Growing up in the shadow of Fender’s legendary factory in Fullerton, California, Fred Taccone seemed destined to become an amp builder. After playing guitar in and around L.A. for many years, he found himself repairing and fine-tuning amps for his friends and many of L.A.’s top session and touring pros. As his reputation for keen-eared amp work began to grow, Taccone’s old high-school buddy, Rusty Anderson (who’s recorded and toured with everybody from Paul McCartney to Neal Diamond), encouraged him to make the leap from repairman to manufacturer. By the end of 2000, Divided by 13 amps began appearing on major recordings and tours, and the buzz about these new amps with the mysterious name quickly spread.
Taccone has created about a dozen new amp designs since his top-selling FTR 37 started the buzz seven years ago. Like most Divided by 13 amps, the 13/29 was developed in response to a client’s request for an amp that would fulfill specific requirements. This personalized “custom shop” approach has always been a key element of Taccone’s work; in most cases, the letters in the model’s name represent the initials of the person that requested the design, while the numbers represent the output power. His newest design, the EDT 13/29, was developed in response to a request from Evan D. Taubenfeld for a versatile amp capable of good clean headroom at moderate volume levels, with a reduced-power mode so it can also give it up at lower volume levels when needed.
Constructed of road-tough birch plywood, the EDT 13/29 is a moderately sized 1x12 combo. Together, the birch cabinet, Celestion Vintage 30 speaker, steel chassis and massive transformers contribute to a substantial weight of 57 pounds. The slightest cabinet buzz or rattle can be a big annoyance in a recording session, so Taccone prefers to use a solid glued-in baffle rather than a bolt-in baffle. A glued-in baffle also strengthens the cabinet, making it more durable when on the road. He adds, “I prefer the sound of a glued-in baffle. It makes the whole cabinet resonate more like a single piece—more like an acoustic guitar.”
Other extraneous noises can ruin a recording session, too, and Taccone uses shielded wire in critical areas to reduce background noise, plus he takes special precautions to eliminate radio frequency interference as well. All these fine touches point to the seriousness of Taccone’s intent to provide amps that will perform flawlessly under the most demanding conditions.
Don’t be fooled by the simple control panel—the EDT 13/29 packs a lot of hidden flexibility. The key to its versatility is its AB/A switch. While several amp companies have utilized a similar switch that changes the output tubes from fixed bias to a cathode-bias configuration, the EDT 13/29’s AB/A switch also activates a high-wattage zener diode that significantly reduces the operating voltages when set to low-power mode. In addition to reducing power and softening the dynamic response, lowering the voltage also changes the tonal balance and character, producing a thicker and richer texture.
To further expand the range of dynamic versatility, a mini-toggle damping switch is tucked away behind the rear panel. With damping engaged and the output mode switch set to AB, the 13/29 can sound clean and tight like a blackface Fender, but with sweeter top-end chime and more detailed midrange complexity, thanks to it KT66 output tubes. (Developed in the UK in the Thirties, these glorious-sounding tubes have specs similar to a 6L6 and were more commonly used in British hi-fi gear and early Marshall amps. Many amp scholars hypothesize that the KT66 was partly responsible for Clapton’s fable “Beano” tone.)
Switching to low-power mode doesn’t reduce the volume as dramatically as you might expect, but the change in headroom and dynamic response is very noticeable. With damping disengaged, the 13/29 is exceptionally touch-sensitive, responding effortlessly to the subtlest changes in pick inflection with a cushiony bounce. And thanks to the KT66’s exceptional high-end sweetness, the 13/29 can approach impressive Vox like jangle and chime, too. And you can always pull the hidden preamp boost switch for more gain, if you like.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re looking for a pro-grade amp that’s capable of a wide range of unique tones and textures, there’s nothing that quite compares to the EDT 13/29. Designed and built to the highest standards, and seasoned to perfection, the EDT 13/29 is testament that Fred Taccone has indeed found his calling.