Climax S3 Preamp

year: 1991


3 Channels
8x AEG (Telefunken) ECC83 tubes
Stereo fx loop with level control
Symmetric outputs without ground
Shielded transformers
Soft startup
Hand made in Germany

page updated: October 19th 2002

Climax S3

The Climax S3 is a preamp designed and built by the German company Sound Clinic. They repair and customizing (tube) audio and guitar gear. With this design they tried to make the best possible: all tube design, AEG branded Telefunken ECC83 tubes, highes quality materials, PIO capacitors, shielded transformers, extra wide PCB paths, closed pots, audio transformers at the outputs to prevent groundloop problems, soft startup (slowly applies voltages to the tubes), etc. etc. All channels have gain, bass, mid, treble and volume. The clean channel also has a bright switch, the crunch and lead have a boost switch.

The clean channel sounds like a mix of a Fender Twin a Hiwatt. It has a powerful EQ and can go from a a warm full bodied jazz sound to a crispy funk sound. It's very, very reactive to the guitar and shows great detail. With the gain turned all the way up, it goes into a dynamic crunch.

The Crunch channel is goes further where the clean ends. From a tight soft crunch to a high gain sound with a very brutal bite. But in all cases it sounds british and extremely dynamic. Infact it's the most unforgiven sound I've ever heard. The guitar has a major influence on your tone. The difference between my Ibanez and a great Gibson Les Paul Custom is night and day. I must say it's the first amp where I clearly hear the shortcomings of the Ibanez. It doesn't have the tone of some great guitars. So with my Ibanez the crunch channel sounds ok. But with a Les Paul Custom it's maybe the best channel I've ever heard. It's very direct, fast and has an amazing clarity. From soft crunch to full high gain sounds, it's sounds amazing and full of detail and punch. The boost function throws in a more mid and gives you even more gain and a slightly different sound.

The Lead channel has all the gain you want and sounds very transparant and direct. Fast reactions, great detail, etc. Sounds are somewhere between a good JCM800 and a Rectifier. But whatever you do, it has always an open, detailed sound. With a powerful low end and clear highs. Thanks to the high quality materials it's quite noiseless.

The are only a few of these preamps made and I can asure you it falls in the same catagory as the Bogner Fish and CAE 3+ when it comes to tone and quality. My only wish now is to get a better guitar. I like the way the Ibanez plays but this amp shows again the big difference between the Ibanez and an amazing sounding guitar. Yet with my current setup it still sounds more then good.

The preamp comes with a large footcontroller which actives the three channels, or mutes them and activates the tuner output. On the back side there are 2 mono outputs, a tuner output, stereo returns and stereo outputs with dedicated volume controlls. 2 jacks for midi switching and a 5 pin XLR connection for the footcontroller. Originally the preamp came without a rear input for guitar, but this was already added when I bought it by the previous owner. There is one small drawback, the lead channel sound is out of phase from the two other channels. This is no problem when you use the Climax on it's own. But because I use it simultaniously with the Mesa/Boogie Quad preamp  I need to reverse the phase with the help of the Digitech GSP2101. It's a commen problem when running two amps at the same time. The output of the Climax preamp goes to the FX Return R of the Digitech, which I use to mix the two signals of the preamps and the effects.

The Mesa/Boogie Quad preamp offers many different sounds, especially since you can run more then one channel at the same time. When you run them together the sound is big, fat, deep, complex, clear and full.


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2003, Tubefreak