Dr Z. Amplifiers - The Carmen Ghia
Last updated 09 SEP 2004
|"... if I could only have one amp for the remainder of my playing days, it would be a Dr. Z Carmen Ghia"
Myles S Rose - Guitar Amplifier Blueprinting
The Doctor Z
Carmen Ghia -
typical of any of his
amp's finish work,
with a K&K ported
cabinet. This cab
is used so I can
swap out speakers
in about one
minute for speaker
tests and to try
with various amps.
On 9/8/04 this amp
had V1 changed from
a GT-12AX7M to an
I will report on the
results at another
V2 is a 5751 NOS
MPI and output tubes
are #6 GT-EL84S
Click on these
smaller photos for a
much larger version
of these photos
The Dr. Z Carmen Ghia is used by many as a great rock amp, but as a blues rig
it also excels. I have used this amp with humbuckers, single coils from Strats
and Teles, P-90s. I have used solid body, hollow body, and thin hollow body
guitars, all with great results.
The Carmen Ghia front end is VERY responsive to guitar controls, more so
than many other amps. Setting the volume on the amp at 10 or 11 o'clock will
yield substantial player control of tone and distortion levels with a small guitar
volume adjustment. Like a Ferrari is a "drivers car" and a minivan is a utility
vehicle, this amp is a "player's amp".
You may ask what these amps are doing here in this Dr. Z area of
my website. These are my primary Blues amps, recording rock
amps, and small club performing amps. The Dr. Z Carmen Ghia is
now a part of this setup. It is smoother than the BF Fender, and
has more headroom than the tweed deluxe (Victoria 20112T).
These amps all compliment each other.
When two amps are needed for a larger venue, such as the Carmen Ghia and the Tweed Deluxe, a
simple A/B/Y box is used. The guitar is plugged into the Fender Reverb unit, and the output of the
Fender Reverb unit plugged into the A/B/Y box. Then the outputs of the A/B/Y box are feed to each
of the two amps.
Reverb is used in some instances, although each of these amps have harmonic content that does
not need reverb. In fact, the reverb circuitry at times, will detract from the magic of the amp by
adding it's own coloration.
|Dr. Z construction does not always meet the eyes of the player or owner. Many owner's do
not take their amps apart. For those folks, here is a bit of the "inside story"
To the left - what you see here (or do not see due to
the size of the photo) is an aluminium chassis .090
thick, with full welded and ground corners (not just
tack or spot welded). There are blind nuts
everywhere. The good Doctor does not rely on self
tapping sheet metal screws. Note the output tube
plate. A really cool idea, so the output sets can be
two or four tubes using the same chassis. The
power transformer to the right, is the same one as is
used on the MAZ-38 watt amps, so if you decide to
use a GZ34, the Ghia will be a very strong "18 watt"
amp to say the least. Even with the 5Y3 I installed, it
is still louder and has more clean headroom than an
amp of this size should have, to say the least.
Note the red drop on each connection post. This is where
every single solder connection is rechecked after
assembly. Highest quality components also, add to an
amp that will last for decades. These are amps that will be
passed down to your grand kids ... some of Dr. Z's amps
from before 2000 will be referred to as the classic vintage
amps of the 20th century by some of our grand kids I'd
Click photo for larger image.
Click most photos for larger image.
To the right - flawless tolex work, super cabinet
work, inserts with machine screws that are
oversize with fitted contour washers to secure
chassis to cabinet .... no room for improvement
here. Compare this sort of workmanship and
construction to amps costing 3x higher and
even more. Frankly, I do not see how he does it.
No plastic jacks either.
To the left - a slightly better shot of the blind
nuts used. Look to the left of the transformer
screw head - one can see the blind nut used
there easier than the one below this screw.
To the left - all wire is highest grade, as are all
components. Turret board construction - the
highest level one can do. It is easy to miss here,
but there is a red dot that one can see on the
posts. EVERY solder connection is checked by
hand and visually when the amp is done, and this
red dot is the final check that this has been
done. Solder work is superb. No cold joints,
soldering done at the proper temperature, and
no traces of uncleaned flux.
These amps have a modified star ground (see
lower left), and due to the design and chassis,
are very quiet. This is one amp where one can
move wires all around, and not "wreck" the
sound or background noise of the amp. This is
NOT the case with many other PTP wired amps.
The smaller chassis and shorter wire lengths may
contribute to this, as would a clean design
without a lot of "parts" in the topology.
These are all very articulate amps that respond
to touch, and respond to subtle changes in the
guitar tone and volume controls. Think of these
amps as high performance cars in a manner of
speaking. They have a very wide usable range,
from mellow to over the top. If you are used to a
more complex amp design and have not played
one of these, you may want to try one just for the
sake of "driving" something that is a blast to take
around the track.
To the right - the power transformer behind the
rectifier. This is the same transformer used in
the 38 watt amps, and in the 38 watter, is still
very oversize to say the least. Look at a 50 watt
amp and compare, in fact, even some 100
The amp was delivered to me with a GZ34/5AR4
rectifier. It was WAY too powerful for me, and
had very fast and articulate rise times. Great for
the rocker or high gain folks, but for blues, this
was too much for me. This supplied a LOT more
plate voltage, and voltage across the entire amp
which was more than I needed. No sweat for
this power supply or the amp though. Out came
the GZ34 and in went an NOS 5Y3, and voila, a
slower rise time all around, and a nice drop in
level (about where my BF Deluxe Reverb sits in
level at 6-7 this amp does it at 11:00 or about 40%
up on it's volume control). The single tone
control is a unique design to Dr. Z, and is unlike
the designs used in any other amps to my
knowledge. It is EXTREMELY effective.
