|Carr Slant 6|
Carr Slant 6
Steve Carr recently visited Atlanta to select a dealer for his amps. After a "long day at the office," he generously brought his "Slant 6V", "El Moto" and "Rambler" amps to my home for a tone party. Thanks, Steve! I had fun. Steve is a great guy and his amps are impressive. The 1x12 Slant 6V combo I am reviewing was built 9/99. It weighs 42 lbs. and is about the size of a Deluxe Reverb. It is a point-to-point wired, unique and practical amp design carefully hand-built with top-quality parts. Besides that, it sounds great and is fun to play!
The Slant 6V has two channels, each with an input jack, volume, treble, middle and bass controls. One channel is voiced for clean tones and has a single knob reverb. The high-gain channel has three stages of gain, with a master volume control located before the phase inverter. The channels are in phase with each other so you can combine them without any signal loss. An external A/B/Y switch or pan pedal can be used to select either or both channels. This design lets you use separate effects with each channel, and you can blend clean and distorted tones. The high-gain channel doesn't have reverb and I agree with Steve that it doesn't need it.
The unique output section uses 4-6V6 tubes and a 5AR4 rectifier. On back, a three-way rotary selector lets you choose between: 1.) 18 watts cathode-bias, 2.) 22 watts fixed-bias, or 3.) 40 watts using both sections. With either "half" power setting, only two of the four 6V6 tubes are used, and for best tone and power Steve advises setting the impedance selector to 4 ohms with the internal 8-ohm speaker. The fixed-bias section runs at 410 volts, like a typical BF Deluxe Reverb. NOS 6V6 tubes or new Sovtek 6V6-EH tubes will work just fine. The 40-watt setting, besides being the loudest, has the most harmonic complexity as it combines cathode-biased and fixed-biased sounds. The custom-wound paper bobbin output transformer is apparently very efficient.
All of Steve's amps have substantial power supplies using high-current power transformers and non-electrolytic "Fast Caps". This type of capacitor has a lower impedance, less leakage, and less series resistance than the electrolytic caps used in most other tube amps. They are more expensive initially, but Steve says you will probably never have to replace them. So, what do you get with this "Hercules" power supply? A better sounding amp! Whether I whacked the guitar strings or stroked them gently, the Slant 6V responded instantly, with authority, but was never harsh. The ultra-fast response of the Carr Slant 6V is unique in my experience with guitar amps.
Steve calls his custom speaker the "Liquid 50." It is a Weber VST C12N-T with an updated 50-watt voice coil. It is detailed and bright without sounding hard or edgy. In contrast, many folks thought earlier Weber VST "N" series speakers sounded too dark. Bass response is good, though a bit lean for my tastes. The speaker was new, so it will probably get warmer sounding with use.
No bones about it, this amp can get LOUD. My 1971 50-watt Marshall Bass head into a 2x12 is also "loud", but I think the Slant 6V is louder. In guitar amps, potential tone quality and volume are determined by, among other things: 1.) The power supply transformer size/type and filter cap type/values. 2.) The cabinet and speaker (s). 3.) The preamp design - number of stages, gain structure, headroom, tone stack, etc. And, 4.) The output transformer size/quality, tube quality and biasing. Folks, Steve Carr has done his homework. This is probably the loudest %#@& and most toneful 40-watts I have ever heard.
The Slant 6V looks as sharp as it sounds. Steve uses an attractive brushed aluminum chassis which is superior to the far more common steel chassis. Aluminum is a better conductor than steel, but unlike steel it is non-magnetic. This results in better isolation of transformer-induced magnetic fields. Also unlike most amps, the output transformer is located at the opposite end of the chassis from the power transformer. Again, this helps reduce undesirable magnetic interactions.
As for "missing" features, I'd like an adjustable negative feedback (NFB) control. I would set it to zero NFB to get a more "tweed-like" tone with the 18-watt cathode-bias setting. Amps with zero NFB go into distortion more gracefully, albeit they have more overall distortion. With fixed-bias and full-power settings, less NFB would allow the amp to "breath" more, at the expense of looser bass. How much NFB to use is a matter of taste, and it depends on the speaker system and desired response. No doubt the Slant 6V sounds great as is! Another feature I would like are rear-panel jacks for connecting a multi-meter to measure the fixed-bias plate current when changing rectifiers or power tubes. The bias adjustment control is located under the chassis near the baffle. You can use a "bias probe" between the power tubes and sockets to measure and adjust the bias current without pulling the chassis.
