Louis Rosano, proprietor of Louis Electric Amplifier Company, has been building and repairing guitar amps for 15 years. After spending a great deal of time digging around in the inventions of Leo Fender and Jim Marshall, in 1993 he began building his amps completely by hand, using the best components, including his own hand-wound transformers and custom-designed speakers. The circuitry in Rosano’s amps is hand-wired, and his cabinets are built using a variety of solid pines.
We were recently introduced to Louis Amps’ Swing King, the amp currently used by none other than Duke Robillard, and thought we’d give it the once-over.
The 35-watt Swing King uses two Groove Tubes GE6L6s output tubes, a 5AR4 rectifier, and a three-12AX7 preamp section. Its speakers are a Fane AXA Alnico 10 and an Electro-Harmonix 10 CS. The top-mounted controls include volume, master volume, treble, middle, bass, and presence. The polished-aluminum chassis panel also hosts the power and standby switches, indicator lamp, the black chickenhead knobs, and silkscreened typeface reminiscent of an old Bassman, and four inputs.
The Swing King has two channels wired internally, each with two inputs – one normal, the other for higher gain. The channels can be run simultaneously using a 1/4″ dummy jack or the included footswitch, as long as the guitar is plugged directly into the “Gain” channel input. You simply use the dummy jack to run the other high-gain input into one of the “Normal” channel inputs.
The front and back panels are of high-grade 7-ply Baltic birch, while the top, bottom, and sides are of 100-year-old solid antique pine. The ported cabinet is finished in a dark satin stain. It’s a rugged unit with a look resembling an old radio.
To test the Swing King, we used a ’72 Fender Stratocaster with stock pickups, and a late-’70s Ibanez Artist with Wolftone humbuckers. We started with the Strat and set the amp to clean, running the volume halfway up and the master at full. We plugged into the high-sensitivity input of the normal channel and were greeted with incredibly sweet tone and tremendous responsiveness. Notes leap out, and tonal balance is incredible. Every frequency is covered, with no favorites. The tone is fat and rich in all pickup positions, but especially in the middle, neck, and all combinations thereof.
As we pushed up the volume, we did get more gain, but the amp retained its character and responsiveness. When we picked softly, the amp’s sweet clean tone never wavered. And once we dug in, we could get just the right gain for blues. We pushed the volume to almost full and got great breakup, though we had to back off the bass to tighten up the low-end.
The controls on the Swing King are responsive to subtle changes, and we discovered a nearly endless string of sweet spots as we fiddled with the tone controls. We plugged into Input 2 of the normal channel and found it less sensitive, but still very sweet and very clean.
We then plugged into gain input one, set the volume to half, and the master volume at full. This was markedly more aggressive, punchy, and with more gain, but again it retained all of its tonal quality. Pushing the volume to 8, we got remarkable Stratocaster blues tone, still extremely balanced across the frequency range. This amp nails the Stevie Ray’s “Live at The El Mocambo” sound. The Swing King’s Strat tone is simply great. When we backed off the guitar’s volume, the amp cleaned up, but retained it’s dreamy Strat tone. We then pushed the volume to nearly full and got tons of gain. Again, we had to back off the bass to smooth it out just a bit. Using the jumper through the normal channel’s Input 1 produced the most gain.
Next up was the humbucker-equipped Ibanez, which we first plugged into the normal Input 1. It was extremely sweet, warm, and balanced, with a punchy gain as we used a more aggressive pick attack. Input 2 of the normal channel generated a sweet jazz tone.
Next, we plugged into the gain channel 1 jack. After backing off the bass and pushing the mid control we got a great rock tone with plenty of gain. We jumped the open jack into the normal input 1 jack and got even more gain. This amp has enough gain for metal, but may not have the mid-scoop that typically attracts metal heads.
The Louis Electric Swing King 210 is a very versatile amp with amazing sweetness, frequency balance, and responsiveness. It’s possibly the best Strat amp we’ve reviewed.
Louis Electric Swing King 210
Features All-tube/point-to-point circuitry, custom-designed/hand-built transformer, 35 watts output, Fane Alnico and Electro-Harmonix speakers, master volume, ported antique pine cabinet.
Contact Louis Electric Amplifier Company, 260 Merritt Ave., Bergenfield NJ; phone (201) 384-6166; louisamps.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Apr. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.