Music's Dr. Z Maz Buyers Guide
As you can tell,
Humbucker Music carries a wide variety of boutique amps with a wide
range of tones. With so many impressive amplifiers to choose from
it is difficult to pick a favorite. With that said, the Dr. Z Maz
is very popular not only with our customer base, but with our staff
too, as every employee but one owns a Maz. Honestly, it's very
difficult to find an amp out there with so much tone and versatility
for the price Dr. Z asks. Their hand-wired point to point
construction, quality of components, and rock solid reputation for
reliability make them an easy choice since they are priced below many
production circuit board amps out there.
since at present time there are 5 distinct models, it can be a little
confusing for a customer to determine which one would be the right
fit. With this in mind, the fellows here at the shop have put our
heads together to try to create a “Maz Buyer’s Guide” to help fully
understand all that is available when ordering and how they relate to
the amp as a finished unit.
The way we see
it, you need to start with these 6 questions:
What Wattage Power Rating?
Reverb or Non-Reverb?
Head and Cab or Combo Amp?
Which Speaker Selection?
5) Is attenuation needed?
Color of the amp?
The Maz is
available in three power ratings, 8, 18, and 38 watts. The preamp
sections are identical for all intents and purposes, so the voicing of
all three amps are basically the same, but there is certainly more to
consider than volume alone. Where the difference becomes apparent
is in the amount of clean headroom that they each have, as well as
their response at various power levels. Here, we will break down
the models for you:
Maz Sr 38: The 38 has twice
the power of the 18 watt Maz Jr and thus has more clean headroom. It
can still be overdriven but it requires a bit more volume to push it
into overdrive. We actually have several customers who use this
amp as a loud "clean amp" for their pedal board platform, or for a
country music picking amp with some snap to it. It uses EL84's as
opposed to 6L6's, so it's noticeably more punchy and percussive than a
Fender Twin. Do not let the mere 38 watts fool you. The Maz
38 is VERY LOUD and can hold it's own with 100 watt amps all day
long. This is not an opinion, it is a fact. We also have
several customers who use this amp for more bluesy style playing.
Since it has a Master Volume, you can increase the gain and drop volume
to find that sweet spot between clean and dirty where pick attack
determines the amount of dirt you get. As with all the Maz amps,
the 38 is extremely dynamic. And did we mention it is LOUD?
We truly want to emphasize this, as the only complaint we get is that
the customer didn't realize how loud this amp can be. Naturally,
with a tube amp you want to crank it to get the tubes cooking so they
can do what they are designed to do, but when you crank the 38, it may
over power the rest of the band and you'll be asked to turn down.
Note: Us guitarists don't like to turn down...
Maz Jr 18: Even at 18 watts,
it is easily loud enough to play with most drummers without a mic.
Customers are consistently and pleasantly surprised at how loud the Maz
18 Jr can get. With this in mind, it is recommended that a customer
base the decision of which version of the Maz to get primarily on how
important lots of clean headroom is rather than how loud the amps are.
There really is not as big of difference in the Jr and Sr in terms of
volume as you might think. If forced to quantify, we would have to say
there is approximately 20% difference in perceived volume. The
18, however, does have quite a bit more useable gain at volume levels
acceptable to gigging musicians, making it by far the more popular
choice, and easily the best selling amp of the entire Dr. Z
lineup. Three of us here at Humbucker Music use the Maz 18 as our
primary amplifier for both recording and gigging (two others use the
Maz 8: In essence, the
was created to be a "problem solver" for the previous Maz 18 and 38
lineup . This is a bit of a misnomer since we have always felt
the Maz's to be some of the finest amps on the planet, but what do you
do when you are already playing on an 18 watt amp and the sound guy at
the club, church, or wherever, asks you to turn down? Sound
familiar? What about when you're down in the basement or your
music room and your spouse keeps complaining about the noise (they
don't always appreciate great tone, do they?). The Maz 8 was
created to address these issues. As stated earlier, tube amps
want to be turned up. Tubes sound the best when the voltages
across the plates are high. The Maz 8 allows you to really crank
it and remain at volume levels more acceptable to those unappreciative
souls out there. Truth is, that soul may be you. If you are
jamming at home with friends or in the studio you may want more tame
volumes. They're easier on the ears, and easier to track in
smaller studios where control room separation is harder to
attain. Furthermore, the Maz 8 features a switch on the back that
allows one to select between a Pentode mode and a Triode mode.
