mini-muscle is the name of the game, from the folks at ZT Amplifiers (www.ztamplifiers.com).
By Rick Allen
The Lunchbox Acoustic (pictured above) is a 200
watt two channel amplifier with ¼” and XLR mic inputs that retails at about
$400.00 and has a 6 ½” speaker and weighs 12 pounds. Right. And it spits out
Kennedy half dollars every time you plug it in. Oh yes, there’s also reverb and
dedicated gain for each channel.
The idea, you see, is to have a portable amp that
can accommodate two instruments or one instrument, usually an acoustic guitar,
and a vocal microphone in a small portable package and still be heard above the
thumpy clatter of mugs and the buzz of rehashed ballgames events down at the
local. Funny huh?
The really funny thing is that it’s all true. The
Lunchbox Acoustic does have all those features and it can make its presence
felt in a mid-size venue and sound great doing so. Tested an 80-100 seat bar
and competing with a Phillies/Reds game using a piezo equipped Larriveé OM
model and a Martin M18 with MiniFlex
2Mic system along with a low-end Behringer mic and a classic Shure SM-58 the
Lunchbox caught the crisp highs and fat lows of the Martin and the warm
mid-range of the Larriveé equally well. You have to be careful of positioning
to avoid feedback but the 3 position anti-feedback control went a long way
toward quashing that problem. Of course
you’re dealing with a fairly unidirectional sound but it doesn’t take long to
find a spot that lets you hear yourself without intrusive feedback and is
within easy reach of the topside controls.
The unit has internal/external speaker
capabilities, effects loop and headphone inputs, a 1/8″ stereo auxiliary jack a
115V to 230V switch and a detachable power cord. On its trial runs it attracted
as many compliments for its great sound as it did curious inquiries;
particularly from other musicians. Modeled after the Lunchbox for electric
guitars it is about the same height and width and about 2 ½ times the depth of
an actual school lunchbox and seems pretty study. But at that 12 lb weight and
those dimensions you aren’t likely to drop it and you’ll also be able to get
out of the riskier gigs pretty darn quick.
The Lunchbox Acoustic’s big brother is the Club and
it may be even more impressive. Can a 22-pound single 12″ speaker amp yoked to
a Telecaster cut the mustard in a serious borderline honky tonk on a Saturday
night when it’s trying to run with a full band? Or in a 350 capacity barn of a
club where sometimes even the band has to ask to have the jukebox turned down?
Let’s say that since the acquisition of the Club
two beloved amps, a long sought after bargain bought tweed Fender Blues Deville
4X10 and a faithful for almost three decades Music Man 2X12 will now be finding
new homes. Anyone who knows that amps actually get heavier as the night passes
– usually in reverse proportion to the dough and the ease of the gig – and has
to haul their own stuff in and out of the club and up and down the basement
stairs home might be willing to make more than a few compromises in exchange
for a functional 22 pound amp.
Telecasters can be serious tone freaks though and
the guitar is so versatile that finding the right amp is a perpetual quest for
some players. The Vox 130, the Music Man, the Fender Deluxe, Twin, Blues and
Hot Rod Deville and Vibrolux are among the top choices for Tele players and
each is unmatchable on its own way. But the Club handles the bluesy overdrive
and mellow jazz tones available and the country twang that a good Tele is
capable of delivering. Add a tube or overdrive pedal like the Bad Monkey used
on the Club’s test outing and the sound is smack in the middle of “nobody knows
but you and you’re not bugged by it-land.”
The amp has the reverb, input and output jacks,
effects loop, headphones, volt switching and internal/external speaker
capability the lunchbox has and it has a very cool 1950s early space age look
to it and with an average $550.00 retail sticker within buying range for most
You can take a look at all sides of both the
Lunchbox Acoustic and the Club as well as the rest of the ZT line at ZT’s product page: http://ztamplifiers.com/products. The ZT website has some demos that can
give you an idea of what the Club sounds like, and Nick Bennett of the Zut Alors
has a great clip of him playing his 25th Anniversary model
Stratocaster with his dad Richard, a highly respected Nashville session player
and a member of Mark Knopfler’s band, on pedal steel with both playing through
a ZT Lunchbox at the Zut Alors website: http://thezutalors.bandcamp.com/track/blame-waltz.
There is almost no way to hear or read about
either the Club or the Lunchbox Acoustic and not feel you are being oversold. When
you check out either in its element you are likely to think quite the opposite.