Powered by four EL84s, and sporting tremolo, reverb, and selectable tone controls circuits, the Bad Cat Trem Cat draws from its Vox and Matchless origins, while adding some hip new tricks all its own. Painstakingly hand-crafted to stand up to years of hard service, the Trem Cat offers an impressive range of Vox-vibed tones and textures that are further enhanced by its great-sounding tremolo and reverb.
As with the earliest Vox AC30s, the Trem Cat’s first preamp stage is designed around an EF86 pentode tube. With its great headroom, incredible gain, and lively response, the EF86 establishes the amp’s initial tone, texture, and dynamic response. But here’s where it gets interesting: While the Trem Cat is functionally a single-channel amp, it features two switchable tone control circuits. The knob labeled Tone is actually a 5-position rotary switch that inserts different value capacitors to vary the low-end roll-off frequency. The second tone circuit–which is driven by a 12AX7 and offers Bass and Treble controls is similar to the Top Boost circuit initially added to the rear panel of early Vox AC30/6 amps. A rotary Select switch lets you reconfigure the preamp’s circuitry in four different ways. In positions two or three, you can use either the 5-position Tone control or the “Top Boost” circuit’s Bass and Treble controls. For the most tone-shaping potential, position four combines the two circuits (with the Tone control preceding the 12AX7 and Bass and Treble controls). And for the shortest signal path, position one bypasses both tone control circuits. The Vox AC30-style Cut control adjusts the output stage’s high frequency response, and the post-phase inverter “cross-feed-style” Master volume allows the phase inverter tube to be overdriven by the preamp. An In/Out switch adjacent to the Master disconnects the Master volume pot from the circuit. The Trem Cat’s tube-driven tremolo circuit (which modulates the output tube grids) offers controls for Speed and Depth. An unusual Hi/Lo switch enables the circuit cover a very wide range of tremolo speeds. The 3-spring Accutronics reverb tank is driven by a 12AX7, and another 12AX7 serves as the reverb recovery tube. Both the Tremolo and Reverb are footswitchable.
Our test amp came dressed for the party sporting mother-of-bowling-ball vinyl that complemented its silver-sparkle grille-cloth, gold piping, and illuminated cat’s-eye logo (Bad Cat offers a wide variety of covering and grille-cloth choices.) But while the Cat’s exterior is truly striking, hardcore amp geeks are sure to lust after the industrial art hidden inside.
Built using the same vintage-style point-to-point wiring techniques that were resurrected by Matchless founders Mark Sampson and Rick Perrotta (who were also instrumental in Bad Cat’s start-up), the Trem Cat flaunts carefully braided and sutured wire harnesses, expensive carbon-comp resistors, and proprietary coupling capacitors. This type of “board-less” point-to-point wiring is extremely time consuming, as each component lead has to be carefully wrapped around the eye of its terminal lug to ensure an extremely secure and vibration-proof connection.
Like most EL84-powered amps, the Trem Cat loves guitars with single coil pickups. Its distinctive chime, complexity, and expansive dimension were never less than astounding–especially impressive was its miraculous ability to transform an otherwise ordinary-sounding Strat copy into a vividly hued fountain of tone. Tele bridge pickups also rang with an incredibly lively resonance that was enhanced by the amp’s clucky punch and highly touch-sensitive dynamic response. Tests with several humbucking-equipped Gibson and PRS guitars showed how easily the TremCat could be tailored to wail with fatter-sounding guitars, too.
While the Trem Cat demonstrated its compatibility with a variety of guitars, it also proved capable of a wide range of tones and textures. Its effective Master volume allows it to cover everything from deeply burnished jazz to crunchy overdrive and beyond. Rockers will dig its broad and malleable palette of fresh-sounding distortion tones–the TremCat is a great choice if you’re looking for that special tone to bring a modern rock track to life. And, if you dig tremolo, you’re going to love the Cat’s lusciously rotund throb. Its reverb is exceptional too, as it sounds warm, deep, and rich, without a trace of top-end splatter or sproing.
While its circuitry is rooted in the classic designs of the past, the Trem Cat brings a new level of flexibility and refinement to those time-tested platforms. Its tones are never less than outstanding, and when you consider its impressive sounding tremolo and reverb, it quickly becomes clear that this amp has few rivals. An exceptional amplifier that sets an extremely high standard for tube-powered 1×12 combos, the Trem Cat absolutely deserves an Editors Pick award.
Tone hounds seeking a wide range of Vox-flavored textures.
Selectable tone control circuits. Great-sounding tremolo and reverb. Beautiful, rugged construction.
No effects loop.
* Footswitchable Tremolo and Reverb
* Selectable tone control circuits
* Bypassable Master Volume control
* One Svetlana EF86 preamp tube
* Four Chinese 12AX?s
* Four Groove Tubes GTEL84S output tubes
* One Slovakian JJ GZ34 rectifier tube
* 12″ Celestion Vintage 30 speaker
* 30 watts