Until now, Palmer was known for little helpers that don’t show up in the sound, but do yeoman like service in the studio and onstage. With its FAT50 all-tube combo, the German manufacturer is beginning a new chapter – with an all new sound: and a loud one at that!
A glance at the company’s history, however, reveals that guitar amps bearing the Palmer name are nothing new under the sun. In fact, Palmer started out in the eighties as a builder of high-quality, all-tube amps. They wound their own power and output transformers, which ultimately led to their core business today, before they wound up in the corner with the “little helpers”. In this light, the FAT50 is a nod to the company’s own history.
A glance at the controls, specifications, and price of the Palmer FAT50 is enough to make you rub your eyes and do a double take. This all-tube amp, which is also available as a head, seems to be loaded for big game. Three toggle switches promise variable sounds in two channels, which can be selected using the included footswitch. That keeps your back healthy and means the amp is operational immediately.
In operation, the inner workings of the chassis are illuminated by four ECC83/12AX7A preamp tubes and two 6L6GC tubes in the power stage. The sound is made audible by a 12″ Eminence speaker named “The Governor“. With Arnie as a role model, what could possibly go wrong? Larger cabinets can be driven via two additional outputs. Moreover, the rear panel also reveals the effects loop, in which the tubes also go about their work.
Stamp out loudness The amp’s fuses are conveniently located next to the power connector and can be replaced quickly if necessary. Next to them are the connections for the rugged footswitch, which assumes the functions of the toggle switches on the front panel. A small potentiometer sets a second volume level, enabling the player to switch to a softer sound for quieter passages with a tap of the foot. Great!
The front of the plain, but sturdy amp is home to numerous knobs and switches. This does not, however, come at the expense of clarity, since they are divided into three sections. Moreover, the markings are self-explanatory. The passive 3-band equalizer affects both channels. As befits a proper tube amp, the mid and treble controls mutually influence one another, so that dialling up the treble results in a mid cut and vice versa. This makes it possible to find the desired sound quickly; a wide range of sounds is available at the twist of a knob. Next to the EQ are the controls for Channel Two, consisting of Drive, Volume, and Presence. The clean channel also has a separate Volume control. The Master knob controls the master volume of the amp; Reverb adds a finishing touch to the sound.
The first of the three toggle switches is responsible for the timbre, with normal and bright as options. While the later makes your ears ring on the clean channel and primarily helps to make solos heard with a mighty treble boost, the normal mode sounds very powerful and warm. The amp is super responsive, giving voice to the heart and soul that you put into every note.
Fish and fowl The speaker sounds extremely transparent. Single-coil guitars, in particular, will profit from this characteristic, which ensures that every chime and chuckle is conveyed clearly. The result is a fresh sound which is the equal of any competition which California has to offer – it’s a good thing to have the Governor on your side! The Low/High-Gain switch functions as a crunch switch in clean mode, but its flavour can only be controlled using the volume knob. That doesn’t matter, however, because the output is enough for crunchy classic rock in any case.
It is the final switch that decides whether this amp is fish or fowl: the distortion. Using channel two is a little more complicated. After all, the numerous switches and knobs offer a wide range of sounds. One thing holds true above all, however: The dynamic range of the FAT50 is so extensive that there is always plenty of headroom left to spare. It never gets sloppy even with the Drive control turned up all the way, and the amp has an impressively rich attack that would be enough for many already in low-gain mode. Playing hot funk and luscious rock is not a problem with this juicy sound.
Those who want more need to kick it into high gear with the high gain setting. Metalheads won’t be the only ones thrilled by this powerful, heavy sound, however, since the good equalizer leaves the player entirely in control of the tone quality. Single coils don’t get squawky; humbuckers advance with lofty power. The drive presence control, which boosts the high mids and treble and pumps up the sound with the right kind of squeaking in the solos, is a marvellous idea.
Lasting impressions How good it is that Palmer is building amps once again, and what good news that it resulted in such a successful product right off the bat. The FAT50 outstrips expectations with great dynamics and direct responsiveness, making it possible to shape many a sound. This feel-good amp puts paid to the question of the right guitar, since it works equally well with single coils and humbuckers and dresses them up in an appropriate outfit. Stylistically versatile and equipped with great extras, the FAT50 may quickly become the love of your life.
Palmer FAT50 Model Facts
Output power: 50 watts; 8 or 16 ohms
Tubes: Preamp: 4 x ECC83/12AX7A, Power stage 2 x 6L6GC
Speaker: 1 x 12″ Eminence Governor
Controls: Ch1: 3-band EQ, Vol; Ch2: Drive, Vol, Pres; Master: Rev, Master
Switches: Power, Standby, Normal/Bright, Low Gain/High Gain, Clean/Drive
Connections: Input, Speaker 8-ohm parallel and 16-ohm serial, FX Send/Return, 2 x Footswitch
Special features: Footswitch, 2nd Level control
Dimensions: 58 x 50 x 27 cm Weight: 22 kg
Complete information on the Internet at http://www.palmer-germany.com/mi/en/FAT-50-Tube-Guitar-Combo-50-W-PFAT50.htm
Source: PPV Medien, Germany 2010