Former Matamp man Dave Green is now chief designer of Hayden's Essex-based Custom Shop, where its UK Hand Wired series amplifiers are assembled. Its newest creation, the Petite 2, is the Custom Shop's entry-level crank-up and go amp.
Drawing its inspiration from a 1950s Magnatone Starlet, the Petite 2 shares much with the old amp, such as a reverse-mounted control panel, angled cabinet and simple feature set. The original Starlet only had one control, a volume. Of course, that just won't do for the modern player, so Green set about adding a tone control.
"Simple crank-up-and-go amp designs offer unfussy and responsive tones, and at higher volumes that's what you get with the Petite."
"It simply acts as a treble cut. It's just a treble capacitor and a pot - it works in the same way as a tone control on a guitar does," he tells us. The other inclusion is a manually operated, three-way gain switch.
"In the centre low position, as far as the ECC83 circuit is concerned, it's resisted and introduces one bypass resistance capacitor in the cathode, which pushes the gain up," Green continues.
"In mid position you've one bypass cap added, and then in high mode two bypass caps are introduced, one on each stage." It goes from all-valve clean, to mild gain and then to a blues-inspired all-valve overdrive.
Internally, everything is point-to-point wired, resistors going from one place to another with just a few bits of wire - no sign of PCBs or turret tags here. It's a traditional way of building an amplifier: straightforward, old school and easy to maintain for an experienced tech.
The preamp stage features a single ECC83 with a 6V6 output valve - pumping out a princely two watts RMS - seated into a ceramic valve base to help keep heat off of the chassis.
The UK-made, twin-ported plywood cabinet houses a 12-inch Celestion G12- Greenback, with black grille cloth and gold Hayden logo.
"There are far more options with speakers when it comes to 12-inch over 10-inch, and we realise that players like to try different speakers out in their amps," says Green. "It's also a non-negative feedback amp, making it quite sensitive to variations in speaker response - that's why we went with the 12-inch Celestion G12M."
Simple crank-up-and-go amp designs often deliver unfussy and responsive tones, and at higher volumes that's what you get with the Petite. In low mode, with an old-style Tele, the Petite delivers sparkly, early fifties Fender-style cleans; plenty of snap and bite, but no muffled low-end response, thanks to the 12-inch speaker.
The mid setting unveils more hair and teeth around the midrange. Dialling down the treble response gives it extra juice and more low-end depth, but still retains a sparkly undertone that cleans up nicely with the guitar's volume control.
The high mode adds more gain still, opening up a platform for more moderate Jack White-esque, fifties-style blues tones, with plenty of rasp and cut. There's not too much feel in the volume control, however, and to create truly usable bluesy tones the volume control needs to be near full whack.
These aren't bedroom volume levels either: two watts is still loud when cranked. In fact, it's plenty loud enough for old school recordings, blues jams or even coffee shop jaunts.
The Petite 2 is a neat package for those looking for a low-wattage amp with Class A blues-style tones, point-to-point wiring and UK build-quality. The caveat is that it's not the prettiest aesthetically and is slightly over-keen in the price department when compared with what else is out there. It is UK-made, however.
If you're looking for a simple, low-wattage, hand-built valve amp with no-fuss, square-sounding old blues sounds, the Petite is an excellent place to start.