Dr Z Z-Lux Review
The Z-Lux is the latest creation from one of Americas premier amp builders, Dr. Z Amplification. Dr. Z not only finds ways to take his line of amplifiers into new directions, but he can do it while continuously finding new ways to improve the tone and reliability of each amplifier that he builds. He can make it sound better, make it feel better and give you the feeling of complete satisfaction every time you hit the Stand By switch. Every nuance of each amplifiers tonal characteristics and behavior is carefully thought out long before it reaches our ears. With the Z-Lux, Dr. Z has taken the familiar front end preamp section of the highly acclaimed Maz Jr, and paired it with the four 6v6 output tube power section of another one of my personal favorites, the Remedy. Now, toss in some reverb, and some tube tremolo (Yes tremolo on a Dr. Z!) and get ready for your next Dr.'s appointment!
Let's Get Started
The Dr. Z Z-Lux is an amp that is going to appeal to a large amount of guitarists out there. Wonder why? Well to start it has clarity. Tube clarity. The kind that pops out of any complicated mix but never stabs you in the ear. While you may think that your Maz Jr has that kind of clarity, I'll bet that EL-84 loaded Maz Jr. doesn't have the full 6V6 low end of the Z-Lux. It's fat but never over bearing in the overall tone. It's like the high frequencies and low frequencies are always aligned perfectly, glued together by rich mids and complimenting each other no matter how one is set. I turned the treble and bass controls to many different positions and I was surprised at how the amp can swing from dark to bright but retained a pleasant tone in any position. Sometimes an amp can feel a bit detached from the player. Whether it comes from the dynamics, the tone or gain structure, sometimes a connection just can't be made. I felt an immediate connection to the Z-Lux.
EL84 vs 6V6
For the majority of the time, you'll find a set of EL-84 tubes in a Dr Z amp. The chime and harmonics have become a staple in his amps. A hallmark has been the tonal depth of his amps combined with the harmonic content that just doesn't pour out of production line guitar amplification. The good Doc has found great success in the use of other power tubes in different models as well. For example, with the new Dr Z Z-Lux, it won't be the first time that he has utilized the 6V6 tube with great tonal rewards. The four 6V6 output section in the Z-Lux pays homage to the late model Jaz 20/40 and current Remedy model. This tube yields great balance across the frequency spectrum. Especially when using a quartet. This quartet of output tubes allows you to get enough voltage to carry the bottom end of your tone easily, while retaining the brilliance of a smaller tube. The 6V6 is typically thought of as a little brother to the 6L6 tube. The big difference in this 6V6 power section with a half power switch versus the typical half power option, is that while other amps simply remove two tubes from the circuit to achieve the half power, this style of output section actually retains the power to each tube but only sends your guitar signal to two of them. This allows the plate voltages and loads on the components to remain the same giving the amplifier the same feeling and tone no matter which power option that you use. Trust us, this isn't easily accomplished.
In With The New
With the Z-Lux, Dr Z has designed a new cab for the combo. This cab is lighter but is still very strong while maintaining a tonal mindset in the design approach. The new cab is only slightly smaller than the Maz Jr combo and saves you over 5 lbs. Lighter and twice the wattage....Nice! The new custom designed Z-12 speaker gives the amp a great voicing, leaning more American in tone than many other speaker choices for the Z line. It has a great full range that comes through and carries the low end very well. As I mentioned earlier, the frequencies line up together from this amp so nicely.
So if you have had the chance to play or own one of the older Jaz 20/40 amps, you know and understand why they are prized by their owners. The amp sounded and played great but it had room for a few improvements. Improvements as in the Tremolo circuit is now instantly on when you engage it. No more slight delay. Next is the preamp voicing. Dr Z decided to use the preamp of his Maz Jr. Sparkling cleans and wonderful harmonics lay right under the main tone of your guitar. Each note within a chord shines with no muddiness from the 6V6 tubes either. The combination of the Maz front with hand rolled Jupiter Coupling Caps in the back end help to add great sustain and fills out those awesome harmonics. Maintaining voltage across all four power tubes at all times helps the power supply stay punchy and dynamic compared to some other popular 6V6 amp designs.
Now on to another great feature of this amp. The Boost. The footswitchable boost is an amazing feature on this amp. The concept of removing the Eq stack is nothing new. It's been done. Right? Well for the Z-Lux the boost doesn't completely eliminate the stack from the circuit which in turn doesn't make the transition so hard and different than your Eq'd tone. Instead it delivers a hotter signal that is tamed and usable as a lead option instead of just a different tonal option. Combining it with the softened main filtering keeps sustain and feel under your fingers while boosted or not.
Is It Pedal Friendly?
By utilizing the front end of a Maz (Which takes pedals as well as any amp I know of) the Z-Lux excels with not only your favorite overdrive pedals but the lighter cab actually resonates with modulations like a vibe even better the standard cab. The front end of this amp handled all of my pedal expectations. Granted, I didn't really try anything that was high gain except perhaps on some lead passages and with those it sounded awesome. It's definitely a great pedal platform amp.
Once you combine all of the features and tone of the Z-Lux, with the outstanding track record of reliability, build quality and the fact that he genuinely loves what he does, you'll rest assured that this amp is all first rate. It shows in every Dr Z amp from the Ghia and the Therapy to the Z-Lux. Not like a Maz, not like a Remedy and not like a Deluxe Reverb. The Z-Lux will write its own rules with its own tones. From the studio to the stage the Z-Lux is amp that we have a feeling you're about to see around a lot more.
For more info: www.humbuckermusic.com/collections/dr-z-z-lux
Posted by Jeremy Walley on 27 February, 2016 | 0 comments