Guitar Player Review - Bruno Limited Edition
10th Anniversary Reverb and Tremolo Underground 30
February 2001 - Guitar Player Magazine

Bruno 10th Anniversary Underground 30 - By Andy Ellis

This is a work of art! Designed to delight the ears and eyes, the handmade, limited-edition Bruno 10th Anniversary Underground 30 lifts a Vox AC30’s chime, purr, and crunch to new heights. Those who can handle the $4,999 price tag will not only acquire a state-of-the-art boutique tube amp—complete with lovingly tweaked circuitry and meticulous point-to-point wiring—but also a handpicked set of the finest NOS tubes available today. The amp’s builder, Tony Bruno, reckons that each 10th Anniversary head contains almost $800 worth of NOS Mullard, Amperex, and Telefunken preamp and power tubes.

Like a Vox AC30, the Anniversary is a class A, 30-watt affair powered by a quartet of EL84s. Our test head sports a zebrawood cab that is oiled and polished like fine furniture. (Alternatively, you can specify mahogany, cherry, walnut, maple, rosewood, or purple heart.) Other features include a front-panel ground switch (if you play in clubs, you’ll appreciate the accessibility); two speaker outputs; a 4, 8, and 16Ohm speaker-impedance selector; an expressive tremolo that moves from a gentle quiver to a meaty throb; and a jack for the included trem on/off pedal.

Plugging into the Anniversary’s single input links you directly to one of the most responsive spring-reverb circuits I’ve heard. Whether you want a wicked surf twang or a mellow shimmer with bell-like sustain, the reverb stage’s mix, tone, and dwell controls will deliver it with minimal fuss.

Some players may freak at the Anniversary’s lack of master volume and midrange controls, but I was able to draw a spectrum of tantalizing timbres from both single-coil and humbucker guitars. At low volume, for example, chords ring with plenty of string-to-string detail and firm, round booty, and single-tone lines jump off the fretboard with a sweet clarity. At about half-volume, the EL84s begin to groan and grind, and you feel the amp’s GZ34 tube rectifier start to sag. As you turn up the juice, the grind turns to crunch, and single notes take on a flutey sustain with distinct octave overtones. The Anniversary’s responsive preamp lets you control this gradual liquefaction using your guitar’s volume knob—a characteristic that reminds me of the late, great Matchless DC-30. While the Anniversary doesn’t offer naked aggression and explosive gain à la Soldano or VHT, it will cheerfully head in many directions—including singing Brian May, stinging early Clapton, and vibey Angelo Badalamenti.

But, make no mistake—this is a loud amp. When I tested the Anniversary with a five-piece R&B outfit, I never turned the volume knob past its halfway point (and our drummer hits hard). I drove a 2x12 Marshall cab equipped with Celestion Vintage 30s, and played a G&L ASAT fitted with Rio Grande replacement pickups. A rhythm player’s dream, the Anniversary delivered solid lows and glassy highs without a hint of muddiness or edginess. For solos, I simply turned up the guitar’s volume and rolled back the tone pot for instant Fresh Cream-era sustain. Despite the electronic differences between the power sections of an old Marshall and the Anniversary, I was struck by the similarities in headroom, articulation, and overdrive.

While most of us are as likely to own a Ferrari Testarossa as a Bruno 10th Anniversary (especially considering that only 25 of these amps will be made), the good news is that the Anniversary’s unadorned little brother—the Underground 30 (a solid winner In our Feb. `97 shootout)—is within financial reach of serious players. You don’t get the cool tremolo, exotic hardwood, or killer NOS tubes, but you do get luscious reverb, startling dynamics, atmospheric overtones, and sweet crunch. These traits simply run in the family.

This article appears with the permission from Guitar Player February 2001 issue. Copyright 2001 Miller Freeman, Inc. All rights reserved.