I’m not sure what’s the coolest thing about Krank amps, exactly. Is it the metalleriffic logo? The faultlessly roadworthy construction? Or is it that these monsters are brutal enough to withstand not only the mighty picking hand of one James Hetfield, but also to stand toe to toe against the crushing metal power that is Dethklok lead guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf?
It’s probably a safe bet that the Krank name wouldn’t be quite so prevalent in the guitar world if they hadn’t secured the endorsement of the late great Dimebag Darrell, just months prior to his tragic death in 2004 (and a huge ‘screw you’ to the asshole currently burning in hell for taking Dime from us – hope you like ass-forkin’, dingus). A long time solid state amp user, Dime was so taken by the sound of the all-valve Krank Revolution that he teamed up with the company to design his own amp, the Krankenstein. That amp has undergone a few changes to become the new Krankenstein +, which takes the basic design that was formulated with Darrell, and refines it as a result of some of the lessons learned over the last few years, during which Krank went from virtually unknown to one of the most prominent amp makers in the metal world. These refinements include a larger transformer and a switch to Sovtek 6550 valves instead of the 5881 valves used in the original Krankenstein.
At the heart of the Krankenstein + is a preamp section with four 12AX7 valves. The Dime channel includes a gain control, a 3 band EQ stack (treble, midrange and bass) and a sweepable midrange control. There are two master volumes, accessed via footswitch, so you can set separate levels for rhythm and lead. Then there’s the Kleen channel, which has a simple three band EQ and a volume control. There are master volume and presence controls so once you’ve got the perfect ratio of rhythm, lead and clean levels, you can tailer the amp’s output to the size and tonal characteristics of the room.
IT’S DIME TIME
The Dime channel has a hell of a lot of gain on tap. Even with the gain set to 1, you’ll get a distortion that’s more than powerful enough for classic Judas Priest/Iron Maiden metal grind. Crank it up to 5 and you’re in death metal territory. Go up to 10 and you might never come back from the abyss. Then again, you might like it there. In fact, it’s probably best to start here. Hehe. My favourite setting was with the tone and gain controls all set around 5, more or less, and with the sweep control at about 11 o’clock, which created a tone reminiscent of John Petrucci’s sound on Dream Theater’s ‘Scenes From A Memory’ album but with the bite and presence of their ‘Train Of Thought’ album. This sound was perfect for metal, and made hard rock more intense and powerful. Of course, scooped-mid Pantera tones are easily achievable, but to write this off as a Dimebag soundalike tool is to do the Krankenstein + a great disservice.
The Kleen channel is extremely clean, and is great for those ‘This Love’ arpeggios. It’s also a perfect platform for getting the most out of distortion pedals, because this sucker will simply not distort on its own. And of course, all that sparkly cleanness and inexhaustible headroom makes it great for adding chorus, delay, reverb and maybe a little compression to get those classic metal clean tones.
STRENGTH BEYOND STRENGTH
If you need more vintage, overdrive-based sounds and fatter, rounder tones this is not the amp for you. Try the Revolution + instead (my review here). If you need gritty clean tones with bite and snarl when you dig in with the pick, you’ll be disappointed in the staunchly clean manifesto of the Kleen channel, but if you need ultra clean sounds for spooky intros, and all-out distorted mayhem for everything else, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better amp to deliver just that, and nothing but, in the Krankenstein +.
Here’s a NAMM demo video of the Krankenstein + and Revolution + from Premier Guitar’s excellent YouTube channel: