Hayden claims their new two-channel combo proves that huge tone and versatility can be found in small packages. Huw Price sets out to find if that’s the case…
Description: Twin-channel 15W valve combo with digital reverb, silent channel switching footswitch, 12″ speaker and 8 Ohm extension socket. Made in China
Contact: Hayden Amps – 01245 441155 – www.haydenamps.com
Hayden made a bit of a splash last year with a line of MoFo valve heads, and this month we’re reviewing one of the eagerly anticipated MoFo combos. In keeping with the original theme, the circuitry is all-valve, it looks fantastic, and it remains very affordable indeed.
Although a relatively straightforward amp, the Dual MoFo 15 has some features that are not present on the head version. For starters, the combo has two channels rather than one – hence the Dual part. There’s also reverb, but rather than complicate things with a spring tank and extra gain stages, Hayden has opted to go digital.
The control layout is familiar territory, with no compromises. Each channel has gain and master volume complete with independent sets of Bass, Middle and Treble controls. The Dual MoFo 15 also ships with a sturdy metal footswitch for channel-swapping and a generous length of cable to reach the socket on the rear of the amp.
The cabinet is made from birch ply and finished in a two-tone ‘Bronco’ tolex with a real leather carry handle. White piping matches the control knobs and antique enthusiasts may be interested to learn the grille is a Lloyd Loom style material. The fit and finish are impressive and should stay looking that way thanks to metal corner protectors.
The cabinet is open backed and contains a 12″ custom Hayden speaker. It’s rated at 16 Ohms but an additional 8 Ohm output provides scope for external speaker cabinets and potential speaker upgrades. The amp chassis is suspended from the top of the cabinet, Fender style, with the valves pointing downwards. We counted a pair of EL84 power valves with spring retainers and a 12AX7. Since the signal path of the two channels is said to be different, Hayden has done well to achieve such versatility with a single preamp valve.
There is a fourth valve that serves no sonic purpose: mounted behind the front panel and protected by wire mesh, there’s a ‘Magic Eye’ that winks at you while you are playing. It’s actually a miniature cathode ray tube that was used in thermionic radio sets as a tuning indicator; Selmer used them to display tremolo speed in some amps.
We started with all the controls set at 12 o’clock to determine how each channel is voiced. It’s immediately apparent that the Dual MoFo 15 doesn’t really have ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ channels, or even ‘overdrive’ and ‘crunch’. Besides a hint of extra smoothness from Channel 1 and a bit more mid-scoop from Channel 2, both sound very similar indeed… so it’s about variations on a single theme rather than covering all bases.
Fortunately it is a very enjoyable theme, and plugging in a Les Paul demonstrated that Channel 2 has a fraction more clean headroom. Even so, the Dual MoFo 15 is quick to overdrive and not really capable of loud clean tones, especially with humbucker-equipped guitars.
Overall the MoFo’s tonality is on the bright side, and this becomes more apparent as gain levels are increased. The usual solution would be to roll back the Treble control, but on Channel 2 we found it behaved in a fairly unpredictable way that had a knock-on effect with midrange and gain.
At the top of its range there’s more than enough treble edge for even the darkest humbuckers. As you roll the tone control back, the midrange response appears to shift through various resonance frequencies.
There are a couple of hot spots around one and 10 o’clock where the sound firstly hollows out, then beefs back up. Counter-intuitively, the tone starts to thin out once again as the Treble control nears the bottom of its range. We experienced a similar array of midrange hot spots with Channel 1’s Treble control, but things were more predictable here and the control remained useful across its whole range. You simply have to experiment with the controls to get a feel for the way they behave and interact.
Both channels go from clean (ish) to a full-throated overdrive within the first quarter of the Gain control’s range, and from there the distortion continues to build. To our ears it’s a discernibly British-style tone with plenty of crunch, aggression and upper-midrange harmonic content. If you’re primarily a heavy rock player, this is the type of valve distortion which will be right up your street – and there’s plenty of clarity and definition even when things are really crunchy.
However, those who prefer their overdrive a little smoother and sweeter might find the tone a bit too ice-picky, and there’s an edgy and slightly fizzy quality to the overdrive that doesn’t exactly tick the ‘retro’ box. Thinking this might be attributable to the speaker, we tried plugging the Dual MoFo 15 into an external cab loaded with a Celestion G12M greenback. This demonstrated that the speaker is a decent match for this circuit, but it is relatively inefficient.
This amp produces a fine blues-rock breakup and it’s a fairly versatile device for the money. The speaker and limited degree of clean headroom would make the Dual MoFo a tad marginal as a gigging amp for some players. The reverb has a warm and vaguely springy quality, and remains fairly subtle unless the reverb control is turned towards maximum. Hayden’s stated aim was to combine two MoFo 15 heads within a single combo with silent switching between the channels, so if you’re looking for some double MoFo action you’ve come to the right place.
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