Blues 20 Dumble Special ODS Clone
Hand Wired Classic Amp
There have been three amplifiers that I have plugged into that had very special qualities. The harmonics jumped out at me, with touch sensitivity and sustain beyond all others. One was a Dumble. One was an old blonde Fender Bandmaster head that had no business sounding as good as it did. The third is this Blues 20 Special.
When Chuck first told me that he was thinking of incorporating it into the Bootlegger lineup, we were both a bit skeptical. Having tried many products, both amplifiers and pedals, that claimed to achieve that famous D style sound and feel, I have been consistently disappointed. Until now.
Upon unboxing, I was immediately struck by the high quality brown Tolex application and perfectly straight grill cloth and piping, as well as the substantial look and feel of the cab. Nothing sloppy or careless here. This is a beautiful amp! The pictures don’t quite do it justice. It’s solidly built and not lightweight. Very old school.
On the front panel you have the preamp section, with input, three switches (Bright, Mid Boost, Rock/Jazz), Volume, Treble, Mid and Bass controls. Next, the overdrive section, with Level and Drive controls. Last is the poweramp section, featuring Master Volume and Presence controls and a Standby switch. The rear panel features the Power switch, speaker Main and Extension outputs with choice of 4, 8 or 16 ohms, Overdrive Trim control, Overdrive and Preamp Boost switches, with choice of manual or pedal control, FX loop, and the foot switch connector.
The speaker is a 16 ohm Celestion G12 Vintage 30. The tube compliment consists of two EHX EL84 power tubes and three Ruby 12AX7s. It has very large transformers for a 20 watt amp. It is completely hand-wired with chassis mounted tube sockets and (full size!) pots.
Time to test it! I turned it on to warm it up and grabbed my 335. Set the master volume to half way up, bright and mid boost off, jazz/rock set on jazz. I plugged in the guitar, fiddled with the controls a bit and started playing. Those sweet harmonics and pure tone hit me. I picked my jaw up off the floor and switched on the overdrive. I was instantly in Larry Carlton land! It has that fat, sweet, thick, warm, singing sustain for days.
In His Head
It’s the sound I hear in my head. The sound I’ve been chasing for decades. That “clean” overdrive. It’s got it! Most of this was at levels you could talk over, but it also gets LOUD. Much louder than it’s 20 watt rating would indicate. I started playing with different switch combinations and settings and realized this thing is a swiss army knife! The bright switch and mid boost are very effective and perfectly voiced. I think if I could have just one amp (I’m down to eight now), this would be it!
I’m really trying hard not to be too effusive here, probably unsuccessfully, but this has the tone and response of my dreams. You feel connected to it in a way that makes the guitar and the amp one instrument, responding to every nuance of your fingers.
I then tested it with a Strat, a 52 reissue Tele, a 72 reissue Thin Line Tele (with Lollar Imperial pups) a couple of nice Gretsches, an SG, a gold top Les Paul with P90s and a Les Paul special with P90s. It’s instantly adaptable to any guitar or musical style. It has sweet sounding F style cleans with a bit of V style chime from the el84s (perhaps my favorite power tubes) and D style drive and harmonic content. It’s also very quiet as guitar amps go, not noisy at all. For me, this is my dream amp!
The only thing I can think of that may be a negative for some people is no reverb or tremolo. Most of us have pedals for those things these days, and it does have an FX loop.
In summation, I have not been this impressed with an amplifier in decades. I now have a bad case of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome, for those who may not know) and I blame you, Chuck Wilson! In fact, you may have to pry this amp from my cold dead hands!
But seriously, if you’ve been chasing that perfect tone and versatility that I’ve been seeking for such a long time, here it is. The Bootlegger Blues 20 Special. Get it!
Musician, Mastering Genius, Audio file nut & Guitarist.
Blues 20 Controls Front
Pre Amp Controls
One 1/4 jack input
Mid boost switch
Rock / Jazz switch
Mix / Ratio knob
Power Amp Controls
Power in for cord
Main speaker on switch
Output for extension speaker cabinet
Effect Loop input / output
OD Trim knob (trims signal before it hits the OD)
Pedal set up preferences 2 switches
Foot Pedal in
Celestion Vintage 30 12 inch 60-watt
EHX EL84 power tubes and three Ruby 12AX7s
20 x 17 x 10