This past weekend I attended the Nashville Amp Expo. It was a great time checking out a bunch of new gear and chatting about guitars with some great people, including Anthony Stauffer of StevieSnacks.com. He and I spent a good amount of time speaking with Sam Timberlake, creator of the Samamp line of amps.
I first heard about Samamp through Anthony’s demo of the VAC 23 and have been curious to learn more about them ever since. Sam has developed a system of using appliance lights to lower the wattage of his amps without negatively affecting the tone like other attenuation methods. He calls this feature Variable Amplitude Clipping (VAC). By using this feature he is able to provide multiple wattage options in one amp. For example, the VAC 23 amp has the following wattage options: 3, 5, 11, 18, and 23. These power options make the amp suitable for both home hobbyists and gigging musicians.
I was really looking forward to hearing this amp in person. However, when I visited Sam’s room at the show, I saw that he has released a new model called the VAC 40 Series II, which builds upon the VAC 23. As its name implies, the VAC 40 can go up to 40 watts, but it can also go down to 4 watts. Like the VAC 23, the VAC 40 clean tone is similar to Fender amps. In addition to the clean channel, the VAC 40 adds a second, gain channel. The gain channel is really smooth. Sam has developed a foot pedal to use with the amp to switch channels that also has a configurable volume roll-back knob for use with the gain channel, so you effectively get two levels of gain out of the gain channel.
Check out Anthony’s review of the VAC 40 for a little more detail about the features of the amp. Additionally, in his review he has posted a video that I shot of him playing through the amp. Note that the video was shot using his iPhone, so the sound quality suffers a little, and I’m apparently a shaky camera operator.
I really liked the Samamp VAC 40 Series II amp. The amp is really versatile, and the features are well thought-out. If you’re looking for a hand-made boutique amp, then I recommend checking out the Samamp line of amps. The VAC 40 starts out at about $1600, so they aren’t the cheapest amps around, but they are very well-made and sound great.