Review of Cornell Valve Pre-Amp -
Is it an amp? Is it a pedal? Well, actually it's a pedal amp from
bespoke valve amp maker Dennis Cornell. Michael Casswell
Dennis Cornell has built a great reputation amongst amp purists
for creating hand built, point to point hand-wired amps - amps that
have been given the seal of approval by no lesser beings than Eric
Clapton, Robin Trower, Albert Lee, Larry Carlton and Hank Marvin!
Dennis is a true craftsman and uses the best components for his
products. Nothing is mass produced in large numbers and everything
is hand built to exacting standards. So I was very curious about
the Cornell Pedal Amp, which looks like the love child of your
favourite mini boutique practice amp, and the most sought after
boutique overdrive stomp box. So what exactly is it? In fact, as
you have probably guessed, it is both of those things.
The Cornell Pedal Amp can be very useful in a few ways. Firstly
it can be a four Watt amp. The single 8 Ohm output can be connected
to a speaker cab of your choice and would be great for home
practice, recording and even for quieter live work. Four Watts
through a good speaker cab is surprisingly loud and with a decent
front of house and on-stage monitor system, you would be good to go
for general live work. It's also very cool for recording. Stick a
mic in front of your speaker cab, and this pedal will give you some
convincing vintage Fender and Vox tones at very manageable volumes.
You could certainly get some very nice pure valve tones recorded,
and then add any reverbs or delays you need in the mix, which is
the best way to do it if you are not an expert in sound
manipulation with effects.
It can also act as a fantastic true bypass boutique, valve
driven overdrive pedal, pushing the front of your amp and bringing
it alive and generally giving you more of everything. It sounds to
me that the best results would be with cleaner sounding amps than
those needing silly amounts of volume to come alive. This in front
of a plexi Marshall or vintage Fender twin would be very
cool, but I'm sure that great results can be got from most
amps out there. Obviously it would also sound great with a loud
Cornell amp! Maybe with higher gain amps, hiss and general
saturation can be a consideration, but no more than when using any
overdrive based pedal in front of an amp with gain. One very cool
feature is the ability to power other pedals with the 9 Volt out.
In a pedal board, daisy chaining power to other pedals is very
welcome. You also get a preset EQ boost on the pedal which
basically gives you more gain. Great for solo boosts and although
it's pre-set, sounds just about right.
We also have a headphone out socket, which kills all sound,
making it perfect to use when the neighbours, parents,
brothers, sisters, wife, girlfriend, dog.... just can't take your
widdling any more!
Less successful for me is the speaker simulated mixer out. The
bar is set very high nowadays for good direct feeds straight to a
desk, simulating a good mic'd-up speaker cab tone. This is was too
fizzy on the more driven tones for me, but may work for some
people. I feel it would work well for compressed clean tones
though, but on the dirt, I'm not convinced. You can draw your own
conclusions from the demo.
So generally, I think Dennis has identified a bit of a gap in
the market, because I can't think of another product out
there that does what the DC Pedal Amp does. It's not cheap,
but it is handmade, with full back up and after sales service from
Dennis Cornell. This is very much a niche product, but it does what
it does very well and for the right player (albeit one with a big
wallet) it could represent a quality buy.
Check out the full review inc. video of the Cornell Valve
Pre-Amp by Michael Casswell in Issue 12 of
Guitar Interactive Magazine (