Exactly what I wanted!
My EL34 just arrived!
Been a classic rock musician for 45 years, I play a lot of Van Halen stuff too. have 22 guitars and many, many amps. My previous head was a "high gain" modded Peavey 6505+ (ex 5150 ii), and I have been using it for the last 7 years, quite pleased with it except it has not much of a clean channel .. it uses JJ6L6 Power tubes.
Lets talk about the cons (and not too negative) about this EL34 first and then onto the good/great stuff....
The footswitch cable is the 7din-pin type, long enough for gigs, but I immediately put electrical tape around the connectors, because after gigging for a while those screws come lose and eventually fall out. I would have preferred a 1/4 inch jack like some of the Marshall heads have. The power cord is long enough too.The power on/off and standby on/off switches are at the back of the head with only one light in the front, I wish these switches were on the front panel and with two lights. Also at the back, are the 3 Resonance controls for each channel, same again, I wish those were in front. I have already ordered an extra/spare footswitch cable and 3 gold knobs for each of the 3 volume channel controls, so I can see them clearly during gigs. I didn't see a ground switch on this at all?? (maybe its built in)?
Now for the good stuff....
The EL34 head is bigger (and heavier) than my Peavey 6505+ head but still fits snugly on top of my Marshall 1960A slant cab with GT75 speakers. Lots of breathing room in the head, you can see right through it. Great for outdoor gigs in the heat.
As with any high gain amp (and this is super high gain), you must have a noise gate through the series loop to cut out the usual hiss. I also have my reverb and delay through the series loop. They work like a charm, I use an attenuator too, to really drive the amp, tone can change at higher volumes.
The EL34 power tubes definitely makes a nice and an improved difference from the 6L6 power tubes, my thinking is perhaps the JJ6550's might be even better than EL34's? (but I don't care at this point). It doesn't take too long to dial in your tone for each channel, the clean channel (Green) is awesome, much like the Fender clean sounds and the best I have heard yet. You can plug in an Acoustic if you want, its that clear. The rhythm channel (Blue), has plenty of gain, and I mean plenty, EVH/Fender really fixed this gain issue from the original. The Red solo lead channel has even more gain and again, very sweet sounding. You can switch from each channel (2 & 3) and boost your solo's while 'virtually' keeping the same tone and gain. The trick is to have no hiss on any of the channels which incidentally, switch quietly and instantly.
I was wary about the mentioned compression, but my ears are not hearing it, I have the presence knobs turned quite high anyway. I no longer need to use a soft overdrive pedal over the gain (2 & 3) channels, again, plenty of gain here and nice clear gain, no fuzz at all. Harmonics of any kind and high squeals are too easy! (think the intro to Mean Street and many other VH songs).
It sounds much like a Marshall-Plexi-ish and basically you can dial in the exact same tone as Van Halen's first 4 albums with ease. This is exactly what I wanted. Its not all about EVH though, if you are a Randy Rhoads guy, Hendrix, Jake E Lee or Jimmy Page fan, you can dial in their tones with ease too. Remember, with the clarity of this head on any channel, if you play a wrong chord or hit a wrong note during a solo, folks are going to hear it. That's a good thing!
Overall, well worth the money, don't waste any time, get one now! I can't wait for my next gig to use this!
Thanks as always to Ed Nysrtrom and his assistants at Sweetwater, they spent time with me, which I was deciding to go with the Stealth or the EL34 and the improved clean channel made go with this one.
Hope my review was helpful.