Dale Sherlock is a legendary figure in the Australian amp-building scene, and it was great to see so many folks flipping out over his creations at the Melbourne Guitar Show back in August. His Fat Head amp is very highly regarded and we’ve looked at the Grid 30 and Angry Ant in these pages before. Sherlock’s popular mods and MIDI upgrades are great ways to add extra functionality to an amp, but when it comes down to it everything with Sherlock is about tone and getting it right.
WHO’S A GOOD BUDDY?
The Buddy 15DR is a very small, very well made little amp. It’s a 15-watter powered by a EL84 output valves in a Class A push-pull output stage. It’s a very simple circuit, with gain, bass, treble, reverb and master controls. The natural mids seem voiced well enough that you won’t miss the midrange control, but more on that later. There are three selected 12AX7 valves in the preamp and a 5U4G or 5AR4 rectifier tube, and you can select Celestion Vintage 30 or Greenback speakers. Sherlock can also use a Jensen 12” or fit a 10” in a smaller cab on request.
Sherlock uses high-quality hand-wound transformers made from using vintage techniques and with grain-oriented steel for great sound quality and reliability. Point-to-point wiring is used, with Orange Drop/Mallory caps, vintage carbon resistors and ceramic tube sockets, plus Carling switches, Switchcraft sockets and CTS pots fitted with black Bakelite ‘chickenhead’ knobs. The chassis is 1.6mm steel with welded seams, covered in gloss black powder coating. The cabinet is made of CC grade Australian marine plywood, and Broco Tolex is fitted, with other colours on request (the review model is a classy white). It’s not an overly heavy amp but it doesn’t feel like a little toy either.
CLEAN AND CREAM
If you want clean sounds, this amp can do it with plenty of pristine sparkling tone at a sizeable volume for such a small amp. It seems to strike that great balance between broadcasting your guitar’s natural voice and adding a little of its own magic too, giving your clean sound plenty of character. But once you push the amp into break-up you can get some beautiful creamy lead tones that work great for blues, fusion and rock, and which seem to bloom forth with beautiful harmonic overtones when you really start to dig in. Plus the reverb is rich and ambient, and the volume level is pretty respectable too, although you don’t necessarily need to get to jet engine levels for this amp to sound good.
BOUTIQUE TONE FOR DAYS
This is a great amp for small gigs, recordings, jams, around the house; it’s not designed to be an arena monster but it’s more than capable of handling simpler sonic tasks at reasonable, non-neighbour-angering volumes. Well maybe some neighbours. It’s simply a great boutique amp in a small, portable, not-too-loud-but-not-wimpy-either configuration, and affordable as far as this type of thing goes.
Hits and Misses
A lot of tone from a simple circuit.
Very well made