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The Newest Allston Amp: AOC mkII

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I am always very excited to be one of the first to bring news of a cool product to the general public. As known by many of you who have reached out with questions about my choice of amps, I have been a big fan of the Allston Amp line since its creation. I am equally  impressed how Rob Lohr, the owner/builder continues to obsessively improve upon his already great ideas. If you stop by over at Mr. Music in Allston, Massachusetts, you will get an earful on the workings of diodes, resistors, tubes and all things electronic in a conversation with Rob about his amazing amplifiers.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Alexander Dumble (I have played quite a few Overdrive Specials and others through the years) but I would imagine, based on the legends, that he and Rob Lohr shared the same inexhaustible energy and desire to make the perfect amp for his clients even if it meant rebuilding the thing again from the bottom up after listening to the player’s style touch and dynamics.

I stopped in at Mr. Music about a week ago and I had the unplanned pleasure of playing through the latest flagship of the Allston Amp line.  The A.O.C mk II is about the most versatile tube amp I have played. I will describe it as briefly and as best as I can what the amp does in layman’s terms and then follow up with the official word and specs from the amp guru himself. In a nutshell the amp gets something like 6 foot-switchable, completely different sounds with the ability to tweak each one tonally, volume wise and also add your desired amount of reverb. Pretty impressive for a high-quality, hand-made tube amp with custom cosmetics.

The dual concentric knobs make sense. For example: Treble for the clean sound on the inside, treble for the overdrive sound on the outside. Reverb for the clean on the inner knob, reverb for the overdrive on the outer knob and so on. So how does it sound? Pretty amazing! (quite frankly put). I am a 3-6 knob kinda guy depending on whether you are talking amp or pedals. In a short period of time, I was able to figure out the logical layout of the settings and the footswitches to get some overdrive sounds from this 60 watt package that I could recall with a quick tap of the footswitch. If I can do it, anyone can! The 60 watt cleans give you ample headroom for the funkiest, snappiest rhythm sounds needed.

Rob is taking orders for the A.O.C mk II. Right now, unfortunately for you instant gratification junkies, the waiting list is something like 2 years. The amp comes with a lifetime warranty.

Below are the specs from Rob Lohr:

A.O.C mkII

Output :60 watts. Tube compliment: 2x6L6, 3x 12AX-7, 2x 12AT-7.
Speaker: Celestion G12-K 100
Dimensions : 22″Wx18″Hx91/4”D
The AOC features a Fender style preamp, both Dumble fusion and HRM style over drives, each overdrive with it’s own tone controls, gain controls, and Master volumes.
In addition to the overdrives, there is a tone bypass function. This feature switches the preamp tone controls out of the circuit, boosting the gain considerably. This function can be engaged in all three modes (clean, OD, HRM) and there’s a separate additional master volume for all three tone bypass settings.
New Smoothulator: The Smoothulator is an adjustable, assignable low pass filter. As compared with the AOC mkI control, the new Smoothulator has a sweepable frequency control and an additional assignment switch. The new assignment switch assigns the smoothulator to OD, OR HRM or both.
Front panel controls:  The controls on the new AOC mkII are all dual concentric controls (two knobs on each shaft).
From left to right with the top knob (inner knob) function first:
Smoothulator level/ Smoothulator frequency, Smooth assign switches,
Clean volume/ tone bypass master,
Clean treble/ OD treble.
Clean mid/ OD mid,
Clean bass/ OD bass,
OD gain/ HRM gain,
OD drive/ HRM drive,
OD master level/ HRM master level,
Overdrive Tone Bypass master/ HRM Tone Bypass master
Clean reverb level/ OD reverb level.
Effects Loop with trim control
Extension Speaker Connection
Foot-switches (2)
Below are some pics of the rear panel and check out my previous blog post on the Allston Combo Mk II that Rob made a couple of years ago for me that is part and parcel of my tone.

Here is the Allston Amp website for some info and cool pics of the previous custom amps and models Rob has made and is still making.

Speaker Extension Output

Effect Loop Send/Return and Trim

About
Born in the UK, and raised in the West Indies, Thaddeus Hogarth is an Associate Professor in the Guitar department at Berklee College of Music.
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