I just got myself a very unique amp, this is a prototype of a model soon to go into production from Ashdown, it's called the Drophead and there are only 2 made so far both commissioned for Adam Clayton of U2, Ashdown made 2 of them one with a red chassis and the other with a black chassis, Clayton chose the red one and I've managed to secure the black one. Here are some pics and a review:
This amp is Ashdown version of the Ampeg B15 Fliptop, the head is from their new "Little B*st*rd" line of amps, it's all tubes (or valves whichever way you guys call them) and it has a holy powerful sound that is very reminescent of the B15 if some of the older guys here ever played one they'll understand why that amp was so great.
First of all I must say a few praises for the Ashdown team, I went to collect the amp this morning directly from their factory in Heybridge, Essex the factory is well laid out and spotless, the people there were really really friendly and each one greeted me with cordiality. I must confirm one thing to you all about Ashdown, they really make them by hand from scratch, I have not seen a single router machine there, no robots cutting holes into wood, nothing! Every single bench has a man or a woman hand soldering parts, building chassis, assembling printed circuit boards and again what really impressed me was the cleanliness and tydiness of the place, and they don't just build Ashdown amps in this factory they also do Hayden handbuilt guitar amps, they've showed me how all of these are carefully assembled by the various teams with the utmost accuracy, these men were not hippies wearing torn jeans and dodgy Iron Maiden t-shirts by the way, oh no, these are shirt and tie wearing people each of them looked professional and I am positive that they really are all qualified technicians.
I was allowed to get the low down on how this Drophead amp came to exist, having been commissioned for Adam Clayton upon his request to have an amp to use for recording, and to be the closest thing to an Ampeg B15 and at all effect it is that, but it does a bit more than that if you read below.
Before I left I was given a schematic of the amp, I was explained how to change the tubes when needed and which ones to get that work better for this amp and last the longer. As a freebe, I have been given a very professional heavy duty speaker cable and yeah the castors came free too. I also have been promised that as soon as they go into production to the public at large (remember this is still only a prototype at the moment) they will sell with a vinyl cover and as soon as these are done they will send me one in the post. OH WOW!!! REVIEW
This amp is amazing, I have tried it now for over an hour with every single bass I own, both passive and active, the sound is so warm and yet if you crank it to the point when it gets gritty and clips into distortion it becomes a little monster. The front panel controls are simple and intuitive, I am still trying to appreciate the difference that that each knobs and the relevant switch have on the sound, on paper it sounds simple enough, you have from left to right: MIDDLE, BASS and TREBLE controls, on top of each of these there is a switch that kicks in a boost namely the bass shift, middle shift, and treble shift, activating them creates a boost that allows you to morph from vintage retro bass vibes which faithfully emulate motown and 60's sounds, into a more modern scooped frequency active sound. The neodimium speaker is coupled with a horn that has 3 settings on the back low / off / high, so it caters for all kinds of people, those who like or dislike the use of a horn can all be happy with this amp. I have tried all 3 settings and I must say when set to low it actually enhances the 15" speaker perfectly, not too deep or muddy and not too bright, when set to high, you can really get some modern Trace Elliot type of mid scoop and with it off, the sound is most suited with basses with flatwound strings and warm deep lows that are perfect for blues, motown, and jazz music.
The glow of the tubes shows well throgh the amp chassis grille and all the controls are smooth and the amp is totally noise free, now hiss, no rattle and hum (get it? Rattle and Hum was a U2 album name in case you don't know)
On the back panel you have a on / off switch, a balanced xlr output, 2 speakers outputs 4ohms and 8ohms, they are the speakon type and are all marked with the name Neutrik the leader in amp components.
If you see picture slideshow below, it is interesting to note that this amp bears no serial number and no model name, it doesn't get rarer than this. Only 2 ever made like that before they go into full production! I will really treasure this for sure.
Volume wise the amp which is none other than their "Little Bastard" head is barely 30 Watts but if you have read the review in Guitar Magazine LINK HERE
you will read that this is a very loud amp for the money. Also the factory designer guru (Mr Dave Green) told me that if you use the balanced output and feed it through a 500 Watts amp, put the lot through an 8 x 10" cab, you are ready for stage volume any day of the week.
It's early stages yet and I have only tried it indoors but I am sure that once hooked through a PA this will be a great amp to play live with.
And finally aside from the aural pleasure this amp is quite beautiful to look at, the front grille covering the speaker is of a gorgeous dark red with black pinstriped chequers, the vinyl cover it's not just some plain jane glued jobby, it has some very "groovy" swirls etched into it that give it that final retro touch mixed with a modern classic look that complements the whole package nicely.
Here is a sideshow I prepared to give you a better idea, my camera is not that good so in a way these pics don't really give it justice, this amp has to be seen up close to be appreciated, I am well pleased with it.
Have a look here:SLIDESHOW