Another little-bitty practice amp! Dean Markley K-20

As usual, I picked this little feller up on a Craigslit trade...

Dean Markley K20 practice amp, c. 1980 or close to it.
- 15 Watts RMS output at 4 Ohms
- 8" speaker (pretty stout-looking thing, too)
- One input
- Drive and Clean channels with panel rocker switch to select
- Volume, Master, Bass, Middle, Treble
- Line Out
- Headphone Jack
- Blond Tolex, black grille cloth, black cabinet corners, other hdwe.

This amp looks magnificent for its age; not a single blemish on it, just a little dirt that cleaned off nicely.

Not really as loud as some 15W amps I have, or have heard, but tone-wise, it makes up for it. I don't seem to get much effect out of the bass control, but I think that's due to the smallish cabinet surrounding the 8" speaker. It's just not going to produce much low-end, period. But it seems adequately-bottomed for what it is. The clean channel is nothing remarkable, but again, adequate. Decent highs and good midrange presence. Where it shines is on the 'drive' channel. Most transistor practice amps have abysmal OD tones, whereas this one really has a warm, soft-shouldered distortion that reminds me of a Brit tube amp, though it doesn't have quite the dynamic response. Still, at one particular range of settings on the gain knob, I can get a pretty decent dynamic response from it, i.e., staying relatively clean while playing gently, and then grunting a bit when you dig into the strings a little harder. Most other transistor amps in this category have a rather brittle, 'spitty' distortion that's really unusable. Even the Peavey 'TransTube' practice amp I have isn't this good-sounding, as it tends to suck the highs off the signal when the OD channel is engaged. On the K20, nothing is lost from the overall timbre. There's still plenty of top-end in there. As I said, really warm distortion, rather than raspy. Not a Metal tone by any means, but a great bluesy growl. Actually, it kind of has the sort of OD tone you get from a Digitech 'Bad Monkey' pedal, one of my favorites.

Build Quality:
Very well put together. Excellent Tolex covering job, and the blond color is really nice. Solid cabinet, nary a rattle or buzz, but I think it's a little smallish for the speaker. But it looks fantastic with the blond covering and everything else including the front panel in black.

Overall Impressions:
I would probably record with this amp, it's drive channel sounds so good! I like its looks and its sound, and love that warm buzz it gets on the drive channel. Really, more 'tubey' than some 'tube emulation' amps. And it's just so COOL-looking!
But hey, it's a practice amp, right? It's obviously not going to give a huge stadium-filling roar, but at least you can get a good tone and growl out of it at bedroom volumes, and that's pretty cool.

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