To the left - a good shot of the chassis to cabinet
machine screw and the blind nut in the chassis.
No nuts to come loose, and none of those little
sheet metal tabs clipped to the chassis as in
many other amps. Chromate dipped chassis (no
corrosion and great grounding - from the Docs
medical equipment background) - and stainless
steel blind nuts - you'll never strip these
In this shot you can also get an idea of the full
welded corners of the chassis where they are
fully welded and finish ground.
My hat is off to Dr. Z. This is his smallest and
least expensive amp. Going up their product
line scale from this point just gets more and
more impressive with each step... as far as
unique designs for many needs and purposes.
Each of the Dr. Z amps stand on their own merit,
with their unique design aspects, features, and
power ranges. There is no better Dr. Z amp than
another of his amps. They are all equally terrific,
not a dud in the product line. His first amp he
designed, is still in production. Not all that many
amp makers can make that claim. It is also
perhaps one of his most popular models also.
He is one of the folks out there whose product
line should be able to fill just about any need for
a musical task, job, or requirement.
From the Doctor Z Website:
At first glance, the Carmen Ghia looks rather, well, modest. This is why this
amp leaves so many people floored from the first note. Clean notes come out
with a warmth, complexity, and sustain like one has never heard from such a
small amp. Every note has a hugeness to it that seems far beyond an 18 watt
head. All this comes before the amp really starts to sing. As you turn the
Volume clockwise, the fun factor increases. The big clean notes get even
BIGGER than they were before. Sustain becomes as smooth and musical as
you have ever heard it. Notes seem to sing forever. This is an incredibly fun
amp, and you'll have trouble putting your guitar down. The Carmen Ghia
interacts with the player because the player can feel the power tube
This amp is becoming a favorite in recording studios around the world. It's
also a great little amp for small clubs. While many other small amps have
trouble cutting through the mix and have a rather flatulent low end, your Dr. Z
Carmen Ghia will cut through the mix, always tightly and musically.
In 2005 the Carmen Ghia may be my most used live rig with a GT-55 Large Diaphram condenser
microphone plugged into "The Brick" by GT. This rig through the house system will give one all the
clean headroom one needs set at about 10:30-11:00 and the volume rolled back a touch on a Strat or
Tele. Bring up the guitar volume and the amp gets very aggressive while keeping the overall level
close to the original level. I have written a lot on using large diaphram studio mics in the field. Some
of the greatest guitar tones of all time from the studio were done this way and now we can do this live
Click on the
logo for the
GT mic page
Click on The Brick to head to the GT page
with a full writeup and owner's guide.
This is from a piece I wrote on The Brick in use with a Carmen Ghia:
Using the amp with the volume set at about 10:30, the amp cleans up very nicely when the guitar
volume control is backed off a bit. Crank the volume and the amp is quite aggressive. In live work I mic
the amps using a large diaphram condenser mic. This how some of the great songs of the past were
recorded ... Layla (Fender Champ and Deluxe), Led Zep (a lot of 10 watt or so Supro amps), etc.
Today's larger stages and the backlines have shown in many cases that even a 30 watt amp such as a
DC-30 or AC-30 can be a bit much. Everything is now mic'd these days and the next big step for any
player is to try a great large diaphram (and thin diaphram) studio mic in live applications. The tone will
be bigger and finer than before. Make the switch away from a small diaphram dynamic mic and listen to
what happens! Your sound people will love you, moving the stuff is easier, etc. In the end your tone,
articulation, touch sensitivity, and playing will be much improved. Just moving to a large diaphram
condenser mic will yield improvement more apparent than changing amps, guitars, etc.
For live work having a good preamp for your mic is necessary. I use "THE BRICK".
So, whether I mic the Ghia or not, it is my favorite recording amp, practice amp, fun amp and
By the way, in one of the above pictures you see a lot of "Z stuff". For those that know me and have
been to my place, the Z amps are just a small fraction of the stuff I can pick from. I have a fair amount of
Marshall, Fender, GT, Mesa, Victoria, and other amps. Tweed ... brown, black, etc. I still come back to
the Ghia over and over. In a stereo rig it would have to be a Ghia and Z-28, but the Z-28 is another story
for another time.
Power Output: 18 Watts
Output Tubes: 2 - EL-84
Preamp Tubes:1-5751, 1-12ax7
Rectifier: 1 - 5Y3
Controls: Volume, Tone. What more do you need?
Configurations: Head, 1-12 Combo, 2-10 Combo.
Colors: Black. Other custom wood finishes are available.
Dimensions and Weight:
Head: 17 1/2" W, 9" H, 9 1/2" D; 18 lbs.
1-12 and 2-10 combo: 23" W, 20 1/8" H, 10" D; 47 lbs.
From the Doctor Z Website:
"Don't let the low price fool you, this hand built amp contains some of the most original designs ever
used in a guitar amp. From it's unique single tone control, which makes finding the sweet spot for any
guitar a snap, to its Conjuctive Filter and fixed DC biased phase inverter, you won't see many of these
features in other amps.
The Ghia maintains the tightest, most focused output distortion of any amp on the market. You cannot
find a better built or sounding amp for twice it's price. Maybe that's why there's no other amps in its
class being made today."