Splawn Amplification Quick Rod
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Quick Rod, Tube Guitar Amp Head from Splawn Amplification.

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content in English
King Loudness 16/03/2011

Splawn Amplification Quick Rod : Recensione di King Loudness (content in English)

"Marshall, you've been KO'd."
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Once upon a time I decided that I wanted the ultimate hot rodded Marshall type amplifier head. However, the main factor was that it couldn't cost an arm and a leg. Repeated searching online kept bringing up this amp called the Quick Rod made by a company called Splawn Amplfication that was supposed to be one of the absolute best Marshall JMP/800 type amps made. They're essentially a dual channel amp with a specialized system of three modes or "gears" on the OD1 and OD2 channels, plus a solo boost and a very high quality effects loop. The amp is powered by four EL34 power tubes and three 12AX7 preamp tubes.

Here's a quick rundown of the channels and some of the features:

Clean - Very basic in its layout. Mine had a standard compliment of gain, volume, bass, middle, and treble controls.

Overdrive - This is a dual mode channel, with separate OD1 and OD2 modes. To take it a step further, Splawn has what they call "gears," which are essentially a three position switchable mode on the Overdrive channel as a whole. The three gears go from a Marshall SLP "Plexi" sort of vibe to a modified Marshall JCM800 to an even more gained out British voiced monster. The one issue I have with this setup is that you cannot set two different gear modes per OD1 and OD2 modes, but all in all it is still extremely versatile. The Overdrive channel has a shared EQ of gain, volume, bass, middle, treble, and presence between both the OD1 and OD2 modes. A separate EQ for the OD1 and OD2 modes would be nice, but it's not a dealbreaker by any means. There is also a footswitchable solo boost function for those moments when you need to turn up for those scorching leads as well.

On the back panel you have an impedance selector (4, 8, or 16 ohm load), a Full/Half Power switch (This takes the amp from 100w of power using 4 power tubes to 50w of power using 2 power tubes... which in my experience gave the amp a "spongier" and looser vibe. There is also a high quality effects loop with a button to select between +4 db or - 10 db as well as a true bypass for those times when you're running straight into the amp with no effects onboard.

All in all this is an extremely versatile amp. While it doesn't really boast many features for cleaner or lower gain applications, it's definitely an amp that was designed for the purpose of high octane rock and metal stylings.

UTILIZATION

When I first purchased the amp, I got it home to my Basson Sound B212 speaker cabinet (loaded with two Eminence Legend 1258s) and set it up with all of the dials at noon aside from the master volume. I quickly realized that this amp has a boatload of higher range frequencies in its voicing, so I restructured the EQ to the point of turning controls like the treble and presence quite low, or even off in some cases. That being said, I never found that there was a loss of brightness from doing this, so it's definitely something to try if you find your own QR on the brighter side.

Once I dialed in the equalization to taste, I found that it was extremely easy to dial in tones that I found very pleasing. The amp is very responsive to picking dynamics, articulation, guitar type, pickup output, etc, and I found that changing up these various factors produced an wide range of (generally overdriven) tones that ranged from classic Marshall SLP/JMP to the more modern hot rodded Marshalls and other amps of that ilk (Soldano, Bogner, Cameron, et al.) I found that the best overall combination was with a Music Man John Petrucci JP6 loaded with the D-Sonic and Petrucci Special humbuckers from DiMarzio. The particular combination was able to go from clean to mean just by using the volume control on the guitar! The amp has a very unique midrange voicing to the Overdrive channel that makes it stand on its own... it cuts through very well and had a great live tone in most hard rock and metal settings that I used mine for.

The biggest thing to note about this amp. They are extremely LOUD and they sit best in a mix with a band type situation (drums, bass, guitar, vocals.) Unless you are in a situation where you are able to use the Quick Rod with a band, I wouldn't advise purchasing one (unless you buy a 2009 or newer model with the effects loop master volume.) Mine was an older model that I purchased second hand, and I found that I only ever would plug into it when I would go to band rehearsal as it was so loud at home levels that my lights and windows would rattle with the master volume pushing 2 or 2.5.


SOUNDS

The sounds of the Quick Rod are easily some of the best British voiced tones that I've had in an amp. I used it with numerous guitars (Music Man JP6, Parker Fly Deluxe, Gibson Les Paul Traditional Plus, various import guitars with humbuckers and/or single coils) and each one brought a different flavour to the equation. The amp is not very picky when it comes to what guitars you are using, and as far as speakers go, I found it to be at its best with Vintage 30s, Greenbacks, or Eminence Legends. As I did in column one, I will lay out the channels again, but this time try to describe the various tones that were available in each channel.

Clean - Definitely not the high point of the amp to be sure. The cleans on this amp are fairly... flat sounding. They don't quite have the warmth of something like a Fender or Dr. Z, but rather are a bit harsher and more treble oriented. That being said, I was able to get some fairly nice clean tones with a Les Paul and lower output pickups. This may have been changed in newer models though.

Overdrive OD1 - This channel was the one I found myself using most of the time. It had more than enough gain for my purposes (most of the time I was using it in OD1 mode with the gain at less than half!) It reacted very well for riff based stuff and certain more melodic lead passages. It also took really well to a boost out front (I often used something like a Boss SD1 or DOD250 clone out front to give the leads a little bit of kick.)

Overdrive OD2 - This channel was the higher gain of the two. I found it to be more compressed than the OD1 channel, so I used it for more modern metal settings and some faster lead passages. However, it still was very rich with harmonics and all those wonderful overtones that you get from a gained out tube amp. I kept the gain low on this channel as it had a LOT... (gain freaks, don't worry.)

The three gear modes basically just change the gain level and saturation per mode. I should mention that mine didn't have the gears (as it was older) but I've recorded with a project of mine and had a chance to try another one that did have the gears. I found that the gears for the most part just added more saturation to each mode. I found myself usually sticking to gear 3 (Super Hot Rod 800) because it had a lot of that high end "sizzle" that really made my riffs and leads jump out in a wonderful way.

I would describe the overall character of the amp as very classic British. It's not meant to be a modern type of amp like the Peavey 5150 or Mesa Boogie Rectifiers, but rather it was designed for more of a classic set of "Hot Rod" tones... which it does quite well and it is these tones that sell the amp.



OVERALL OPINION

My overall opinion of the Quick Rod (and Splawn in general) is that they're a killer value in the market, either new or used. From what I've read, Scott Splawn treats his customers well and stands behind his amps, so I'd have no concerns dealing with him on anything. I ultimately traded my Quick Rod away because I did need a smaller/quieter amp for hauling around, but I've regretted it ever since and would replace it in a heartbeat if I could. It does what the name implies... it's a quick way to get a bunch of the excellent EL34 based tones ranging from the Marshall SLP to the modified 800s of eighties lore. I compared it to many newer Marshalls at the time) and I was sure in the end that it was FAR superior to anything that Marshall was building in that same price range. It is my firm opinion that Splawn has a great grasp on the hot rodded Marshall type market, and if he keeps producing amps of this quality, his name is sure to keep building and getting better. Sure my 2005 QR had a few things that bugged me (lack of gears, lack of really good cleans, lack of good lower volume tones... but since that amp was built Scott has made improvements on every one of those features, which makes me want another one even more!