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Audio Kitchen Big Chopper Tube Amp Head, UK-Made w/ EL84, Ed O'Brien Reverb Upgrade


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Up for sale, an Audio Kitchen Big Chopper tube amp head in near mint condition and in perfect working order. This follow-up to the AC30-inspired Little Chopper was designed to produce the same rich, creamy rock tones at a much higher output. However, Audio Kitchen is quick to note, “the Big Chopper is more than merely a ‘louder version.’ With more bottom end and a substantial output it explores an even broader spectral field.” That flexibility and top-notch tone has found fans in guitarists like Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and frequent Butch Vig collaborator/engineer James Brown, who has gone on record as saying that the Big Chopper has “the best clean sound of any amp he’s recorded.”

This particular Big Chopper features the tube-driven Reverb upgrade, identical to the circuitry in the amp made for Radiohead's Ed O'Brien, at a cost of over $500 beyond the Big Chopper's base price. Engaged through an On/Off switch on Channel 1, there are a pair of available tonal settings: one is a flat/even reverb setting, the other a darker, deeper tone. When the Reverb switch is engaged, Channel 2 is converted into a reverb return, and the Baxandall-style EQ is used to provide some sonic flexibility. The Gain knob becomes an overall wet/dry level control, and the Tops knob becomes a noise/degradation control which, when utilized in tandem with the darker setting, can produce some truly warped and wonderfully dirty effects.

At 27 watts, the Big Chopper is focused more on tone than just sheer power, and features a versatile two-input design in tandem with a single-ended output stage (utilizing four cathode-biased EL84s, cooled by two fans) to produce a full, rich sound which Audio Kitchen likens to “four very good singers chanting in unison - a thickening of the tone without any mushing out, and no canceling of the ‘84s lovely even-order harmonics.” The first channel essentially functions as a Little Chopper head, with the addition of a Hi-Lo Gain toggle, while the second channel features a stripped-down EQ setup akin to Ampeg's Baxandall design, meant to ensure true tonal balance.

The unique feature of the Chopper amp range is their ability to break up at any volume thanks to the inclusion of the Power knob, which simultaneously increases or decreases volume and headroom. By using the Gain and Power knobs in conjunction, a wide range of wonderfully dirty sounds are available alongside the neutral clean tones. The Reverb effect is also a welcome addition on this amp, tube-driven and providing plenty of splash and dimension for everything from a bit of slap to bell-like, ethereal textures.

The controls are as follows (the Power knob functions on both channels):

Channel 1: Gain, Bottom, Middle, Tops, and Stack knobs, as well as Brite and Hi/Lo gain switches

Channel 2: Gain, Bottom, and Tops knobs, as well as the Brite and Hi/Lo gain switches.

The amp supports 4, 8, and 16 ohm speaker loads, and can drive more than one cabinet thanks to the paralleled Speaker Output jacks. There’s also a 15W/30W selector switch which allows the user to switch between utilization of 2 or 4 of the EL84s. The tube complement includes a matched quartet of JJ EL84 power tubes, and preamp tubes from the likes of JJ and Mullard.

The amp features two-tone dark blue and gray tolex framed by silver piping, with spring-loaded handles, nickel corners, and a near mint faceplate with black chicken head knobs.