Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Top Finds of 2010: Nace Amps




It is no secret I am a sucker for a great sounding stompbox. But even greater than my desire for guitar pedals is my love for superbly built, great sounding amplifiers. Like the world of stompboxes, today just like yesterday exists a wide variety of boutique and commercial amp companies - all there to tempt us into snagging up one of their creations. For those of us who have been around long enough we know finding those few golden pieces of gear is not an easy task. But the gift one receives when he/she finally comes across that keeper of an amp is something that cannot be compared to anything else. Growing up I was fortunate enough to spend some time with some real heavyweight song writers and studio hounds. The one thing all these cats had in common?.... Their knowledge in amp tones and amp history. And the one piece of advice that all these cats had to give was "Play, collect, and hang on to as many good sounding amps as possible." Boy has this been truer than true. These last 5 or so years has shown us a steady come back in low and mid watt amplifiers, and for good reason too. With many players cutting their stage volumes in half, the need for great sounding low watt amps is a must. Well once again I have been blessed with another spectacular discovery - one that has shown me once again that deep rooted passion for building and designing musical gear still exists. For those of you who have experience with Nace Amps you know the magic they possess. And for those of you new to the Nace name hold on to your picks, cause here comes a doozy.



Nace
M2-7R



Specs/Features

  • Class “A” 5 watts average power clean, 7 watts average power rock distorted with a 6V6 power tube.
  • Cathode biased: uses proprietary “phase invariant cathode biasing” which reduces resistor/capacitor cathode biasing phase distortion.
  • Power tubes: EL34, 6L6, or 6V6
  • Pre-amp tubes: 12AT7, 5751, ECC83, 12AX7
  • Controls: volume, treble, bass, reverb
  • Input: ¼ mono
  • Output: ¼ mono – plug into one of two outputs 16 ohm, 8 ohm
  • Reverb on/off 1/4 mono - external switch pedal to turn on or off the reverb
  • Built in power conditioning: proprietary “trans flux power module” which enables the above specifications to be valid for the following input profile: 117vrms +/15%,48 Hz to 1 KHz or from 100VDC to 180VDC. Specifications shall not change over the specified input voltage/frequency range. Ideal for those “out of the way” gigs.
  • Very low noise: better than -60db. Studio/stage quality ideal for micing or recording. 120 Hz amp hum is gone. Note: guitar and pedal hum is a separate issue.
  • Also available in 1x12 combo with 12” Celestion Greenback - or - 1x12 combo 12" speaker ready

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If I had to put into just a few words I would say "Giant monster in a  little box." This was the character that this little amp put out from the get-go, and from there it would onyl get better and better. For me (like for many of you I'm sure) there is nothing better than a simple, great sounding and elegant, well built amplifier. The Nace M2-7R is all of these things and nothing less. I found this little beast to be the perfect go-to amp for both live and studio applications, a great little amp for practicing and writing, and a stunning amp for incorporating into it stompboxes of all types. The M2-7R got along beautifully with speaker cabs of all sizes, guitars of all makes, and playing styles of every color. I found the amp to be very versatile for it's size and very quiet at it's highest levels (no unwanted noise here folks). Quality wise the amp is right on the money - all the way from it's cool knobs and clean tolex work to it's guts. For the price you couldn't ask for a better amp. At the end of the day though, when all was said and done, it was all about the amp's tone. Here is where amp guru Art Nace really put his talents and soul into this design.

