Friedman Amplification has unveiled its newly upgraded Steve Stevens signature tube amp in an interview and video demo with the man himself. The SS-100 v2 has been mooted for some time, with Friedman announcing at NAMM 2020 that it had updated the amp for its longest-standing signature artist.
A 100-watt head, which like the original comes loaded with EL34s in the power amp stage, the SS-100 v2 has the same clean channel as before, but sports a new all-black look, with the Steve Stevens ray gun logo moving to an expanded control panel.
More importantly, it has revoiced rhythm and lead channels, making for a true three-channel platform. Dave Friedman has also added a System volume global master control and a Thump control to complement the Presence dial.
Friedman met with the Billy Idol guitarist at his home studio in Las Vegas for the segment, where they discussed the development of the amplifier, ran through its new features and what Stevens looks for from an amp, before the latter put it through its paces with one of his signature guitars from Knaggs.
“This amp is so super-versatile,” says Stevens. “The majority of sessions that I do, I just have that amp. That covers everything. It used to be I would have to go into the studio and bring different amps with me – one for soloing, and then what do you do for the cleans? Well, then, you’ve got to bring in a Vox or something. But it is pretty self-contained. If you can’t cover all the bases with this amp, I don’t know what you are looking for, honestly.”
A mini-toggle on the control panel switches channels between Clean, SS and SS+ channels – though in most playing scenarios the accompanying footswitch would make channel switching easier.
The clean channel has controls for Bass, Middle and Treble, plus a Bright switch. Stevens typically runs his cleans bright, and there is an abundance of headroom, which Stevens says makes for an excellent pedalboard platform. The SS rhythm channel and SS+ channels share a three-band EQ.
On the back panel, there is a Fat switch for thickening the gain channels, which should work well for those looking for a little more of a scooped U.S.-style amp voicing for their rhythm and lead tones. There is also an effects loop, and a rotary dial for speaker impedance.
The guitar amp we see in the video is not exactly what we’ll find in select Friedman retailers. Those multi-colored chickenhead knobs are a little something that Stevens attached after getting the amp.
“I put the goofy knobs on it,” Stevens admits. “Dave doesn’t like the goofy knobs, but… the only reason why I have multi-colored knobs on the amp is that, if I am onstage, I’m gonna turn around and, ‘Oh, I wanna bump up the gain stage on channel one,’ my eyesight ain’t what it used to be. I can just look and go, ‘Oh, it’s the green channel…’ It is very easy. It looks better with the black knobs. I’ll agree with that. It looks more deadly.”
It also sounds a little more deadly. According to Dave Friedman, there’s a little more aggression and percussiveness in the dirty channels. But ultimately, it still exists within that super-modded Plexi tone that Stevens has long been associated with.
Stevens demos it with a Knaggs SS-C loaded with Bare Knuckle pickups. Here, he is using a variation on Bare Knuckle’s PAF-style humbucker, the Mule, in which Stevens’ pickups are not wax-potted. That might make them squeal a little live but Stevens swears by them in the studio, and says this SSC Gold Top is now his number one electric guitar for recording.
Typically, his other Knaggs models are equipped with his Bareknuckle Rebel Yell signature pickups. Recently, Stevens revealed on Instagram that his live set up for Billy Idol dates featured no live cabinets, with the output from his Friedman heads going direct into Two notes Captor X units.