Pedals are awesome, no question. If I didn’t love them more than my hard-earned cash, I wouldn’t be here; and if you didn’t love them, you wouldn’t be reading thispublication made for freaks like us. As much as we love our pedals however, sometimes nothing beats the sound and smell of a tube amp cooking away—serving up warm, fat, and dynamically hollow tones. The tube amp is the backbone of our tones: the solid, stoic and beautiful tower of sound that stands behind us during our musical moments of success and failure, unwavering in its resolve and commanding in its voice. Our favorite amps come in all shapes and sizes, and in the last couple of years, there have been some very interesting innovations and takes on the classic formula. What has fallen into my lap this week is nothing short of a triumph of tone, and an aesthetic pleasure for anyone seeking both vintage looks and vintage tones. Matthew Richards of Square Amps take the whole “vintage look” about forty steps ahead of the competition, by re-purposing old tube AM radios from the ‘30s and ‘40s into fully-functional guitar amps. This design philosophy of preserving the past and bringing it into the future is what drives Mr. Richards’s business and passion for amplification, swirling together the perfect cocktail of functionality, looks, and huge vintage tone.
The Farm is a repurposed 1937 RCA-Victor radio, running a three-tube configuration. Coming in stock are three JJ tubes: one 6V6 power tube, one 12AX7 preamp tube, and one 5Y3 rectifier tube. The design of the amp itself is simple but very effective, unadulterated tube tone that rivals some of the best tube pedals on the market today (and for cheaper too in some cases). It has only two controls, volume and a variable negative feedback control. The negative feedback control is a sort of combination gain and tone knob, the more you crank it the more highs are let through and the more gain the amp has. The tone and gain are a noticeable but more subtle change as you crank or roll down this knob; dynamics become more reliant on pick attack, and the amp produces a slightly greasy, unmistakably vintage and woody tone that’s got a whole lot of thick lows and low-mids. This thing sounds, looks, and feels like it was made in the ‘30s by a future-peering mad scientist who somehow knew what players in 2016 would want, and who also knew that the electric guitar had become as a voice in modern music. While this amp is small, don’t let its size fool you, it can get very loud. I don’t know if I could recommend it for late night practice cranked, but it beats the hell out of my Fender Champ which can be raspy and ragged even at low volumes. With the aforementioned Champ sometimes sounding boxy, The Farm manages to narrowly skirt this problem that usually plagues small amps, in a way that manages to retain its character and boldness.
Plugging it into my Hi-Tone 2x12 DR-F cabinet revealed a whole new dimension to this little monster. The sound (as expected) was a whole lot bigger and carried a lot more definition. The bass seemed to fly forward, and the musty warmth that defined this amp was magnified. I found myself seeing this no longer as just a practice amp or a novelty piece, but a real, serious tool that could have so many uses in both live and studio situations. As expected, it excels in those bluesy breakup tones that so many lust after, and adding a bit of delay courtesy of the Gurus Amps Echosex 2, is sounded tastefully bubbly with a whole lot of cavernous, gritty low end. To the naysayers who write off the amp as a gimmick (which admittedly I was one in the beginning), think again—this amp is a serious tone tool for the studio and the stage, and gives some of the best tube overdrive I have ever heard from any piece of gear.
WHAT WE LIKE
Portable, versatile, simple, and great for simple jamming as well as huge tube cooked leads. Huge low end and incredible drive character
No serious ones, but the stock speaker narrowly skirts sounding boxy (for obvious reasons).