Reeves Amplification founder Bill Jansen knows full well that anyone shopping for a boutique guitar amp has gobs of options, and vying for the player’s dollar is all about tone, quality, and reputation.
That’s why he aims for a specific market segment – the player who prefers the British “older is better” design, hand-wired to military specifications, with the best materials available. No circuitboards, no shortcuts.
And that’s exactly what he builds; an amp boasting top-notch construction from its tolex cover and piping accents to its meticulous tag strip point-to-point wiring.
Those who know the history of British guitar amps will recognize at first glance the Dave Reeves touch in the lineage of Jansen’s amps. Aside from its nameplate, the Reeves Custom 100 looks much like a vintage 1970s Hiwatt – inside and out.
The Custom 100’s power is supplied by a quartet of EL34s producing 100 watts. The preamp has four 12AX7 tubes, and the control layout is pretty straightforward, with two normal inputs, two bright inputs, volume, bass, middle, treble, presence, and master volume. There’s no reverb, no gain controls, effects loops, or other stuff to stand between player and tone.
We tested the Custom 100 with a Strat and a Les Paul plugged into two cabs – a Tone Tubby 4×12 and a Celestion-equipped Randall 4×12.
Running the amp through any of the four inputs of the dual-channel preamp, it’s obvious the Custom isn’t exactly an overdrive monster. Using the bottom two inputs made for more gain than the top two, and if you’re into the old-school beef-up approach, you can run a jumper from one of the “Bright” inputs to one of “Normal” inputs to get more gain. And of course, the standard overdrive pedal will also deliver (and remember, quality in, quality out!).
The Reeves really came into its own when we started pushing the master volume control, which brought the EL34s to life with a boatload of snap in the high-end response and a big, even, full-spectrum sound. Again, it never moved into appreciable distortion, but rather stayed true to itself, its fine points simply becoming much more obvious.
If there’s a drawback to this “blossoming,” it would be the volume. The Custom 100 is loud – really loud (Ozzy might say, “As loud as Satan!”).
Those interested in that sweet EL34 tone at fewer dbs will certainly appreciate that Reeves builds a 50-watt version, as well. Andfor those in need of even more headroom, there’s a 200-watt version (no word on whether ear plugs or an insurance rider for your hearing are offered standard or as an option!).
In all, the Reeves Custom 100 is a great large(r)-venue amp with a tremendous, open, full-spectrum tone that, regardless of your preference for single-coils or humbuckers, won’t let you get fooled again!
Reeves Custom 100
Type of amp 100-watt all-tube.
Features All-tube design, tag string point-to-point wiring, military-spec components, Partridge transformers.
Contact Reeves Amplification, 4582 Montgomery Rd., Cincinnatti, OH 45212, ph. (513) 451-1071, reevesamps.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.