One of the highlights of Summer NAMM for me this year was getting to spend some time with Alex Aguilar from Alairex. Best known for his legendary bass amplifier designs, Alex has once again turned his attention to us 6-stringers as you may remember from our recent story on the incredibly touch sensitive HALO overdrive pedal (you can have another look at that article here). Touch sensitivity seems to be a trend with Alex as he debuted the prototype of his new Alairex Select-o-drive amplifier at the show featuring remarkable touch sensitivity throughout it’s range. The model at the show was a 2×12, 3-channel combo, though the amp will eventually also be offered as a 1×12 combo and head version. The most unique thing about the amp though is that the preamp is 12ax7 tube driven, while the power section is solid-state. Alex said the idea came from the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get those great, old tubes like the venerable Sylvania 415 anymore, so he wanted to recreate that tone and feel in a bullet-proof, solid-state package. And from what I could tell from the prototype, he’s nailed it!
The amp sports the standard Clean, Crunch and Ultra channels. The Clean channel features Volume, Master, Treble and Bass controls, with both Fat and Bright switches. The Crunch channel has Gain, Master, Treble, Middle and Bass controls with a bright switch, and the Ultra channel has Gain, Master, Treble, Middle and Bass controls with a maximum saturation switch. There are also separate Reverb controls for Clean and Crunch/Ultra. The prototype had a pair of Celestion Vintage 30s inside, but Alex is planning on trying several speaker combinations before settling on the final configuration.
While trying out new gear at NAMM can be a daunting experience, I got to spend enough time with the amp while Alex spun the knobs to know that he’s on to something with this amp. It was much like the HALO pedal where you get out of it very much what you put into it. The Clean channel could be pushed into soft overdrive simply by varying your pick attack, while the Crunch and Ultra channels were articulate and could be cleaned up nicely either by picking more lightly or rolling back the volume on your guitar. And speaking of guitars, Alex’s Custom Shop Nocaster body with an absolutely perfect ’62 neck is a dream to play and allowed me to go effortlessly from chickin’ pickin’ clean to heavily saturated shred with the click of a button.
While we don’t have a definitive timeline for release of the Select-o-drive at this point, we will let you know as soon as we find out. This is an amp you definitely want to check out for yourself once it’s available!