El Diablo has been following Chris Benson's career since 2013, when word leaked that guitarist Jessica Dobson was using a mysterious head and cab on the Shins world tour. After a bit of internet sleuthing, El Diablo traced the amp back to Chris and his small workshop in Portland, OR. Chris sent that same early Monarch prototype to us so we could hear it in person, and a love affair was born!
Fast-forward to 2016 and the secret is out! The Monarch has picked up awards from Premier Guitar (Premier Gear Award) and Guitar Player (Editor's Pick), and the orders have started pouring in.
The Monarch couldn't be simpler: Volume, Tone, and an "American"/"British" voicing toggle switch. The amp is bright and punchy, with beautiful sparkly rich cleans, and enviable touch-sensitivity. Notes seem to spring from the amp, with zero-lag.
The amp is wired using point-to-point WWII-era wiring techniques; built directly onto terminal strips that are bolted to a rugged steel enclosure, so there is no circuit board of any kind. Chris then fits the amp into a baltic birch head cabinet wrapped in cotton duck ticking which is lacquered for durability, or tolex. Speakers are loaded into dovetailed pine cabinets a-la early tweed amps for maximum resonance and character. The result is unmatched clarity, immediacy and warmth in a small package.
The Monarch is designed with no corners cut; DC filaments allow for a low noise floor, premium tubes and components are used throughout, and the stainless steel chassis is built by a metal shop just outside Portland that does contract work for Boeing and is designed to withstand extreme abuse.