• We would like to remind our members that this is a privately owned, run and supported forum. You are here at the invitation and discretion of the owners. As such, rules and standards of conduct will be applied that help keep this forum functioning as the owners desire. These include, but are not limited to, removing content and even access to the forum.

    Please give yourself a refresher on the forum rules you agreed to follow when you signed up.

Fractal Audio AMP models: Hipower (Hiwatt DR103)

yek

Moderator
Moderator
* EDIT: Up-to-date information is available in Yek's Guide to the Fractal Audio Amplifier Models *



HIPOWER: based on Hiwatt Custom 100 DR103

People often talk about the British guitar amp tone. But is there really just “one” british sound? Nope. There’s Marshall. There’s Vox. And there’s Hiwatt. Hiwatt amps have a sound of their own, especially in combination with the famous Fane speakers. Fractal Audio’s HIPOWER models are based on Hiwatt’s flagship product: the DR103. According to Fractal Audio: “an amp with an unique tone-stack and a briljant chimey tone”.

The DR103 has a raw tone, slightly glassy and hollow, in a good way. Crank it up, and enjoy pure British power amp distortion . You want to hear a Hiwatt in its full glory? Listen to The Who’s Live At Leeds, quoted by some as the best live rock recording of all time (Pete Townsend used a CP103, based on the DR103 but a different design). And then there’s David Gilmour, the master of tone, who has played Hiwatt amps all his life.

Hiwatt (current DR103 model):

“This is the amp that started it all. The dr103 has proved itself as the cornerstone of such a huge variety of acts that has provided them all with the platform on which to build their own, unique sounds. Check out the Hiwatt users on this website for the evidence of that. The reason for that variety is that on the one hand, the amp kicks out such a pure, powerful tone that it really compliments the pedals put through it rather than competes with them like some other amps, yet on the other hand has the rich, classic ‘British’ tone which stands out so distinctively, particularly when the amp is cranked up. Dual channel pre-amp with high and low sensitivity inputs and normal and bright options on each. Volume controls for each channel and master volume control. 3 band EQ; bass, middle and treble. 4xEL34s at power stage, and either 4xECC83s or 3xECC83s and 1xECC81 (giving a tighter sound) at the preamp stage.”​

Legendary Tones:

“Hiwatt amplifiers were marketed as high-end amplifiers, and indeed their quality in construction, from use of premier Partridge transformers to exquisite attention to detail being made in the electronic wiring and assembly, quickly further enhanced Hiwatt’s reputation. Even die-hard and loyal Marshall enthusiasts would have to admit that the construction quality of early Hiwatt amplifers was vastly superior to Marshalls. The person responsible for this was Hiwatt’s Chief Technician Harry Joyce, who oversaw the construction of these amplifiers and built and signed many of them himself. Harry Joyce was a military-certified wiring technician, and as a result, all Hiwatts produced during the Harry Joyce era were produced at military-spec levels. Military specifications required that products being made be wired in such a way that components would be easily accessible and that the wiring itself would remain "clean". This was to allow for quick and efficient repairs of military equipment while "in the field". Looking inside a Hiwatt chassis, this attention to "Mil-Spec" is plainly evident. This attention to detail was also the primary reason why Hiwatt production was limited to only 40 amplifiers per month.​

The most famous Hiwatt within the line was the Custom 100 DR103 amplifier. Its 100 watts of output compared to a Marshall Super Lead is quite different to say the least. The Hiwatt DR103 is notably louder and can also run much cleaner than100 watt Marshalls when needed and they also have tremendous headroom available. Playing a Hiwatt at a loud volume is well… an experience. When I played through one for the first time (a DR103 made in 1972), all of a sudden, my Marshalls felt very "thin" in tone in comparison. Hiwatts are loud, punchy, and rich with even-ordered harmonics and I should add the politically incorrect term, "ballsy as all hell!". I can think of no better example of the epitome of clean and lush tube tone. Overdrive is certainly available when the Hiwatt is pushed, but it must be acquired by use of the higher-gain "brilliant" channel (more on this momentarily) and certainly a high-output pickup helps further. The "normal" channel is voiced to stay clean and powerful at all levels. An additional benefit to the Hiwatt DR103’s tone and design was its inclusion of tone controls that actually seemed to respond with a much wider range than other amplifiers of the time. Bass response could be bassy, mids added strong punch and a wide range of the treble and presence controls would deliver all the upper frequencies and sibilants desired.”​

Cliff:

"I have a 1974 Hiwatt DR-103. The model is based on that. It is one of the Harry Joyce, Hylight era models. Still has the original tubes. Closet find and sounds glorious."​

It’s a 100 watts amp with EL34 tubes, with Normal and Brilliant channels and four inputs. We’ve got models of each channel on its own, plus one of jumperered inputs, which means that both channels are being used at the same time.

A Hiwatt can create a great clean tone. Glassy but different from a Vox. Just listen Pink Floyd. Years ago I used the HIPOWER model for my main clean tones for some time.

If you need it to roar, crank the Master as well as the channel volume. With the real amp you’d need an attenuator, or strictly play arenas, but luckily we don’t have that problem with the models. Don’t expect this amp and models to distort a lot though.

The amp controls are: Volume, Master, Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence. Presence doesn't do a lot but it opens up the amp a little.

For clean tones I use the Jumpered model, with Treb Drive around 8, Norm Drive around 5, Presence at 3.5, Bass at 4. For dirty tones I also use the Jumpered model, with Treb Drive at 9, Norm Drive around 5, Bass at 3, Presence at 3.5 and Master at 9.

