Other EU brands

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Some cool European amplifiers that came in for repair

Garen Classic Basse

France is famous for many things but unfortunately not for its guitar amplifiers. There are currently less than a handfull of guitar amplifier manufacturers in France and only some of them really are manufacturing and not merely assembling kits. Likewise, only a handfull of confidential manufacturers emerged in the 60's and 70's. Garen, Stimer, Stevens or RV are some of them and seem to be closely related, judging by the remaining amplifiers that one can encouter in the corners of dusty rehearsing rooms.

Like its national contemporaries, this Garen Classic Basse is not let down by its looks but by its design. The overall construction isn't roadworthy and even though the components' quality is good, the sound it produces is one-dimensional. It shares the separate power amp and preamp topology of the Farfisa F40 in this page. A pair of EL34 in a cathode bias configuration provide the power. Three channels offer independant input and volume for guitar, bass and "instrument" (organ), and a global two band eq helps shape the tone of the amplifier which by nature is farily dark. A nice tremolo (named vibrato) effect is available for the guitar input but it induces strong thumps in the Garen labelled 12 inch speaker.

Despite an uninspiring tone, this particular amp is in an outstanding shape for its age and therefore constitutes a fantastic collector's piece.

Framus Dragon

The name Framus, now owned by the great German company Warwick, is most famous for the 60's and 70's guitars bearing it. But Framus has been producing modern amplifiers for several years. Most of the offered amps are multi-channel amps and this Dragon is the first version of the Framus flagship model. It bears three channels and a power output of 100W with a quartet of EL34. The clean channel is clearly inspired by Fender black and silverface models but employs an eq circuit that is unique to Framus, mainly giving a different response to the mids control. The crunch and lead channels are evident derivatives of the Soldano SLO. The crunch channel is somewhat tamed down for mild to serious distortion and the lead channel is the closest to the Californian design. As with the first channel, they both use an unusual equalisation for this type of amplifier. The Baxendall circuit used by Framus offers a very diffferent sonic signature and a greater range of control over the response of the amplifier than with traditional designs.

The result is an amp that can cover many bases, from ultra-clean to ultra-distorted and everything in between. Its tone is very modern with extended highs and deep lows. The mids can be cut quite severly and the control is tuned in the higher mediums register which allows the guitar to cut through the mix if they are boosted. The manufacturing is of a high quality but at first sight, the size of the circuit tracks and solder pads doesn't really inspire confidence. Nevertheless, judging by what this particular amp has been through, the first impression is simply incorrect and these heads can tour quite intensively and deliver every night.

Now this is an unusual one. It is a FBT Yunior (sic) from the 60's that had made a point in electrocuting its owner. At least 3 circuit flaws ensured a nice and sturdy jolt to anyone plugging into it. But appart from that, the circuit is neatly executed and designed to hi-fi specs. It doesn't sound too bad either.

PS: yes, it is my unashamed foot-in-sandal that you can see on the top picture.

Here is another not-so-common amps, but this time from the Netherlands. It is a pretty straightforward copy of a Mashall Superlead, but with low quality components. The front panel says DEA100 but it is in fact a 50W model. I guess quality control wasn't on the menu at London City factories.

Here is another of those Sound City, and this one is a real 100W. Contrary to what you can read on the net, the transformers aren't that bad, but all the other components are of really poor quality. This one originally had the alternative green color but was painted black by a conservative guitarist (is there any other type?).

Those amps were distributed under other brand names and I had a very low opinion of them. But I have to say that after playing this one loud at Amiante Prod, I have slightly changed my mind. Its sound was a close approximation Angus Young's great tone. It goes to show that it is hard to make a great simple design sound crap.

HURRICANE!!!!!!! Faylon HURRICANE!!! ..... (Are you scared now?)

After all, there is nothing to be afraid of. This amp is pretty lame, apart from its none-more-60's look. It runs 4 EL503 in the output stage and one of them had died taking with her a few resistors. I had to rebias it for 2 output valves as EL503 are as common as a death-metal-loving vicar, and horrendously expensive when you find a pair.

It does sound as it looks. You can play a few dumb pop numbers through it but that's about it. The front end is designed for very low ouptut pickup and anything with more than one coil will make it distort in a real ugly way. It's the one amp to play with your Cruccianelli or you Wandre guitar.

