Featuring point to point construction and military spec turret board wiring that pays homage to the heritage of ‘old school’ British amplifiers packed with creamy, chiming cleans tones to aggressive, all valve-driven overdrive. Dover introduces their custom range with the DA-20CE. Tom Quayle tells us more.
Dover Amplification is a brand-new company on the amp scene, debuting their first line of products at the 2020 NAMM show in January. An unfortunate start to the year (with stolen amps at NAMM and the all-encompassing global pandemic) has not stopped Dover from coming out of the gate swinging with some incredible products, designed and built from a wealth of experience and knowledge in the British amp industry.
We will be looking at a few Dover products in upcoming issues, but first up is their DA20-CE single-channel 20-watt head, the first release in the company’s Custom Edition range.
The DA-20CE is a boutique amplifier through and through. It’s a class-A, all-valve, single-channel design with an integrated push/pull boost control that allows for a surprising amount of gain at full tilt. As such, the DA-20CE is a much more versatile animal than the average single-channel amplifier, working superbly as a clean pedal platform or for anyone looking for an overdriven British rock tone.
The amps boutique credentials stem from the incredible hand wired point to point circuitry and turret board wiring. There is a lovely sense of homage and respect being paid to the old school classic British amplifiers of the past, but fully modernised with some of the cleanest circuit design and construction this reviewer has ever witnessed from a hand-wired amplifier. The DA-20CE isn’t just pretty on the inside though. The white tolex finish (presumably a nod to the white cliffs of Dover) offsets wonderfully against the black cloth and black metal front panel where only the highest quality components are used internally and externally, including wood from sustainable sources and Sheffield Steel for all of the metal work.
Designed with the touring musician in mind, the DA-20CE is a compact head shell with all the features required of a modern guitarist. A global voltage selector ensures you’ll be good to go on stage in the world and the high-quality effects loop gives users the option to run the amp as a high headroom clean pedal platform, or run the boosted overdrive with delays and reverbs in the loop for the cleanest signal path. The DA-20CE would be equally at home in the studio though thanks to the lower wattage output and fantastic pedal potential.
As a single channel amp, the DA-20CE is very simple to use, with Master and Gain/Boost dials plus a powerful three-band EQ that sounds wonderfully musical throughout its range. This is one of those amps that is almost impossible to pull a bad tone from. The trio of ECC83 preamp valves provide a decent amount of gain should you require it, whilst the 20w output stage is powered by a pair of EL84 power valves, giving the amp a surprising amount of low-end thump through the supplied Dover 1x12 cab with a vintage 30 speaker.
The DA-20CE excels as a clean pedal platform amp with every element of your pedalboard and playing faithfully represented. As with most hand-wired amps, what you put in is what you get – you will certainly learn a lot about your playing. Every little string noise and pick chirp is heard with the utmost accuracy – there is nowhere to hide - but that makes you a better player and ensures the best possible dynamic range and expressive control. Pulling out the boost dial gives you access to cruncy overdrive levels at full tilt, stunningly responsive edge of breakup tones and saturated leads with a pedal in the front. For cleans, blues or lighter gain rock players, this amp is a dream come true. It’s also a surprisingly loud amp at 20w and will compete with any drummer when dialled up. Higher gain tones clean up beautifully with the guitar’s volume control whilst retaining all the pick dynamics and response that you would expect from a hand-wired, boutique amplifier.
The Dover DA-20CE really does represent the best of British tones right now, especially for those looking for clean and edge of breakup tones. Taking the incredible wealth of British amp building experience within the Dover team has allowed them to produce an amplifier that is really as good as it gets and at a price point that won’t make your wallet shrivel up in embarrassment. The company may have had a rocky start to 2020, but they are producing some of the most interesting and best sounding products out there right now and deserve to do very well indeed with this and their other amplifiers. A fantastic achievement that should be high on anyone’s list of new products and companies to check out.
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