Bigger, louder and much, much blacker, can the Russian company’s new all-valve combo impress us as much as the award-winning 15-watter did last year? Review by Huw Price
Description: Single-channel 50/12W valve combo with 12″ Celestion Vintage 30. Made In Russia
Price: £649 inc. P&P
Contact: Yerasov – 0753 442 9269 – www.yerasov.co.uk
Regular readers may recall an unassuming little brown box that appeared seemingly out of nowhere to win the annual Guitar & Bass award for Best Amp Under £1000 back in a 2013 edition of our magazine. The Yerasov GTA 15 didn’t look like much, but it dished up such seriously fine valve tones at such a great price that we were prepared to forgive any lack of visual panache.
We wouldn’t flatter ourselves by claiming that the guys at Yerasov took any notice of our opinions, but judging by this month’s new offering, the company design department is gradually closing the gap on the techies.
Okay, so there’s nothing ground-breaking going on here, but the Classic 50 does have a plywood ’50s style combo cabinet with silver-grey speaker cloth over a floating baffle, black tolex and a sturdy dogbone handle that looks like leather, even if it isn’t. Best of all, it’s rather nicely put together. We particularly like the greenish hue of the textured silver coating on the steel chassis.
The legending appears to be silk screened on top and the whole thing has a oddly nostalgic ‘Eastern Bloc’ charm. The way the collars securing the switches align with the tops of the switch body shafts is a lovely touch. It’s a minor and perhaps insignificant detail, but, as guitar hacks, these things matter to us… sad as it may seem.
On the downside the chickenhead knobs aren’t the nicest we’ve seen and the indicator light is a bit ‘industry standard’; even so, the Classic 50 is only a classy set of knobs, a jewel light and a leather handle away from boutique standards. So let’s hope the insides are up to snuff.
Deploying the screwdriver reveals that Yerasov combine PCB construction with point-to-point wiring. Overall the build quality is painstakingly tidy, and the components include a mixture of metal and carbon film resistors, Jamicon electrolytic capacitors and highly regarded WIMA signal capacitors.
The valve array includes two ECC83s and two EL34s. All are JJ-branded and sit in chassis-mounted ceramic sockets. Whoever devised the layout clearly knows what they’re doing, because all the signal cable runs are about as short as they could be. They’re also kept well away from the heater wires, and the PCBs are offset from heat-generating power valves.
Like the GTA 15, the Classic 50 has a line input socket as well as a regular guitar input, so line-level signals from multi-FX processors and digital modellers can be used and they are routed straight to the volume control, bypassing the Classic 50’s tone stack. The guitar input is routed through a fully-featured equalisation section with controls for bass, middle, treble and presence, along with a bright switch.
Speaker output is fixed at 8 Ohm and the driver supplied is a Celestion G12 Vintage 30. Its 60W power rating may seem a tad marginal given the Classic 50’s Class AB power rating, but it will hardly be stressed by the 12W generated in Class A mode. The mode switch is conveniently located on the control panel right next to the Anode (standby) switch.
We’d guess that the Classic 50’s circuit is derived from the era when Marshalls crossed over with Fenders. Setting the EQ controls to noon, Class AB mode is gutsier than a Fender and has chewier mids, but the overdrive doesn’t get quite as heavy or crunchy as a Plexi.
Class A mode provides more of a contrast in dynamics and feel rather than in volume and tone. As you might expect, there’s less clean headroom but the overall response is more touch-sensitive and you can feel the valvey compression. The upper mids and treble are also softened to an extent, but so is the bass response.
In Class A things stay clean up to around 6, morph into overdrive between 7 and 8 then hit maximum drive at 9. This is old-school stuff, so endless sustain isn’t on the cards with Fenders, although you might get away with it in a bluesy sort of way with a set neck and humbuckers.
The equalisation controls are extremely effective without sounding forced or artificial, so extreme settings still produce very useable tones. The Classic 50 naturally generates a lot of low end, so we rolled back the bass and played around with the middle, treble and presence. If you reduce the mids, then the Fender influence is evident; if you decrease the treble and presence the Classic 50 has a tweedy quality, and then you can swing things towards plexi-tone by dialing up the presence. Add more treble and it’s more like a cranked up medium-sized blackface-era Fender – minus the reverb.
Rather than attempt a huge range of sounds, the Classic 50 concentrates on high-quality ‘bread and butter’ valve tone. All things considered this is a very fine amp for those who want a basic, no-frills straight-through valve amp, or prefer to run their amps fairly clean and get their drive textures, reverb and modulation from pedals. It also generates very little hiss and hum, and it’s built to a quality that exceeds expectations at this price level.
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