Frank O’Hearn’s Shamrock & Roll 18 is a point to point, hand wired tube guitar amplifier. The tube configuration consists of an EF86 and a 12AX7 in the preamp section, a pair of EL84’s (cathode biased, class A) and an EZ81 rectifier. There are 4 & 8 ohm outputs with no negative feedback loop. The control panel is very simple, Volume, Tone and Master Volume which can be switched in and out of the circuit. So how does this 18 watt stick of Celtic dynamite sound? Let’s pour a pint and check it out why don’t we?
On the Bench: The Shamrock & Roll 18 is a definite looker with its blind dovetail joints and stained & sealed cabinet (nice job Tedster!). The control panel is very straightforward and there is virtually zero learning curve which makes this amp easy to plug ‘n’ play right out of the box. Since the output tubes are cathode biased there is no need for bias adjustments when installing new ones.
The construction is very good and definitely boutique. Frank credits the late Kenny Fischer for that aspect of his business. Top quality components throughout; CTS pots, ceramic sockets, quality caps, U.S.A. made iron and a hefty epoxy glass & eyelet circuit board. Each amp is hand signed and numbered by Frank himself.
In the Shop: I used my G&L ASAT for this test with the Shammy head plugged into an open back 1×12 cabinet loaded with a Celestion G12H 70th Anniversary model (UK made). I set the Master Volume clicked out of the circuit with the Volume at about 10 o’clock and the Tone about 2 o’clock, plugged in the ASAT and hit the Standby switch. I instinctively slid my hand down the neck for an open A chord and shazam, let there be rock! That first chord had a mean and nasty kerang sound with definition and clarity without being edgy at all. The feel was solid but not stiff due to the tube rectifier. There was a certain extremely cool greasy sound to it. I said to myself “Oh, ok….this amp is going to be fun….. I get it”. So from there I just started jamming and thought of Forrest Gump (I just kept jamming and jamming). Bottom line is after about 2 hours straight this amp rips! I went through all kinds of blues, rock and edgy country licks and with my ASAT it reminded me of the John Jorgensen Hellecasters sound. Then I realized I forgot to try the Master Volume!
After a short break I came back to work that Master Volume control. With the MV clicked out of the circuit the amp is pretty darn loud, punchy and aggressive for 18 watts. With the MV engaged the amp tames down in volume and punch a bit but the drive increases and can be controlled. You can get a dirty, overdriven sound with the MV and at a reasonable level. I am not the biggest MV fan bit this one sounded good and tamed the amp for lower volume applications nicely.
In either mode (MV engaged or not) the amp responded to my picking and when you roll back the guitar’s volume pot it cleans up like a good point to point, hand wired amp should. There was plenty of bottom end even with the 1×12 cab and defined highs with abundant mids that really sang. I did try this amp with some pedals and it is pedal friendly. I do not see a need for an overdrive pedal but if you do use one it will push the amp into Santana-land sustain.
On the Gig: I took this amp with my ASAT to a gig with the 1×12 Celestion cab, no pedals and had a blast. I was sort of forced to be more creative with my playing because of the simplicity of the rig. I was altering my picking attack, working the volume and tone controls on my ASAT and found myself…..playing guitar. Imagine that! There just seemed to be a lot of wide openness and the guitar, amp and myself were all working together. The tone landed onstage somewhere between a souped-up 5E3 and a 1974X but bigger, which is a great place to be. There was plenty of volume (MV not engaged) and I could hear the amp with no trouble at all. And because there is plenty of bottom end I could feel the amp as well. Nothing worse than being in a situation where you can’t feel the amp. The amp sang and sustained and had this bark to it. It screamed through the mix and made me laugh for some reason. Here is this little 18 watt head screaming its plates out through a 1×12 cab and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it!
Final Analysis: If you are a player that likes to keep it simple and lots of pretty, clean headroom are not a concern then this amp could be your ticket. This is a great amp to grab and go without worry of reliability because of the hand built construction and is sure to turn heads on gigs and sessions because of both the look and the sound. It works well with different types of speakers, different types of guitars and it has more attitude than you can shake a shalalee stick at! This amp wants to rock and don’t tell it any different. However, if you rock with it you will find yourself in the moment playing and not thinking about playing. And that’s what it’s all about. MSRP $1650.00
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