Carr Rambler Amp Review
Submitted by Jay Manley of Double Decker Bus Music, Inc.
For guitarists looking for a stellar warm, clean tube amplifier combo, the Carr Rambler is a nice fit. From the trapezoidal TV front grill cloth to the robust hospital grade power cord, this non-master volume amp is truly hand built in the USA.
Carr Amplifiers are dedicated to producing forward thinking, innovative designs steeped in vintage tradition and vibe. Not just old schematics recycled here: Steve Carr has cast each model from the ground up. Unlike the vintage pieces we all know and love, the consistency here is beyond the standards of yesteryear. From what I understand, the tube matching at the lab is more stringent than many of the vendors in the industry. A critical listening test is done with every reverb tank, tube set and each finished amplifier. They’ve developed new ways to reduce or eliminate cabinet and tube rattles. I looked under the aluminum chassis of my Rambler at some impressive true point-to-point hand soldered wiring with custom Euro space agency components and transformers. Even the rectifier is voiced nicely between the sound of tube and solid state. The Class A, cathode bias 6L6 output section is built to last. Also, the solid pine cabinets are constructed, covered and assembled by hand in house.
But how does it sound?
Think glassy American 60’s 6L6 with some headroom. Works well with any guitar I’ve tried and plays nice with pedals. The Bass/Mid/Treble knobs allows some tone sculpting. Especially with a Tele, I love this amp’s rich lows, broad mids and clear bright highs. If it were a mic preamp, I’d say it sounds like a Neve. The character of this combo is not necessarily aggressive but pretty, silky and well, milky!
Nice vintage sounding two-spring reverb. The tremolo is round, not choppy with dials for Depth and Speed providing a usable range. The punch of the Eminence Wizard 12″ speaker complements the lush, round warmth and clarity at the heart of the Rambler.
For versatility and volume control there’s a Triode/Pentode switch. Triode (14 watts) mode yields comfy, cozy, tweed tone with warm present mids, soft top and bottom. Pentode (28 watts) brings more volume and headroom, hi-end sparkle and tight bass to the mix. Clear and delicious. Notes leap out of the box. For rehearsals and those gigs where I have to watch the volume I use the Triode setting. If I miss the Pentode flavor while in Triode mode, I bump up the highs and lows and scoop the mids a touch. Big fat bright clean tone is where the amp excels so cranking the volume for overdrive is not really its intended use. If you need some distortion it can deliver though but benefits from rolling off some bass as you push it to the limits.
The only thing I wish it had would be the wattage attenuator feature from the Carr Mercury or Viceroy which is a handy practice and recording tool when the other band members start complaining about loudness.
An amplifier and an electric guitar are one instrument; they complete a circuit. One cannot exist without the other. In this spirit, the Rambler makes me feel more connected to the guitar. It has made me a better player because of the hand-wired point-to-point immediacy. There’s no cloaked tone to hide behind. Transient attack and big dimensional sound come to mind. The tone is real with a paradoxical combination of warmth, color, clarity and snap. So now I’m spoiled. Playing a standard amp from one of the big manufacturers feels like a compromise. The Rambler has quelled my thirst for a vintage blackface combo.