A contemporary amp with a traditional attitude. By Steve Henderson
Hot on the heels of a string of innovative (but practical) guitar amp designs, DV Mark has gone back to the basics for a little pocket rocket called the Gen 15. Maybe it’s their recent association with Music Man, or maybe it’s just time to do something simple instead clever. Either way, the Gen 15 presents an interesting middle ground between modern technology and vintage cred.
The Gen 15 is a single-channel, all-tube combo that delivers a solid 15 watts from a pair of EL84s through a single 12” driver. It has gain, volume and boost – you can dial up a wide variety of sounds with a full tone set, and then sweeten it up with a touch (or a lot) of reverb. The look is very reminiscent of those Music Man RD/RP amps of the ‘80s: black face panel, silver grille, chrome chassis straps, etc. But DV mark has used a flat (not slanted) and recessed faceplate to protect the knobs a little better; chicken head knobs; leather cabinet corners; and a stylish, old school-style leather handle. The whole package is just under 480mm tall (under 19” including the handle) and weighs a smidgeon under nine kilograms (20lbs). If you like that whole ‘70s/’80s Fender/Music Man vibe but don’t like the weight, this amp should have you at least a little intrigued.
Variously plugging in a vintage Strat, a Firebird V, an old 335 Dot and a Godin Icon Convertible, the Gen 15 offered up some marvellous sounds. The Strat was throaty and woody, the Firebird was bright and punchy, the 335 had that lovely fat and expressive body, and the Icon (with Seymour Duncan P-rails) delivered a huge variety of sounds – from single coil thwack to the rock’n’roll clunk of P-90s, all the way to humbucking juiciness. The Gen 15 handled them all without ever producing that gnarly crunch of an overloaded (in a bad way) circuit. In fact, the Gen 15 handled all of these guitars without ever having to compensate tonally for each – there are simply no dud sounds here.
THE PERFECT PEDAL PAIRER
The clean sounds are pristine and surprisingly broad thanks to the 12” speaker, but maxing the gain knob with the master volume at midday produced a nice furriness that wasn’t quite distorted but wasn’t really clean. This is actually a really handy tone because it adds density to a ‘clean’ rhythm part and absolutely loves to be pushed by a boost or low-gain drive pedal. I used a Zendrive, a Mesa Flux-Five, a Suhr Shiba Drive, a BBE Green Screamer, and a really old silver screw Boss DS-1 (yeah, I know it’s a distortion and not an overdrive, but it just sounds so good).
The Gen 15 happily worked with all of these pedals without any fizzing or barking. The Screamer (a high quality TS9) had that characteristic compression and attenuated bass; the Zendrive’s signature upper mid voice came through loud and clear, with the Gen 15’s 12” handling it effortlessly; even with its broad tonal options, the Flux-Five core tone is that thick, vocal Boogie drive and the Gen 15 was immediately transformed into a Mark-series Boogie. Even cranking the DS-1 didn’t faze this little amp: it just leaned a little more towards the Recto/ Marshall kind of deal and happily delivered some mighty crunch sounds.
The Gen 15 seems to handle all manners of gain-based input. Even doubling up on the pedals (yep, two at once) didn’t mush up the Gen 15’s 12AX7 front end. The clarity remained consistent from pedal to pedal, no matter which guitar was employed. The interactive tone controls have plenty of range, and the gain circuit – while not metal heaven – has more than enough drive for the whole barroom boogie/Aussie rock vibe. Want more grunt? Use a pedal – the Gen 15 loves ‘em. Want ‘bigger’? Three speaker outs will interface with a larger (or just another) cab. I used a vintage Mesa 412 and a custom 212 (with G12-65s) – the Gen 15 filled the room with a seriously big, but controlled tone.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Gen 15 is simple to understand and operate, and the amp readily delivers high quality tones. Its dynamic, touch-sensitive feel is great, and there’s no missing that Fender-style spank (even with EL84s) when you just want to hear a really clean amp. Turn up the mids and it’ll go all Vox-y on you. The Gen 15 has plenty of power for home, studio and rehearsals. Even for small gigs, the Gen 15 will provide the kind of proximity level that will work for the player, then mike it up for the room. The Gen 15 is, in its simplicity, a clever little amp that delivers the core of what we want: nice tone, nice gain, appropriate volume, and exceptional portability.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• 15 watts
• 2x EL34, 3x 12AX7
• 1x 12” DV Mark Custom speake
• Full tone stack
• Solid tone
• Wide range of sounds
• Boost function is a little subdued
Ph: (02) 9905 2511