Here’s the manual (and amp schematic).

Hiwatt amps and Fane speakers go hand in hand. Click here to see which ones are available as stock cabs. OwnHammer has more of them.



 
Last edited:

Smittefar

Fractal Fanatic
I should revisit this amp - I tried it during my first amp run-through, liked it, but eventually ended up with something else.
 

DLC86

Forum Addict
Just a couple of corrections: the brilliant channel has the same gain of the normal channel, it just has a couple different caps that change the filtering at the input (basically a more pronounced low cut).
The hiwatt used by pete townsend is a cp103, quite a different model than the dr103
 

yek

Moderator
Moderator
Just a couple of corrections: the brilliant channel has the same gain of the normal channel, it just has a couple different caps that change the filtering at the input (basically a more pronounced low cut).
The hiwatt used by pete townsend is a cp103, quite a different model than the dr103
Correct on both points.
My reference to Townsend regards Hiwatt in general.
And the brilliant channel indeed does not provide more gain, memory served me wrong and I didn't verify.
OP edited.
 

bradlake

Axe-Master
WOW....this ones a real revelation...amazing clean tone, just played Sparks/Amazing Journey (and yes. live at Leeds will forever be hard to top) and I felt the soul of Townshend enter me.....
 

yek

Moderator
Moderator
Yeah, he makes nice videos.
That rhythm tone is little too muffled for my taste though.
 

retro_dad

Veteran
Man, that third video example in the OP is just glorious!! Might have to take some time tonight and play around with the Hiwatt as I've neglected it this whole time.
 

NaturalScience

Inspired
The Hiwatt jumpered amp is my go-to for pretty much everything. I use it for my hard/progressive rock band, a Pink Floyd tribute (naturally), 80's metal tribute, and sometimes use it at a counterpoint to Fender-y sounds when tracking a southern rock/country project. Works great with single coils and humbuckers.

I like the British amp sound but still could never fully get behind the Marshall preamp distortion sound. Something about it just doesn't sound good to me. I really don't even use the flavor of the Drive blocks for distortion, I set my signal path for a clean boost just to get things crunchy, then for rhythm that requires a little more grit I find the most transparent sounding drive. I find that the various levels of distortion you can get just from hitting the Hiwatt harder are really pleasing.

I seem to remember that the Hiwatts were among the last on the list to not get the G3 treatment. I wonder if they ever got upgraded, or if that even matters anymore at this point.

The ONE thing that drives me crazy is that I feel like I just can't get enough low end out of the Hiwatts using the gain approach I use. I play through a Matrix GT1000fx & 4x12 with V30s and no matter how loud I crank the power amplifier, I never get that punch in the gut feeling. I've played extensively with the Lo Res parameters but that still doesn't get me where I want to be. There are combinations of the Master Volume and Norm Drive which start to fill out the tone, but they are generally too high to be versatile for the way I like to stage the preamp gain. I may be to a point where I need to use the Amp block EQ, which I've been averse to until this point.
 

yek

Moderator
Moderator
Really? The Hipower Normal model has so much bass, I always have to dial that out.
 

Mott

Veteran
I kind of started steering away from the Hiwatt back during the G3'ing of all the amps since at the time it was not ported over, even though before that I loved using it. Would also like to know if it was ever G3'd.
 

JCBitB

Inspired
I've played extensively with the Lo Res parameters but that still doesn't get me where I want to be.
I only ask this because it's a little counter-intuitive but have you tried raising the Low Frequency? Lots of folks want deeper bass so they drop it down, or they raise the Lo Res to get more of what ever its already set at, but I have great results by sweeping the Low Frequency and often end up higher. Sweep up and down, and there's usually a point where it just comes alive
 

6stringscott

Inspired
This was my bread and butter Fractal amp choice for clean and distorted sounds (along with a drive pedal) when I was in my last band. I messed around with lots of other tones but this was the one that sat the best in the band mix with two guitars, bass, drums.
 

tallcoolone

Inspired
Love my AXE to death, but not a fan of this model for some reason--I'd love to see it re-worked (not sure if it has been since it was first modeled) and a few other Hiwatts added (JP!)
 

NaturalScience

Inspired
I only ask this because it's a little counter-intuitive but have you tried raising the Low Frequency? Lots of folks want deeper bass so they drop it down, or they raise the Lo Res to get more of what ever its already set at, but I have great results by sweeping the Low Frequency and often end up higher. Sweep up and down, and there's usually a point where it just comes alive
Yep, in fact it's well over the resonance for the speaker itself since it's in a closed back cabinet.

I think my problem could be the jumpered model. I'm using scene controllers on the treble drive but the bass doesn't seem to really show up until you crank up the normal drive. Since you can't attach a scene controller to normal drive, I keep it relatively low. Maybe going to the normal model would do the trick.
 

DLC86

Forum Addict
Yep, in fact it's well over the resonance for the speaker itself since it's in a closed back cabinet.

I think my problem could be the jumpered model. I'm using scene controllers on the treble drive but the bass doesn't seem to really show up until you crank up the normal drive. Since you can't attach a scene controller to normal drive, I keep it relatively low. Maybe going to the normal model would do the trick.
Well, the bass is only provided by the normal channel in that model with default values, the brilliant has the low cut filter in the preamp set at 280hz, try to lower that control and you should get plenty of low frequencies even from the treble drive. There'a reason if it's called treble drive :)
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom