Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cooking Up Something Real Nice

With vintage amps becoming as scarce and expensive as they have, boutique amplifiers have really been a breath of fresh air. More and more players are becoming tone conscience and aiming for all around better sound these days. Whether it be the session cat, major artist, up & comer, or bedroom rocker. For me it's always been about versatility married with great tone. This is exactly where Audio Kitchen comes into play. By paying great attention to detail and incorporating immaculate build quality, Audio Kitchen has been able to produce some of the most superb sounding amps I have ever plugged into. Audio Kitchen is as dedicated an amp company as one can get, and their work shows this quite clearly. I have always been a huge fan of the boutique and low watt amp scene, and in one way or another have always incorporated this type of amp into my live or record rigs. It has been tuff to find something that has worked though. Again, this is where Audio Kitchen has been awesome, designing a collection of amps that help us and not confuse us in our quest for the ultimate tone. This is all thanks to their secret weapon builder/amp designer Steve Crow. I had a chance to dig deep for a couple weeks into Audio Kitchen's 7 watt Little Chopper model. I'll just say this; If ever I was devastated to see a piece of gear go it was this one. The Little Chopper was able to show me an entirely new breed of low watt amplifier and the true meaning of boutique.


Little Chopper

  • ECC81/ECC83 Preamp design
  • EL84 Power amp section
  • Nominal power output
  • 7 Watts single ended - 8ohms
  • Built with the finest components, parts, and techniques
  • Huge range of tones
  • 320mm x 210mm x 205mm
  • Mains power requirement:
  • 240V @ 50HZ, 200mA or 115V @ 60HZ, 400mA
  • Voltage switch fitted as standard

  • Gain: Dishes in the goodness
  • Bass: Delivers tasty low end
  • Middle: Delivers world of possibilities
  • Top: Crisp it up or roll or roll it back
  • Stack: Counter-Clockwise= normal EQ use/Clockwise= EQ is cut leaving Top as high-end roll off
  • Power:Clockwise= Standard non-master volume amp Anti-Clockwise= Decreased headroom, more harmonic content
  • Bright Switch: Introduces jump in sparkling beauty
  • Hi Switch: Give more of everything


Where to start oh where to start? This little beast handed more flavors than I knew what to do with, and did it all in spectacular fashion. I really gotta give it up to Steve once more for knocking out such a killer design. I plugged my small collection of guitars and pedals into the Little Chopper, and when I was done with my gear went looking for more stuff to run it with. This thing just sounded awesome with everything I stacked it up against. I ran it through a bunch of different cabs with different speakers, gigged with it, and recorded with it. Each time the Little Chopper came through with flying colors. I can only imagine what the Big Chopper is capable of :^)

The first setup I hooked the Little Chopper up to was a 1x12 open back cab with a 30 watt Eminence Red Fang speaker, my Hagstrom Viking, and a high quality cable. I set the amp's bright and hi switches off, EQ at noon, stack knob in it's normal position, power at full clockwise, and gain control at 15%. The tone came through clean, but thick and meaty at the same time. A perfect canvas for building on top of. The eq projection was spot-on, and response quick and on-point. The combination of the bottom, middle, and top's controls created a hefty clean sound that just poured out from the speaker as if pulled from pickups and strings. I introduced a bit more gain and felt everything become boomier. I could literally feel the amp yearning for more, as if the signal were alive. I plucked down on some blues licks with the treble pickup and got defined rich notes that rang and sang like midnight wolves. I then threw a clean booster into the mix and was able to get slightly gritty tones, brushy overdrives, honking good mellow distortion, and killer blues and hard rock lead tones. All with my pick attack. The amp's tubes soaked up the booster's output and spit out what was some of the most desirable crunch tones I'd ever heard. This is exactly what a good tube amp is supposed to do; Take everything that's going into it and everything it's going out of, and take them to their fullest potential. My Hagstrom and little 1x12 cab never sounded so good. Next I flipped the Little Chopper's gain knob to about 75%. Here I could hear and feel exactly how the amp's design was meant to function. As I began to play with different eq and power settings I began to see just how well each control worked with the next. The one control that really made it possible for me to dial in what I wanted was that power control. I could roll the power back to shorten my headroom, which would leave me with more crunch and harmonic content. This control also worked beautifully for low level overdrive tones. Some amp's you start introducing more lows and then notice the highs disappear. Or crank the mids and hear them take over. This was not so with this badboy. Somehow the frequencies of the amp all stayed balanced and in harmony with one another. I could bump the highs on the Little Chopper and they'd ring with more twinkle, yet the bass and mids came through just as they were without any one frequency being louder than the next. I then flipped the stack control to it's clockwise position, giving me only the top's knob as a high-end roll off. This position also gave a jump in gain and boost in mids. I was able to get a spot-on Neil Young tone with the stack knob in this position. The gain became angrier, and the power control provided me with all the crunch, sustain, and compression I needed. Switching into the bass pickup hooked me up with some killer sounding fuzz/overdrive tones. The amp also responded great to my guitar's volume and tone knobs. I could push the amp itself into a raging lead tone and use my guitar to tame the signal down into a rhythm and semi-clean tone. Awesome stuff!