This good'ol Sovtek MIG 100 just needed new valves and a good bias. I like these: 100W, one good sound, what more do you want

I include a picture of the innards because I think they are pretty well made and would deserve a better reputation. The layout is better than most and the build quality is way above that of many major manufacturers of the time. It can also be modified very easily. Naz Drovia.

Hey Ben, thanks for the Jack Daniels!

This Sovtek Mig 60 is the younger brother of the Mig 100 seen earlier. The preamp is actually quite different and very much voiced for 80's hard rock. The sound isn't bad but just a bit too agressive and constipated for my tastes.

Build quality is as good as ever with Sovtek and it was a fairly simple matter to make this Marshall 2203 variation a bit truer to its routs and a lot smoother. That one is alos on Poncharellos latest album (although it was recorded prior to the mods)

This Hugues & Kettner Triamp is another do-it-all on paper amplifier. It actually doesn't sound bad with the right speakers (Celestion Vintage 30). It basically has 3 preamps: a superlead type preamp, a 2203 style one, and a Soldano SLO one. They all share the same power amp and therefore, the Triamp can't really be 3 different amplifiers in one: the touch response is good for the high gain sounds, but way too stiff for the clean and crunch ones.

It is very well and solidly built, but man, is it heavy. You can break your back just by looking at it! The finish and cabinet material are extremely tough: they are the same as on the HK PA enclosures and although it is good for these, my feeling is that it is simply not appropriate for a valve amp head bearing heavy transformers.

Italian equipment has played a major role in continental european Rock'n Roll during the sixties (if there was such a thing): JEN pedals or Eko and Vox guitars are good exemples. Farfisa is one of the brands that got famous at the time, mainly for its good sounding organs.

This Farfisa 40 is a PA amplifier in the form of a combo. You can plug the singer, an organ and a guitar into it. There even is an input for an accordion.

It is all valve with an EF86 driven reverb and EL34s in the output stage (later Farfisas use the dreaded EL503). The speakers are vintage USA Jensens and the reverb has a mechanical locking system for transport. The circuit is real point-to-point and pretty well executed. I guess this was the company's top of the range at the time.

The sound is clean throughout with shimmering highs and a round bass end that doesn't go flabby. The tremolo effect is pleasant, although it won't go to the fashionable extremes of today. You could play the entire Pulp Fiction soundtrack with this amp.

If Farfisa had used a stronger power supply design and bothered to build a tougher enclosure with proper grillcloth, I am sure this amp could have become a classic.

This Dynacord Jazz is not in its original cab. They usually were fitted to a 10 inch or 2 by 10 enclosure. I was given two of these by a generous belgian donator and their cabs and speakers were so rotten that I had to throw them away.

The German brand Dynacord produced a large and long running range of guitar and PA valve amplifiers. They were all of a high quality but had uninspiring looks and were not built for the road. This Jazz features two channels, each with its own volume, and a global tone control. True to its name, the circuit produces a very clean and fairly dark sound: good for old style jazz but nothing else. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to transform it into a Tweed Deluxe, and once fitted to a solid pine 1x12 cabinet, the tones are inspiring to say the least. Much has been written about the tweed Deluxe and its interactive controls. The cleans are bright and chimey but never harsh, and the crunch tones totally define Rock and Roll. This is a great find!

The Sovtek Mig 50 is the most compact head of the Sovtek range (along with the rarer Bassov). It is a fairly good sounding head with a circuit close to that of a tweed Bassman or a Marshall JTM45. It is not as well made as the other amps of the range as it employs proprietary pots that are cheaply made and directly soldered to the PCB. One russian guy sells this kind of amp on the Bay: they are made with weak surplus parts and are poorly assembled. They actually constitute a lethal risk for the user so I advise anyone willing to acquire one to check the transformers used in this amp: if they are painted green, walk away form the amp!

This particular amp belongs to Olivier from the great band Ed Wood Jr. It had been modified with some useless mod and Olivier wanted a master volume. I therfore replaced this mod with a proper master volume: the amp can now get a nice crunch at low volume! It has a typical early Marshall tone, not as refined as a good exemple of the british brand, but pretty rocking nonetheless.