Tone Report Weekly 203 - Page 16

SOUND CITY 120 Much as old Laneys and Traynors have acquired a reputation as Marshalls for the poor guitarist, Sound City amps are often reputed to be the poor person’s Hiwatt. As a poor person who has developed expensive tastes in vintage British amplification, this reputation interests me greatly. Like Hiwatt amps, early Sound City models like the monstrous 120 (powered by the menacing glow of no less than six EL34s) were designed by Dave Reeves, who was an employee of Sound City’s parent company, Dallas-Arbiter, before setting out on his own to start Hiwatt. And while it is true that Sound City amps were built to be budget-friendly for working ‘70s rockers, they were 16 TO N E TA LK // still made with sturdy, reliable components, including burly and gloriously toneful Partridge transformers. They share much of their componentry with early Hiwatts, such as those played by Pete Townshend, and they also share the Hiwatt penchant for extreme dynamics. The key to making a Sound City 120 sing is cranking it up and using playing dynamics and the guitar’s volume knob to vary the tone, which can go from glistening clean to saturated grind in an instant just by varying one’s picking technique. These amps are also outfitted with fully active tone controls, which can be confusing to players accustomed to Marshalls or Fenders, but once mastered, offer unprecedented opportunities for serious tone sculpting. The Sound City 120 is a fairly common vintage amp, and a fine working example with original Partridge iron should set you back no more than 1000 dollars. mars hall wh o? u n d errated vi ntag e am ps that kic k as s