REVIEW: Krank Krankenstein +


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 ALIVE!

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 +.

LINK: Krank

Here’s a NAMM demo video of the Krankenstein + and Revolution + from Premier Guitar’s excellent YouTube channel:

NEWS: Prototype Krank head on eBay


An original 100 watt Krank prototype amp head is listed on eBay at the moment, and visually it’s waaaaaaaay different to the killer Krank amps we know and love today.

Here’s an excerpt from the listing:

Lead channel provides tons of gain with Bass Treb, mid, presence and sweep and sounds similar to a JCM 800 with mods, Bogner or other vintage style botique amp. It also cleans up a bit if you back off on the gain and your playing.

Clean channel is similar to a older Fender with Bass and treb controls and a push pull bright switch.

2 Channel (standard 1/4 inch footswitch)

Built to last a long time ! Works and sounds great with no issues.

4 6CA7EH Power Tubes

Switchable impedance 4 8 16

This is a cool 100W 2 channel Guitar head that sounds great. If you like boutique style amps like Bogners, Soldanos and other names you will love the unique yet versatile sound of the lead channel on this amp. Rhythm channel is very clean and is similar to a Fender amp.

It was recently serviced by Tony Dow of KRANK and has a clean bill of heath.

This was one of the first Krank amplifiers and was hand built by Tony Dow about 10 years ago. The box (cabinet) is actually a Marshall JCM 800 2203 dummy that Tony got from George Lynch.

Sounds cool, huh?

CLICK HERE to see the amp on eBay.

CLICK HERE for my review of the Krank Revolution +

CLICK HERE for my review of the KRANK Rev SST

REVIEW: Krank Rev SST

After seeing my Krank Revolution Plus review one of my Twitter buddies, Brendan, asked if I had played the Krank Rev SST amp head, and how it compares to the Revolution Plus. As luck would have it I’ve reviewed them both for Mixdown, so here’s my review. If you look close you can see the Rev SST in the background of my Bogner Alchemist demo video. So here’s the review.

Krank Rev SST
Recently I reviewed the Krank Revolution Plus, a great amp geared towards more open, midrangy tones than the similarly-appointed Krankenstein Dimebag Darrell signature model. The Rev SST takes a version of the tube preamp section from the Revolution and pairs it with a 200 watt solid state mosfet power amp.

REV REV REV
The Revolution has two channels, ‘Krank’ and ‘Kleen.’ Krank has a 3 band EQ (treble, midrange and bass), two footswitchable master volumes and a parametric sweep control which swings between treble/bass emphasis and midrange emphasis. The Kleen channel has a similar 3 band EQ and a volume control. Around the back is an active effects loop with level control and on/off switch, a footswitch jack, two 4 ohm speaker jacks, and a world voltage selector. It’s also worth noting that because the power section is solid state – using the same technology you find in car stereo power amps (think about that next time you’re stopped at the lights next to some dude cranking his stereo up to 11 and rattling your teeth, and you’ll get an idea of the clean power of this amp), the Rev SST is a lot lighter than its tube-driven older brother. Anyone who’s had to heft a heavy tube amp out of the car and up a few flights of stairs will know that this is a good, good thing.

SOMEBODY’S KRANKY
While the Revolution Plus has a lot of punch and power amp grind courtesy of its 6550 power amp tubes, the Rev SST shifts the emphasis towards smooth, warm compression. I plugged in my Ibanez RG7420 with a Dimarzio Tone Zone humbucker in the bridge, selected the Krank channel, and set everything to 5 as a starting point. With a little tweaking of the sweep control, the sound reminded me of Dream Theater’s ‘Images And Words’ album or Faith No More’s ‘Album Of The Year’ – that smooth, warm distortion which translates complex chords well and evens out the dynamics which, let’s face it, allows you to cheat a little bit and be slightly more relaxed with your picking because the tone is not reliant on the push of power tubes. Winding the sweep control one way emphasised the highs and lows while shifting focus away from the mids, and I couldn’t resist blasting a few Strapping Young Lad riffs. Twisting the Sweep control the other way emphasises the mids while rounding off the treble and softening the bass, which makes it great for Satriani style lead tones, especially when you throw some chorus and delay in the effects loop.

