In 1995, Budda Amplification made its debut with the Twinmaster Ten, a stripped-down, no-frills 18-watt combo designed to keep up with full stacks in terms of tone and volume.
The amp made a triumphant first appearance at a NAMM show, when 65 units were ordered despite the fact that company founders Jeff Bober and Scot Sier weren’t set up to build them! Still, they were obviously enthused by the reception for their simple little amp that offered so much of what amp geeks seek – great tone in a no-nonsense single-channel amp with no reverb and a passive two-band EQ.
The Twinmaster’s success put Budda on the map and allowed the company to grow (its Superdrive II is a direct evolution of the design, consisting of 18-, 30-, 45- and 80-watt amps in 1×12″ or 2×12″ combos, as well as head versions). To commemorate, Bober and Sier recently began offering a 10th Anniversary Twinmaster Ten, a limited-edition reproduction that stays faithful to the original’s class A/B circuit design, with more high-end accoutrement in the cabinet and chassis.
The “bling” factor with the 10th Anniversary Twinmaster (our test model, by the way, was #001 of 100!) starts immediately upon its unboxing, with the slip cover made of ultra-soft garment-quality leather, dyed to match the company’s signature purple and with double-stitched seams. The theme purple leather vintage-style handle protrudes, as if to offer a kind handshake, and with the cover off, you immediately notice the hand-cut/formed purple leather cabinet corners, custom purple Beluga vinyl covering, a purple-anodized mirror faceplate, purple-anodized tube shields for the 12AX7s (!), and the “der rigeur” purple Budda plaque and purple jewel light.
The fit and finish were as good as you’ll find – seams were clean and tight, and even the inside of the cabinet was covered with black-diamond-pattern cloth and finished with a signed and numbered ID plaque.
But while the Anniversary Twinmaster certainly brings the fluff, it is, of course, mostly about the nuts and bolts that produce tone…
Loaded with a pair of Groove Tubes EL84s, a Groove Tubes 5U4 rectifier tube, and a pair of select Sovtek Tube 12AX7 preamp tubes, point-to-point hand wiring with high-quality components and transformers, and one of Budda’s custom Phat Twelve 12″ ceramic magnet speakers wired with a Monster cable lead, it would certainly appear the Budda has all the right stuff, including a lightweight pine cabinet with dovetailed corners and a plywood baffle.
The amp’s control layout is straightforward; one Hi Gain input, one Normal input, Volume, Bass and Treble, power and standby switches, post-preamp effects loop in/out jacks with a slave output, and two speaker output jacks with an impedance switch.
We tested the 10th Anniversary Twinmaster using a pair of Hamers; a Daytona with Rio Grande single-coils and a Studio Custom with Seymour Duncan ’59 humbuckers. With the Studio Custom plugged into the Hi Gain input and the volume set a little past halfway, we experienced one very sweet, very crunchy overdrive with pleasant, complex overtones and plenty of natural power-tube sustain. Low-end response was tight, midrange was present and even, but not over-the-top, and there was high-end bite to make single notes jump.
Even with the Volume control nearly dimed, the amp didn’t so much as hint at wash out or softening. Rather, it stayed tight and controllable – and incredibly loud for an 18-watter. In fact, if someone told you it was a 50-watter, you’d say, “Man, it’s loud for a 50-watter!” But the Budda does a superlative job of getting its EL84 power tubes cooking to produce that sweet overdrive tone that just plain melts our butter!
Turning down the Studio Custom’s volume to about half introduced us to the Twinmaster’s clean tone, which was remarkably lively, with a nice jangle on the top. With the guitar’s pickup selector in the middle position and both volume controls rolled down, the tone was crystal clear, but still complex where so many high-gain amps tend to get dark and lifeless.
With the Daytona plugged into the Normal input, the Volume at about 3/4, and only slight adjustment to the tone controls (bumped up lows and tweaked down highs) we again had a sweet, crunchy, complex tone that responded very well to the slightly overwound Rio Grande single-coils, with a host of sizzling highs and aggressive mids. The Normal input has enough overdrive punch for blues and crunchy rock rhythm work, and it cleans up more readily than the Hi Gain input.
With the tone cleaned up (again by simply backing down the guitar’s Volume controls) the Daytona produced a punchy clean tone with nice shimmer to the top, and tight lows.
We tested the effects loop by patching in an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail reverb pedal, and the Twinmaster produced excellent results, with no noticeable insertion or tone loss. But reverb through the Twinmaster seems a bit frivolous, given its lively tone. This is truly a “no effects necessary” unit. Its open, natural sound and complex overtones – whether we dialed it in for dirty or clean – worked extremely well with single-coils and humbuckers, allowing the natural tone of each guitar to come out.
Budda’s 10th Anniversary Twinmaster Ten is truly one cool-looking limited-edition collector’s piece that sounds as good as it looks – maybe better.
Price $4,995 (retail).
Contact Budda Amplification, 60 Tehama, First Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105; phone (877) 866-34329; budda.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.