Dr Z Z Wreck Jr 1×12 Combo Review – Can You Say “Awesome”?

Dr. Z - Z Wreck Jr - A photo of a guitar pick with writing on it.

Have you heard about the Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr 1×12 combo amp, and do you know what makes it different from its big brother, the Z Wreck standalone head? This article will explain all that plus everything you want to know about its design and performance.

Who Is Dr. Z?

Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr - An image of a man leaning on a question near the letter "z."

Hello again, my guitar fanatics, and welcome back to the lair! I know you couldn’t stay away long. Do you know who Dr. Z really is? Every once in a while, someone truly amazing comes along and blesses the guitar world with sonic riches. Today, the guest of honor is the good doctor. Read on to learn more.

Dr. Z is a corporation in Ohio that makes tube amps for guitar players. The CEO of this magnificent company is  Michael Zaite (aka Dr. Z. Zaite), the son of a TV repairman who developed an interest in vacuum tubes. He worked as an electronic technician for GE Medical Systems while perfecting his amplifier design ideas and eventually built boutique tube amps for Joe Walsh and Brad Paisley.

Fast forward to the present day, and Dr. Z amps have become some of the most sought-after sound equipment on the market today. Why do they call him “Dr.” Z? Probably because his first and middle name’s initials are M.D.

Dr. Z - Z Wreck Jr - A photo of a man scratching his head.

What Is The Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr 1×12 Combo Amplifier?

So, what’s with the crazy name “Z Wreck Jr?” It’s the next version of the Z Wreck Amp that was originally designed from Ken Fischer’s famous (or infamous) Trainwreck amp.

The Dr. Z Z Wreck Amp was designed by the collaboration of Ken Fischer of Trainwreck Amps, Dr. Z, and Brad Paisley. Dr. Z calls the original Trainwreck’s circuit DNA “priceless.”

The Dr Z Z Wreck Jr model has half the wattage than the Z Wreck amp and a lower price tag. The junior model is available as a 1×12 combo and a stand-alone head. It features Ken’s writing font that he designed for the Z Wreck.

How Is The Z Wreck Jr Different From The Z Wreck?

Both amps have three 12AX7 tubes in the preamp section. The junior model has 15 watts powered by two military-grade 6n14n tubes in comparison to the original Z Wreck’s 30 watts from four 6n14n tubes. The 6n14n tubes are similar to an EL-84 but are supposed to be more articulate and melodic.

Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr - A photo of a switch with a "not" symbol over it.

Both amps sport tube rectifiers for yummy power sag. The Z Wreck Jr has a 5Y3 rectifier tube, while the Z Wreck amp uses a 5AR4.

The Z Wreck Jr does not have the “Comfort/Speed” switch that is present on the Z Wreck amp, which allows you to changes the amp’s response to saggy (comfort) versus quicker (speed) by adjusting the plate voltage settings.

The 5Y3 rectifier in the Z Wreck Jr gives a sound equivalent to the “Comfort” setting on the Z Wreck amp, which is closer in sound to Ken Fischer’s original Trainwreck amp design.

The Z Wreck Jr has a master volume (the Z Wreck amp does not), which allows the Jr to remain harmonically reach and dynamic, even at low power levels.

The Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr Combo Looks As Great As It Sounds

Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr - A photo of the front view of the amplifier.

For those of you who have not gotten a good look at the Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr combo amp here are some high-resolution photos with brief explanations.

Front View

The front of the Z Wreck Jr is very sharp-looking! It has a nice charcoal top that looks great with the typical “Z” logo and grayish grill cloth.

I really like the way Dr Z uses the “blackout” color scheme. It makes the amp look classy and expensive, even to someone unfamiliar with Dr Z amps.

Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr - Z Wreck Jr Combo control panel.

Control Panel (Top) View

The Z Wreck Jr combo amp has a top-loaded control panel with a very straightforward layout.

Facing the front of the amp, the power light with on/off and standby switches are to the right.

Dr. Z - Z Wreck Jr - A photo of the control dials on the Dr. Z jr amplifier

The amp controls feature “cut,” master, bass, treble, and volume controls, with a single guitar input jack to the left.

