Any guitarist who regularly frequents the studios knows that the best guitar sounds are not necessarily found through deafening amps with all sorts of advanced functions. Instead of these devices, many prefer single-ended amps (= a single power valve). These are small, basic amps, with very limited power. Despite (or more accurately, thanks to) their low power and limited functions, these amps produce one of the purest valve sounds. And the particular feature of the Palmer Drei is that you have no less than three different amps in the same box!
Concept The concept of the Palmer Drei is something we’d never seen before. A normal approach for an amp is to give the preamp various channels (clean, crunch, lead, etc.), while there is no choice in the power stage. The choice of power valves is (almost) always fixed (6L6, 6V6, EL34, etc.) and most of the time it is impossible to change them. In the Palmer Drei, the situation is reversed: there are only two possibilities for the preamp (normal and treble), but downstream, the Palmer Drei is fitted with three different power stages, each of which can be adjusted individually. Thus we find ourselves in the presence of an amp fitted with EL84 valves (typical for Vox), a second fitted with 6V6s (hello the Fender Champs!), and a third fitted with 6L6s (Fender again, but this time the Twins!) We’re really curious to see what effect that’s going to have in terms of the sound! Appearance From the point of view of appearance, the Palmer Drei is a prime example of the sort of thing you either love or hate. Personally, I don’t think this amp will ever win a beauty contest. But there are probably also people who like this kind of look. Instruction manual The dual-language instruction manual (English and German) comes with a leather cover. It provides all the information needed to be able to get started using the amp very quickly. There’s a very clear overview of the various functions, of the origin of the three power stages, etc.
Case So the Palmer Drei is no beauty – but that doesn’t stop it being very well built. The metal case is undoubtedly capable of taking a few knocks without flinching. This amp consists of different parts: first of all, a chassis (the grey lower part) onto which all the electronics are fixed. Then over this chassis is fitted the black metal cover, whose job it is to protect everything properly. The company has thought of lots of details! It has provided various grilles and openings for ventilating the valves. At the rear, there’s also a little flap that opens for quick access to the valves. Very handy if a valve should blow: no need to dismantle the whole thing! As for the rest, all the components, rotary knobs, switches, and handles are well-placed and firmly fixed. And it’s all built like a German tank! Finish And the attention to detail continues here too! All the components are well fitted and we really can’t catch Palmer out with even the smallest defect. The colour coating is perfectly applied, there are no unwanted traces of residues of adhesive or other substance, etc. What does strike you immediately is that the company has chosen to have all the control panel markings in German… it takes a bit of getting used to at first!
Connections In this area, the Palmer Drei remains faithful to the basic principle of compact amps: we are entitled to just a single connection for the guitar and a number of speaker outputs, in this instance, three: 4, 8, and 16 ohms. And that’s the lot! No FX loop, no tuner output, nothing else! Control panel The control panel too remains very simple, although the markings in German already mentioned are doubtless a drawback for some people. We’ll start with the gain (saturation) adjustment for the two preamps. Each of these – one normal, one top boost – has a separate gain control. Then we come to the button marked ‘Klang’, which is none other than the overall tone adjustment for both preamps. And then we come to the three big rotary knobs, each adjusting the volume of one of the ‘Endstufen’, i.e. the power output stages. FX The Palmer Drei does not include the least effect, not even reverb! Now here’s an amp for real men… er… I mean to say, for real guitarists!
Architecture Even though the German markings may be a little disconcerting, the structure of the layout is very simple: so from left to right we find successively the gain adjustment for the ‘normal’ channel, the same for the ‘top boost’ channel, the tone adjustment, and lastly the three adjustments for each of the power stages. Easy, isn’t it? The connections too are very easy to find: the guitar input is on the control panel, while the speaker outputs are on the back panel… where they always are! Use The instruction manual explains briefly the easiest way to work with the Palmer Drei. It suggests starting with the tone knob in the centre; then to set one of the power stages at full; then to adjust one of the two gain adjustments cautiously. Starting from this basic sound, you can then fill out the sound by using more than one power stage and/or preamp. It really isn’t difficult: you just have to turn the knobs! However, getting to know the characteristics of the different power stages may take a certain time.
