Gabriel Stinger amp: Vintage tones from both sides of the Atlantic
By Paul Ridden
March 23, 2011
The latest hand-made amp to come out of the Gabriel Sound Garage is big on tone, but is quite the little baby. The 7 watt Gabriel Stinger continues the eye-catching bumblebee design of other family members and has been designed to recreate the vintage tones that helped shape rock 'n' roll using a combination of a single channel volume dial, one tone control, a master volume knob and some tube switching technology. Users can choose to dial in a sixties "Brit" sound or opt for home turf with the "Yank" option, or try a combination of both. The new amp will also let you up the volume but turn down the power output thanks to the inclusion of a variable voltage regulator.
Hand-crafted by amp designer Gabi Bucataru, the new Stinger is available as an amp head – so that you can choose your own speaker cabinet – or as a combo that includes a Weber Silver Ten speaker. The striking tolex color scheme will help this baby stand out wherever you choose to show it off, and the inclusion of an EM80 tube Magic Eye VU meter on the front that pulsates as you play should keep eyes from wandering.
"The place where you really can flex the Stinger's muscle is in the studio where you can get sky high in tone Nirvana, but that doesn't rule out live gigging with gusto," Bucataru told us. "One could arguably say that it can have enough juice to cover an obnoxious drummer in a small sized club. Also depends on the speakers you are using. For instance the 10 inch Weber 10F150T speaker is a very loud speaker due to its 98 dB sensitivity. Different speakers or speaker configuration (2 x 10 or 2 x 12) will sound differently. I like the 1 x 10 because of the projection and portability. I liked the Weber Silver 10 because of its vintage tint. The Celestion Gold AlNiCo 10 inch sounded the best but it was too expensive for this package."
The amp's switchable tube selector allows the player to choose from a sixties "Brit" EL84 sound or some "Yank" 6V6 tone – or if you want the amp equivalent of international cooperation, you can even choose a melodic blend of both tubes. Volume/gain is brought in with the Rock "chicken-head" dial and EQ is controlled with one Thump dial that's said to provide a wide spectrum of sonic richness. An accent control can be used in combination with the Rock dial to tweak the amount of pre-amp gain going into the amp and both high and low impedance input jacks for your instrument complete the main panel on the front (head) or top (combo).
The cabinet for both head and combo is made from 9 ply, half inch thick Baltic birch and is built around a 2mm aluminum chassis, a combination of carbon composition, carbon oxide and metal film resistors to minimize noise so that, says Bucataru, "when the Stinger is on, you don't even know it – that's how quiet it is, not common to single ended amps."
Inside the bumblebee box, Gabriel Sound Garage has used Mallory M150 capacitors and the same Heyboer transformers used in the company's V18 and V33 amps. Completing the tube line-up is a Sovtek 5Y3 rectifier tube and a 12AX7 for the pre-amp.
Round the back, there's a passive, series wired FX loop, speaker outputs, an impedance selector to choose the speaker load and a power output dial. The latter will allow you to turn up the volume but keep the power output down, perfect for quiet rehearsal in that thin-walled apartment without needing to sacrificing your all-important tone.
The 15 x 7.5 x 8-inch (38 x 19 x 20 cm), 18 pound (8kg) Stinger head is built to order at a cost of US$995, while the 20 x 20 x 10-inch (50 x 50 x 25 cm), 37 pound (16kg) 10-inch speaker combo is priced at US$1,149.
There are some audio samples on the product page that will give you some idea of what to expect from this attractive baby boutique amp.