30W and a pair of Celestions is a time-honoured British recipe, but Hayden is setting out
to improve it with a high-gain channel and a half-power switch. Review by Dave Petersen.
A recently created offshoot of bass-amp market leaders Ashdown, Hayden is a specialised range of lead guitar amps, all handbuilt in the UK at a dedicated facility. The Cotton Club series made its debut at NAMM in January after a long gestation period, with input from famous guitar names from both the USA and Britain – and the name reflects some of this transatlantic influence.
The ‘club’ moniker might lead you to suppose that this is a compact little Deluxe-style screamer, but in fact this is a full-sized – even portly – combo with plenty of internal cubic footage and the front-to-back depth of a straight-front 4×12". The amp is fixed to the rear panel and the narrow control panel appears, forward-reading, along the rear. There’s a busy array of controls: in Channel 2, the drive channel, there are three levels (Master, Gain, and Boost) and four tones (Presence, Treble, Bass and Voice), while clean Channel 1 is happy with two tones and a Volume. The switch on the control panel is for 15W/30W; the mains switch is under the rear of the chassis. It’s easy to use once you know its whereabouts, but you can’t see the mains-on pilot as it’s integral with the switch. Still, a small yellow panel neon glows as the amp gets up to its working point about 20 seconds after switching on. A blown mains fuse, however, would leave you in ignorance for some time.
Structurally, the Cotton Club’s cab is solidly made and weighs a manageable 29kg/63lb; most comparable combos weigh in at 4-5kg more, and castors aren’t a necessity thanks to the use of ply rather than MDF. However, the amp’s definitely a two-hand carry job and there’s no centre handle to delude you into thinking otherwise; happily the carrying straps are comfortable and heavy quality. Covering is nicely done in medium-weight vynide, and the standard of trim and fittings is good. The nylon speaker cloth is properly elastic up to a point, but no further.
The chassis is made of medium-gauge stainless steel with four solid bolts taking its weight, and it looks strong enough for normal conditions. This leads us to the electronic assembly, which is nicely executed with super-tough metal oxide resistors and polypropylene caps on two parallel turret-tag boards with the valveholders hard-wired between them. The healthy-looking (and silky-smooth) control pots are hard-wired to the top board. This is all good, with one reservation about the possible effect of chassis panel distortion on the straight-wired pot connections: a dog-leg bend in these wires would prevent an unwelcome and perhaps destructive pull on the pot terminals if the panel moves. The general standard of workmanship, however, is excellent, and the component quality extends to a nice, solid footswitch.
Despite its apparent US influences the Cotton Club has much of the character of its actual Brit breeding. A lot of this could be due to the choice of speakers, as Greenbacks favour the colourful mids and full, flappy lows that this amp has in abundance. It's a well-made unit that gives a good performance across a wide range of rock guitar requirements. That big, bold cab with the big, bold bass will make it a first call for guitar players looking for a full, adaptable tone in three-piece bands and similar work.