Sound It looks like it’s not going to be easy to describe the sound of this Palmer Drei! This amp is trying to be the equivalent of three amps at once, and this doesn’t make the task any easier! Let’s start with a simple test: we set the gain for both the normal and top-boost channels to one third, then we move on to the power stages. It immediately becomes apparent that Palmer has tested its concept right down to the tiniest detail! For the difference in sound between the three power stages is really enormous! Never before have we had the opportunity to change so rapidly from a very brilliant sound straight afterwards to a rather darker, more powerful sound. And these differences don’t come from equalization: each section of the sound spectrum reacts differently from one power stage to another. When we push the preamps a bit more, we see, without the slightest doubt, that Palmer are continuing to go for the single-ended amp: the saturated sounds are rough (especially if there is a lot of distortion), punchy, and pure. Which is both an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time… Some guitarists will find these are the best sounds possible, and they will always use the organic and slightly uncontrollable character of these sounds as a reference. Conversely, other guitarists will far prefer the controls that enable a modern amp to build very ‘finished’ sounds, that let them go right down to the tiniest details. Up to you to choose which category you belong to! Metal enthusiasts won’t be very happy in terms of gain, but for amp connoisseurs, even enthusiasts, the Palmer Drei represents a huge playing field… in a small package! The most staggering thing is not to see how each channel sounds individually (even though each of them has something to impress in itself) – what’s really astounding is when they’re working together! Combining different power stages had never before been made so easy and so effective. You can mix a clear sound with another, slightly saturated, to obtain a powerful yet well-defined sound; or you can wind everything up to max and rock at full pelt. The possibilities are practically unlimited. The combined power of the three power stages is 15 watts – and that comes over markedly louder than one might imagine. For home use, the level is already too high, as most of the Palmer Drei’s sound qualities are found in its power stages – meaning you need to be able to turn them all the way up! Once you reduce their volume, you also noticeably limit the options in terms of distortion. For on-stage use, the Palmer Drei is rather limited. At least, for guitarists used to playing via several channels. On the other hand, purists who have already been playing for a long time on a single-channel amp are certainly going to like the Palmer Drei. So we can predict that the Palmer Drei is going to be most at home in the studio, where all the possibilities, sounds, and functions can be adjusted calmly. But wherever you use it, you won’t be disappointed by the possibilities this amp offers!
In short, nothing but praise, we feel like saying… But then what about the price? Well, even the price too is satisfactory! The Palmer Drei comes in at € 1,100 (recommended price). In terms of the concept, the construction, and the ergonomics, there’s nothing to worry about: this amp exudes quality! In terms of sound, your satisfaction will depend on what you consider to be your cup of tea. But if you’re on the right wavelength, then you shouldn’t hesitate: it’s simply the best! The possibilities can also be looked at from two different angles: on the one hand, the Palmer Drei offers you functions and possibilities not found in a single other amp. on the other hand, certain functions that these days are regarded as taken for granted, like equalization, reverb, etc. are absent, or only present to a limited extent
This Palmer Drei amp is a piece of equipment in a class of its own. This amp is the result of a special approach, getting clear away from the beaten track. In any event, here is one of those rare devices where modern technology is employed for amplifying sound with a vintage approach. With this Palmer, you can see for yourself that a conventional single-ended amp has a fantastic sound. And you see it not once, but three times with the same amp!
• outstanding sounds!
• original concept
• three amps in a single case
• solid construction
• German markings are a bit disconcerting
Full product details available on:http://www.palmer-germany.com/mi/en/DREI-Triple-Single-Ended-Amplifier-PDREI.htm
For the test report, refer to the file http://www.meetmusic.com/fr/archivedetail.asp?id=1518&subrubriek=1
Source: www.meetmusic.com, Belgium, December 2011.