Editor’s note: Here’s the fourth installment of our Epiphone: 75 Years of Great Tone series. If you’d like to catch up with our previous installments, part I is here, part II is here, and part III is here.
First unveiled at the Musikmesse Show in Frankfurt, Germany, the E Series took the Galaxie vintage look and worked it into a solid state lineup. The new dark red tolex with wicker style grill cloth was a positive departure for Epiphone. The E series amps included the Firefly 30, shown at left, the Triggerman 60 and the Triggerman 100 head with matching 280 watt 4 x 12” speaker cab. Robust for their size, the control panel featured chicken head knobs, 16 DSP selections as well as reverb.
The color scheme seemed to strike a chord with the public because the new all tube Valve line took off like a rocket in 2005 using the same cream control panel, burgundy tolex and white piping. The highly successful Valve Junior head became an overnight sensation with its retro look and 5 watts of screaming power. The do it yourself community embraced the ease of which you could work on these Class A, single ended amps and modify them to fit your own personal sound. A combo version came with an 8” speaker housed in a convenient small cabinet aimed at the first time amp owner. Quickly though, pros found that the amp had a certain charm and soon found its way onto the big stage.
In addition, bass players had also discovered that the Valve Junior head worked as a front end preamp to their bass rigs, allowing them to dirty the sound up with an all tube signal. Blues harp players found that the Valve Junior combo made an excellent harmonica amp based on its size and the ability to overdrive at just the right level. To round out the new line, Epiphone produced the Valve Special, 5 watts, one EL 84 tube with a 10” speaker, 16 DSP selections and the Valve Standard with 15 watts, two EL84’s and a 12” speaker.
Designed and engineered in the US, the Blues Custom 30 has made its mark in the 30 watt combo category with a serious following of players dedicated to the tone. With two 12” Eminence specially designed Lady Luck speakers, the all tube signal path provides two channels, interactive EQ, reverb, two 6L6 power tubes and five 12AX7 preamp tubes. Pentode/triode switching can be found on the rear panel. Solid birch construction only adds to the roadworthy reputation that this amp has garnered from around the world.
Tad Kubler of The Hold Steady was one of the first BC30 artists that Epiphone chose to showcase in print ads in various music magazines. Players like Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple fame, blues legend Carl Weathersby, jazz great Nick Colionne, The Jonas Brothers and so many others are now using the Blues Custom 30 in the studio and on the road.
In 2006, the So Cal 50 head and So Cal 412SL cabinet won the Guitar World Gold Award for Overall Value. Epiphone never had an amp in its product line that could compete with the stacks and half stacks, but with a strong design and solid looks, the So Cal was capturing the ears of rock fans. The half stack began showing up on soundstages, movie sets and featured prominently in several television shows. Two channels, pentode/triode switching and active EQ were the prime features.
Designed in California, the amp head was completed by Mike Soldano and the board was layed out by John Suhr. The cabinet delivers a whopping 280 watts from four 16 ohm Eminence Lady Luck speakers. There’s a great video of Larry Carlton playing through a So Cal half stack with his son Travis on bass:
The success of the Valve line prompted Epiphone to bring three new models into the fold during 2009. Nashville amp designer Eric Borash and Alan Shipston worked on the Valve Junior Hot Rod, Valve Senior and Valve Senior Combo. The Hot Rod is the modded version of the Junior and now adds a master volume and reverb. The unique aspect of this head is that it has a reverb out / preamp out so that it can drive another head or act as a stand-alone reverb tank. Always price conscious, Epiphone delivered more bang for the buck in this model than all other 5 watt heads.
At 20 watts, the Valve Senior head is a 6V6 design that draws on an active mid range circuit to offer a full spectrum of sound. With master volume and gain, a three band EQ stack, presence and tube driven spring reverb, this workhorse is at home on stage or in the studio. The Valve line was designed to work with the Valve Junior Extension Cab and with the ability to stack, these amps have become an answer for musicians who are looking to overcome space and transportation issues.
The Valve Senior Combo has the same attributes as the Senior head but now comes with the 12”, 70 watt Eminence Lady Luck speaker loaded into a partially open back cab. With the same classic look and color scheme, Epiphone priced the Senior Combo to be very attractive in a market weighed down with heavy boutique pricing. Already appearing on some Nashville album productions, the Valve Senior and Hot Rod line look poised to set things in motion for the next generation of players.