If you’ve driven a classic muscle car like the Camaro Z28, you know that when you step on the gas, you’re in for a thrill. In the same spirit, the Dr Z Z-28 Mk II is an updated version of the renowned amp maker’s original Z-28 design, with more “horsepower” and a fine-tuning to give guitarists the same sort of rush.
A 35-watt combo wrapped in mesmerizing red tolex and loaded with a Celestion Creamback, the Mk II varies from the original 6V6 version by sporting 5881 power tubes and an EF86 to drive the preamp. And while the control panel looks basic, with just Volume, Bass, Treble, and Master knobs, the range of tones one can coax from this amp is impressive.
Switching between a Les Paul and a Telecaster, with Volume, Bass and Treble at 11 o’clock and Master Volume cranked, the Mk II delivered rich, harmonic clean tones with almost three-dimensional presence and clarity. Turning up the Volume brought a slightly fatter sound with enhanced mids and breakup.
The Mk II’s magic really starts when you ratchet each EQ knob past noon. Builder Mike Zaite designed this amp to give more gain as the EQ is turned up, so with Bass at 1 o’clock and Treble at 4 o’clock, the Z-28 Mk II morphs into a dynamic, responsive medium-gain rock machine with a more-British character that’s not quite high-gain.
Boosting the front end with a few dirt boxes including an Exotic EP offered more glory; the Mk II handles OD/distortion pedals like a champ and renders tones just as transparent using time-based effects.
Could the Z-28 Mk II be the ultimate pedal platform? Perhaps – every player’s experience is different. But, if you’re looking for pure, unadulterated tone, it’s ready when you are.
This article originally appeared in VG’s December 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.