SQUEEZING EVERY OUNCE OF POTENTIAL - AND THEN SOME - FROM 2 VALVES
In May this year, I was proud to be invited to produce a series of demo videos of the Davis Amplification 2C8. I’ve since spent a further 4 months with the 2C8 and I’m happy to say, it’s now a steadfast part of my amp collection at the studio. It’s a fantastic, extremely versatile little amplifier, but more about that in a moment…
The 2C8 is an all-valve, 8 watt, 2 channel guitar amp head driven by a single EL34. It’s Davis’ first production amplifier and is the culmination of 3 years of intense design & development. The result is something very special and also quite unique. Davis never set out to copy the often replicated designs of the 60’s & 70’s. Instead, they’ve taken the traditional valve technology guitarists know and love and melded this with modern electronics and some very cool, unique features.
My first impression when taking the amp out of the box was a real air of quality. The 2C8 feels rock solid and the finish is fantastic – I’m a big fan of the vibrant blue covering, the contrasting white chassis looks great and the white stitching at the front of the amp finishes it off a treat. It’s a welcome departure from the countless standard black box designs and it certainly stands out on stage.
Looking at the front panel of the 2C8, we’re met with an array common controls that make this amp feel instantly familiar and approachable. The versatility in this amp does not come from a dizzying number of buttons and dials, as on some amps. The range of each of the controls is the key here.
There are two channels on the 2C8 – clean & distortion – and both channels share the same EQ section which features the usual treble, middle & bass. Both channels have independent volume controls and there is a master volume controlling the overall output of the amp. The two channels are accessible via the included footswitch – there is no channel switch on the amp itself. On the rear of the amp, you will find speaker outputs for 4, 8 and 16 ohms, footswitch input and FX loop send and returns.
Despite the diminutive size of the 2C8, this amp packs a big punch! Starting at the clean channel, the tone is immediately rich & full. I was fooled into thinking an amp of this size & wattage might be lacking in bass – this is certainly not the case!
At its cleanest, the 2C8 delivers Fender-esque clarity and low end. With this tone dialled in & a Strat around my neck, I couldn’t resist playing a little John Mayer. And the 2C8 really delivered in this style – it sounded clean, clear and punchy. It’s expressive, dynamic and it became almost percussive, delivering a real ‘snap’ the more I dug in to the strings. Push the clean channel volume a little further & it begins to break up with rich, warm valve goodness.
The distortion channel is where the extent of the amp’s versatility begins to show. In addition to its channel volume, the distortion channel features ‘drive’ and ‘intensity’ controls. These are designed to work together to give you access to a huge range of drive tones. I’ve certainly found this to be true. Just by altering these two dials, you can sculpt a myriad of driven tones – from biting, lightly-driven crunch to huge, thick, fuzzy rock tones. I’ve found the intensity control to provide the most dramatic change in tone here. Speaking to Alasdair, owner and designer at Davis Amplification, he reveals that the intensity control alters the way that the amp clips to create this massive range of tones.
I found that when the intensity is turned towards the left, the 2C8 provides a brighter, more biting driven tone with less low end – Not quite a Vox style jangle, more 70’s Marshall. Turn the intensity to the right and you’ll notice your tone beginning to become wonderfully thick and rich. Inside this tiny shell, you’ll find gargantuan rock tones!
This isn’t the only way to craft your perfect drive tone on the 2C8. After experimenting with the amp, I’ve found that there are 3 potential points where you can shape the way the 2C8 is overdriven:
1. Drive control
2. Channel volume
3. Master volume
Due to the low wattage design of this amp, it’s possible to use the master volume to drive the single EL34 to get that power valve drive we all know & love without shaking the walls of your house! (I’ve found the master volume to begin to break up around 11 o’clock on the dial.) The interaction of these 3 drive points, in tandem with the intensity control, makes for a huge spectrum of tonal possibilities. There are so many tonal options, it is worth taking the time to sit with the 2C8 and testing all the variables to find your personal favourite settings.
If all that versatility wasn’t enough, there are further possibilities provided by the unique FX loop. For me, this is a real selling point for the 2C8.
On the front panel, there are two controls for the FX loop: ‘Dry’ and ‘Wet’. These allow you to independently blend the signal from any effects you have in your FX loop with the dry, unaffected signal. I’ve seen a similar function on a single dial before (dry when turned to the left, effects added when turned to the right), but never as separate controls. Having the two controls separately gives you much more flexibility. They allow you to precisely dial in the perfect blend of your dry and wet signals. I’ve found this especially useful when using big, ambient reverbs as it allows me to keep the ambience but dial in enough of the dry signal to make sure the musical part is still intelligible.
The low wattage design makes the 2C8 perfect for practice at home & recording but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s not a gigging amp – it can compete with some seriously loud drummers! Of course, it will require mic’ing up to fill a room, but I personally prefer to project the tone of a growling low wattage amp than a high powered stack that’s barely got going.
The 2C8 excels at low to medium gain drive tones so it’s perfect for blues & rock in particular. If it’s pushed hard enough, there is a decent amount of gain available – especially with a bit of a kick from a boost pedal/overdrive – but, a metal amp it is not. And that’s by design. If you’re looking for a low wattage amp that can cover a wide range of styles, genres & tones, look no further.
In short, this is one seriously versatile amp – I can’t believe there’s this much tone in such a small box.
Davis have managed to squeeze every ounce of potential, and then some, from just two valves. I can’t wait to see what they create next.
Make sure to check out the demo videos and comment below, I’d love to hear what you think!