The Triode mode reduces the output wattage a bit for even slightly
lower volume levels. Essentially, the Maz 8 allows you to hit the
amp's "sweet spot" at a much lower volume than the Maz 18 or 38.
Reverb or Non-Reverb
Unlike most amps the Maz 18 and 38 are available in both a reverb
equipped version and a non-reverb version (known as the NR). Both
versions are pretty much identical for all intents and purposes other
than having or lacking reverb, however removing the reverb from the
circuit does have a subtle effect on the overall tone of the amp. There
is actually a lot of discussion about this when it comes to the Maz and
at times it may sound more complicated than it probably should be. It
is true that the NR version does have a small amount more gain at lower
volumes than the reverb version. Some also feel there is a slight
increase in dynamics and response with the NR versions. These
difference are basically due to the shorter signal path created when
the reverb is removed from the circuit and the slight loss of signal as
it travels through the reverb tank. With this being said, the reverb
version can still achieve the same basic amount of gain it just
requires that you dial it in a bit differently. Honestly, the best
advice we could give a player is to choose the reverb/non-reverb
versions based on the need or (lack of need) of reverb and the cost
associated with a Reverb model. We can assure you that the differences
in tone is very subtle. At the present time, the Maz 8 is not
available in an NR model.
and Cab or Combo Amp
lineup is available in many configurations. 1x12 Combo, 2x12
Combo, 2x10 Combo, or a Head with several speaker cab choices.
Naturally, it is difficult to say which configuration is the best as
each player’s needs are different. There are advantages to all. Some
players like the convenience of a grab and go type of rig such as the
combos. On the other hand some players like a head and cab for a few
reasons. First, many players like the flexibility of being able to run
through a variety of different cabs and some even run multiple heads.
Another option to also consider that is unique to Dr. Z is that both
the 1x12 and 2x10 cabs have a removable back baffle so they can be run
openback or closed if a player so chooses. The Z-Best cab offered by
Dr. Z is a Theile ported design that is a 2x12 closed back cab with the
bass response of a 4x12. Electronically, all the configurations
are the same so it really comes down to your personal preference and
speaker choices are many, so it's easy to get overwhelmed. Each
available speaker configuration has a unique voicing and it's own
strengths. When we talk with a customer that is trying to determine
whether to go with various 12’s or 10’s we usually use three questions
to determine the right recommendation.
1) Do you like a warmer sound or a brighter sound?
2) What type of guitar do you typically play?
3) Are you using
a microphone to mic the amp?
If you like a warmer sound, we typically
recommend going with one of
the 12 inch speakers. Naturally, a 12" speaker has a little more
end response over the 10". The
reason for this is that the larger cone produces a bit more bass and
fatter mids. This is a
good choice to thicken up a brighter guitar. The 10’s on
the other hand tend to have a bit more top end and tighter bass, and
work well for a player with a really warm sounding guitar that wants
a bit more presence and a bit more bite in the treble.
If you're using
a microphone for live use or in the studio, we typically recommend
going with one of the 12 inch
speakers for many of the reasons above. In addition, adjustment
microphone can vary the frequency response being reproduced, so you can
usually decrease the low end of the 12", but you can't really add so
much to the 10". This is not to say 10" speakers can not be
They can with great results actually. It's just that 12" speakers
more versatile and a little easier to mic.
Dr. Z Custom 10: Stock speaker
for 2x10 cabs and combos. More top end and
tighter bass, and work well for a player with a really warm sounding
guitar that wants
a bit more presence and a bit more bite in the treble.
players are a bit suspicious of tens in general as they worry about
their sound being boxy or small. This is definitely not the case
with the ten that Dr. Z designed. By selecting a combination of a
larger magnet and traditional cone, the Doc was able to design a ten
that still has all the characteristics players want in a ten inch
speaker yet has plenty of mids and bass. Honestly, it is one of the
best tens that we have heard.
Celestion G12-H30: Stock speaker for
Maz combos (except the Maz 8). Overall
it's a very even sounding speaker with regard to frequency. It
has a nice full bass, warm mids and a smooth top end. It seems to
really match the voice of the Maz combo well, and we can only assume
that is why the Doc chose it as the stock speaker. The vast majority of
players opt to go with this speaker in the Maz combo.
