Through the years I have owned or tried a lifetime of guitar amplifiers: Fenders, Matchless, Ceriatone, Alessandro, Brown Note, Bludotone, Groove Tube, Boogies, Dumble, Seymour Duncan, Carr, Bad Cat, Top Hat, Acoustic, Yamaha, Vox, Pearce, Gibson, Silvertone…. The list goes on and on and includes amps that are waaaay out of my price range.
My obsession with Two-Rock amps started at a social amp-fest a couple of years ago. A group of us, avid amp/tone seekers, get together and rent space at a local rehearsal space in Boston called Jamspot, with the sole purpose of lining up a group of amps and doing comparison tests with different speakers, different cabs, guitars, and pedals. The list of amps includes some of the finest boutique amps manufactured along with some industry standards.
Now in case I am sounding like a geek, it really is simply part of the quest for great tone, to find answers to some serious questions that we, as tone junkies must know, the final verdict. The honest to goodness truth is that it really is a lot of fun!
So with my good friends, Paul and Charles we line up a few of these gems: a Two Rock K & M ltd, a Ceriatone, a Two-Rock Custom Reverb Signature, My Brown Note, a Two Rock Emerald Pro 50. And the show is on.
My Brown Note DLite 44 is a lovely piece of work: my BMW of tone. Fun to drive (and just really nice to look at too). Since I have owned it, no other amp has caught my eye for permanent ownership. Then I played the Two Rock Custom Reverb Signature. And my friends told me that my facial expression changed with the first note. It was one of sadness, enlightenment, and a knowing. A knowing that I would have to re-define my amp hierarchy. Kinda like the moment when you left your small town and realized that you were not the best guitarist in the world, it was a simple wakeup call.
Anyway, the rest is history. For those of you who might be car enthusiasts, my amp hierarchy might be summarized this way:
My Alessandro Working Dog is my Honda Accord. The amp gives me everything I need to make it through any weekend warrior gig. Light, great tone, works well with all pedals and is reliable. The Brown Note D’Lite 44 is my BMW, the amp I take out on weekends to cruise around, sound and look great. My Two Rock Custom Reverb Signature is the Mercedes Benz that I drive to the Grammy Awards!
Here is a review and a summary of the Two Rock Custom Reverb Signature amp. There simply is not a tone that you cannot get from this amp with a few tweaks of its knobs. From glassy rhythms to growls and all out wails, it really is not just the best amp I have ever owned, but the best one I have ever played (the list I have played is much much longer and includes some very expensive gems that I will never own!)
The Custom Reverb Signature amp is manufactured by K & M Analog Designs, LLC. K&M was founded in 1999 by Bill Krinard and Joe Mloganoski. Both have long histories in music, sound, and electronic design. Their collaboration is driven by their desire to produce the best sounding boutique guitar amplifiers available, and began with listening to, playing, and then tweaking many of the fine production tube amplifiers of the last 60 years. the bottom line is, these guys have built on the tradition that we all honor, when it comes to tube amp tone.
The Custom Reverb Signature is Bill and Joe’s most popular amp. The circuit is their least compressed and most articulate and revealing. Two channels, reverb, 35/50 or 50/100 watts. 6L6. The (current) version 2 of the Custom Reverb Signature features further refinements. My choice was to go with version 1 of the amplifier with some of the refinements/tweaks from version 2. So I got the contour control. In layman’s terms, the contour control is like a presence control on steroids. Very, very effective. It might be something Strat and Les Pauls would have set at opposite ends, if you get the practical picture. Very useful for the disparity in signal that occurs between single and humbucker pickups.
Here are a few specs.
• Input Jack
• Standby Switch w/ Indicator Lamp
• Treble Control
• Middle Control
• Bass Control
• Contour Control
• Input Gain
• Clean Channel Master Volume
• Lead Gain
• Lead Master
• Bright Switch: Boosts Highs
• Mid Switch: Boosts Mids
• Deep Switch: Boosts Low and Low Mids
• EQ1/EQ2 switch: toggle between 2 different EQ settings, (EQ2 is higher Gain)
• Lead Channel Switch: Also Foot-switchable
• Tonestack Bypass Switch: Also Foot-switchable
Back Panel Controls and connections:
• A/C input
• Power switch
• Fuse (3 AG Type, slow blow) 2.5 amps for my 50 w.
• High Power/Low Power: Switches between 50w and 30w
• Speaker Outputs: 3 separate outputs, 4/8/16 ohms
• Footswitch connection
• Effects Send
• Effects return
• Drive/level Control with pull-bright: This amazing little feature makes up for those tone sucking pedal that you might put in your effect loop. This is active in the circuit even when no effects are connected. So this also acts as a master volume for the amp. An additional tweaking point. What you set here can determine another world of colors on the front panel.
The amp is user bias-able. I have one of those Alessandro bias meters that make the procedure quite dummy proof, with an externally adjustment bias pot reachable with a small screwdriver.
That is pretty much the scoop on the specs. Now for the sound… (drumroll!)
I found myself able to dial in just about any color face Fender tone I sought. I tried with a few different speakers, one of my favorite being my G12-65, although, I will say that, were it not for the weight of the EVM12L, it would be a winner. For me to say that about that speaker is significant, since as most of you know, this EV speaker is as transparent as they come. (If your amp sounds good through an EVM12L, you have yourself a good amp, my friend) no hiding behind speaker character.
Many top props to this amp through a THD 212 with one THD longhorn and one THD Vintage speaker. Simply one of the best 212 cab I have tried. Used in conjunction with the THD, this amp yields and extremely tight low end, (not to be confused with a lack thereof)
The balance between gain and master, lead gain and lead master yields a myriad of tonal choices and where you set them determines what happens when you start really pushing the amp to its volume potential. I found I was able to find a setting in the OD channel that allowed me to get a crystal clean, bell like rhythm guitar tone, and then simply turn up the volume on my guitar for a full-on Robben Ford overdrive tone complete with dumble-esque “chirp.”
Conversely, at louder volumes, I could dial in a setting that would make my clean channel go from bell jangle rhythm to OD fizzle with a volume twist of my guitar. The drive control at the back of the amp for the effects loop also works in tandem with making this happen.
In short, there was no tone that I could not find that was not only sweet but very practical in a real-life professional performance situation. And were you to ever get bored with your tone, reach over and flip one of the switches and take a journey into a new tonal world. Between the Bright, Mid, Deep and EQ1/EQ2 switches, I have a feeling I will be busy for a long, long time.
I did a couple of very quick video clips to give you and idea of some of the tones. I apologize for my rambling noodling solo, it really is such an addictive amplifier: you turn this thing on and you look up a few hours later you realize you have been playing the same solo for a long long time.