Amp-Fix recently had the honour of carrying out a hands on appraisal, in the Amp-Fix workshop of this, the very first prototype, UK built Watkins Dominator Reissue amplifier. A recreation fully approved by the legendary Charlie Watkins. Hand built in the traditional way, right here in the UK where it was first born way back in middle of the last century. The new Dominator features a birch ply cabinet loaded with Celestion Vintage 10 speakers. The amplifier is of course all valve and hand wired with the components mounted on a traditional style turret board. The Dominator, a two channel amp with two inputs each. Channel 1 is the normal channel with Volume and a single tone control. Channel 2 the tremolo channel has Volume, Tone, plus Speed and Density controls for the tremolo. The valve complement is Rectifier EZ81 - Preamp and tremolo ECC83 / 12AX7 X 3 - Power amp EL84 X 2 Push-pull running close to class A in cathode bias, and no negative feedback loop.
Tested with both a Stratocaster and Telecaster, sorry I'm a Fender man! The first thing that struck me was the sheer volume of this baby. Ample for a small gig, retaining great tonal qualities at all volume levels. As expected the Dominator saturates nicely producing a pleasantly smooth distortion, reaching a point where it gets no louder, but compresses to stinging sustain qualities rich in harmonics. The single tone control ( one per channel) has good sweep from a bright treble to a not too boomy bass. A good tonal range from a nice bright clean Shadows sound to creamy bluesy overtones. I imagine a guitar fitted with humbucking pickups would really make the amplifier sing. There is something about EL84's that when pushed hard, for such a small valve they really do deliver.
The tremolo is among the best I have heard, good range and depth from a nice slow Duane Eddy Rebel Rouser sound to the faster Searchers sounds.
Shown here in a new livery enhancing the golden anniversary of this highly desirable Dominator, an amplifier from an era when 17 watts of power brought horror and fear to the face of many a promoter.
Watkins Dominator - A test review by Amp-Fix
Watkins, WEM, Dominator, Westminster and Clubman are registered trade marks of Watkins Electric Music Ltd.