Amp Review: Elmwood M90 Modena Print
Wednesday, 09 January 2008 11:39
modena_m90_triode_red.jpgBy Ken Volpe - GJD
Elmwood is a relatively new company that produces a wide range of handmade guitar amplifiers and speaker cabinets. I would like to tell you about their flagship model the M90 Modena.

At this current time there are hundreds of boutique amps and it's growing at a large rate. So what makes an amp stand apart in this flooded amp market? What comes to mind are typical characteristics like quality, features, value, and so on. But, we now live in age of "too much information" and some other factor needs to jump out for an amp to rise to the top. I feel that the M90 is one of those rare amps.
The M90 is really really fun. " Fun...so what", you say. "What does that mean?" I mean fun to the point, as in the M90 inspires you and has a real addictive quality to it. Yes, it has great features and is extremely versatile, but it makes you want to create and let loose. This amp is very responsive and forgiving at the same time. " Now, what the heck does that mean?

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I believe that guitar amps fit into 2 basic categories in terms of feel and mojo. One type is very responsive, usually a one trick pony. A responsive amp picks up the nuances of your playing and it affords the player the utmost control over their sounds and volumes from one's own hands and guitar. The other type is usually a multi channel amp with lots of tonal options that can be controlled externally. This type of amp will have a wider range of gain and give you the instant ability to alter your sounds drastically; this concept is very desirable for many players. This second type of amp is also a bit more forgiving, meaning you can get more compression and gain at a lower volume; hence one's own "hand noise" is not so obvious. There are many Pros and Cons to both schools of thought. However, that is another huge topic for another day. The M90 is one the only amps that I have played that fits into both of those worlds and that is exactly what makes it so fun.

So, let's get specific about the Elmwood. It is a 2 channel amp with gain and volume boosts for both channels. You can access those features from the 3 button footswitch, very cool. The clean channel can be used for a big wide-open chimey sound with tons of headroom. It can also be dialed in for crunchy blues or classic rock. The lead channel has loads of available gain and distortion. You can dial it in for rock, metal, fusion, or anything you can think of. Most of tones in this amp are also very useable even when you back off on your guitar's volume control. The EQ section in both channels is extremely flexible and it allows you to dial in the tone that you hear in your head.
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On the rear panel, you have a very transparent and useable EFX loop and more tonal shaping controls for the power section. The M90 has a very well thought out preamp section that uses 4 - 12AX7 tubes. The beef and fullness of the amp comes from a 90-watt power section fueled by a pair of KT88s. In terms of noise floor the amp is dead quiet. It also sounds great at just about any volume. Although, as most of you know just about any guitar amp sounds best loud.

The M90 sounds great with every guitar and every cab that I interfaced it with. My only initial gripe was that the M90 can be a bit too compressed and not focused enough to cut through at certain settings if not dialed in properly. Once I learned how to tweak it, that was not an issue. The M90 has helped me to achieve very pleasing results both live and in the studio. Because of what this amp brings to the table and the AAA rating in the fun factor category, this is an amazing amp that I'm glad it's in my amp stable.