Matchless has made their name on beautifully minimal ‘no more than is needed’ amp circuits designed to give you all of the good stuff, and to pretty much stay out of the way between you and your ideal tone. They make a great variety of amps in different sizes, and this here Lightning combo is one of the lower-powered ones.
The Lightning 15 is a 15-waiter with a single 12 inch speaker (although you can also get a head and 2x12” combo versions). There’s only one channel, although you have the option of low and high inputs. The power section houses a pair of EL84 tubes, while there are three 12AX7s in the preamp and a 5AR4 rectifier tube. There are two speaker outputs - 4 ohm and 8 ohm. And the control system is deliciously simple: there are pots for Volume, interactive Bass and Treble, and Master Volume. And that’s it. You’re pretty much left on your own from there. Matchless has designed it with a scooped midrange compared to the Spitfire and Nighthawk amps, and because this is a tube amp and because it says Matchless on the front, you already know that it’s going to out-volume your 15-watt solid state practice amp, right? The craftsmanship is flawlessly superb, as is Matchless custom. It’s a very sturdy, heavy, chunky amp, and it means business.
AN EN-LIGHTNING EXPERIENCE
For testing I brought along my Gibson Les Paul Traditional with low-output Seymour Duncan Seth Lover PAF-style humbuckers and my trusty overdrive pedal. Now, when you look at this amp, you might think “Ooh, that’s gotta have some classy clean tones. Maybe I’ll use it for country or maybe some kind of gentle indie kinda thing… well, you, sir/madam, are in for a shock. This amp is capable of sounding… how do I put this politely… absolutely filthy. Matchless has based the tone stage off an early Vox Top Boost circuit but with some unique modifications. The interactive tone controls really bring out the versatility within this circuit. You can clear the tone up by backing the Bass off or you can get it to go to an utterly hairy place by blasting it. The Treble control adds top end when you turn it up (of course), but it reduces midrange at the same time, giving you an angry, scooped sound when you blast the Treble, or a smooth, midrangeenhanced tone when you roll it back. Crank up the Volume, turn the Treble down and the Bass up and you’ll get a tone that’s reminiscent of an old fuzzbox. Sit everything at about halfway and you’ll get a responsive, tactile Joe Bonamassa-style tone that turns into Tony Iommi with a simple twist of the Volume pot. When I hit the input with an overdrive pedal set for a boost it sounded phenomenal, with the Lightning’s preamp being coaxed into a Robert Fripp-style sustain. Yet when you turn the Volume control down and increase the Master instead you’ll get a beautifully clear clean tone which deserves to be heard free of effects. It has all the string detail and fingertip articulation you could ever want from a clean channel.
This is an awesome amp whether you play blues, vintage 70s metal, country, alternative, punk or dirty rock it really has some bite about it. Still, the clean channel is so dang pretty that you can happily use this amp for all sorts of more delicate musical settings.
Hits and Misses
Utterly killer distorted sounds
Beautiful crisp clean tones
Looks the business
No reverb. Would have been nice!
Power: 15 Watts
Channels:Power Tubes: 2 x EL84
Preamp Tubes: 3 x 12AX7
Features : Dual Inputs
Weight: 15.9 kg