For gear heads, musos and musical engineers the words ‘boutique manufacturer’ are part and parcel of their everyday vernacular. We see them regularly attached to new companies and products – stamped on everything from guitars and amps, to pedals and cables – often as a signifier for ingenuity, quality and care in make. Yet there existed a time when these notions of boutique innovation and excellence were only beginning to materialise. For amps this was in the early ‘90s and coincided with the launch of LA manufacturer Matchless Amplifiers. With their very first design – the Vox AC30-inspired DC-30 – they nailed classic British tones and, as such, put boutique production on the map. To this day the DC-30 still stands at the forefront of their meticulously refined range, a product of superb craftsmanship, time and effort.
WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF
With the DC-30 Matchless have built an amp that can produce a genuine British ‘Class A’ tone night after night; jam after jam; gig after gig. On the outside it’s a beastly piece of machinery, weighing in at approximately 38kg and just generally looking like it could stand up to a major beating. The hand-made 11-ply, 3/4” Baltic birch cabinet is rugged and sturdy, finished in an ominous black vinyl. One of the first things you will notice when you turn on the DC-30 is Matchless’ signature backlit nameplate and control panel – the glowing beacon attention grabbing and immediately mesmeric. From the get go it’s an amp that you want to treasure and cherish.
Four EL84 power tubes – fuelled by a 12AX7 phase inverter – deliver 30 watts of power through two channels. The rectifier can alternate between one 5AR4 or two 5V4G's, offering both a sharper response, and one that is delivered with greater curvature and tonal breadth. The preamp tubes used in channel one are two 12AX7’s, navigated with controls for Volume, Bass and Treble. Channel two on the other hand has one EF86 preamp tube and features a Volume control and a six-position Tone switch for easy, yet dynamic altering of tone. At the end of the control line are a Cut control for reducing highs at the output stage and a push/pull by-passable Master Volume control. Responsible for articulating all of these tonal parameters are a customized Celestion G12H30 and Celestion G12M Greenback. With a never ending list of professional, high-end features the DC-30 also boasts a half power mode switch (30 watts or 15 watts), an output impedance selector (4, 8, 16ohms), a speaker phase-reverse switch and an effects loops all located at the back of the chassis.
STANDING THE TEST OF TIME
On channel one we are met with a shimmering clean. The Treble control adds or decreases bite, while the Bass controls the low-end and overall roundness. These are familiar tones, produced with distinct articulation and clarity. With the use of the Cut control you can bump up the highs for beautiful, sparkling chimes. Across all settings there’s a resounding smoothness that offers great definition with the use of both chords and notes. While elevating the Volume results in a harmonically rich, vintage grind. The second channel is the hotter of the two. Yet for hi-gain settings it maintains excellent definition, never thinning out or subject to inconsistent sonic production. It’s fat and well-bodied, harnessing hi-gain settings while upholding a remarkable evenness. With each upward click of the six-position tone control there’s added thickness and girth – its influence immediate and impactful.
MATCHLESS IN NAME AND MAKE
To this day Matchless Amplifiers continues to be synonymous with the myriad of benefits associated with boutique manufacturing. Epitomised by the DC-30 – a high-end, handmade tube amp with the tone to match anything else out there on the market.
Hits and Misses
Versatility and uncompromising quality in tone Equipped with a multitude of tone shaping controls Rugged and hardened design Despite it’s significant price tag it’s a long-term investment set to deliver again and again