Swart Atomic Jr. Head & 1x12 Cab
Everyone knows, or has an idea of how a small 5 watt Champ from the past sounds. When built correctly, it can really be a blast to play. While it's been fun, it's never been the powerhouse that we want to truly represent the tone that we're chasing in our head. That being said, the speaker and cabinet, while ultra portable, have always been the tonal downfall of it. I'll back up my reasoning on this. Champs and most of their clones are typically housed in a small cabinet and only use a 6" or 8" speaker that really only comes alive when you get it to the point of ripping.... One 8" speaker in a small cab is never going to let this type of circuit reach it's full potential. In other words, the single 6V6 output tube, can deliver more bottom end, and a smoother top end when using a 12" speaker and a more solidly built hand wired circuit. With the tone turned all of the way up, using a bridge pickup sounds full and sweet, while the neck retains the correct amount of tightness and clarity.
If it's hard to imagine how great it would be to play this Swart 5 watt setup with boutique grade reverb, a hand wired circuit, hand selected tubes, a real wood cabinet, and a 12" speaker or two, I'm here to let you know that it comes up to something much greater than the sum of it's already fantastic parts. The sound is HUGE. Let me repeat this....HUGE. This amp works exactly as it's supposed to. Turn the volume and tone all of the way up, and blend your reverb to taste. It should only take a matter of seconds before you're also a believer that the guys who made this style circuit famous in the late 50's and 60's would've used this if they had it instead. No one would've used anything else. It would be the staple tone in our heads that you would spend years chasing. As of now, you don't have to look for one second longer. We've found it right here. Most of the time a single tube low wattage amp can have either volume or tone, but struggles with doing both. This amp gets fatter in tone and harmonics the more that you open both controls up.
Forget about clean headroom. Will it play cleanly? Yes. Will you want it to? Nope. This amp may seem small, but be prepared for some of the thickest overdriven tones out there. The reverb is so spot on that this amp instantly becomes the amp that you'll find a reason to play. You'll create a way to make it your primary tone. It's that kind of good.
When it comes to a cabinet to pair with this head, the 1x12 with a Celestion AlNiCo Gold is my absolute preference. The AlNiCo speakers in the 112 or 212 cab make this amp an all out rock dream. Everyone has a Speaker that they lean towards, so if you like Ceramics, the BV-25 is still a great sounding option. However, the voicing of an AlNiCo speaker with this amp lends itself to a nice vintage, bell like top end, and being that the amp is such low wattage, you don't push the bottom end of the speaker so hard. It stays much tighter compared to sticking it with say a 30 or 50 watt head.
Overall this is a new favorite. It sounds amazing. The response is so easy to control on this amp. The notes have a nice bloom that feels great as you play. This is an amp that you can sit and play G chords on for an hour, stand up and walk away totally happy with your hour of G's ;)