Dr. Z Z-Wreck Head in Blackout
The Dr. Z Z-Wreck is the third collaboration between Dr. Z and Brad Paisley to create an amp with unparalleled touch response and tone. To achieve this, Dr. Z worked together with Ken Fischer (of Trainwreck fame) on the circuit, which features a transformer designed by Ken for Dr. Z. The circuit was meticulously laid out with great attention to detail and minimal wire lengths to squeeze every bit of potential out of it. The result was nothing short of extraordinary! The amp has an amazing amount of clarity and cut, but not so much that it's unforgiving. For such a high-end amp it's very controllable, which is not always the case (such as with the Dr. Z Stingray). This allows the guitar player to easily determine the amount of bite and grit by the degree of his pick attack.
With the addition of the half-power switch, the Speed/Comfort feature is disabled and the amp is continuously in the Speed mode. Across the board it has been practically unanimous that people like the Speed setting with the half-power switch better than Comfort.
At a little past 12 o'clock on the volume the amp seems to reach peak "loudness" and from then on the amp's volume knob seems to dial in more gain. Obviously this can also be altered by the volume on the guitar, but for the purpose of testing we mostly ran the guitar wide open. We should mention though that manipulations in the guitar's volume did yield good results, and not nearly the loss of tone and dynamics one would expect.
Overall, we were very impressed at the different achievable tones from the Z-Wreck. It's controls are deceptively simple, but incredibly interactive. We must say that we were happy to see a "cut" knob make an appearance on the Z wreck. This control seems to be the key on many of Dr.Z's offerings to dialing in the most desired tones. The "cut" allows you to pull out or accentuate some treble and upper mids, but it is subtle enough that it doesn't seem to really change the overall voice. You almost have to hear to understand. It's as though the desired frequencies can be found without changing the voicing of the amp, and that's harder to design in an amp than one might think.
The break up on the amp is very rich and never gets overwhelmingly dirty. As the volume is increased, it just seems to get more powerful. This allows the amp to stay easily usable at any volume and maintain the integrity of it's tone at every position of the knobs. Basically, the amp sounds great from low volumes to higher ones. It just gets louder, chimier, and fuller. The response sensitivity increases with the volume, but the amp still retains a percussiveness as well. It sounds incredibly big with the volume all the way up.
We think that this amp is not limited to a particular style. It equally at home with rock, country, blues, etc.
Power Output: 30 Watts
Output Tubes: 4 x 6n14n (NOS Russian EL84 type)
Preamp Tubes: 3 x 12AX7
Rectifier Tube: 5AR4
Controls: Volume, Bass, Treble, Cut
Head Specs: 20 5/8" Wide x 9 1/2" Deep x 9 1/8" High, 32 lbs
As we get them, we will be adding Z-Wreck reviews and testimonials from both employees of Humbucker Music and our customers. If you would like to submit a review or testimonial about the Z-Wreck for us to post, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We'd be happy to publish it here.
From Brian, of Humbucker Music:
One thing that is truly consistent with all the Dr.Z amps that I have played is that they all have a very dominant presence. Though they are all voiced a bit differently, the overall feel of each one is very focused and stark as compared to other comparable brands. The Z-Wreck is no different. In general, I would say that the amp leans more British than anything else, though this could be somewhat attributed to the choice of speaker. Even cranked I feel that response is still very crisp and the trademark "gritchiness" in the upper mid range that I attribute to British amps is still present. I find in many amps as the volume is increased this is reduced to muddiness, but I did not encounter that with the Z-Wreck.
I felt that the response of the amp in terms of gain structure was linear and very user friendly. When playing the amp clean, it's chimey and crisp, with just the right amount of warm overtones surrounding each note. The best way to describe it may be that it was a bit reminiscent of a Vox AC30 at peak performance (if that makes sense). As the volume is increased there was noticeable natural compression, as you would expect from any good tube amp. I don't want to say that the extremes throughout the spectrum were rolled off, as that would indicate some loss of dynamics, but I think it is more accurate to say that the overall overtones became more prominent and that they seem to mesh together in a very good way.
At a little past 12 o'clock on the volume the amp seems to reach peak "loudness" and from then on the amp's volume knob seems to dial in more gain. Obviously this can also be altered by the volume on the guitar, but for the purpose of testing I mostly ran the guitar wide open. I should mention though that manipulations in the guitars volume did yield good results, and not nearly the loss of tone and dynamics one would expect. Overall, I was very impressed at the different tones I could achieve from the amp. As with many Dr. Z amps, the controls are deceptively simple, but incredibly interactive. I must say that I was happy to see a "cut" knob make an appearance on the Z wreck. I find, as do many customers, that this control seems to be the key on many of Dr.Z's offerings to dialing in the most desired tones. The "cut" allows you to pull out or accentuate some treble and upper mids, but it is subtle enough that it doesn't seem to really change the overall voice. You almost have to hear to understand. It's as though the desired frequencies can be found without changing the voicing of the amp, and that's harder to design in an amp than one might think.
