Palmer Drei – Three in one bread bin amplifier – Test Report by

We see 5-watt single channel valve guitar amplifiers in a hip bread bin casing a lot more often these days. But fit one with three separate power amplifiers and you have a completely unique concept. Get to know the Palmer Drei.
The name Palmer became famous a the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s for the brand’s speaker simulators, which were often seen in the giant effects racks of guitar gods such as Eddie Van Halen. You couldn’t walk past any rack without seeing at least one or even two Palmer PDI03 speaker simulators.

Alongside speaker simulators Palmer also make guitar amplifiers. Its latest offering is the Palmer Drei, a 5-watt valve box with three separately controlled, ‘single-ended’ power amplifiers. Each output amplifier has its own type of valve, which puts three different sound characteristics at your disposal. These power amplifiers can also be fully mixed, as a result of which you can obtain all sorts of interesting sound possibilities.

Every self-respecting amplifier brand has an amplifier in its range which looks like an overgrown bread bin. So it is with the Drei: a black steel casing with rounded corners and a large leather handle on the top. On the front there are three small and three large rotary knobs, the guitar input, the two switches for power and standby and lastly a pilot lamp in a rather pleasing orange. Not only the model name of this amp is German. Even the script above the knobs, switches and even the lamp are written in that language. This emphasises the almost pre-war appearance of the Drei. The three small rotary knobs have the following functions from left to right. Normal controls the input volume of your guitar and höhen (bright) also does so but mainly affects the upper regions of the frequency range. You could compare for example to the two differently voiced inputs of a Marshall SLP. Klang (sound) controls the overall sound. we now come to the three large rotary knobs, labelled eins, zwei and drei (one, two and three). These are the master volume controls for the output amplifiers. Behind eins hides an EL84 valve, in zwei this is a 6V6S and drei is linked to a 6L6GC. As we know, each valve has its own sound characteristics, which you can mix with the others according to taste. The last tube is the GZ34 rectifier valve. The rear is equipped with a connection for the power supply and three loudspeaker outputs of 4, 8 and 16 ohms. And that’s about it for the rear.
In previous editions of Guitarist we discussed the Brunetti 059 and Egnater Renegade and Rebel, which are similar in concept with two types of output valve (which in the Brunetti you cannot mix together fully). The Drei, with its three output valve types can therefore genuinely be referred to as unique. The sound character of each output valve can be summarised as follows. EL84: very clear sounding valve with a pronounced midrange, think of a Vox AC30; 6V6: sounds quite dark, often used in blues due to the overdrive, which comes on fairly quickly as you wind up the volume; 6L6: a valve with a considerable amount of headroom, both low and high. These three sound characteristics are clearly audible when you hear the three power amps individually. More so than I had expected, which for me is a real plus point! The 6V6 in particular is unmistakable. The normal and höhen controls do what you would expect of them. If you open one or both of them fully some overdrive occurs but it is no more than an edge. This amplifier stands up at any volume; the dynamic remains reserved and actually you can draw no other conclusion than that despite its low power it is working (undistorted!) really hard. The sound is pure and faithful. The method of attack, the place where you attack: what guitar you use, is all clearly audible on the Drei. I connected a number of different overdrive pedals and the Drei also performs well with them. For the test the importer also supplied a Palmer PCAB112 speaker cabinet, which mustn’t go unmentioned due to another unique concept. The speaker used is a 12-inch Eminence FDM Maverick, in which FDM stands for ‘Flux Density Modulation’. With a large rotary knob on the back of the speaker itself you can control the interaction between the coil and the magnet.

Explained simply, you control the damping and volume of the loudspeaker, so if you want to wind up the Drei but keep the volume within limits, this 1×12 speaker cabinet is a perfect partner. You could compare the principle with a load box but one which is built into a loudspeaker. See Guitarist 240 for a test.
The appearance, which is not entirely unimportant, might not be hip and trendy, but don’t let that fool you. If you are looking for a super dynamic, pure, honest amplifier with a low power output and an entire arsenal of sound characteristics behind its rotary knobs, the Drei is an absolutely serious alternative to the established brands.

PRICE: € 1100.00
TYPE: full valve amplifier with three output amplifiers
VALVES: 3 x ECC83, 1 x EL84, 1 x 6V6, 1 x 6L6, 1 x GZ34
POWER: 5 watts
CONTROLS: normal, höhen, klang, eins, zwei, drei
CONNECTIONS: instrument input, 3 x loudspeaker outputs (4, 8, 16 ohm) CASING: steel
DIMENSIONS: 220 x 390 x 250 mm (hxbxd)
WEIGHT: 15 kg
DISTRIBUTION: Adam Hall GmbH, Neu-Anspach (D)

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Source:, Netherlands, July 2011

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