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This article was originally published in issue #2
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The Italian manufacturer that bought us Markbass now enters the guitar world, and joins the ever-growing number of producers with low-wattage valve heads. So how does this new brand measure up to some of the more established guitar amp brands? Jamie Humphries finds out.
The world of guitar can be a curious place, with ever changing trends and fashions. A few years ago it was huge high-gain stacks, then modelling, and now with everybody returning to the warm rich organic tones of valve amps, it seems that many companies have grasped the need to produce lower wattage, user-friendly amps. It's no secret that to get the best and most desirable tones from a valve amp you have to "crank it up", and doing this with a 50 Watt head, let alone a 100 Watt model, in a rehearsal or pub gig is impossible. You only have to look and listen to Rock history, with the likes of Eddie Van Halen producing his Holy Grail of Rock tones, by fitting a Variac to his Marshall heads, allowing him to drop the wattage, and run the amp louder to get his tube saturated tones. Large valve amps are also pretty much redundant at home, which often results in you sacrificing your tone for the modelling option.
From my own experiences of touring around the world playing everything from 1,500-2,000 seater theatres, to 30,000 seater arenas, and even more recently playing at London's Hyde Park, using a high wattage valve amp "cranked to the max" isn't an option - it's a sound man's nightmare! And with in-ear monitoring systems becoming more widely used, who needs a 100 Watt head? These days, I find myself using valve amps that allow you to switch to a lower wattage, enabling them to be driven much harder. Companies such as Marshall, Cornford, Mesa Boogie, Blackstar and Orange have all recognised the market potential of producing high quality low wattage valve amps, so do we really need another low wattage head, especially from a company that is known more for bass equipment?
Markbass was formed in Italy in 2001, and in a relatively short period of time has established itself as one of the leading names in high-end bass amplification. Now the comany is trying to make a similar impact in the guitar amp market with their DV Mark offshoot. Already the DV Mark brand has lured such heavy endorsees as sweep picking fusion ace, Frank Gambale.
The Galileo is a very attractive and well constructed little head - in fact it is entirely handmade. The no-frills workhorse design sports a road-ready metal mesh case, allowing you to see inside. The amp has a retro feel with its satin black fascia and white chicken head dials. A shoulder style strap makes carrying this little brute to a rehearsal or session very easy. The controls are pretty straightforward, with the Galileo featuring a single channel design, with gain, bass mid and treble, and a master volume. The head also features a bright switch.
This 15 Watt beauty uses 2 ECC83 pre amp tubes and 2 EL84's and 1 ECC83 in the power amp stage. It's surprisingly loud, making it ideal for recording, rehearsing, and also smaller sized gigs. Tonally, the Galileo can produce a wide variety of sounds, although falling more into the classic-sounding category rather than high gain. It also has plenty of headroom too, for glassy, bright clean tones and even when cranked and crunchy the Galileo cleans up nicely when the guitar volume is backed off.
Another interesting and slightly radical thing about the setup provided for out demo was the speaker cabinet. For our demo we used the C212V, a slanted 2x12 cab, with a vertical design, almost as if a 4x12 had been sliced in half. The 300 Watt 4 Ohms cab is loaded with 2x12 inch Neodymium custom B&C speakers, making this cab not only sound great, but also easy to lift and load after a gig.
DV Mark are defiantly making their mark in a very competitive market place, and the Galileo is surely a serious contender for anyone considering a low wattage all-valve head.