John Grammatico has been building amps for some of music’s biggest stars for years and recently relocated to Nashville where I got the opportunity to meet him and try out many of his amps at his shop. They were all great and each had their own thing going on, whether it be tweed or dumble or trainwreck inspired. When we got around to his Steel String Singer, I was quite literally blown away. The fullness, power, and clarity of this amp can easily knock down the little pig’s brick house all while sounding smooth and refined. Low strings have a twang to them and high strings have a roundness and attack that is never piercing and always pleasant and clear. I left the shop and the sound of that amp haunted me. I’m so glad I recorded a clip of me playing it on the first day to refer back to.
I had read about some of my favorite guitarists using a Steel String Singer: Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Lindley, Eric Johnson, etc. And as soon as I played this amp, I can hear it. It’s predominantly a clean amp but unlike any other clean amp I’ve ever played because it sustains like a high gain amp. The notes bloom and change timbre as they develop, full of rich overtones that make the amp seem 3D, especially compared to other amps. Which is what I did… I took some of my favorite amps to John’s shop a few weeks later and listened and compared them, just to see if my memory of the SSS had become mythical or if I had just dreamed it and built it up bigger in my head. Soon, a room full of some of my favorite amps sounded little. The tones of them were still there and I could hear the sounds coming out of the speakers, but the SSS was just bigger and yep! 3D. It’s like seeing a high-definition TV for the first time.
Bigger is usually better, but what is really special about the amp is how it makes me feel when I’m playing it. Notes jump off the strings, not having to be pulled or coaxed. I could dig in or play soft and everything came out smoothly without any ice picks or loss of energy. I went through my SRV licks and country licks and rock licks (if I do indeed have any). It honestly felt like I found the sound I’ve been hearing in my head all these years. So, it is without hyperbole when I say that this amp is truly an incredible amp and I can happily say that it’s mine and will be for a long time.
As all of you know, I’m a die-hard Kemper user for live shows and recording and I was a bit curious to see if what I hear when playing the SSS in my room would translate to the
Kemper’s 1’s and 0’s during the profiling process. Some boutique amps don’t always profile accurately for whatever reason, but I did some test profiles and lo and behold they turned out great. The next week I was already using them as the basis for my live rigs and within another week, I had ditched my big Stage pedalboard and extra drive pedals. The profiles of the SSS and included drive pedals covered everything I needed so well that I am back to just using the Stage with most every song utilizing the SSS profiles included in this pack.
The Kemper does a really good job recreating the tones in this amp but if you ever get a chance to hear the real thing in the wild, please jump at the opportunity because it is still way cooler than even the great profiles of it. Follow Grammatico Amps on Instagram, Facebook, and the Grammatico website as well (links below).