Dr. Z M12 1x12 Combo - Surf Green

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Dr. Z

$ 1,599.00 
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Note: If you're interested in a Dr. Z M12, please read our M12 Review on the tab above. We helped Dr. Z come up with this amp, so we're extremely proud of it, needless to say. Our review is super detailed and should answer just about any question you'll have about it.

The Dr. Z M12 Amp is a clean, low-wattage, pedal platform amp with a few tricks up its sleeve.

The M12 amplifier was designed from the ground up to accommodate the pedalboard guitar player. These days, many guitarists have more invested in their pedals than they do their guitars or amps. Problem is, most of them are hindered by the design of the amplifier. They may not know it, but if quality of tone is a concern, they truly are!

The bad news is that a low wattage, clean amplifier is hard to do right. VERY HARD. The good news is Dr. Z probably knows EL84s as well as anyone on the planet. He designed a circuit using an EF86 front end with an EL84 power section with slightly less plate voltage across the power tubes, by way of the 5Y3 rectifier. It produced 12 watts, had headroom, was very transparent, but still retained the necessary amount of punch and dynamic, all while remaining uncolored. Genius! Dr. Z had found the cure!

The M12 has a tone stack that allows for standard treble and bass sweep up to 12:00. Beyond 12:00 the gain increases in the respective frequencies. The loudest and cleanest tones are found between 10:00 and 2:00 on the bass, treble, and volume controls. Also up front is a Hi and Lo sensitivity switch. Much like the Hi/Lo dual input on many of our amps, this switch will yield clean sounds from hotter pickups in the Lo setting. You can also use the Lo setting for a cleaner input signal for heavy drive and modulation pedals. The Hi setting will yield the strongest dynamics and input gain.

All that being said, what happens when you get things really cooking and turn the volume and treble up past 3:00? You’ll find over the top dynamics, drive, and chime without ever getting harsh. Think of the M12 as the perfect half powered offspring of the Z Wreck and Stang Ray. You get the clarity of the Stang Ray with the sweetness and ease of the Z Wreck.

Specs:

Power Output 12 Watts
Output Tubes 2 x EL84
Preamp Tubes 1 x EF86, 1 x 12AX7
Rectifier Tube - 5Y3
Controls Volume, Bass, Treble, plus hi/lo sensitivity switch
Configuration Head, 1x10, 1x12, and 2x10 Combo
Colors All are available in Black, Blonde, Red, and Limited Surf Green
Head Dims & Weight 17.5" Wide x 9" High x 9.5" Depth - 23 lbs
1x10 Dims & Weight
17.5" Wide x 17" High x 10" Depth - 37 lbs
1x10 Speaker Config
10" Dr. Z Custom (optional 10" Red Fang Alnico +$139)
1x12 Dims & Weight 23" Wide x 20 1/8" High x 10" Depth - 50 lbs
1x12 Speaker Config
12" Celestion Greenback (Several Other Options Available)
2x10 Dims & Weight 23" Wide x 20 1/8" High x 10" Depth - 54 lbs
2x10 Speaker Config
2x10" Dr. Z Speakers (optional Red Fang AlNiCos +$139 ea)
Speaker Outs
4, 8, and 16 Ohms

The Dr. Z M12 is certainly an amp that is close to our heart.

In 2011, we went to Dr. Z with an idea for him to consider. We sell a huge amount of pedals and amps, and we are always discussing with customers how certain pedals react with certain amps. Through listening to our customers, we realized a need for a high quality, hand-wired, low wattage amp designed specifically for all those pedal lovers out there.

In short, we wanted an amp with the following features:

  1. Lower wattage
  2. Clean headroom
  3. Transparent and not "colored"
  4. Basic tone controls
  5. Right amount of dynamics, without too much
  6. Hand Wired
  7. All American!

No one was doing it, and we wondered why...

Well, one reason was apparent. It's VERY hard to do it right. In our opinion, to do the job properly the amp had to have a delicate balance of those qualities. We say "delicate" because these qualities take away from each other if the balance isn't just right. For instance, a good pedal amp needs to obviously be clean and transparent. Clean headroom usually comes from higher wattage amps. Problem is tube amps like to run with the volume knobs turned up in order to get those tube tones and dynamics we all love. Creating a lower wattage amp with clean headroom in its "sweet spot" is usually a problem, if not impossible. Another example is the matter of dynamic response. Too much, and the pedals don't sound exactly the way they were designed. Too little and the amp will be lifeless and without character.