Another killer guitar/cab setup I dug was my Tele and Strat guitars with a 2x12 closed back cabinet. My buddy has an amazing hand built custom cab that just blended perfectly with the Little Chopper's wide range of sounds. Inside this cab are two 25 watt vintage ceramic Jensen's. I began with a good ol' American clean tone and plugged in the Tele. Right from the get-go I was able to get bell-like tones that adapted beautifully to both Tele pickups. My bottleneck slide was the perfect candidate for this tone. Then again so was a brass, steel, and ceramic slide. The amp was able to deliver a rich and warm tone that stuck to the slide's character and created killer steel guitar effects. With my tube reverb, analog delay, and volume pedals thrown into the mix, I was literally stuck for hours. Classic country big'nbright tones were not a problem for this amp. The more bass and highs I added to the signal, the juicer and sweeter things got. While in the middle of this heavenly session I also broke out my lap steel. The closed back of the cabinet really let me shape and control the mids and lows to get the most precise levels. This let me set a bunch of different root tones that let me adapt the amp to many styles and sounds. To get some hair on this American tone I went ahead and did the stack control thing and rolled off on some of the power knob. Here I also introduced the bright switch, rolled up more gain, and OH MOMMA! The bright switch handed me an awesome vintage style sound that reminded me of some of my favorite old timer amplifiers. By tossing a Tubescreamer on top of the amp's medium grit, I was able to broaden the overall tone. The overdriver combined with the amp's bright rich tone did one of the meanest sounding blues tones I have ever heard. Slide or no slide the amp was really cooking now and everything that came out of it was gold. If ever you've cranked a great sounding tube amp to the point of no return while playing a Tele you know how cool a sound can be achieved. The Little Chopper did this and many many other amp voices. Depending on how I had it set I was able to produce Plexi tones, AC30 tones, Blackface, Tweed, and everything in between. An amp of this size should not hold this much power... Or should it? My next task was to see if I could mimic a fire breathing Hendrix tone. I flipped the Little Chopper's hi switch, slammed the gain to about 75-80%, set the stack in it' high-end roll off mode, and cranked the power control at around 50-60%. I did flip the bright switch on to make up for the high-end roll off. I then broke out one of my favorite fuzz boxes, stacked on a chorus/vibe pedal, and that was that, Hendrix heaven. You should have seen my partner's face when he came into the studio and heard me flying away to a tiny amp head and 2x12 cab. He just couldn't believe it was coming from such a small amp. Mic'd up the signal carried beautifully for both recording sessions and live setups. It seemed like no matter what dirt box (or any pedal for that matter) I ran through the Little Chopper, I was able to dial in epic sounding tones. These last couple years have been a flood with small boutique low watt amplifiers, so much so that even some of the bigger cats have jumped on board. Many of these amps have been duds, always being driven by hype, needing to be modified, or being limited in their voicing. The Little Chopper will show you that low watt amps can be as versatile as the big boys. My time as a player and the few years Analog War Cry has been up has provided me with the opportunity to try out some of the coolest, best sounding gear out there. The Little Chopper will be one piece of gear that will never forget. Keep up the killer work Steve.


For more info on Audio Kitchen go to Make sure to check out their video demos, pics, and other killer products. We will be keeping an eye on Audio Kitchen' progress and bringing more in the near future. You can also check out Little Chopper demos in our Youtube search engine at the bottom of our site.

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