AMp Review: Carr Skylark — Bird Song

October 15th, 2014

By Chris Gill | Photo by Massimo Gammacurta

I love big, high-power stacks as much as anyone, but lately I’m more likely to play in a recording studio, small-club gig, or at home, where I simply don’t need to have an abundance of power and output volume on tap.

These days a combo amp is my best friend, and few companies out there are as devoted to the art and science of combo-amp design as Carr Amplification. Carr currently offers 10 different combo models, and the company recently released a second-generation update of its popular Skylark model.

The Skylark is a 12-watt, cathode (self) bias combo amp powered by a pair of 6V6 power-amp tubes, two 12AX7s, and two 12AT7s. It ships with a single 50-watt Celestion A-Type 12-inch speaker. The circuit is sort of a hybrid of several classic combos, combining the low-output/high-gain grind of a tweed Deluxe, the beefy midrange honk and reverb of a Deluxe Reverb, and the spanking clean headroom of a blackface Harvard. The amp also includes a built-in attenuator that allows guitarists to dial in the sweet sustain and aggressive grind of power-amp tube distortion at “civilized” volume levels.

This single-channel amp’s controls consist of volume, treble, mid, bass, reverb, and presence. Mini-toggle switches select low- or high-gain settings and turn the attenuator on or off. When the attenuator is off, the amp supplies its full 12-watt output, and when it’s on, a control allows users to adjust output between 1/100 to 1.2 watts. The EQ controls are very interactive, providing a much wider range of tones than classic passive EQ circuits while retaining natural, musical personality throughout each control’s entire range.

Whereas most 12-watt single-channel combos usually provide only a limited range of clean (albeit at low volume levels) and overdrive tones, the Skylark delivers an impressive rainbow of tones, including bold, punchy cleans with ample headroom, bluesy overdrive, classic rock crunch, and smooth, singing distorted solo tones. The reverb section provides a high-class, professional-quality sound that ranges from smooth tails that seem to fade into infinity to bouncy, drippy surf sounds.

The attenuator section makes a master volume control obsolete, as it allows the power tubes to do their magic at any volume level, from just above a whisper to studio-perfect output that won’t overdrive a mic. With the attenuator off, the Skylark’s full 12 watts provide ample output for a blues club gig.

Carr Amplifiers,