There is no “middle” tone control, which is very much in line with the Dr. Z design philosophy of “quality with simplicity.” Believe me; you won’t even miss it.

Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr - A photo of the back of the amplifier.

Rear View

The rear of the Z Wreck Jr features an open back, which exposures its 12-inch Celestion Green Back speaker.

There is nothing else really going on back here.

The power cord gets neatly tucked away inside.

Dr. Z - Z Wreck Jr - An aerial view of the amplifier.

Aerial Angular View

Here is what the amp looks like from the top and at an angle.

It has a nice compact design.

I would have preferred it if the control panel was flipped the other way around so that the writing under the controls is facing the guitar player standing in front of the amp.

It’s not a big deal but it just makes more sense that way.

Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr Specifications

Here are the specs for the Z Wreck Jr 1×12 combo and stand-alone head unit.

Power Output15 Watts
Rectifier TubeOne 5Y3 tube
Preamp TubesThree Tung-Sol reissue 12 AX7 tubes (cathode-biased)
Power TubesTwo NOS Military Grade 6n14n tubes
ControlsCut, Master, Bass, Treble, and Volume
Guitar InputSingle jack
Availablity1. Stand-alone head
2. 1×12 combo with 8 ohm Celestion Greenback speaker
Dimensions & Weight1. Head: 20 5/8”W x 9 1/2”D x 9 1/8”H – weight 32 lbs
2. 1×12 combo: 22 1/2″W x 10 1/2″D x 20″H – weight 44 lbs
Speaker Outputs4, 8, or 16 ohms (only one output at a time can be used)

This is the official demo video for the Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr with Dave Baker playing various guitars. It features the head with a separate cabinet design unit.

Features And Benefits

My Guitar Lair - Features and Benefits Section

Master Volume Control

The addition of a master volume control on the Wreck Jr makes all the difference. The Wreck standard model, which only has a volume control, is a lot more challenging to dial in your sound at a soft volume.

The Z Wreck Jr master volume is situated post phase inverter, which keeps the amp’s dynamics consistent at all volume levels.

The junior model really begins to come alive with the volume control above three o’clock, even with the master volume control dialed way down. Just the thing to mellow out those angry neighbors.

Cut Control

The “cut” control modifies the amp’s high-end sound characteristics. It basically behaves like a “presence” control but with more character and tonal shaping. Turning it clockwise past twelve o’clock cranks up the chime while turning in the other direction makes the overall sound smoother.

External Speaker Configuration Jacks On The Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr Amp

Dr. Z - Z Wreck Jr - A photo of the speaker connection configuration.

The Z Wreck Jr has the ability to connect to 4, 8, and 16-ohm speakers, but only one speaker configuration at a time.

I can’t even imagine what this amp sounds like connected to a 4×12 8-ohm cabinet!

As with all-tube amps, never run it without connecting it to a speaker load.

Quality Components And Assembly

The Z Wreck Jr is built right and made in the U.S.A. Its hand-wired on a phenolic turret board with an aircraft-grade aluminum chassis and high-quality components like Mallory capacitors, metal-film resistors, and custom-wound transformers.

Although it’s unlikely this amp will need to be looked at regularly, I didn’t find any complaints on the Internet regarding this company’s service.

What I like About The Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr 1×12 Combo

My Guitar Lair - Pros (Thumbs Up) Section

This combo amp can easily be used at a “bedroom friendly” volume level while creating its outstanding sound with plenty of overdrive.

Don’t be fooled by the diminutive size of the Z Wreck Jr. It packs plenty of punch and can easily be used in a small club scenario without miking to the PA system.

This amp has an incredibly dynamic response and harmonic-rich notes that seem to explode off the tips of the fingers, especially with the master volume turned down and the volume knob cranked.

What I Don’t Like About The Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr 1×12 Combo

My Guitar Lair - Cons (Thumbs Down) Section

Although the Z Wreck Jr combo amp is obviously made to be sturdy, it’s a little heavy at 44 pounds, even with its aircraft-grade aluminum chassis.

I know they consider it on the light side for a 1×12 combo, but I would not be happy carrying it with me wherever I play. I must be getting old. I used to carry 4×12 cabinets and never give it a second thought.

