Driftwood Purple Nightmare Head Review & Video

Clever…and beautiful!

The guitar amplifier industry has definitely experienced some big changes in the past recent years. While tube amps became way more affordable at some point, with companies like Bugera or Blackheart flooding the market with models at entry-level prices, the big companies followed to keep up in order to not loose market share. We also saw small 1 or 2 men companies slowly emerging as they came up with new designs and solutions for touring guitarists who want flexibility without changing into the world of digital solutions. Driftwood Amplifiers from Germany is one of them!

Purple Nightmare Master Section

Purple Nightmare Master Section (click to enlarge)


More like “a dream come true” than an actual nightmare

Like many amp builders, Driftwood started out as a service point for amps & electronics in case you needed something fixed by a professional. After many years of experience in this field, they started creating their own designs, while taking into account what their customers would want to have in an amplifier.

The Purple Nightmare Head is a 100 watt 2-channel amplifier with many built-in extras and options. Apart from 2 master volume controls, a flexible sharp (presence) control with 3 different settings and a 2 watt Mosfet power amp for late night sessions, it also features a noise gate, a T/S overdrive with gain, tone and volume controls as well as access to the power amps bias controls. Power amp tubes can be mixed in pairs as well, which is why the model I tested came with two 6L6 and two KT88 power tubes.

The Purple Nightmare comes with a 5-button foot switch to switch channels, master volumes, FX loop, T/S overdrive and the mute option. FX loop and T/S overdrive can be assigned to channels as well, making it possible to activate those options with a single step on the foot switch. Alternatively the amplifier features 5 input jacks for latch foot switches in order to integrate it into an existing MIDI controlled setup.

Purple Nightmare Channels

Purple Nightmare Channels (click to enlarge)

Two channels…no, wait…actually…

Channel 1 is a clean channel with massive headroom and the option to boost it with the T/S overdrive circuit, making it 1,5 channels actually. The equalizer controls have little impact on each other, but work and react very effectively, offering a huge array of sounds from warm and round to bright and pointy. You can drive gain high, resulting in a more crispy sound which never feels muddy or less transparent. Adding the T/S circuit results in a more dirty “Rock’n’Roll” type of sound.

Channel 2 is an American-voiced crunch to high-gain channel with lots of clarity and sustain. The low/high gain switch adds another tube stage to the signal, making the Purple Nightmare a candidate for intense “chugging” and leads with looooots of sustain.

Purple Nightmare T/S section

Purple Nightmare T/S section (click to enlarge)

The T/S section

Forget the days where you needed to carry a TS-type boost or overdrive pedal to gigs or sessions. The Purple Nightmare covers that as well. With the classic volume, tone and gain controls you can add even more gain and sustain to the second channel or utilize the classic “Volume 10, Tone 5, Gain 0” setting to sharpen the pick attack and add more punch to lower tuned guitars, easily cutting through every mix in a live setup.

What I found to be quite surprising is the fact, that with all these options you can still turn down the volume knob on your guitar to clean up the signal and it never sounds flat or less dynamic. Well done!!!

Purple Nightmare Nightswitch

Purple Nightmare Nightswitch (click to enlarge)

Playing at night in an apartment? No problem!

The guys at Driftwood Amplifiers also thought about that and installed a small 2-watt Mosfet power amp, which can be activated on the back panel. It actually serves in two ways: You can saturate the sound of the amp at low volumes for late night sessions in your apartment. It also helps enduring the life of your power amp tubes, since they are going to be switched into a bypass state. The Purple Nightmare also features two parallel speaker outputs, which can be switched between a total impedance of 4 (2×8), 8 (2×16) or 16 ohms.

Purple Nightmare Assign Options

Purple Nightmare Assign Options (click to enlarge)

More solutions on the back

As mentioned before, the T/S function and FX loop can also be assigned to different channels or even the 2nd master volume. If you want to hear a connected delay only when playing solos, that would be a possible application for this. You can also choose for them to be controlled by the included 5-button foot switch or to be active permanently.

The Purple Nightmare comes with a tuner output, which will still be active when muting the amplifier for silent tuning between songs. It also features a 9V DC output jack to supply your tuner or effect pedal with power.

Purple Nightmare Noise Gate

Purple Nightmare Noise Gate (click to enlarge)

The amp I tested also came with a built-in noise gate, which is available as a custom option for the 2nd channel (90,-€). Intensity can be controlled with a knob on the back and you can choose for it to be off, on or off when the 2nd master volume is engaged. Well thought out!!!


Driftwood Amplifiers created a powerful and clever tube head with intelligent solutions, which cover many possible setup scenarios. It offers a variety of sounds between glassy clean and extreme high gain. The built-in T/S circuit makes the Purple Nightmare even more flexible and serves great when playing in lower tunings, if you don’t want to loose punch and clarity. Furthermore, the amplifier is customizable regarding chassis design, connections, tubes and with features such as a noise gate. If you still want something more transportable, Driftwood also offers the Mini Nightmare with wether a 50 or 22 watt power amp in a smaller lunchbox-type format.

Check the video review here:

All info, specs and prices can be found on Driftwood’s website: http://driftwoodamps.com

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