A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I was working on a trade for a Matchless. I traded my Top Hat Club Royale and my AVRI Jaguar for a ’96 Chieftain. I really liked the Top Hat, and wasn’t really trying to get rid of it, but this trade kinda fell in my lap and I found it hard to say no. I was mostly trying to get rid of my Jaguar, and this guy asked me about the Chieftain and wanted to know if I had anything else that I could add to the trade.
I have had it for a few weeks now, and I have spent enough time with it to be able to say that I really, really like it. A lot. At first, I wasn’t so sure. The first time I dialed in a tone, it was really bright and somewhat unbalanced sounding, and it wasn’t getting along with my overdrives. I was having a hard time dialing in a tone that I was satisfied with. I swapped the preamp tubes for some lower gain Jan/Philips and Tung-Sols (I really don’t like JJ 12AX7s) and put some SED Winged =C= EL34s in the power section. That helped somewhat, but I still wasn’t totally satisfied.
I did a lot of reading on various forums, and people kept saying things like “the Chieftain is a loud amp” and “it’s meant to be played at stage volume.” The first opportunity I had to really turn it up, a lightbulb went off. As I turned the master volume up, that annoying brightness went away. As it turns out, there is a bright cap on the master volume that is intended to keep your tone bright at lower volume settings (or something like that). I may end up removing it, but I probably won’t, since this is a Mark Sampson era Matchless not that that necessarily means anything) and it might lower the potential resale value.
So anyway, with the master turned up to about 1:00 or higher, and the volume (gain) control set to 9:00 or so, The Chieftain delivers a really fat, well-balanced, albeit fairly loud clean tone. I am not very good at gear reviews because I don’t like using the familiar tone adjectives like sparkly, chimey, bell-like, creamy, woody, etc. I haven’t really delved into the natural amp overdrive, but I really love the cleans on this amp.
I have been on an amp tone quest for a long time, and I think I have hit a major milestone with the Matchless. I think I’ll hang onto this one for a while.