Review: Modern Sound Amplifiers “Vibrolush”

60 years from now, I don’t think any guitarists out there will be swooning over a 2015 Blackstar or Peavey amplifier the way we currently do over Fenders from 60 years ago. But it will be interesting to see if those future folks are paying top dollar for 2015 recreations of amps from 1965. By all accounts, these modern clones are built to last and being sold at top dollar to people who will presumably never let their amp find itself in a dumpster or covered in beer and cigarette ash. I’d imagine a Victoria 20112 may look just as good as new and still sound amazing, assuming tubes are available. But the originals of the 60’s? I doubt they’ll survive outside of museums. Which leads me to an amp that recently arrived at my door…

I’ve been searching for a tweed amp for what seems like a decade. It’s not that I have unreasonable demands, I just couldn’t make up my mind. There’s far too many Deluxe clones out there, and even though it’s an iconic amp it just isn’t the sound I wanted. Same goes for a champ. I kept saying to myself “why can’t the Deluxe have more headroom?”. That’s a stupid question, since the 5F11 was always there waiting for me.

I’m a big fan of tremolo, so a Vibrolux seemed a good route to go. Just had to decide which one, as there are countless options it seems. Some random forum posting got me in touch with Mike at Modern Sound Amplifiers (here’s their website). He seemed like a good guy and his prices are extremely reasonable. He builds amps in his spare time and not too frequently, so I just kind of lucked out that he had one ready to go. I jumped on it and here we are.

Specs:

The specs are below, taken from the Modern Sound Amps website:

  • Vintage style hrome plated steel chassis with 3 inputs
  • 5F11 board made from G10/FR4 electrical grade fiberglass
  • Jupiter Yellow vintage style capacitors
  • F&T or Sprague electrolytics
  • 22g cloth covered wire, 18g heaters
  • Carbon comp resistors
  • Carling switches
  • CTS pots
  • NOS tube sockets
  • Switchcraft jacks
  • Purple indicator light
  • Speaker hookup
  • Mercury Magnetics transformers
  • Modern Sounds “Vibrolush” logo
  • JJ 12AX7s, Tung-Sol 6V6s and NOS RCA 5Y3GT rectifier
  • Tweed 1×10 cabinet made to my specifications: knot free pine, amber tinted lacquer, leather handle, metal glides

Verdict:

Two enthusiastic thumbs up! This amp comes with all of the spirit of the vintage 5F11 with minimal unpleasant quirks (obviously, it’s a tube amp). The components are all top notch and represent upgrades over virtually any kit you can buy. I can’t say enough good things about the cabinet… gorgeously lacquered tweed and great attention to detail all around. The pine is even pretty, on the inside! So when you’re friends are poking around in the back, there’s no disappointment. Despite being essentially a 1 channel amp with two knobs (volume/tone), it’s pretty flexible. I’ve long since given up on trying to find a do-it-all amp and use a variety of overdrive pedals to get broken up tones, so having an amp that can stay clean over a drummer but very easily be pushed into clipping is perfect for just about any scenario. I can’t think of an amp I’d rather have.

Media:

For your viewing and listening pleasure, here’s a video of me awkwardly describing the amp and nervously playing. Despite that, it sounds pretty good.

And of course there are pictures! Click on any of them to see full size.

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