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This Rarity page focuses on the SA112/30 30 Watt Combo.
The SA112/30 qualifies as a HIWATT RARITY on two counts. The first being that only 26 of these units were manufactured between late 1977 and mid 1978.
The popularity of lower powered combos for club and studio work was not as evident in the late 70s as it is in the 90s.
A smaller chassis than its 50 and 100 watt brothers was also required, adding to the initial production cost.
The SA112/30 was considered by some of the HIWATT staff to be the "Black Sheep" of the "BULLDOG" line of Combo Amplifiers that HIWATT had put into production in early 1977.The 50 and 100 Watt versions of the SA112 and SA115/100 (to be reviewed in an upcoming segment),and the SA212 & SA212R (the only DR series combos still in production at the time),all favoured the standard EL34 format.The SA112/30 sported 4 Mullard EL84s in the Output section,along with 3 ECC83s in the Preamp stage,an ECC81 in the power driver section,and a GZ34 Tube Rectifier!
Other compelling design differences were: A single High-Gain input instead of the usual Normal and Brilliant inputs,(HIWATT had just gone from 4 to 2 inputs on all 50 and 100 Watt DR and BULLDOG Series models earlier that year).Additionally, the Slave Out Jack had been buffered so that it could be a proper Direct Inject output for Studio work.
The speaker complement in the initial SA112/30 was a specially-designed 75 Watt 12 inch Fane.A few models made during the end of its production run were outfitted with Celestion,ATC,or Goodmans 12" Speakers to test the Sonic differences and capabilities of each combination.
The SA112/30 ran in pure CLASS "A" Mode,giving it a "sweeter", "bluesier" tone than the 50 and 100 Watt versions,which tended to badge it as the "Brown-Sound Unit" among the Design Team.Dave Reeves favourite word to describe the SA112/30 was "Diabolical".
Cosmetically,the front panel and the casing were identical to that of the rest of the HIWATT line.
With the Master Volume set on 9 and the Gain Volume set at 3 to 4,the sound was pure "HIWATT",clean,punchy,and articulate.Reversing the settings,however,brought out a different side to this 30 Watt "Monster". A "Boogie/Plexi" style sustain,coupled with "AC30" overtones.Quite a departure from the traditional HIWATT formula.
In retrospect,the SA112/30 would undoubtedly be a very desirable amplifier in todays market,but the climate of popularity in 1978 did not warrant its further production.
The chosen few who have acquired an existing SA112/30,have not only an incredible "Tone Machine",but a unique part of HIWATT HISTORY.
The "creator" of the "BULLDOG" series of Combo-style amplifiers for HIWATT in late 1976,and later the original "LEAD" Series of 50 and 100 Watt Heads, was an American Audio Engineer named David Strelz, who also served as Dave Reeves U.S. Distributor and Business Partner for HIWATT Products from 1976 to 1982.Here are some of his comments regarding the differences between the "BULLDOG" Series and the DR Series of HIWATT Amplifiers.
PM - How did the "BULLDOG" Series of Combos come about?
DCS - "I had known Dave Reeves on a personal and professional level for several years before I took over as HIWATT'S U.S. Distributor in June of 1976.During one of our first "Marketing" Conferences between Reeves,myself,and then Sales Manager Dave Cottam,(where there enough "Daves" at HIWATT?),we were discussing the future of the product line in the U.S. I insisted that we should actively pursue the small "combo" format,as Mesa-Boogie had successfully cornered that segment of the market recently.
"I hopped on a plane to England a week later with a Mesa-Boogie Combo under my arm,(Wink and a Nod to Randall Smith),where I uncerimoniously dissected the unit along with Dave Reeves and Nigel Collin,(another HIWATT Design Engineer).
"Needless to say,we didn't copy or emulate any of Boogies design circuitry, but we were impressed by their format of a high-gain, compact, "take no prisoners" approach to combo amplifiers. So we set out to build our own "perfect beast".
"After several months of modifications to DR Series 100 Watt chassis, we came up with a prototype we were very pleased with."
PM - Where did the name "BULLDOG" originate?
DCS - "Originally VOX had used the "BULLDOG" moniker on their Blue-Frame speakers.We started using it when it was decided that our new creation needed a "Name" rather than a Initial/Numeral reference (i.e. DR103) to set it apart from the original DR Series amps.During a "Staff" meeting over a few Pints in the Design Room,we cranked up the prototype and I stated that "it had the bite of a Bulldog",the name stuck,and we used it in all of our marketing of that line of combos."
PM - When did the first "BULLDOG" combos go into production?
DCS - "The first units,which were 100 watters,were manufactured in February of 1977.The 50 Watt version came out in late summer,and the 30 Watt prototypes were assembled just before Christmas of that year."
PM - What were the key differences between the DR Series and the "BULLDOGs?"
DCS - "The Key differences, without divulging trade secrets, were that the inputs, especially the BRILLIANT channel were increased high-gain compared with the DRs,the Master and gain Volumes were rendered more "active",the Mullard circuitry was voiced for more of a Lead characteristic, and we had Fane design a special 12-inch just for the BULLDOGS."
PM - How authentic are the SA112 "BULLDOGS" that were being replicated by Audio Brothers?
DCS - "You've touched upon a very sore subject with me,but I will attempt to answer it with as much civility as I can.
"First, let me begin by saying that Audio Brothers never marketed the SA112 Replica as a "BULLDOG". They labeled it as exactly what it was, an original SA112 model that was only produced from 1975 to 1976 in very limited runs. That particular unit featured an original-style DR504 4-input chassis, with a stock FANE/HIWATT speaker, housed in a standard cabinet with the traditional-style grey/white speaker cloth.
"When the actual BULLDOG Series combos started being manufactured, HIWATT had already changed the channel configuration from 4 inputs to 2, the internal bracing of the cabinets had been changed, and the speaker grille cloth had been switched to a solid black pattern. These changes, along with the other features of the BULLDOG Series I previously mentioned, made it a completely different product than the original SA112.
"It wasn't until Fernandes started marketing the SA112 replicas as "BULLDOGS" that the misrepresentation began. Unfortunately, what the consumer bought from Fernandes wasn't a "BULLDOG" at all, it was an old-style SA112."