Jonothan takes delivery of his ‘Expressionist’ 15W amplifier

Expressionist 15W head in vintage red tolex with checkerboard grille

Expressionist 15W head in vintage red tolex with checkerboard grille

Welcome Back. This blog showcases once again the Expressionist Series amplifier, designed and built by the Richards Amplifier Company – Australia. This latest example is a custom order for Sydney-based guitarist Jonothan Holmes, in stunning vintage red tolex covering, with a contrasting ‘checkerboard’ front grille cloth. We previously presented the Expressionist amp in blogs dated 01May2012, 24July2011 & 10July2011, including photographs and a testimonial written by Aria Award winning producer, Jonathan Burnside.

the Expressionist 15W model

the Expressionist 15W model

We have been building the Expressionist models for well over 10 years now, with 15 watts currently the most popular power rating. The Studio Expressionist option, as pictured in this blog, enables the user to select either the standard (for this model) EL84/6BQ5 output valves or the alternative 6V6GT output valves, offering the broadest possible range of tones for your recording projects.


rear view Expressionist 15W

rear view Expressionist 15W

The EL84 output valves, which are employed throughout the Expressionist Series amps, are famous for their chimey tops, complex midrange and lively dynamic response. By contrast, the 6V6 output valves are noted for sounding smooth and sweet, ie they were the valves typically used in the smaller Gibson and Fender amps back in the day. This is actually the first time we have employed the new Mullard (reissue) 6V6GT valves, as well as the new Tung Sol (reissue) GZ34/5AR4 rectifier valve. EL84/6BQ5 valves by JJ, Electro-Harmonix and Tung Sol (reissue) have all proved themselves to be reliable performers in cathode-bias/Class-A amplifiers in the 15 to 30 watts range.

Expressionist 15W chassis - top/front view

Expressionist 15W chassis  top/front view

The intention of the Expressionist Series model is to offer the classic vintage Brit tones from 1959 to 1965, and well beyond. The preamp offers two discrete channels, ie each channel has it’s own unique signal path and equalisation. There is no shared circuitry until the two preamp signals are combined in the phase inverter stage of the power amplifier. The two channels are mixed together in such a way that they are back in phase with each other, conveniently enabling the channels to be patched together in the traditional way, or combined with an A/B/Y pedal (supplied with each Expressionist).

Expressionist 15W chassis top/rear view

Expressionist 15W chassis
top/rear view

Channel 1 is built around the EF86 pentode preamp valve, recently reissued by Tung Sol, but also still available on the n.o.s. market. This channel is voiced with a (relatively) flat midrange response, as opposed to the more usual ‘scooped’ midrange response of iconic valve guitar amp designs since the 1960’s. The deceptively simple 6-way Colour tone switch enables the perfect midrange to low frequency balance for your performance. Here’s our tip: patch CH-1 and CH-2 together for a blend of ‘scooped’ and ‘non-scooped’ EQ – it’s a huge and powerful tone. Always use a short, high-quality jack/jack patch lead for this purpose.

Expressionist 15W chassis

Expressionist 15W chassis

Channel 2 employs a pair of 12AX7/ECC83 twin triode valves to provide two sequential gain stages and a cathode-follower ‘tone stack’ driver stage. Obviously this channel was inspired by the famous  ‘top boost’ channel in the mid 1960’s British Invasion amps. We have spent the last decade tweaking this channel to achieve a tonality that equals the very best examples of the vintage era (quite unlike the various ‘reissues’ from the last couple of decades, including both UK and Chinese manufacture).

EF86 with added dampening

EF86 with added dampening

Finally, the power amplifier section has recently been upgraded with an over-spec’d power transformer that runs cool at full power. We have also upgraded the filter choke, which is an over-spec’d clone of an original mid-60’s Brit choke. This component is an important contributing factor to the ‘feel’ of playing through this amp, while filtering the rectified high voltage (HV) DC to a more significant degree. This means there is less power supply hash in your signal, ie less non-musically related harmonics. Our intention always is to build amps that just sound so damn good that you don’t want to put down that guitar !!

The power amp section is where we have situated the master ‘tone cut’, which is like a passive presence control, and a key ingredient in the tone of these amps, plus the master volume. The design of the master volume enables the preamp to be overdriven at conversation levels, but at full clockwise rotation has no effect on your tone. However, for that chimey clean Brit-pop tonality we recommend setting the master volume to max, and running the amp ‘wide open’. Set the ‘tone cut’ control to personal taste – it is very useful for controlling the spikey high end of some single coil pickups.

All our amps, regardless of which model, are designed from the outset to work well with your pedals. The pedals are intended to be patched between guitar and amp. We obviously cannot comment on every one of the thousands of overdrives/fuzzes/etc out there on the world market, but most of our customers are using various combinations of pedals/pedalboards very successfully with our amps. Each and every one of our amps is individually hand-built, one at a time, by one person, from beginning to end. It takes a lot longer this way, but it’s worth it !

Ivan Richards.

One Response to “Jonothan takes delivery of his ‘Expressionist’ 15W amplifier”

  1. Chris Says:

    Looking good!

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