Dr. Z MAZ-18 NR Review
The Dr. Z MAZ-18 NR is well made and fairly priced, a solid contribution to any guitar player’s amplifier arsenal.
Dr. Z amps are somewhat of an anomaly in the world of so-called “boutique” amplifiers. They’re actually affordable, despite the fact that they’re completely hand made. The good doctor and his capable assistants have quite a few models that pay homage to classic Fender, Vox, and Marshall designs, but have their own unique stamp. One of their perennial best sellers (and Dr. Z’s personal favorite) is the MAZ 18 Jr NR model, which is a single channel master volume amp that offers a lot of tone underneath its relatively modest hood.
The MAZ 18 Jr. NR is powered by two EL84 power amp tubes, three 12AX7 preamp tunes, and a GZ34 rectifier. Available in Black, Blonde, or Red, the amp sports controls for Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass, Cut, and Master Volume. The MAZ Jr. 18 is available with or without the reverb. I opted for the non-reverb model, which also includes an effects loop as standard. It’s available in a head, 1×12, 2×10, or 2×12 format. I tested the head version with a Dr. Z 1×12 extension cabinet.
Since the MAZ is a relatively “simple” amp, I wanted to see how well the EQ controls responded. I was not disappointed. It’s hard to find a bad sound out of this amp (I couldn’t find one), and it’s in part due to how well the EQ controls affect the overall sound. For example, changing the bass control never results in a “flabby” sound and playing with the treble never sounded harsh. That’s a testimony to the common sense engineering so prevalent with Dr. Z amps.
The “cut” control is kind of hard to pin down. I think it’s best to see it as an overall EQ control. Dial in your basic sound first, and then use the cut control to either add some bite to the amp (hence the name) or roll it back to add some warmth. Either way, it’s a good sound.
The range of clean sounds is quite good on this amp. It’s not a Roland Jazz Clean sort of sound, but still very pristine. It’s a “clean with character” tone. It’s a very pedal friendly amplifier, and you can maintain the clean headroom and still get pretty loud (it’s the loudest 18 watts you’ll ever meet).
When you crank up all the volume controls, though, you can get some really nice blues tones, very musical. You’ll want an overdrive pedal for anything in the “classic rock” territory, but I tried a variety of pedals, from a Keeley modified BD-2 to a Visual Sound Jekyll and Hyde. They all sounded superb. I also tried a variety of delays and reverbs through the effects loop. No complaints there either.
I used a variety of guitars with the MAZ as well and was impressed with how the basic character of each instrument – a Tele, Strat, and Les Paul – came through the amp. You’ll have to play around with the EQ controls a bit from instrument to insrument, but that’s to be expected.
I was especially fond of the Dr. Z 1×12 cabinet, which wisely provides for both open and closed back operation. Very smart move! The Celestian V30 was an appropriate fit for the amp and the cabinet, which were both finished in blonde. This is an amp that has “future vintage” written all over it!
The final verdict? The Dr. Z MAZ 18 Jr. NR is now one of my favorite amps. As a pedal player who focuses primarily on blues and classic rock styles, I can’t find anything bad to say about this amp. It’s well made and fairly priced, a solid contribution to any guitar player’s amplifier arsenal.