The first couple weeks I had the amp I used it only with a 1x12 cab. This was really all I needed. The amp made it so easy to dial in desirable tones that I found no reason to plug into it anything else. Having the 1x12 cab was nice for dragging around to shows and setting up in recording sessions. I was able to get tons of different tones on the fly and able to blend in a handful of my favorite stompboxes (which all sounded and played fantastic!) For those of you fellow pedal junkies you will absolutely love this amp. First thing I wanted to hear when I plugged into this amp was it's clean tones. My experience with pulling sweet sounding clean tones from low watt amps hasn't been all that great to tell you the truth - but here things were different. The Nace M2-7R was able to produce clean tones sweet and powerful enough to rival some of my favorite classic blackface and tweed amps. Getting overall clear and sparkling tones was easy, getting the amp to kick and punch was a cinch, and taking those tones to the next level a piece of cake. On it's own the amp kicked out plenty of spank and clarity. Each pickup I played through the amp whether it be single coils or humbuckers all did something very special. What stood out from the beginning was how well the amp let each pickup project it's own special tone. Rocking the tone controls from their lowest to their highest settings all sounded great. And fine tuning those controls to fit the room or guitars being played sounded even better. Through my semi-hollow guitar I was able to get everything from beautifully dark jazz tones to jangly chiming classic rock sounds. With the M2-7R's reverb at hand I was able to add in more character and size - making my guitar sound just bigger than life! The amp was very touch sensitive when needed and barked out with plenty of growl when pushing my strings to the limit. Playing quick riffs and runs up and down the neck bloomed and blossomed with precision, making the amp's tone blend in perfectly in band situations and recording sessions. I played a few blues and funk gigs with this amp and it's clean tones definitely hit the mark and then some. At medium gain levels the amp is capable of producing huge sounding rhythm tones. In fact, the amp was much louder than I expected it to be, and very very quiet on the excess noise side of things. Getting the amp to give up some slight grit or mellow crunch was very very easy. With it's volume at about 10'o'clock things can start to get pretty crunchy, depending on what pickups you got on hand. With the semi-hollow's buckers all I had to do was a little bit of digging into the strings and wahla! One pickup that really stood out with the amp at a medium gain settings was the filtertron, and the P90 now that I think of it. This isn't to say others sounded bad, I just mean for me this are the two pickups types that I usually have the tuffest time dialing in - because of either noise issues or otherwise. I was able to get these insanely aggressive clean tones through my buddy's Grestch - those rockin' clean tones that seem to be hanging on to their last inch of clarity. Good stuff for blues, all around rock, and rhythm work. At medium gain levels the amp also pushed out killer alt-rock and punk rock tones. The P90 proved a great pup for this. Later when plugging into bigger cabs I found the power of this amp transfered over perfectly. Not all low watt amps sound good through all cab sizes, something I have had to learn the hard way. The amp's treble and bass controls proved versatile enough to match to plenty of gigs, rooms, and plenty of musical styles. The sweep within each tone control rolled beautifully and covered more ground than I expected them to. Going from zero to ten wasn't harsh or extreme, instead subtle and pronounced. This goes for the reverb circuit as well. I was able to get small bouncy verb tones, medium and large room verbs, and haunting good hall sounds. A real treat for amp of this size. Going into it's higher gain settings I discovered the M2-7R was able to hold it's own with much larger much more powerful amps. My Eminence Red Fang equipped 1x12 cab proved a great match for the Nace's wide range of sounds - but time did come to plug into my buddy's 2x12 Vintage 30 rosewood handbuilt cabinet. Never have I heard such a loud, chest punching guitar cab. The Nace matched up with this cab was like voodoo! I don't know if it's the wood, the build, or the speakers - but the combo of all these things stacked up with the M2-7R was quite epic! My 60's build Strat was able to get me a world of big'n'bright rock tones which brought me instantly into Hendrix heaven, and I mean proper authentic Hendrix tones, not wimpy wannabe sounds. On it's own the amp was able to kick out some pretty impressive rich distortion. And it seemed the louder and louder I pushed the amp, the more it would come to life. When I finally did put a clean booster in front of the amp everything came to life ten-fold. The booster help me to achieve these crisp and clean lead tones which accented the amp's natural tone and filled the air with mojo. This was also true of overdrive pedals in line with the amp's dirt. Everything from Tube Screamer type pedals to more aggressive dirt boxes did a wonderful job in bringing out more from this amp. Even when I pushed huge stompbox levels through the amp I didn't find it to sound flimsy or overpowered. At full blast the M2-7R was very usable and capable of further tone shaping. If you've played low watt amps and have ever cranked them you've noticed that one problem that many of them share is that they can't be manipulated or tamed once you got them full power. Things start to get muddy, too mid-rangy, and just overall too damn harsh. The M2-7R can more than hold it's own when cranked way on high, and beautifully take on the might of any dirt box. I was even able to push fuzz boxes through the amp and still get good string articulation and clarity. Getting the amp to clean up was as easy as rolling back my guitar's volume control - and all without loss of the amp's character. The really cool thing was that this amp was able to go from blackface type tones when setup clean, to plexi-ish sounds when cranked loud. Very cool stuff if you ask me. Gotta give it up to Art for that one, very very clever indeed my friend. In the end the M2-7R was able to pull from me inspiration and the drive to play. Which is more than anyone can ask for. If you're looking for an easy to use workhorse boutique quality amp - you must try one of these puppies.  What more can I say?




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Art Nace also lends his talents to the world of Trillium Amps, which if you haven't seem I highly suggest you also check out. The M2-7R also comes in combo form (which is pictured here). Nace also produces their own matching cabs for those of you needing the whole package. For more info on these killer little amps go to www.naceamps.com Or click on the direct links on our sidebar. You can see one of these bad boys in action by typing Nace Amps in our Youtube search engine below. Stay tuned for more. 



1 comment:

  1. Yes, Art Nace made really Nice Art :-)

    ReplyDelete