the early 80s Studiomaster had a firmly established market in
the growing pro audio world that rivalled many larger companies
in quality and innovation. Still relatively new, the company was
not saddled as just a mixer company which allowed freedom in perusing
other product areas.
Demand for guitars continued to grow and attention was turned
to guitar amplifiers. Apart from the few old established brands
there was little in the way of quality combos that sounded good
and were affordable.
Once the decision was taken to build a Studiomaster guitar combo
it was agreed it had to be something special and the result certainly
was. There was to be no compromise in features or sound and over
the next 9 months developed several prototypes. See INSIDE section
below for more technical info.
amplifier chassis was finished with a unique chrome front panel
housed in a polished dark wood cabinet. Finally, the name - Valve
Leadmaster or VLM for short.
When launched it was an immediate success, due not only to its
stunning looks but its sound. The tone and gain range could produce
warm, clean sounds or powerful distortion at the touch of a switch.
A number of VLMs were custom built for special customers featuring
an engraved silver identity plate.
Unfortunately, due to limited production capacity and ever more
demand for mixers and amplifiers it was decided to drop the VLM
after only two and a half years.
Today, when second hand examples come up for sale, they often
change hands for three of four times their original price.
The steel amplifier chassis measured 482mm
x 76mm (19 x 3 inches) with all the valves in board so a future
compact 60W amplifier head version could be made. A Papst D.C.
low noise fan was fitted to the rear panel to reduce heat build
up around the output stage. The power supply used a toroidal A.C.
transformer for its small size and quiet electrical and mechanical
operation, important as the VLM was used in many recording sessions.
The signal path and amplifier was to be valve (tube) as transistor
amps just don't come close to getting a good sound. ECC83/12AX7
triodes were used in the preamp and tone control stages although
the power output valves were not the usual EL34s found in British
amp designs. A pair of 6L6 beam tetrodes were used for their classic
tone and punchy mid characteristic and availability in the USA,
the primary target market. The output was 60 Watts driving the
specially selected Fane 200L (200W) Studio range speaker. A number
of 12" speakers were tried (including premium brands) during
the VLMs development but the Fane came top for tone and loudness.
5 band graphic equaliser could be switched into the signal path
expanding tonal possibilities. Four transistors were used in the
design of the graphic which was powered from a 90V supply so fairly
high volumes could be achieved before the inevitable transistor
clipping sound became a problem.
The on board spring reverb was a 16" Type 4 Accutronics (model
AB2A1B) unit selected for its superior sound over much cheaper
copies. A new and very useful feature was the effects loop as
outboard guitar effects processors were becoming popular at this
An xlr direct output socket and 4 or 8 ohm output impendence selector
switch, for extension cabinets, further enhanced the VLMs flexibility.