There are plenty of low-watt tube amplifiers on the market for guitarists that want power amp distortion at manageable volumes, but Palmer’s DREI Triple Single-Ended amp offers a unique “three-amps-in-one” head with three different power tubes that can be used individually or blended to create new tones.
The DREI’s power amp section contains an EL84, a 6V6, and a 6L6 tube, each with its own volume knob. When combined, the tubes produce a maximum output of 15 W. With the Palmer DREI, guitarists that want the rich, responsive distortion of a cranked amp can explore the tonal possibilities that come from blending these tubes with just a minimal number of knobs.
Specs & Controls
In addition to the three aforementioned power tubes, this German-made 15 W amp contains two ECC83 preamp tubes and a GZ34 tube rectifier. Output impedance options include 4, 8, and 16 Ohms and the steel-enclosed head weighs a little over 30 lbs. The sleek control panel of the DREI features a volume knob for each preamp, labeled Normal and Highs, a Tone knob, and three volume knobs for each of the power amp tubes labeled 1 (for the EL84), 2 (for the 6V6), and 3 (for the 6L6). I reviewed the DREI through a 1×12-in. extension cabinet loaded with a Celestion 70/80 speaker.
The EL84 is commonly associated with the sound of popular British amplifiers and the 6V6 and 6L6 with classic American amp tones. In the DREI, it was easy to get familiar with the unique characteristics of each tube by simply turning one up while leaving the volume of the other two off. By setting the preamp controls low, I was able to explore the variations in clean tones. The EL84 provided a balanced tone with pleasing highs that would make it suitable for any style. The 6V6 had a warmer, bassier tone that worked well for fattening up single coil pickups. Turning the Tone control down also provided a smooth tone suitable for jazz. The 6L6 had a more pronounced brightness and midrange to it for in-your-face twang and funky rhythms. I found the Tone control to be very responsive in shaping the highs of each power tube. Although one could be content with any one of the power tubes, the fun really begins when they’re blended. With the EL84 turned up, the Palmer manual recommends turning up the 6V6 for adding bass and the 6L6 for midrange; however, they did more than simply change the EQ, as there was an increase in the overall volume, body, and complexity of the tone. lt was easy to experiment with different levels of each power tube to explore all the subtle clean tones possible in the amp. For example, turning up the EL84 and 6V6 created an open sounding tone for rhythm playing, while turning up the EL84 and 6L6 created a more cutting sound for leads.
Turning up the two preamp controls on the DREI increases the amount of power tube saturation to create varying levels of distortion. While turning up the first Normal preamp control adds distortion, turning up the second Highs preamp knob adds high frequencies as well as distortion. As a comparison, the Highs knob adds more edge and snarl to one’s sound, while the Tone knob functions more like a presence control. Classic rock and blues guitarists will be pleased to know that the DREI really shines at getting a variety of raw, vintage distortion sounds and should be loud enough for small- and medium-sized gigs. My favourite setting was having the EL84 and 6V6 past 12 o’clock, with just a little 6L6 for some cut, and both preamp controls on high. This created a fullsounding, all-purpose crunch tone that cleaned up nicely by changing one’s pick attack. The highs weren’t piercing, even with the Tone knob past 12 o’clock.
Palmer’s well-built DREI Triple Single-Ended amplifier offers the recording and performing guitarist the raw tones and simplicity of a single-ended amp with unique tonal flexibility. In this regard, it should appeal to both plug-and- play guitarists and discerning tone hunters. Overall, the DREI offers an admirable combination of fulfilling modern demands for versatility while keeping the old-school approach of cranking a tube amp for great tone intact.
For further information about the Palmer DREI Triple Single-Ended Amplifier, please visit: http://www.palmer-germany.com/mi/en/DREI-Triple-Single-Ended-Amplifier-PDREI.htm
Author: Hal Rodriguez is a Toronto based guitarist, bassist, teacher, and writer. Check out his blog,”The Six String Shed” at www.canadianmusician.com/blogcentral and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for transcription services and Skype lessons.