By Jack Devine
One of the great things about TGP is that it connects people. Folks that might never have had the opportunity to get to know one another connect and become a community. It gives end users the chance to read the unfiltered opinions and experiences of the craftsmen designing the gear they’re buying, hearing on records and stages. Conversely, it affords designers the ability to keep a pulse on the market and better meet the needs of the customer. Et viola, a true symbiotic relationship, well done Internet.
I’ve been here at TGP for going on 6 years. I remember when I first joined, there were a few cats whose posts seemed really well informed. I thought of them like TGPs upper classmen, the varsity so to speak. These guys just had a depth of knowledge and experience that made me know I was in the right place and was getting the straight dope. One of the members I remember reading posts by had an interesting username, “Hogy”. I remember thinking, “who is that guy?” Well, over the years and after a few phone calls and e-mails I’ve actually gotten to know him.
Who’s Hogy? He’s one half of the design team that is Komet Amplification. Hogy, AKA Holger Notzel, and Michael Kennedy started Komet back in 1998. Komet was the first amp I thought of as “boutique” and with good reason. Everything about these amps is special. Each one is hand built, using only the best of the best. The potentiometers, wire, transformers and chassis are the best that money can buy. The build quality and design is just amazing. The pedigree of the circuit topology is impeccable too. I mean, these guys are putting out the last amps ever designed by Kenny Fischer. The sense I get is that Komet amps are built from a series of sensible and successful evolutions from proven designs that have yielded something new.
The team of Mike and Hogy is pretty awesome. They’ve been around a lot of great gear, for a long time and have a lot of very strong opinions about what they like and why they like it. I happen to agree with a lot of those opinions and the design concepts that these amps are known to employ. The amps are rich when it comes to tone, yet Spartan when it comes to features. No channel switching, boosts, trimmers, FX loops etc to muddy the sound. Just tone the way these guys think it’s done best, pure, simple and immediate. I like that.
Anyway, if you’re here at TGP I’m sure you know the Komet story. I learned a lot from these cats over the years, and when I started doing this column, Komet Amplification was on my short list of manufacturers whose gear I wanted to review. So I called Hogy and Mike and they set me up with their New York distributor Gene at Ultrasound Rehearsal in Manhattan.
The amp I have in the studio is the Komet Concorde. The circuit comes from the mind of Kenny Fischer; Hogy and Mike handle the building of the amp. The Concorde runs two EL34 tubes for about 50 watts worth of power, though it seems like more. The amp has two modes, “Gradual” and “Fast”. Basically this allows the player to select the dynamic response of the amp. In “Gradual” mode the Concorde behaves like an interesting blend between a Marshall, a Vox and a Hiwatt with great clarity and a lean, refined voice. There are gorgeous, chiming, clean sounds and spectacular mid-gain tones available as well as balls out rock tones…I mean rock with a capital R. There’s a lot of gain on tap, and the tone and feel of the amp is top shelf all the way. The gain is juicy, not harsh, and there’s no “metal” in the voice of the amp…more rock.
If that was it for the amp I still would like it, but as fate would have it the Concorde has the “Fast” mode too. This basically gives the amp a lot more gain and in particular, touch sensitivity. What’s really scary is that damn near the full range of tones this guitar amp can make is available, all by using the guitars volume knob. At maximum volume on the guitar, you crank the gain for your lead sound, and as you roll back the guitar’s volume, the amp cleans up really well. Though pickup selection, picking dynamics and positioning relative to the amp, I was able to get a shimmering clean sound and a second later have my guitar take off screaming into a blooming, harmonically rich solo tone that sustained effortlessly. I found myself in no hurry to play more notes, as the one I was playing seemed to be evolving throughout it’s envelope in the most fascinating manner. I’ve never, in all my days played such a touch sensitive amp. It’s simply incredible. If you’re aware of the subtleties of your playing, able to control them, and like to vary them a lot, this type of amp is for you. At the top end of the gain settings (past 2:00) in “Fast” mode, the amplifier’s upward dynamic range gets maxed and there is a pronounced compression and sag, a very cool effect that allows single notes to bloom and for the tone to sit well inside a dense mix. I like the effect at times, while other times I might want more headroom.
The controls are very straight ahead on the Concorde. No jumping channels or anything like that. Just your typical Presence, Bass, Middle, Treble, Volume set up. Typical with one huge exception, the knob marked “High Cut”. That single knob is spectacularly useful. After years of playing, one thing I’ve noticed is that by cranking the presence knob on an amp you can get a different feel and more gain from a circuit, but usually the tone is too bright to use. The “High Cut” knob is wired in such a way to roll off excess highs, but keep the gain and feel that comes from cranking the presence. Now I can have my cake and eat it too.
It’s funny, when things are really well made you can feel it. I get the sense that these amps are going to be around for a long time, inspiring cool music and making their owners very happy.
The clip below uses the amp in both “Gradual” and “Fast” modes, and uses single coil as well as humbucking pickups.
The solo was recorded in “Fast” mode. I used my usual 1986 AVRI Stratocaster with DiMarzio Virtual Vintage pickups. The song starts using position 4 (neck & middle) then the neck alone and finally the bridge pickup for the bulk of the song. The amp was attenuated using my Ho attenuator and I used my TC 2290 in its loop for the delay you hear. There’s also a bit of reverb used at mix down. I used a Marshall 4×12 with G12 H30s for the session and ran my delay out of a separate 2×12 open back cabinet using two Scumnico speakers that bled into the mic.
The second guitar in the track was recorded using my 1966 ES-335 (bridge pickup) in “Gradual” mode. The gain was up around 1 o’clock and I used no attenuation, delay or reverb during tracking. I used the same Marshall 4×12 as the lead track.
Both tracks were recoded using an SM 57 into my Chandler Limited mic-pre and then to Pro Tools HD.
The next clip is less cluttered and more jammy. It’s the same AVRI strat straight into the Concorde. The volume is up around two o’clock in “Fast” mode. Once again I’m playing into the Marshall 4×12 and using my Ho attenuator to take the level down a bit. I miked the cab about 3 feet away and used an AKG 414 into my Chandler Limited mic-preamp. There’s some reverb and delay added in post. I hope you dig it.
Well, that brings this review to a close I guess? This is one amp I wish I didn’t have to return. Who knows, I may be able to check out the new 19 watter if I play my cards right!
Stay tuned and stay positive.