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This article was originally published in issue #10
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What connects Billy Gibbons, Noel Gallagher and the Beatles? And when is a classic British valve amp a lot more than it seems? All this and more is revealed as Rick Graham unwraps the enigmatic JMI 10.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the subject of this review is missing a familiar name on its grille cloth. JMI? Who are JMI? And doesn't this look an awful lot like a Vox? Let me enlighten you.
JMI amplification was set up in 1997 by the father and son team that these days owns the venerable HiWatt brand. Well versed in the vintage market, they knew there was a tremendous demand for old-school effects pedals (notably of the original Vox Tonebender type, in all its many incarnations) as well and genuine hand-wired amps of the original Vox style. Vox, owned after many ups and downs in a tortured business history, by Korg, had gone off in its own direction, so the idea was hatched to buy the defunct JMI brand name and make amps that accurately replicated the original Dartford-built amps created by the fabled Tom Jennings and his even more fabled engineer, Dick Denney. JMI had originally folded in 1968 but we're not going to go too deeply into the history here as this is neither the time nor the place. Also, because our editor says he doesn't like having to deal with lawyers!
Suffice it to say, that JMI amps are exclusively handbuilt in Yorkshire, available around the world, and with the exception of not having that famous name on the logo, are more or less what you would have played through if you were a young John Lennon or George Harrison in the early 1960s - not to mention Noel Gallagher and Billy Gibbons all these many years later!
For this review JMI provided us with a JMI 10 model, which is based on the original AC10. This amp is essentially a 10 Watt, two channel combo loaded with twin Celestion Vintage 10 Speakers. As you would expect it is a valve/tube amp and has three bottles in the front: an ECF82, an EF86 and an ECC83, and two EL84s in the power amp.
The control layout is nice and simple and consists of: Tone, Normal volume, Volume, Speed and Amplitude (the latter three controlling the vibrato channel section) as well as two inputs per channel, each of which provides low and high impedance. These channels can be bridged, enabling you to gain access to both channels which can then been changed using the supplied footswitch, which is hardwired. The amp's vinyl covering comes in a choice of two colours Black or Fawn but our pictures show it in a stunning green, which is one of many custom options.
In action, the first noticeable thing is that it is very loud indeed. Don't let the size of this amp put you off, it really can push some air. The clean sound is superb. Even at low volume it is always very big and with the use of the tone control can take you from a very bright jangly clean tone right through to a robust, thick Jazz type tone without breaking a sweat. Turn up the volume and you'll be hitting classic Rock territory in no time. To be honest, it's hard to crank a classic amp like this and bash-out opening chords to Free's Alright Now without feeling some sort of nostalgia, even if it you weren't around then! The Vibrato channel of the amp is equally impressive, offering a wide variety of settings for you to explore and delivering it with a sonic quality just like the original it was inspired by.
In short, this is a superb amplifier with a superb sound. It is clear that JMI is a company that is thriving on the inspiration left behind by Dick Denney and Tom Jennings and there's no doubt that JMI enthusiasts will finds lots to revel in here. A player wedded to the modern style, wanting channel gains, effects loops and the rest could find himself wondering what all the fuss is about but the key is in your ears. If pure tone is what you are after, then this has it in spades. There is just no questioning the quality of sound that the JMI 10 can produce.