I feel overall most players that already love Dr.Z's will really respond to what the Z-Wreck brings to the table. I think it has attributes of many of the other models and also covers some new ground. As I stated before it has the "kicked in the chest" type of presence that I expect from a Z even at very high volumes. I think a guitar-cable-amp type player will be just as satisfied as one who likes a good pedal. The amp covers enough ground that it really is up to the player how they want to dial it in. I think the chicken pickers, rockers and the "in betweeners" should not have any issue finding a good setting on the amp. I'm excited to hear what the response from other players will be on the Z-Wreck.
From Josh, of Humbucker Music:
I think that this amp sounds outstanding. One of the reasons that we here at the shop are all such big fans of Dr. Z is that they consistently make great amps, but this amp was a bit more than I had come to expect during all of the buzz around it.
This amp has a lot of body and warmth. I'm surprised at how full it sounds with the guitar plugged directly in. Chords really seem to "bloom" and maintain sparkle at any volume. What I mean is that the signal doesn't sound dry. Although there was nothing between the guitar and amp except a cable when I played it, the quality of sound made it seem like there was some sort of tone enhancing pedal in the chain. I'm somewhat blown away by the response of the amp. It is very touch sensitive, so it truly represents the guitar and the player when in use. This means you have to really practice your playing, because this amp captures all of a player's nuances, good and bad :) I think a lot of this comes from the speaker selection for the cab. A gold speaker can often be very unforgiving to the player, while a blue is known for it's warmth and rounded tone. This comes across in the increased response of the Z Wreck as well as it's warmth and fullness. I think this is a strong reason that humbuckers and single coils alike sound great through it. With the it's heightened response, it is capable of presenting the pickup's characteristics in a very natural and detailed fashion.
Single notes have a lot of character and even at lower volumes, they still sort of "sing out". The amp cleans up very well when rolling back the volume on the guitar, even with the amp cranked high. The amp doesn't have a pristine, shimmery clean, but I feel like that is a good feature on it. The clean sounds have a sort of bubble around them that sounds like a driven preamp, but there is not a lot of breakup. This gives it a strong response from the initial attack of a note, but never harsh, so it comes across as a full-bodied punch. The sustain is excellent as well, especially when the volume is increased.
The break up on the amp is very rich and never gets overwhelmingly dirty. As the volume is increased, it just seems to get more powerful. To me, this allows the amp to stay easily usable at any volume and maintain the integrity of it's tone at every position of the knobs. Basically, the amp sounds great from low volumes to higher ones, it just gets louder. chimier and fuller. The response sensitivity increases with the volume, but the amp still retains a percussiveness as well. It sounds incredibly big with the volume all the way up.
I think that this amp is not limited to a particular style. It could be used for rock, country, blues, etc. It is more impressive than I imagined it would be. I hope to get a chance to hear some pedals through it because I have a feeling that it will only increase the enjoyment level. This amp is a pleasure to play, keep up the excellent work Dr. Z!
From a Z-Wreck customer:
Needless to say, last night was a very good night. :-)
In a word, I think the amp is stunning. There was a lot of hype leading up to its release, but even the hype truly pales in comparison to the real thing. I've owned so many amps in the last 20 years that I've lost count, and none of them even come close to this. It's the most subtle, responsive, touch-sensitive amp I've ever experienced... and I feel like I'm just scratching the surface. It will take months to figure out everything the z-wreck is capable of... and that's of course a good thing.
Many thanks to everyone at Humbucker for an awesome experience! I'm sure you guys will be selling a lot of these, even at the higher-than-usual price point for a Z. Hope Doc can keep up with the demand!
From another Z-Wreck customer, MarkT:
It reminds me of a giant Maz Jr NR as far as tone and feel. I had a Maz 38 NR and that's not the tone or feel I'm talking about.
It's clean sound is wonderfully lush and is the King of Chime and Queen of Sparkle....however, it doesn't have quite as much clean headroom as I was thinking it might, but, at 30 watts, what was I thinking?
As most amps...the Strat has way more clean volume than the Les Paul. Speaking of pickups, this is another of those amps that seem to shine more with single coils. (Again, I'm thinking Maz Jr) Don't get me wrong, my Les Paul sounds amazing through it!
Another thing that is very noticeable is the note bloom and sustain...and I mean at clean volumes...I've never heard this from an amp and it only intensifies as you turn the volume to the right. :) I had to make sure my comprossor was not on...oh wait...I'm plugged straight in...lol...
This is one fine musical instrument and I can only imagine what it will sound like when these speakers get broken in. I have put about 7 hrs playing time on it last night and today...my fingers are raw! I haven't played this much straight in a while!
All I can say is thanks to Dr Z, all his men, Humbucker Music, and you guys for making my amp quest complete!