Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: Little Walter Amps - 2010 Nashville Amp Expo

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Little Walter Amps - 2010 Nashville Amp Expo

The 2010 Nashville Amp Expo was an incredible experience this year. So many wonderful products and awesome builders. Unfortunately, two days doesn't give one nearly enough time to experience everything, so I had to carefully choose which rooms I dove into. Also, this year I felt it would be better if I were to elaborate a little more on each of the vendors and individuals I spent quality time with. The above sub-menu links to full blog posts based on my experiences with each of these fine builders and players.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Little Walter Tube Amps room was the electrifying ambiance. There was an incredible "positive charge" in the air, an exciting sense of "oh yeah, this is the place to hang out at the Expo". My gut wasn't wrong. I've rarely had so much fun with fellow musicians playing music and talking gear. But once you get to know Phil Bradbury, you realize that the Little Walter Tube Amps experience could not possibly be anything short of electrifying and fun. While this guy really knows how to build incredible tube amps, and is a seriously talented musician and technician, he hasn't lost sight of the fact that the real magic is in the heart and fingers. And when you plug into a Little Walter amp there is no doubt that Phil easily pulls off that philosophy in his creations.

One thing that immediately jumps out at you when gazing upon a Little Walter amp is its inherent simplicity. With only two to three knobs total on most models, there is no need to even open it up to realize that Phil is going for purer tone by minimizing complexity in the circuit and leaving out any and all features that he deems unnecessary to achieve a great sound. Phil's chief motto: "The shorter the signal path the purer the tone" and you need only plug into one to realize how true that statement is. The amp I played through produced a warm, round slightly overdriven tone with beautiful harmonic overtones on top of the notes with the amplifier cranked up at around 4 or 5 o'clock (which, by the way, was very loud). I love a good touch-sensitive amp and you'd be hard pressed to find an amp that does this better than a Little Walter. Very responsive to the guitar's volume control, as well as pick attack.

Another fantastic feature of these amps is the great bottom-end they produce in conjunction with the aforementioned, lovely top-end "sheen" of harmonic overtones. These two things work together to produce a truly gorgeous, full tone that can only be fully appreciated while experiencing the amp in person. Speaking of experiencing the amp in person, I would be remiss if I failed to mention how great these amps feel. Little Walter amps are tube rectified to provide that classic tube "sag" feel and, overall, have a really nice soft, natural compression that can only be achieved with a well made, well designed all-tube circuit. One other major point about Phil's amp design is the fact that most of his amps use octal preamp tubes (8-pin 6SC7's). According to Phil, these tubes produce a much bigger, more open and full tone with a quicker response. I have to agree!

Not only do these amps sound great, they look great as well. With options ranging from tweed covered to natural wood finishes to high-end custom cabinets, the Little Walter looks as fantastic as it sounds. Phil had a variety of cabinet examples in the room (both head and combo versions of his various models) and they were all drool-worthy. Absolute top-notch fit and finish. I am sold on Little Walter amps, and as soon as I put the funds together I will be purchasing one.

My visit ended with a couple of spontaneous blues jams (one with Phil laying down some awesome harp! --see photo above--). Hanging out with Phil and crew was an unforgettable experience and one I look forward to having again, soon!

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