As everyone knows, we are huge fans of Dr. Z. Their amps are also known for being extremely pedal friendly (be careful as not all amps are). So, we called the good Dr. and presented him with our dilemma. We knew he was very busy, but to our surprise he took a great interest in the project. We discussed it several times over the next few weeks before he told us what he wanted to do. We had initially imagined this as being a 6V6 based amp. We have somewhat thought of the 6V6 as a hybrid of an EL84 and a 6L6. Not too British, and not too American. Clean, but still punchy and dynamic. The only problem we saw was with the volumes associated with the 6V6 circuit. We also love EL84s, but at full plate voltage they are not exactly transparent nor low volume. As many of you know, a Dr. Z running at 18 watts is VERY LOUD! Quite nice, but not exactly what we would want out of an amplifier made specifically for the pedal connoisseur.

Well, Dr. Z came up with a better idea and it was absolutely brilliant! He figured an EF86 front end with an EL84 power section with slightly less plate voltage across the power tubes, by way of the 5Y3 rectifier. It produced 12 watts, had headroom, was very transparent, but still retained the necessary amount of punch and dynamic, all while remaining uncolored. Genius! Dr. Z had found the cure!

He sent us a couple prototypes over the months to check out and troubleshoot. Incredible results! Every pedal we tried sounded better than through other amps. When running several different overdrives, we noticed the differences between them all were greater than previously thought when running through other amps. In other words, if you have two overdrive pedals that some people think sound the same, you may very well be able to tell the differences with this amp. While beta testing, we also noticed something we didn't quite expect. The M12 is VERY fun to play without pedals; just a guitar plugged right in to the input! It's certainly quite dynamic and articulate, but not so much that it's not user friendly, as some amps are. The dynamics were very easy to control. It also seemed to exaggerate the subtle differences between very similar guitars. Of course, that wasn't at all what it was doing, but it did seem that way since most amps don't have the clarity of this one, and even those that do are much higher wattage (and loud!) . Even though we feel the M12 is the perfect pedal platform amp, we're certain it'll also find its place among those wanting a clean amp with plenty of punch and tone at a lower volume. It's important to note that this is still a Dr. Z... Even at 12 watts, it's a loud little dude. No, it's not going to "keep up" with your bandmate's Twin Reverb cranked on high, but it'll probably surprise you how much umph it's got behind it.

Anyway, we were quite excited about the M12 and offered to commission Dr. Z to build us a large run of these amps, but in fairness to his other dealers, he respectfully declined. We agreed with his feelings on the matter, but you can't blame us for trying! :)

Thus, the M12 was born!

So, in taking the M12 through it's paces, several things were discovered.

First of all, the details you can hear from your pedals actually surprised us. We knew it would be better than an amp that wasn't made for that purpose, but the degree of improvement came as a bit of a shock. For reference, we played a Fulltone OCD (version 4) through the amp. It sounded great, as expected. Then, one of the guys here plugged in his OCD version 1, and then compared the two. The differences were not as subtle as on other amps. This prompted us to play a variety of Paul Cochrane Timmy pedals through the M12, each with different chips installed. Again, the differences were easily heard and were surprisingly varied. Finally, we had an amp that was so transparent that we could hear everything the pedal was delivering. You'll hear people all the time talk about the differences between this and that, but not always will you hear what they're hearing. Well, with the M12, it's not so subtle any more. Very impressive!

Secondly, the controls of the M12 are designed a bit differently than a standard amp. The tonestack is derived from the super successful Dr. Z Route 66, so it acts like a standard tone stack up to 12:00 on the dial. After that, the bass and treble controls start to introduce slight gain into the mix. Depending on the guitar you're using, and which input setting (Hi or Lo) the loudest and cleanest tones will be found between 10:00 and 2:00 on the bass, treble, and volume controls. This Hi/Lo switch works a lot like the dual inputs on many amps. In the "Lo" setting, the amp will give you cleaner sounds from hotter pickups. You can also use the Lo setting for a cleaner input signal for heavy drive and modulation pedals. The Hi setting will yield the strongest dynamics and input gain.

Thirdly, and THIS was just icing on the cake for the M12, we found that when you just plug straight in and crank the tones and volume up you can get an amazing crunch, with incredible dynamics and chime. Many have referred to the M12 as a Mini-Z-Wreck. Others have called it a half-powered Z-Wreck / Stang Ray hybrid. Honestly, this was not expected by anyone, not even Dr. Z. During the testing and prototyping of the M12, they (as well as us here at Humbucker Music) were slamming the amp with various guitars and cranking it up and having an absolute ball!

So, the Dr. Z M12 is definitely no one trick pony. It's more like a little Jekyll and Hyde type of creature. Check one out as soon as you get a chance. You'll be impressed!