MATCH­LESS SPIT­FIRE ’15 AM­PLI­FIER HEAD

ALEX WIL­SON TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT AN AMP THAT EX­EM­PLI­FIES SIM­PLIC­ITY, BOTH IN FORM AND FUNC­TION.

Australian Guitar - - Home Recording -

Taken out of the box, the amp looks great. It’s very black, with the logo plate and prod­uct en­grav­ing ren­dered in el­e­gant grey. In ad­di­tion to a sin­gle on/off switch, there’s high and low in­puts (one chan­nel only) and cream Vol­ume, Tone and Mas­ter knobs. The back­plate is equally min­i­mal, boast­ing only TRS line out, two speaker outs (rated at eight and four ohms), and a 240 VAC in­put for the power cord.

The Spit­fire '15 head is not an es­pe­cially big unit, all things con­sid­ered, but it is a bit heavy due to the old-school cir­cuitry on­board. Speak­ing of which, the tubes them­selves con­sist of two EL84s in the power sec­tion, three 12AX7s in the pre and a rec­ti­fy­ing 5AR7.

In terms of sound, this amp’s strength lies in its high head­room and pleas­ing, creamy clean tone. The sim­ple de­sign means the amp is not es­pe­cially ver­sa­tile, and if you’re look­ing to get even mod­er­ately high gain out of the Spit­fire, you won’t have much luck. How­ever, the flip­side is a tremen­dous ca­pac­ity for de­tailed clean sounds. Even with louder pick­ups, you have to push the vol­ume past eight o’clock to reach the early signs of breakup. Com­bine this with the grunt of two EL84s, and you can get the Spit­fire ring­ing out loud and beau­ti­ful sounds with head­room for days.

In truth, this lit­tle 15-wat­ter has more than enough oomph for most play­ers shred­ding out in a live set­ting, but is still hum­ble enough to be a friend to your neigh­bours.

The sound it­self re­sem­bles a Vox AC15, al­beit a lit­tle brighter. This is well in line with the clas­sic Match­less sound and the in­spi­ra­tion it draws from Vox de­signs. The gen­er­ous head­room of the amp also al­lows it a very spe­cific Match­less ‘ feel’ un­der the fin­gers.

One of the real plea­sures of this brand comes from the way the amp re­sponds to sub­tleties in a player’s fret­ting ar­tic­u­la­tion and spe­cific pick­ings. It’s very easy to be­come en­thralled in its sen­si­tiv­ity once you’ve got the knobs set right rel­a­tive to your gui­tar.

And speak­ing of those chicken-head knobs: the tone is def­i­nitely more of a mu­si­cal than tech­ni­cal con­trol. Roll it off and the sound warms up, evok­ing the sound of ven­er­ated jazz gui­tarists. It’s a re­ally pleas­ing mel­low­ness that has a re­ally great dark­ness to it, which seems to high­light a rich midrange at the same time as it at­ten­u­ates tre­ble.

Push the tone knob back up high, and you’ll find spank and sparkle re­turn­ing. This is where the ‘Vox­i­ness’ of the Spit­fire re­sides. It is pos­si­ble to overdo the bright­ness and wind up with a brit­tle sound, but with one knob con­trol­ling tone, that's a prob­lem which is eas­ily solved.

One last note on tone and playa­bil­ity: this is a great head for pedal afi­ciona­dos. The sim­ple cir­cuit and wide head­room mean that your favourite dirt­boxes, your wildest mo­du­la­tors or lush­est time-based ef­fects can ex­press them­selves fully within the spit­fire Spit­fire.

Push those stomp­boxes a lit­tle bit harder into the pre and you’ll come across the spongy, bloom­ing tube com­pres­sion that makes a great pedal sing all the more sweetly. In this re­spect, the Spit­fire '15 truly is an amp that would make a head-turn­ing al­ter­na­tive to other de­pend­able, high-head­room am­pli­fiers such as a Fen­der Twin.

WHY YOU'RE PROB­A­BLY GO­ING TO WANT IT

If you play mu­sic that doesn’t need lots of dis­tor­tion, but you’re still stylis­ti­cally ver­sa­tile, then this amp would be one of the most ap­pro­pri­ate you could find. You’d be buy­ing an amp that is easy to use, built to last and sim­ply ex­udes vibe.

WHAT YOU SHOULD CON­SIDER FIRST

The Spit­fire '15 is a proper in­vest­ment. While its main tone is ex­cep­tional, there’s not a lot of im­me­di­ate flex­i­bil­ity to be had with one chan­nel and 15 watts. Un­less, of course, you sup­ple­ment the amp with some great ped­als which it pairs with beau­ti­fully – but that is more dol­lars you may need to in­vest. If you've got the right pedal col­lec­tion and the cash to splash, how­ever, this might just be your new favourite small amp.

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