2013 Friedman Pink Taco 20 watt head + Pink Taco 1 x 12 cab


This is the 'lunchbox' version of Friedman's Brown Eye Amp which is the ultimate Marshall Plexi style amp - a 20 watt head that comes standard with EL84s, point to point wiring and a metro FX Loop. A classic rock gain monster…
Friedman Pink Taco: $1399
Controls: Bass, Middle, Treble, Master, Gain
Features: FX Loop, 8 & 16 ohm output
Tubes: ARS/Tung Sol 2 x EL84, 3 x ECC83 (ecc81 replaced first preamp position in this review)

What is the Pink Taco? Well, it's basically a 20w Plexi that's capable of getting about the same amount of gain as a JCM800, but at much lower volumes. It's 20w, but through an open back 1x12, it's still very loud and plenty of low end. It's a gigable amp because we're talking 20 Marshall watts here.

HEADROOM: With single coils, a very clean sound can be dialed in and controlled with picking dynamics until it's cranked about 2/3 way, then you have to start rolling back on the guitar vol. With humbuckers, you can get a fairly pristine clean up until about 1/4 volume. There's basically almost no headroom with vintage output humbuckers. Working the volume knob on a humbucker guitar cleans it up fairly well, but you have to use picking dynamics and the volume knob carefully to keep a loud clean.

GAIN: The gain knob has a very nice taper. About 3/4 of maximum gain, it starts to get a bit fizzy. It definitely has an authentic Marshall flavor. It's a seriously good amp. The gain is clear and not muddy at all. Maximum gain can be a bit fizzy, and add too much mids and it starts to sound a bit nasally, but I think that's normal for most amps that are maxed out.

TIGHTNESS: It's about as tight as a JVM, feels tighter and a bit unforgiving. It will expose your technique. It's tight enough for thrash when using a bit of pedal overdrive.

CONTROLS: The controls are very responsive and a small adjustment is audible. The mid control is fantastic as you can go from a complete mid scoop to a mid-heavy sound. I haven't quite figured out the interaction of the controls, but it seems like a careful increase of the bass and a little rollback of the treble controls allows you to dial in a bit more low mids.

PRESENCE: The amp is fairly bright given that it's basically a Marshall, but operates with the treble at 12:00 without very comfortably. The presence can be tamed with the treble control so you can get a very smooth, warm sound without losing a lot of clarity. Raising the treble above 12:00 seems to affect the bass and mid controls a little bit, but I haven't definitively figured out how it works.

CONTROLS: The controls are very responsive and all have an ideal sweep from zero to 10.

TUBE REPLACEMENTS: The amp came with ARS Tung Sols, but I experimented with JJ EL84's, ECC83, and ECC81. I left an ECC81 in the first preamp position and think that it's the ideal tube for that position. It does lose some gain, but the amp gains headroom and a little softer treble. Well, the amp is not harsh at all, but the Tung Sols do seem to have a bit more treble edge. There was not any audible difference in bass response and mids. I want to say that the JJ ECC81 is marginally warmer than the Tung Sols. The ECC81 did not seem to affect the amp volume.

JJ EL84's did not reduce or increase the amp volume either. They are marginally clearer and less compressed than the Tung Sols, but also a bit less detailed. The differences are extremely subtle and not really noticeable until the amp is at a very loud level. Preamp tube replacements had a more dramatic effect on the tone.

Overall, I liked Tun Sols for power tubes and preamp positions 2 & 3, but the JJECC81 for preamp position 1.

Also, considering that this amp is EL84 based, it really nails the plexi thing so much that you don't even think about it being an EL84 amp. It sounds more like an EL34 amp than any EL84 amp that I can think of.

PEDALS & FX Loop: I prefer to set the amp no more than 3/4 gain when using with an overdrive pedal because beyond 3/4 gain, it can get a bit fizzy. The amp doesn't give up the most awesome high gain sounds because it's optimized for up to a very nice lead saturation. I was unable to get a good thrash sound with overdrives. For thrash, a distortion pedal is necessary. I was able to get a good thrash tone by setting the amp fairly clean in front of the distortion pedal. The amp is tight enough to handle it.

For low gain and mid gain sounds, the Pink Taco does an outstanding job. I'm not much of an SRV player, but with a clean boost from my TS808, I was able to get the best SRV tone I have ever been able to dial in. With some careful dialing, you can get a very, very nice, completely clean jazz tone even with humbuckers. The cleans are jangly and shimmering. It's a more versatile amp with the ECC81.

The FX loop allowed me to use my Line6 M9 and get awesome reverb and modulation effects, but the front of the amp does a great job of taking pedal effects.

THE AUDIO SAMPLE: I whipped up a quick audio sample of the Pink Taco at a volume that is almost too loud for bedroom use. It's not a professional quality recording, but I don't have the time to carefully adjust mic position, settings, audio editing, etc... However, I like recordings like these because it lets you know how an amp sounds in the hands of an average player. Professional players make everything sound great so this may or may not be worth something to you.

GEAR USED: G&L Legacy w/JB bridge & YJM neck (a pickup I hate), Sennheiser E609 mic, Maxon TBO9 for lead track, Eminence Man'o'War speaker. (#1688)

Fretted Americana

Fretted Americana

21 Years
Fretted Americana
David Brass
Calabasas, CA
5:43 PM
10:00 am to 6:00 pm

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