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Dr. Z Amplification Z-Lux
Overall Rating
Submitted: February 27th, 2018
by Scott-.qvDu
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Sound Quality
The Dr. Z Amplification Z-Lux 1x12 combo is a great blend of Fender 50's Tweed and 60's Blackface amps. The sound leans more towards the Tweed-era sound than the Blackface-era in presence and overall tightness. The problem with Fender Blackface amps has always been the flab or looseness at moderate to high volumes, especially with humbucker pickups such as on a Les Paul. I love the Blackface amps, especially the Deluxe Reverb and the Super Reverb for low-volume playing with their fat, round and perfectly compressed tones with a Les Paul. This has much to do with the 6V6 power section tubes and the tube rectifier. The Z-lux uses the same sweet-sounding 6V6 in a quartet or in tandem -  I usually run it in tandem (2 tubes), but it has a solid state rectifier. This greatly tightens up the response and completely eliminates the flab of the Fender Blackface amps. At low volumes, I do miss the fat bloom of the Blackface-era Fenders, but the warm tightness of the Z-lux more than makes up for the loss of this. To approximate the bloom of the Blackface amps I use a Bogner Harlow Compressor/Booster pedal to make the notes more juicy and plump. This pedal is especially good at making single note runs sound round and fat. I've had both the head and the combo version of the Z-Lux and cannot stress enough the superiority of the combo over the head. Dr. Z really tuned the ceramic magnet 1x12 speaker to fit this amp perfectly - pedals or natural overdrive through this speaker is astonishing. The clean tones are perfectly balanced. If you are interested in this amp, please try the combo and compare it with your favorite cabinet. I ran the Z-Lux head through a Mesa Boogie 2x12 with Celestion V30s and it just was not as toneful as the combo with the Z-designed 1x12. The cabinet on the combo is just as important to the tone as the speaker - the good Dr. knows his tone. Finally, the reverb is perfectly lush, the boost pedal adds very useful adjustable gain, and the throbbing tremelo is magnificent. I would only prefer to have this amp with a tube versus sold-state rectifier only because I rarely open this amp wide to it's full volume potential. In summary: you will not get the low-volume plump notes from this amp that you would expect from a Blackface-era Fender (or even the Reissues), however, you will be rewarded with an amp that emphasizes the chewy, stringiness of the Tweed era amps and it is astonishingly good at handling overdriven tones. Think Neil Young with a bit of Marhsall Plexi tones. It's that good.
The Z-Lux is built extremely tough. I expect to run this amp for the next decade or more with no problems whatsoever. The cabinet and hardware are top-notch. I admit to loving the looks of the purple jewel power light and the blonde vinyl and pepper black grille cloth. The pedals that are included with the combo are a Fender Reverb/Tremolo switch and a custom Dr. Z variable boost - both work with no problems.
Admittedly, this combo price is steep - at $2,295. Reissue '65 Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverbs can be had on eBay for around $800 and this is my only "want" amp with the Z-Lux for their low-volume round, plump notes. However, these and 60's-era Blackface amps have far too may tonal limitations for either of these Fender greats to compete with the Z-Lux. I've spent far too much money, for far less performance and useability from Fender amps compared to this great all-rounder, single combo from Dr. Z. For reference, I've owned four '64-67 Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverbs, at least four Fender Blackface Super Reverbs, and two Blackface-era Fender Twins. That's not even counting the thre Fender '65 Reissue Deluxe Reverbs or other small Fenders that I've owned. I'll spare you the myriad other amps that I've owned over the past 35 years. After owning the Z-Lux for about two years, I'd take it over any other amp in a heartbeat (given that I could afford it).
General Comments
Must: try the combo with the 12-inch Dr. Z speaker - it's that good. If you cannot afford the Z-Lux, go for a Reissue Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb. If you can afford it, you will be rewarded with a fantastic amp that loves pedals and will not ever fail you with headroom or overdriven tones. Don't forget the boost pedal and the ominous, deep swampy tremolo.
Reviewer's Background
I'm 49 years old and have been playing as an amateur with or without bandmates since I was 15. I've owned more amps and instruments than I can or should write about. At this point, I've pared my instruments and amps to what I like: a Fender-style amp and Gibson-style guitars - for me, it's the Dr. Z amplification, Z-Lux combo, a used 2013 Les Paul Traditional, and an Eastman J-45 style dreadnought acoustic. My pedals include: Maxon AD-999 Analog Delay, Way Huge Pork Loin Overdrive, Bogner Harlow Booster/Compressor (my all-star pedal), and a Bogner Wessex Overdrive. Thanks for reading and good luck!
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