Celestion Vintage 30: Stock speaker
for the 1x12 cabs. This
speaker is similar to the G12-H30 with one distinctive difference. The
Vintage 30 has a prominent "spike" in the upper midrange. In terms of
overall tone, this translates to quite a bit more presence and it cuts
through the mix a bit more in live situations. One of the reasons for
choosing this speaker in a cab is that it really performs well in a
closed back enclosure. The more prominent upper midrange response helps
the speaker maintain clarity while still having plenty of punch.
Celestion AlNiCo Blue: The
Blue is the stock speaker for the Maz 8 and an optional upgrade for the
Maz Jr Combos and 112 cabs. When considering the Blue it's important to
note the relatively low wattage rating of the speaker. With a 15 watt
power handling rating the blue will work great with a Maz 18 Jr and Maz
8. From a tone standpoint one of the things that makes the blue
so popular is its warm top end and wonderfully "chimey" midrange. The
speaker also responds very well when pushed into overdrive providing a
very musical natural compression at higher volumes. The bass response
is a bit unique on the blue as well. The best way to describe the bass
is to say that it is loose or "airy". Honestly, no matter how it's EQ’d
it is difficult to get a tight, percussive bass response. For this
reason, many players opt to use the blue in conjunction with another
speaker with a tighter bass such as the G12H30. With this combination,
you get the sweet top end and mids of the blue and the solid bass
response of a ceramic magnet speaker.
Celestion AlNiCo Gold: The
Gold is very similar to the Celestion Blue, but with a rating of 50
watts it's able to handle the power of the Maz 38. The only really
significant tone difference between the Blue and the Gold is that the
Gold has a bit more bass response. This is due to the larger magnet
used, other than this it is pretty much a higher power version of the
emphasize enough that every available combination sounds awesome (or
Dr. Z wouldn't offer it), and that the mentioned difference will be
somewhat subtle to the majority of people. We also recognize that
some some players have a more discerning ear than others, and they will
find the voicing of one versus the other fits their needs a bit better.
of the Amplifier
All Maz amps are sold with the
option of a pre-installed Brake Lite Attenuator (for combos) or the
Brake Lite SA Stand Alone Attenuator (for heads and cabs).
Essentially, an attenuator allows you to drive your tube amp harder
without the associated volume that comes with turning up. As mentioned twice already, tubes
love to be ran hard since they produce their best tone when ran at
plate voltage. An attenuator allows you to crank the amp up
without blasting your ears because it bleeds off some of the wattage
being sent to the speaker. The speaker then reproduces the
tone of a cranked amp at a reduced volume.
between the output of the amp and the speaker.
They replicate the ohm load of a speaker so the amp doesn't
"know the difference". Most then use a coil to reduce the
wattage by converting the excess wattage to heat. The
reduced wattage that isn't converted to heat is then sent to the
Is there a
disadvantage? Well, there's always a trade-off, but in this case
most feel it is negligible. You'll read or hear about people
referring to small degrees of tone loss when attenuating. In
our experience, the potential tone loss comes moreso from a reduction
in the volume of the speaker. Naturally, some of your tone
comes from the speaker being driven. When it is driven less, the
tone of the speaker will change slightly. It is also important to
note that using an attenuator is like cranking your amp on high, and
thus, you will reduce the effective life of your tubes
accordingly. It is alright and normal, but just like playing
cranked all the time, you will go through tubes a little faster than
playing on a volume level of 1.5 in your bedroom all the time.
It isn't really that big of a difference, and by far most tone seeker
feel it's easily worth the associated cost.
Color of the Amp
Alright, so now
that we have covered all of the easy tech related choices available
when purchasing a Maz we get down to the hard part. What color do
you choose? To answer this question we at Humbucker Music built a
state of the art testing lab under our building here in Georgia. I can
assure you that no cost was spared in building this facility. Most of
the technology is still high classified and I honestly am risking my
own life even mentioning that this lab exists. In our numerous hours of
rigorous testing we were able to determine two definitive things:
All four colors test very high on the Toneality Audio Spectrometer.
With this being said, I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of
such an instrument due to federal law. In fact, it *might not*
Blondes have 2% more fun. It should be noted though that our margin for
error was 2%. We are still working on this one and should have
something to report shortly.
aside, the Maz is available in four colors; Black, Blonde, Red and Surf
Green. Surf Green is an exclusive color that is only available here at
Humbucker Music. We really dig the color, so much in fact that we
manufactured a truckload of the tolex and sent it to Dr. Z (as well as
some other amp companies) to make it possible. I can assure you
that all four colors are very sharp in person so it is pretty much a
"no lose" scenario in that sense. It is just figuring out which one
works for you.