’re willing to fork out the extra cash for looks, you’ll get a box that absolutely rages. I had people checking out the cab at every gig, but the coolest thing about this baby is that every sound you make is delivered with clarity, impact, and grit. Don’t tell anyone, but the X-Cab has now become my tonal “X-Factor.”