Diamond Nitrox 100-Watt Guitar Head and 4x12 Cabinet
Diamond Amplification, diamondamplification.com
Head, $1,999.00; cabinet, $1,079.00
Originally published in Guitar World, November 2009
The Diamond Nitrox a no-compromise amp that makes no excuses and takes no prisoners.
In the history of amp making, the Nineties will mainly be remembered as a time when vintage circuits and aesthetics were resurrected, especially in the boutique amp community, where it seemed everybody and his plumber was making some kind of Fender tweed knockoff. As the new millennium approached, the focus in the vast amp underground shifted to modern high-gain designs, and thanks to a new breed of amp engineer, progress once again marches on.
Diamond Amplification is one of the newer companies on the block, and within a few short years it has already built up an impressive line of products as well as support from notable endorsers like producers Bob Rock and Rob Cavallo. The new Diamond Nitrox amp may be priced lower than the company’s other modern heads, like the Spec Op and Phantom, but it delivers the most aggressive high-gain personality of any amp in their line. While Diamond is offering the Nitrox for a lower price than its other amps, the company hasn’t cut back on features, construction or performance capabilities.
The Nitrox is a 100-watt, two-channel head featuring four EL34 and six 12AX7 tubes. In typical multichannel fashion, Channel 1 is described as the clean channel while Channel 2 is the crunch channel, but each delivers plenty of distortion if you want it. Both channels have controls for gain, volume, treble, middle, bass and presence, while Channel 2 adds a second set of volume and gain controls that allow you to dial in boost or solo settings that you can engage with a front-panel switch or the included footswitch controller.
Although there is no master volume control, the effect return knob performs this function if you have a jumper cable connected between the rear panel’s effect loop send and return jacks. Diamond thoughtfully includes a short patch cable for precisely this purpose. The rear panel also includes a footswitch jack for controlling switching between Channel 1 and 2 and Channel 2’s A and B volume/gain settings, a 4-/8-/16-ohm selector switch and a pair of 1/4-inch speaker outputs.
With all those tubes pumping out outrageous levels of gain, the Nitrox’s chassis can get pretty hot, but fortunately a hexagonal mesh grille allows plenty of air to flow across the chassis to keep the tubes and transformers cool. A string of red LEDs inside the Nitrox light up when the amp is on, producing a warm glow that looks like smoldering embers. It should be noted that the heavy-duty footswitch and loooong footswitch cable are first-class as well.
That attention to detail extends to the Nitrox 4x12 speaker cabinet. In addition to featuring four Celestion Vintage 30 speakers, the cabinet is wired to eight ohms with Monster Cable speaker wire. The cabinet is constructed from 11-ply Baltic birch to provide an ideal combination of strength, resonance and reasonably light weight. The grille is made from the same hexagonal-pattern steel as the head’s grille.
Most 100-watt amps are loud to begin with, but the Diamond Nitrox adds quite a few decibels to the equation. Even when using the effect return control as a master volume, the Nitrox immediately jumps to a dB level that could drive your grandmother into convulsions and kill your cats. This is not a bedroom shredder’s amp by any means but rather the kind of aural assault weapon that the Marines would use to drive Central American dictators to surrender.
Often when amps are separated into heads their clean tones become stiff and sterile. That is not the case with the Nitrox. Its clean tones have a brilliant shine and sparkling definition that even many combo designers have trouble capturing. But that’s just a teaser. As you turn up the gain, the amp starts to blossom, and rich harmonics emerge in layers. The bass sounds chunky and hefty, the midrange sings and the highs sizzle like fireworks. By the time you boost the gain up to 7, it almost sounds like three guitars are playing. And that’s just Channel 1.
The plot and tone thicken considerably in Channel 2. The overall tonal character is slightly darker, and the gain seems to pile on even more layers of harmonic detail. The tone controls cover a surprisingly wide range for passive EQ, and even “scooped mid” fanatics will have trouble turning down the mids as they’re so damn sweet sounding. And when it comes to bass, the Nitrox seems to know no limits. The Nitrox cab keeps bass frequencies exceptionally tight—no flabby, loose, flatulent overtones here. Channel 2’s outrageous gain and EQ personality may not be exactly bluesy, but the Nitrox was really designed from the ground up to be a modern, high-gain beast rather than a vintage throwback.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Diamond Nitrox a no-compromise amp that makes no excuses and takes no prisoners. If you’re looking for a modern amp with plenty of fire-breathing gain and don’t want to spend more than two grand, this is a great choice. The Nitrox has just the thing for anyone seeking tones that can annihilate or sweetly seduce at the stomp of a footswitch.
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