Lindy Fralin is famous for fine pickups, and now hes launched a combo that bucks the current trend for hairy-sounding valve amps with no clean headroom. Review: Huw Price
Lindy Fralin isn’t the first pickup maker to try his hand at this game: remember Seymour Duncan’s 1980s modular valve amps? But he’s an amp collector with a proven pair of ears, which isn’t too bad for a starting point. Armed with a head full of ideas, Fralin approached VVT Amps to ask them if they’d be interested in a collaboration. Fralin appreciates clean, clear tones, but he was frustrated that most small amps seemed to be designed for early overdrive and distortion. He was looking for an amp that could deliver clean, full-bodied, articulate tone at both low and high volume. It also had to be as light as possible, with a cool vintage look.
Eventually they settled on a single channel 30W design with spring reverb powered by a pair of cathode-biased 6L6 valves. The design also allows the user to substitute 6V6 or 5881 tubes for 15W output and earlier break up, and to achieve this the Lindy Fralin Model has a specially-designed output transformer that maintains a stable impedance between the output valves and speaker.
Although it’s also available in head form, the standard Lindy Fralin Model comes in a custom-designed 20" x 20" solid pine open-backed cab with a custom 15" Eminence Legend ceramic speaker on a floating baffle. It weighs 42lbs. There’s a Bright switch for darker P90s and humbuckers, and an integral diffuser to minimise high frequency beaming. This is actually formed by carefully cutting the baffle to leave a ‘cross’ of plywood centred in the middle of the speaker cone. Apparently some of Supro’s larger 1960s amps had similarly-cut baffles, and certain tweed Fenders and Voxes had single central bars running across the speakers – although back in the day they were probably intended to maintain rigidity for the baffle and provide extra protection for the speaker rather than dissipate high frequency energy.
Inside the cabinet many booteek boxes are ticked. You’ll find handwound (what else?) Mercury Magnetics transformers, Mallory tone and coupling caps, and Gavitt cloth-covered wire. After the first 60 production models, VVT changed from carbon composite resistors on turret board to carbon films on printed circuit board to improve reliability and consistency. Each amp is backed up with a 10 year limited warranty on all components except tubes and speakers.
The retro narrow panel looks are fairly neutral and I like the combination of the cream tolex with the oxblood speaker cloth. The heavy-duty leather handle is a nice touch, and the way the brushed gold face plate changes shade under the plexiglass cover is very smart. But the tolex covering has been applied poorly: it’s rough and gappy around the corners, the darts have been over cut around the valve vents, and it’s pulling adrift around the curves of the control panel cutout. Minor details, but at this price you’d have every right to moan about them.
The controls are pared down to a bare minimum: one Volume followed by Treble and Bass and a Reverb level. Despite the presence of a 5U4 rectifier tube, a standby switch ensures soft start up to prolong the life of the other tubes.
Lindy Fralin model
Specs: 30/15W valve combo with 2 x 12AX7, 2 x 12AT7, 2 x 6L6/6V6, 5U4 valves and 15" Eminence Legend speaker. Handwired in the USA
Controls: Volume, Treble, Bass and Reverb with Bright, standby and power switches
Charlie Chandler’s Guitar Experience
020 8973 1441
This amp sets itself apart by its dynamic response and the way it cleans up. By running the Fralin hot I found I was able to access all its great sounds by backing off the guitar volume although it helps if you have a treble bypass capacitor across the pot. This amps old-school tone is eminently suited to a whole range or retro and roots styles, but its inherent clarity also makes it superb in conjunction with effects pedals.