The Kleen channel is extremely polite, with no way of driving it to overdrive. This makes it perfect for those clean Metallica or Slayer tones, and it’s also a great platform for using effect pedals because the amp reproduces them faithfully, without colouring them with its own gain. I tried my Boss DS-1 distortion and my MXR Custom Audio Electronics Boost/OD. The rattiness of the Boss and the smoothness of the MXR were both there in abundance. Clean effects such as my MXR EVH Phase 90 were very clear, almost hi-fi.

THE BOTTOM LINE
The tube-driven Revolution is a great amp but may not be for extreme metal players because its power amp grind makes it more of a rock or old-school metal weapon, yet its preamp sounds great at lower levels before power amp distortion kicks in. The solid state Revolution SST taps into that sound while allowing you to crank it without colouring it, and I can see it gaining a lot of fans in the metal and prog communities.

CLICK HERE to buy Krank Rev SST 200W Hybrid Guitar Amp Head from Musician’s Friend for $899.


CLICK HERE for the matching 4×12 Guitar Extension Cabinet Straight for $649.

REVIEW: Krank Revolution + amp

The Krank Revolution + has a lot in common with the Dimebag Darrell signature model, the Krankenstein – after all, Dime was swayed over to Krank by the Revolution, and it was this amp that he used as the basis for his own model. While the Krankenstein is a savage, mega-high-gain beast fit for the metal mayhem created by Darrell, the Revolution is a more versatile creature, designed to be many things to many players, instead of the ‘two things to one player: ultra clean and mega distortion’ brief of the Krankenstein.

CLICK HERE to buy the Krank Revolution Plus on eBay.

SPEC CHECK

The Revolution + has two channels, ‘Krank’ and ‘Kleen.’ Krank has a 3 band EQ (treble, midrange and bass), two footswitchable master volumes and a parametric sweep control which shifts the focus from bass and treble-heavy metal bite to midrange-thick hard rock. The Kleen channel has a similar 3 band EQ and a volume control, as well as a Boost button which adds grit and sparkle to this otherwise spotlessly clean channel.

The ‘plus’ indicates that the Revolution + has a few changes since its first incarnation. A more powerful transformer is the first clue, creating greater grunt and headroom. Gone are the original 5881 power valves, and in their place are four Sovtek 6550 valves, which are often used in valve bass amplifiers for their tight low end response, clear highs, and high headroom. Their use here skews the Revolution +’s gain generation ratio further towards ‘preamp distortion’ than’ power amp distortion.’ You will still get some colouration at higher master volume levels, but the amp is more likely to sound similar whether it’s at bedroom or stadium volume level. This also means the line out will give a more accurate representation of the amp’s sound than some other amps, because the power amp has less influence on the overall tone.

REVOLUTION CALLING

Normally with an amp like this I would go for the throat on the high gain channel straight out of the gate. I guess today I was feeling a bit more low-key, because I started with the Kleen channel using my Ibanez UV777BK 7-string. I was immediately impressed by the clarity and headroom of the channel, and it was ideal for those Metallica ‘One’ clean tones, especially Kirk’s clean solo tone on the intro. Hitting the Boost button immediately smacked me back into the world of guitar dirt, though. This is like a magic button which makes the amp and guitar seem to speak to each other as if they’re a single instrument. The high end was now sharp and angry, and the bass was punchy and tough. The midrange had just the right level of grind, and this channel will satisfy blues and country players as well as metal players who need a clean sound, but not TOO clean.

The Krank channel can cover a huge range of distortion tones, from classic rock to thrashy firestorm, but I pretty quickly zoned in on an almost identical facsimile of the Queensryche ‘Operation:Mindcrime’ rhythm guitar tone, one of my personal favourite rock sounds.

NOW THAT’S A PLUS

If I had to choose between the Krankenstein + and the Revolution +, I’d say ‘Viva la Revolution!’ While Dime’s amp does what it does extremely well, the Revolution just does more, and is more adaptable to individual playing styles. Its ability to handle a wide range of gain levels and to excel at each of them makes this a pretty exciting amp to play through, and one of my favourites of the last few years.

SPECS:

2 switchable channels – Kleen and Krank
Exclusive EQ sweep control on the Krank channel
Separate volume and 3-band EQs per channel
2 footswitchable Master Volume controls on the Krank channel
Master Presence control for both channels
4 – Premium Electro Harmonix 12AX7 preamp tubes
4 – Premium Sovtek 6550 power tubes
Line out
4, 8, and 16-ohm speaker output impedance selector Series effects loop