The Acme Varsity was another amp conceived in the cauldron of a touring rock show. While I was caring for Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie, I built the prototype by the side of the stage between soundchecks over the course of a six-week tour. As a starting point, I borrowed the tone stack from my all-time favorite Champ-type circuit, the Magnatone Varsity. This very musical single-knob tone control adds both bass and gain as you turn it up, a very different flavor from the more prevalent and conventional tone control that adds high end. I married this tone circuit to a parallel single-ended output section similar to that found in the Lulu.
Whereas the Lulu uses two 6BQ5s that are voiced differently, the Varsity uses a single EL34 for the ‘hot’ output, and a 6L6 for the ‘Warm’. The Varsity sports an Output volume control like that of the Lulu, which turns the output down but not completely off. This is intended to address a problem I have experienced with many master volumes, which can sound weak, lackluster, and jumpy and the quietest end of their range. The Varsity also features a 4, 8, and 16 ohm output selector.