Visit the web site to learn about the other desirable features in the Slant 6V.
Sound Quality: 9
To clarify my enthusiasm for the Slant 6V, I will describe my favorite players, tone goals and style. Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, early Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, Pat Metheny, David Gilmour and Eric Johnson are favorite inspirations. I play using a pick and all right-hand fingers. I like dynamic, articulate, woody lead tones with just enough brightness to cut through a live mix. Attack transients are critical to "feel" and need to be fast and well controlled, not "spitty" or harsh. I think many guitar player's live tone is too bright. This quickly becomes tiring, not to mention the harm done to everyone's hearing! (Perhaps due to how they place their amp onstage they simply can't hear what the audience does? Maybe they are becoming deaf? I wonder...) I want sustain from the guitar and amp that doesn't rely on excess volume, high gain or gobs of distortion, which usually rob the amp of all nuance. I like a broad range of rhythm tones, from clean, lean and spanky with lots of presence, to a jazzy, fat, rounded sound. I love that "clean on the edge of distortion" tone where playing just a little harder puts a rich fur on all the notes, yet close-voiced chords still ring true. Hopefully, I can get these tones using just the guitar, amp and my fingers, but I will use a compressor, OD or other pedal as required.
For this audition, I used a '57 reissue Strat equipped with medium output Seymour Duncan Nashville Studio pickups in the neck and bridge, and a Fralin Vintage Hot RWRP middle pickup, which has the same polarity as the Duncan's. Like a 50's Strat, the quack tones sound full but are not hum-canceling. I use GHS 10-46 Nickel Rockers and standard tuning.
My fairly large music room has excellent acoustics. By hearing the Slant 6V in this room, I could tell how it will sound in a full-band context compared to other fine amps I am familiar with. Note: I tend to prefer the tone of a 6V6 power tube to the EL-84, which, IMO is voiced too bright and harsh with a Strat in most amps.
Using a 15' George L's cable, I plugged into the clean channel with the amp set on full power. The quick transient response, detail and smoothness immediately knocked me out. Did I say this amp can get LOUD? Steve warned me to start with the volume on 2. Ha! Well, I never put it past 4, and by then it was as loud as I care for, yet still clean. I have played/owned many so-called 40-watt amps, mostly using the 6L6 output tube. Even with solid state rectifiers, none of them had the clean headroom of the Slant 6V. The reverb was controlled and natural sounding, and complimented the dry tone. A setting of 2-3 gave the amount of reverb I am used to with Fender amps.
Next, I tried the high-gain channel on full power. I was greeted with well-defined notes surrounded by harmonically-rich distortion, but absent the nasty intermodulation garbage found in many amps. I was pleased to find I could get this rich, clear distortion at a low volume, too. Like all well-designed preamps, the distortion would "clean up" when my guitar volume or pick attack was decreased. A switch near the gain knob lets you drive the Slant 6V into very saturated tones, even with a single coil pickup. With appropriate adjustments to the amp, my guitar, and playing technique, I could use the high-gain channel to get "edge of distortion" all the way to "pedal to the metal" tones.
Now I connected my versatile A/B/Y pedal board. After the wah and tuner, a Whirlwind A/B/Y splits the guitar signal. Generally, "A" is the clean/edge side and "B" is the lead/distorted side. After one or more Comp/OD/Dist/Fuzz pedals on each side, the signals go to an Ernie Ball stereo/pan pedal with 500K linear pots, then to delay/phaser/chorus/flangers and finally the A and B amp (s). In this case, I simply used the two Slant 6V channels. With the A/B/Y, I can select the A and/or B sides with their separate effects chains, then use the stereo/pan pedal either as a volume pedal or to pan/blend the A and B sides. The Ernie Ball pedal has a side toe-tap switch to go between stereo volume and pan modes. With the guitar turned full up, I can drive my gain-boost pedals to maximum saturation, yet control their output volume with the volume/pan pedal, which also allows for silent tuning in the volume mode.
