Dr. Z 35th Anniversary Carmen Ghia 1×10

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Dr. Z 35th Anniversary Carmen Ghia 1×10
Price: $2,099

At the forefront of high-end boutique design, the Carmen Ghia was Dr. Z’s first commercially available amplifier when launched in 1988, and has never been absent from the company’s lineup. So it’s fitting that the good Dr. (a.k.a. Mike Zaite) is celebrating it with a 35th Anniversary version.

A hand-wired, single-channel 1×10 combo with a pair of NOS military-spec 6N14N (EL84 variant) power tubes, two 12AX7s in the preamp, and a 5Y3 rectifier, the 35th Ann CG makes an immediate impression with its size (small), weight (30 pounds), and bare-bones control panel with Volume, Tone and Master knobs. The aesthetic may be “too” simple for some, but make no mistake – everything about this amp is serious.

With a Telecaster plugged in and all controls set at 12 noon, our tester generated pure Tele tone with amazing clarity and authenticity. Same with a Les Paul, Strat, and Les Paul Junior; the Carmen Ghia has an amazing ability to capture the character of whatever is plugged in while responding to nuances of one’s play. Exceedingly articulate, with great top-end chime, presence, and just enough compression to feel really good under the fingers, you may hear your guitars in an all-new way. Low-end stays tight and punchy with a percussive feel.

The Volume and Master (placed in the circuit after the phase inverter) work well together and create a variety of sounds from clean to crunch at virtually any volume. For bedroom-level grit, inch the Volume up (with Master down), or go Volume down with Master up for chimey cleans. Crank both for in-your-face crunch and sustain while using the guitar’s Volume knob to shave a bit of hair. Tapping the ultra-responsive Tone control helps reveal a surprising pallet of color at your fingertips.

Doing its part is a lightweight, resonant poplar plywood cab with a 10″ WGS Veteran 30 speaker that renders a big, musical sound that’s louder than you’d expect.

The Carmen Ghia is a versatile, compact tone beast that whoops the pants off many amps twice its size. Its harmonically rich, almost 3D tone must be experienced to be believed – and it easily fits in the back seat.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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