Traynor Custom Valve 40

We’re in an age of modeling. Not runway-waif modeling, digital-sound modeling. A broadening range of amps and pedals from the likes of Sans Amp and Line 6 promise multiple classic-amp sounds in one package.

An interesting by-product of this modeling gear is the gradual reappearance of the real amps and pedals on which the emulators are based. A real amplifier worth investigating: the Traynor Custom Valve 40, a two-channel combo amp that offers no modeling bells and whistles, but plenty of simple, straightforward power and tonal beauty. It’s a compact, proudly all-tube amp with one 12-inch Celestion speaker, in an easily toteable but surprisingly potent package, suitable for most club and recording occasions.

Traynor amps, Canadian-made and popular in the ’60s and ’70s, have a reputation as reliable workhorses, a reputation that may be in line for an upgrade. There’s something unexpectedly stylish lurking within the utilitarian and nostalgic angles of these amps. Just as the innards are dedicated to a simple task of tone-tube production, using two Sovtek 6L6B-compatible power tubes and three 12AX7WA dual triode preamp tubes, the YCV40 comes in a streamlined design, with the aviatorlike insignia on the face and the recessed “chicken beak” knobs on top for easier tweaking. The amps are made for wear, and they boast “the best warranty in the business: a two-year unlimited, transferable ‘even if you break it’ warranty.”

Of course, guitar players want a lot more than consumer confidence on their side. It’s all about the sound. Dual spring reverb, separate tone controls on each channel and a gain structure that allows for three distinct levels of the tube overdrive make the Traynor’s sound easy to manipulate. Also on the tube front, a DC-powered filament supply seems to effectively combat the hum factor endemic to tube amps.

The quite useful dual footswitch handily allows for switching between a clean tone, a midlevel crunch tone and a more extreme overdrive, all of which deliver their promise at low levels on up. Plus, a trivial yet inspired touch: the standby switch, when on, turns the red power light to yellow, saving embarrassing moments of soundless, on-stage perplexity. That’s one of the little things that make a difference when you least expect it.