January 14, 2018 at 10:20 pm #2607atwiniareParticipant
So here is my review. In this review I’ll be comparing the build to two other builds I have done. Those two other builds are a Mission 5E3, and a Marsh 5F1. All three of these kits are killer kits, but they are all unique and very different. Some of you reading may be wondering why I’m comparing this little guy to a 5E3… well, because I was once new to building and I didn’t know where to start, and hearing a comparison of a couple of options might be nice to another beginner. If you’re looking for the short answer, this amp is awesome! If you’re looking for a more detailed answer, keep reading! Just a heads up, my experience with this amp comes entirely from living in an apartment.
What sets this amp apart from the 5F1 or the 5E3?
If you’re familiar with the 5F1 circuit, or the 5E3, you’re probably aware that those Fender Tweed designs hit full volume early and the volume knob acts more like a gain adjustment, as opposed to a volume knob. For me, I was seeking an amp that would be friendly for my neighbors in my apartment. I had built a 5E3 first, and realized after first plugging it in that my neighbors weren’t happy, they’re loud! The 5F1 is actually still loud enough to irritate my neighbor downstairs through the 7 inch concrete floors. This Zeppelin Percolator is, at least so far it is, a great tube amp for an apartment.
What makes this a good tube amp for an apartment?
For starters, I find the amp to be rather high in treble. This is actually nice when comparing it to the 5F1. The 5F1 only has the volume knob, not a tone knob. If you want to get the tone bright enough on a 5F1, I find that you have to turn it up to a point where you can bother your neighbors… at least mine were bothered when I was happy with the treble, maybe I’m not a good enough of a player. This amp also only has a volume knob, not a tone knob, but as I said, the tone here is bright in the lower volume register. In fact, all of the tones are very balanced across the entire volume spectrum. If you don’t find them to be balanced well enough, you can always dial back your tone knob on your guitar. Although the 5E3 you can dial the tone way up on the amp if you want rich highs at low volumes. With the 5F1 you’re kinda stuck just turning the volume up. However, with both of those Tweed circuits, if you’re looking to get rich distortions, you’re dancing with an eviction notice. People think, “The 5F1 is only 5 watts!” or “The 5E3 is only 18 watts.” Yes, and you’re using all 5 watts in a 5F1 and respectively with the 5E3. With the Percolator you are only tampering with 2 watts. Much easier to manage, more friendly to your neighbors, but I do want to inform you that you could still piss them off if you felt inclined to do so.
You like the treble, but what about the low end?
The low end is fantastic on this amp. This amp has a solid state rectifier. For those of you familiar with the differences between solid state rectifier vs a tube rectifier, you probably can guess why this amp works well with a solid state rectifier. If you’re not familiar with the drawbacks of a tube rectifier, if they can even be called drawbacks, someone could identify this as a problem; as you try to get good lows out of an amp, it draws more power. This causes the tube rectifier to work harder, which causes a bigger voltage drop from the tube rectifier and the rest of the amp doesn’t get the power it needs to bring out those lows. This is known as “sag”. I’m sure others on the web can describe this better. If you want to read a better review about how this all works out, read this: http://www.soldano.com/amp-help/tube-vs-solid-state-rectifiers/
The solid state rectifier does not suffer this “problem” which I believe allows for lows to sing a bit richer through this amp. I think if this 2 watt circuit had a tube rectifier, it would probably lose a lot of it’s bass and punch, and it might not be as nice to use.
If it doesn’t have the sag of a tube rectifier, does it still have good breakup?
Yes! It still does. But at a cost: volume. If you’re not getting enough breakup, you can put your own pedal rig in front of it and all of your pedals will likely sound great through it. I use a delay pedal for reverb and a tube powered preamp distortion pedal. They both sound killer through this thing. As I said, there is a cost to getting the breakup: volume. If you want the amp to get real dirty, you’ll be pushing it loud enough to probably get your neighbors attention. With the volume turned down a bit, between 9:00 and 12:00, you most likely won’t bother your neighbors, but the tones from your amp will still be rich and pedals will sound GREAT! As compared to the 5F1, if you have the volume knob past past 9:00, you probably won’t be playing after 9:00 pm on a weeknight, those things get loud fast! At least my neighbors get upset. 5E3? I sadly have to let mine sit.
Does it have good cleans?
Honestly, not really. But that’s not what I wanted this amp for and I don’t think that’s what this amp was designed for. I think it was really intended to get quality sounding breakup at low volumes. If you want rich cleans at quiet volumes, you can look many other places, like an acoustic. With this thing, you’re almost bound to have at least some sort of breakup, which is what I personally LOVE about this amp.
What guitars do I use?
I will use any guitar I have. Honestly, one of my favorites to use is my Cordoba nylon string flamenco guitar. That may sound like a bizarre pick, but there is something about the richness of the nylon strings breaking up that sounds so cool. If your a fan of Rodriguez’s opening tracks on Cold Fact, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about. I really want to get a Lace Sensor pickup for my brass-body Gretsch and plug that into this thing. I’d be rocking some Chris Whitley-like tones right quick with that setup, and at a manageable volume no less. I also run some actual electrics through it: a Strat, and a custom guitar I built: semi-hollow body, maple body, maple neck, with a TV Jones pickup in the neck position. They both sound mean.
What pedals do I use?
I use two pedals primarily, a MXR Carbon Copy that gives some rich reverb tones for me. And a Electro Harmonix English Muff’n. I have noticed that on the Internet that the Muff’n isn’t everyone’s favorite pedal, but it works GREAT with this amp.
Does this company mix up a bunch of the parts and give you a bunch of the wrong pieces?
For anyone who has built a kit before, you know this is a BIG deal. I have yet to deal with an amp kit company that got EVERYTHING PERFECT. But these folks here were pretty darn close. I think at the end of the day, a couple of screws were mixed up. I had emailed Zeppelin Amps to let them know of the issue, not to complain, and they were quite prompt to get back to me at least and apologize. I wasn’t going to harass them for more screws. Fortunately I live in the Chicagoland area and we have hardware stores every 3 miles, so screws are rather plentiful and cheap. I could fault them for this, but they had informed me that they have since changed their inventory system and the problem should be fixed on more recent packaging systems.
How was the support for building the amp?
On par with the best. They have an instruction manual online that is accurate, and they have instructional videos that are also accurate. I don’t know of another group out there that makes it so seamless.
Hopefully you find this review helpful.January 14, 2018 at 11:10 pm #2613
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