Bad Cat Tube Amplifiers was founded in 1999 on the basic principle Mark Sampson brought over from Matchless Amplification, to hand-craft classic circuits using superior components and materials. Many of the early Bad Cat amps made during Matchless’ brief bankruptcy period were merely rebranded Matchless circuits, some even had Matchless branded components! The DC30 became the Black Cat 30 and the Lightning became the Cub. Over the years Bad Cat’s engineers began introducing functional changes to these circuits based on input from their beta testers and touring professionals. The Black Cat was given dedicated master volumes (later updated to K-Masters) for each channel, independent reverb controls for each channel and internal channel switching among other improvements. The Cub eventually evolved into the Cub III which has the ability to toggle between a 12AX7 or EF86 in the preamp, boost for leads in either mode and like most of their amps has their patented K-Master power control circuit. They also began offering both of these models in 15w(2xEL84), 30w(4xEL84), and 40w (2xEL34) versions. Along the way they introduced a few original circuits like the Panther, Lynx, and the famed Hot Cat to their line of British flavored class A amps.
As Bad Cat continued to build a family of loyal customers they all kept asking the same question, “When are you guys going to build a Blackface amp?” After nearly a decade of building strictly British amps, Bad Cat introduced their premium quality take on a class AB blackface circuit, the Classic Deluxe 20R (shown below). This model received rave reviews from magazines and customers alike. However, due to the quality of parts and massive amount of man-hours required to wire these circuits point-to-point, they were one of the costlier blackface offerings in the boutique market.
Fast forward to 2015. Company president John Thompson began experimenting with their Classic Deluxe 20R. He added a bigger set of their custom wound transformers, fine tuned the voicing, came up with an innovative way to feed the reverb so it doesn’t suck tone and gave it dual K-Master volume controls for foot-switchable rhythm and lead levels. The results were what their beta testers deemed “The Ultimate Blackface”. Everyone who plugged into it would lose track of time as their experimented with using the gain knob and K-Master to get everything from massive cleans to “about to explode” blackface tones and everywhere in between. Bad Cat had succeeded in preserving everything enthusiasts love about the beloved AB763 circuit while simultaneously resolving the flabby bass, ice pick treble and the high noise floor that everyone loathes. The premium quality components improved headroom and produced a noticeably smoother midrange, allowing cleans to push through the edge of breakup and bloom into harmonically rich saturation. The only downside was this amp was even more expensive to produce than the previous version.
In order to bring this amp to the masses Bad Cat began experimenting with the mil-spec PCB style of construction they developed for the USA Player Series Cub 15R and Cub 40R introduced at 2016 NAMM. This method of construction uses the exact same parts as their point-to-point amps. Premium components are through-hole mounted on a triple layer PCB to reduce labor costs. Two of the industries best PCB designers and Bad Cat’s genius of an engineer were employed to design a PCB amp that was indistinguishable from the point-to-point version. Every signal path was carefully designed to preserve the PTP tone and feel and grounds were isolated to the center plane of the PCB to create an unbelievably low noise floor.
Introducing the USA Player Series Classic Pro 20R
The Classic Pro 20R is a straight forward single channel amp that offers extreme versatility. The minimalist Volume, Treble, Bass controls on the front panel make it extremely to dial in at any volume thanks to the K-Master controls. This amp also comes standard with studio grade reverb that offers more modern flexility than analog spring reverb. The back panel possesses all of Bad Cat’s standard features: effects loop, dual speaker outputs, and a 4/8/16 ohm switch. They also gave it the ability to run at 20w with a pair of 6V6 or 35w with a pair of 6L6. The superior quality, tone and features offered from this amp make it one of the best values in the boutique amplifier industry. The head version is only $1,299 and the 11 ply birch 1×12 combo featuring Bad Cat’s signature UK made Celestion speaker is only $200 more.
Check out this demo and then click on the Tonesmiths link below for specs and pics:
If you enjoyed our review and are interested in this product we would greatly appreciate the opportunity to serve you. Please visit the Tonesmiths website for specs and pricing. Note: This item qualifies for for free US shipping.
Classic Pro 20R – USA Player Series