All of my pedals sounded great with this amp, but I no longer needed some of them to get the tones I like. I didn't realize just how fantastic the Barber Burn Unit sounds until I plugged it into the Slant 6V! Normally my Sweetsound Ultra-Vibe doesn't come alive unless I plug it into a Marshall with a closed 2x12. I was pleasantly surprised at how big and swirly it sounded with just the single, open-back 12" speaker. I was delighted that I didn't need to use a Klon Centaur to fatten my Strat's high notes as they already sounded full with the Slant 6V. With Fender and Marshall amps, Strats sound less "plinky" to me when used with a Centaur set so the gain knob is just below 9:00 where the mid-hump begins. It was fun to switch back and forth and combine the two channels with their separate effects and tones!
The 1x12 Slant 6V combo compares favorably to a Fender/Marshall rig with its separate speaker systems. This is no easy feat! It has plenty of headroom for clean tones. Distorted, it sounds marvelous at all volume levels, whether using the high-gain channel or pedals. Carr Amplifiers offers 2x12, 2x10, 4x10, 1x15 and head versions of the Slant 6V, so this overachiever can sound even bigger if needed.
Surprisingly, the 18 and 22-watt settings were almost as loud and responsive as the full-power setting. The Slant 6V 22-watt fixed-bias setting will blow away my Silverface Deluxe Reverb that is hot-rodded with a solid state rectifier, big power supply, 6L6 tubes and JBL speaker! Given the big "huevos" of this amp, these reduced power levels will probably be loud enough for many players and situations. On the other hand, the combination of fixed and cathode-biased power has such a satisfying authority and richness, I would probably use it that way most of the time. With its enormous headroom and large power reserve, I am sure the Slant 6V will sound great with humbucker-equipped guitars.
An option we didn't explore is the use of other rectifiers. A 5U4-GB would reduce the 6V6 plate voltage by 30-40 volts compared to the stock 5AR4. This amp has such quick transient response and clean headroom, the additional "sag" and early breakup of the 5U4-GB might be preferred by some. With the 18-watt cathode-bias setting, the 5Y3-GT rectifier, as used in the Fender Tweed Deluxe, would make this amp more "warm and cuddly." At the other extreme, a solid-state rectifier would push the fixed-bias section near its limits to around 435 volts, probably making this amp too hard and fast for most six-string slingers. I can see Jeff Beck smiling...
This amp is designed and built about as good as possible. Fenders and Marshall's have been reliable for decades and Steve Carr's amps easily surpass the build quality of those venerable makes. I'd give it a 10, but I think all cathode-biased amps need a cooling fan, or even better, a Marshall-style chassis orientation so the tubes and transformers are cooled by natural convection currents. (Note: The chassis in the Slant 6V head is oriented this way. Alright Now!)
Carr Amps have a Limited Lifetime warranty to the original owner.
Customer Support: 10
Since my first e-mail exchange with Steve Carr, I have been impressed with his patient, customer-oriented manner. He answered all my questions in detail, and sought my comments and suggestions. He manages this in spite of the fact that -- along with his two assistants -- he is busy as heck building and promoting Carr amps. Steve recognizes that "good tone" is subjective, that we don't all have the same tastes or perceive sound the same. Besides his in-depth knowledge of amps, Steve is a fine guitar player. I think you will find him helpful in your quest for good tone.
Overall Rating: 9
I really like the Slant 6V, but I don't believe any amp merits an overall rating of "10". That would be perfection, a worthy but unobtainable goal. I think this amp can help me become a better player. At around $2000, the Slant 6V combo is expensive. Considering what other high-end amps sell for, it represents a good value.
If you think Tone Heaven is an A/B rig with a Strat, a Super Reverb, an EL-34 equipped Marshall 50-watt with a 2x12 cabinet, and a few pedals - then you will dig the Slant 6V. Surprisingly, this grab-and-go powerhouse has a stage volume and dynamics similar to those classic amps. It is simpler to use and setup and should prove more reliable. Another plus is that you can get it's cathode/fixed-biased tones and rich distortion at low volumes. This is a quiet, studio-friendly music-making tool. Like I did, you may discover just how good your pedals sound, then decide you don't need most of them. The reverb is lush and lovely. The transient response is almost TOO good. I think Danny Gatton would have liked this amp!
I don't own a Carr amp but I want one. Hmmm...
Perhaps a Slant 6V head or 1x15 combo, or maybe an El Moto...
You owe it to yourself to contact Carr Amplifiers and arrange an audition.
Submitted by Ken Brakebill
|Date Added: 09/05/2001
|Current Comments: 0