ZT Amplifiers does it again with its new Club amp model! In true Ken Kantor style ZT has delivered a long awaited small, loud and great sounding 1×12 amplifier. This seems to be like the “big football playing brother” to the Lunchbox.
The new Club amp features include Gain, Volume, Bass, Treble and traditional sounding Reverb. There is the same 200 watts on tap and a proprietary 12” speaker. On the back panel you’ll find a voltage selector (115v or 230v), plug in power cord connector with fuse, power switch, extension speaker jack (8 ohm minimum), speaker on/off switch, headphone jack with volume control, 1/8” Mp3 connection and drum roll………effects send and return! Yep, an effects loop!
Weighing in at just 22lbs and measuring 13.75″ wide x 15″ high x 9.25″ deep the new ZT Club amp is light and totally manageable for carrying to and from gigs. You’d have no trouble in a New York City taxi cab with this little monster.
On the Bench: The ZT Club looks a lot like the mighty little Lunchbox and appears to have the same type of solid build quality with a neat and clean layout. All the jacks, pots and hardware on the Club amp are just like its little brother except the handle is different. It is a strap type handle as found on many combo amps on the market which makes carrying very easy. The Club amp has a solid look and sturdy feel to it making me believe that it would easily survive constant gigging in many…….clubs!
In the Shop: Ok everybody…..its Tele time!!! I couldn’t wait to get the new Club amp into my shop space so I could give it a whirl and see what it could do. I was prepared this time and expected the Club amp to be very loud unlike my first encounter with the Lunchbox where I was totally caught off guard…!
Using my Tele guitar that I built with light swamp ash body and maple neck, Joe Barden pickups and Glendale hardware I fired up the Club amp and got settled in for a little tone par-tay. I set the Gain at about 2 o’clock and Volume at about 11 o’clock which are pretty much my Lunchbox settings. Treble was set at about 3 o’clock and Bass about 9 o’clock. I only used a little Reverb around 8 o’clock or so.
At first crack with an open A chord on my Tele’s bridge pickup the new ZT Club amp sounded punchy as hell with a warm kick to it. You could feel the muscle of this amp right away. Along with the muscle there was a lot of warmth and clarity. You could hear every single note within complex chords very clearly. The Club amp also has a pretty fast feel to it so if you get into some fast and furious chicken pickin’ or fast, clean jazz runs you will not outrun the amp. It will totally keep up. I was really amazed at the depth of the overall tone as well. Very warm and throaty but when you crank it up it starts to bark with a really cool “spanky” quality to the Club amps voice.
Just like on the Lunchbox amp there are Gain and Volume controls and I found that they behave the same way on both amps. Although I did notice that the Gain control on the Club amp added a little more character enhancement as compared to the Lunchbox. This could be due to the larger speaker having a broader dynamic range however. The Gain control not only increases gain while adding some bluesy overdrive it also pronounces the lower midrange girth a bit contributing to a gutsy growl at higher and max settings.
The Bass and Treble controls on the new Club amp are very effective. I could get plenty of range out of each control to accommodate different guitars. A little goes a long way so tweak sparingly until you get to know the amp.
The Reverb effect on the new Club amp is the traditional sounding reverb that you would expect when you hear the word reverb. It is not like the open-back cabinet sounding Ambience effect found on the Lunchbox. This reverb sounds wonderful and adds some nice depth to the amp at lower settings while at higher settings single notes and chords get drenched in reverby goodness, but not lost. The fundamental of single notes and chords are the center of attention with the reverb effect enhancing them.
It was only fair that I try the effects loop as well to see how it would work with some effects. After all this is a review, right? The only unit I had to try in the loop was my Boss ME-50. The Club’s effects loop is simple. There is an In jack and an Out jack. Hook up your effects unit accordingly and you’re done. Needless to say the modulations, delays and even the ME-50’s reverb sounded great. The overdrives in the loop did not sound quite as good as plugged into the amps input. This is something I have found to be typical with effects loops. The loop is usually found after the preamp and before the power amp stage so overdrive pedals don’t belong there anyway.
Bonus Track: I tried my 1950’s Fender lap steel guitar through the Club and let me tell you….if you are a lap steel player this is a very, very cool amp. Not only is it clean, it’s also thick sounding so your lap steel takes on a bit of a pedal steel-like tone. By cranking the Gain you can get an awesome bluesy sound which is great for that swampy type tone.
On the Gig: Off to the gig, Tele and Club in hand. Of course I had a few pedals in tow like my overdrive and delay but they were in my shoulder bag so it was a one trip load in….nice!!! As I was loading in I started to think and hope that the Club amp was going to be loud enough but I remembered the Lunchbox….’nuff said.
I set the Club amp on a small case to get it about 20” or so off the floor, plugged everything in and got ready to rock. Fat, full and clear is the name of the game here. The Club could be heard above the stage volume of the band with no problem at all. Not only that but I could really “feel” this amp. There is a certain round bottom and throaty quality that my body could feel. I like to be able to feel the amp and that relationship helps me with my playing.
As with the Lunchbox the new Club amp loves pedals. I was able to get many different sounds from my guitar using the pedals I brought along throughout the night. Clean sounds were warm, round and had a really nice clarity. Kick on an overdrive pedal and the amp will sing like crazy with single note lines sounding fat. Crunchy rhythms were thick, defined and chugging which reminded me more of a 2×12 cabinet.
As the night went on and the styles changed I found that the Club amp covered all the bases I needed perfectly. I pretty much set the controls at the shop settings from above and did not really change them all night. I may have nudged up the Volume control up a bit as the night went on (shhh….don’t tell the sound guy, sorry Jon!). It was nice to take an amp out to a gig with really not much playing time on it to find that I could dial up my sound very easily and not have to futz around throughout the course of the night. There’s nothing worse than messing with your gear trying to get it to cooperate which detracts from your playing. Needless to say I had a great night with the Club amp!
Final Analysis: 22lbs, 200 watts, 13.75″ wide x 15″ high x 9.25″ deep and a 12” speaker and you’re off to the gig. What more do you need? Pack a couple pedals, a guitar or two and you can get the job done with plenty of volume, awesome tone, all in a small package. This is a working musician’s dream amp. Don’t let the small size, light weight and simplicity fool you like the Lunchbox did and proved us all wrong. There are plenty of tones in this easy to use and carry package. The footprint is perfect for front seats in small cars and on cramped stages.
Jazz players will love this amp because there is plenty of warm, clean volume and the Reverb is just icing on the cake. My ES175 sounded beautiful through the Club amp and lap steel players should jump on this amp for the very same reasons.
Loud, clear and punchy is where it’s at with the new ZT Club amp. This amp has enough muscle to elbow its way through the mix with ease keeping its warmth and full bodied sound intact. You will also keep your own body intact because of the small lightweight package. The highs are clear, the mids have plenty of dynamics and character and the warm bottom end is firm without being edgy or stiff. The few different guitars I tried all sounded great including my Telecaster, Tele-Gib with humbuckers, ES175, Gretsch Hot Rod and Lentz S-type. Just season the controls to taste and off you go.
This new ZT Club amp will see many gigs with me in the coming year and I am so looking forward to every single one of them. Ken Kantor and everyone at ZT Amplifiers are making guitar players sound better and their job easier one small amp at a time!
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