Satellite Amplifiers – Atom
Who likes great sounding, well built amplifiers? Who likes simple, straightforward, no-nonsense designs? Who likes Voxy/Plexi tones? If you answered yes to any of these questions then the Satellite Atom amplifier is for you. Adam Grimm sent me over a really cool looking silver flake tolex covered Atom head for review. I opened the box it was shipped in and was pretty stunned to see silver flake. The photos I shot do not do it justice. It is beautiful! Let’s get this into the shop and on the bench…..pronto!
On the Bench: The Satellite Atom is rated at 36 watts from a cathode biased quad of Eh-EL84 output tubes. There are two Sovtek 12AX7WB’s and a GZ34 rectifier tube. It measures 21” wide x 10” high x 8” deep and weighs in at 35lbs. A really cool feature is that the tube rectifier can be switched to a solid state diode rectifier for a different sound and feel. This is a subtle but very cool feature that we will get into later in the review. The controls consist of Volume and Tone…that’s it! Even the on/off/standby duties are handled by one switch and there is a 4, 8, 16 ohm selector switch on the back of the chassis with two parallel output jacks (no negative feedback). I love a simple layout and find that more often than not these types of designs make for a very open sounding and dynamic amplifier.
Under the hood the wiring is very clean and all the components are of high quality. At the heart of the Atom you will find a nice hefty set of Mercury Magnetics transformers with light green bell covers. On the neat, hand-wired turret board there are carbon composition resistors and Mallory 150 caps all connected with PVC insulated, solid wire. Switchcraft jacks, Alpha pots and ceramic sockets all housed in a rugged aluminum chassis. Very nicely done. Filter caps are a combination of a multi-section JJ electrolytic and Sprague which are inside the chassis.
In the Shop: For the shop test I used my all-time favorite relic Tele that I built using a Mark Jenny MJT body, Musikraft neck and Joe Barden pickups as well as my Tele-Gib with Jason Lollar Imperial humbuckers. I hooked the Atom up to a 2×12 open-back cabinet loaded with Eminence Private Jack speakers wired for 16 ohms. I could just tell by the smell of the Atom warming up that this was going to be an extensive tone party! I love that feeling you get when you are warming up an amp and wondering how it’s going to sound and feel………I really love my job.
So with my MJT Relic Tele plugged into the upper input jack, Volume set at 9 o’clock, Tone set at 2 o’clock, in tube rectifier mode I flipped from Standby to On and got ready for some action. My Barden equipped Tele through the Atom sounded awesome right from the first chord. It was meaty, chunky and juicy with lots of definition. The definition was just that….defined without being trebly or harsh. The top end was sweet and had a fair amount of chime. Note separation was excellent and there was some nice twanging going on especially if you really hit some chords and notes hard. I found myself playing a lot of Chuck Berry type of rhythm chords because it just felt so good and you could hear everything. Single note lines and double stops on the little E, B and G strings had plenty of body and balanced nicely with the D, A and big E strings. You could get many different rock type tones, blues sounds and modern country sounds similar to Brad Paisley.
Switching over to my Tele-Gib loaded with Lollar Imperials was a whole other game. I increased the Tone to about 4 o’clock to brighten up the humbuckers a bit. The Tone control gives you more tone shaping than you would think. The humbuckers really made the Atom sing. Sustain was solid and juicy and single notes had a great harmonic texture to them. Chords sounded spanky and had a nice bark to them but again there was no harshness. I could get all kinds of rock and blues tones and the atom responded very well to my Tele-Gib’s volume control. I really liked the way there was definition and clarity but there was also plenty of harmonic texture.
At this point I wanted to switch into solid state rectifier mode. With my MJT Tele loaded with Bardens the Atom had more spank and felt a little faster especially while chicken pickin. With the Tele-Gib there was also more spank and punch particularly when hitting chords really hard. This feature affects the feel and dynamics of the amp and would probably be great in the studio.
On the Gig: I took the Atom along with the 2×12 Private Jack loaded cabinet out to a gig. And in case you are wondering there is plenty of volume to do a gig with this amp. It also breaks up before it gets too loud and will clean up by using your volume control on your guitar. These are some of the first things I look for in an amp and the Atom has you covered. I brought along a few pedals as well including my BYOC TS type Overdrive pedal, Analogman Chorus, Demeter Tremulator and Maxon Analog Delay. Just a few effects in case I wanted to get fancy ;>) The Tele-Gib sounded awesome through the Atom in a larger space than my shop environment. It just seemed to be warmer, fatter and juicier without being too loud in the mix of the band and I don’t think an attenuator would even be necessary with the Atom. Although, if you wanted to play it dimed you may think about using one.
Pedals worked really well with the Atom including the BYOC Overdrive. The extra push from the BYOC drove the Atom into a thick creamy overdriven state where notes and chords hung forever and transformed into singing harmonics with ease. To my ears a TS type overdrive pedal is a good match for this amp. My Analogman Chorus sounded lush and full and with a little delay the sound was just 3D! I could get a really cool swampy blues joint going with the Tremulator and actually started to get a little hypnotized with the thick, pulsing sound.
The Atom totally rocked on the gig through the Eminence Private Jack speakers. I had no trouble at all hearing myself even with the cabinet right on the floor. Plenty of volume, clarity and just an easy playing amp.
Final Analysis: The Satellite Atom amp is excellent for Voxy/Plexi tones at a lower volume for clubs and medium size stage work. It is smooth, warm, dynamic and very cooperative on a gig. The size and weight are great and priced at just $1500.00 you can’t go wrong. By the looks of the amp inside and out you should have a trouble-free relationship with it so you can spend more time playing than maintaining or futzing. Simple, super easy to get a great sound in less than a minute and it has a nice, dynamic feel. This is the amp for rock, blues and even country players that like to keep it simple. Totally pedal friendly and the builder Adam Grimm is a great guy to deal with and fast to respond to any questions. One play and this amp will really stir up your G.A.S…….you were warned!