I wish it had the comfort/speed switch configuration of the standard Z Wreck amp to provide the option of having an output with less sag for more modern sounds.

The amp is a little on the pricey side, even for all its quality construction and sound quality, but that’s just my opinion. If you compare it to other boutique combos in its price range, it is definitely in the ballpark.

All-in-all, it’s certainly not easy to find too many things about this amp to complain about.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts About The Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr Combo

I really love low-powered combo amps. They don’t take up a lot of room, and you won’t throw your back out carrying them up a flight of stairs or two. When you find one that is truly exceptional and fits all your needs, it can be like a match made in heaven.

The Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr 1×12 combo amp is an extremely versatile amp that can deliver great sound in any working situation, from a small club to a large arena. It’s an excellent option to its 30-watt higher-powered brother, the Z Wreck, when you need the same great sound and dynamics with a master volume option.

If you’re looking for an amp that can do it all, is fun to play, and you have the money to spend, then give this combo a try! You’ll see why Brad Paisley favors Dr. Z. Also, see my Brad Paisley (Secret Agent Esquire Pickup) Guitar Review.

For more info on combo tube amps Click Here –> Best Combo Guitar Amps For Any Budget: 5 All-Tube Beauties!

A rock band of figures made from nuts and bolts.

Tell Us What You Think

Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr combo review or want to leave your own personal review.

If you have any questions about this Dr. Z product, I will be happy to help you.

  • Do you own a Z Wreck Jr combo amp, and if so, what do you think of it?
  • If not, do you own a different “boutique” amp? Please tell us about it.
  • After reading this review, are you thinking about playing one?
  • What’s your favorite guitar amp of all time?

If you’re looking for an awesome battery-powered practice amp, then see Blackstar Fly 3 Review – You won’t really believe your ears!

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8 thoughts on “Dr Z Z Wreck Jr 1×12 Combo Review – Can You Say “Awesome”?”

  1. Wow, I really like this amp from Dr. Z but there’s one thing I wanted to know. I’m used to being able to add a lot of crunches and distortion directly from my amp but, with the limited controls on the wreck jr, should I rather get something different or should I investing some pedals to go with it when I get it?

    • Hi Stevie,

      Thank You for your comments!

      This amp is missing reverb and a “middle” adjustment in the tone stack. It basically has everything else. Some of the best amps on the planet are built this way and the Z Wreck Jr can easily compete with them!

      The answer to your question depends a lot on what type of music you play and what kind of guitar(s) you have.

      If you have a guitar with a hot single-coil or humbucking pickup then you can get some distortion out of the amp by turning the master volume and volume both up to ten. As you turn down the master volume you will notice your distortion turn into more of a crunchy overdriven sound. That’s what this amp does best, wonderful harmonic-rich touch-sensitive overdrive and clean chimney sounds.

      You can always use a pedal to get a lot more distortion but this amp may not be the best choice if you consistently play metal. I would play through the amp, if you can find it at your local music store, but bring your guitar so you can hear what it will actually sound like. 

      Hope this helps!

      I’m curious, what amp and guitar are you currently using?


    • Hello All,
      Please understand that reviews can only go so far! You must play this amp! Play it for at least a half hour and throw a delay pedal in the mix, nothing else. You signal chain will be guitar to delay pedal to amp – that’s it. Carefully adjust the knobs on the amp to taste. Pick light, pick heavy. Strum light, strum heavy. Dig in and hit it hard, then play softly with a gentle touch. Roll your volume on your guitar up and down for different tones, but once you set the amp, leave it alone. At this point, all adjustments are made by 1) Rolling your volume up or down 2) Adjusting your picking attack and picking style. Doing this will reveal what reviews can’t tell you about this amp design. This amp, and it’s 30W papa, must be experienced to be appreciated.

      • Hi Joe,

        Thanks so much for your comments!

        I totally agree with you.
        I’ve played through amps that had so much volume and distortion that I couldn’t stay in the same room with them for more than 10 minutes but they didn’t sound or play very well, overall.
        The Z Wreck Jr is an amazing amp with plenty of power to spare. You can mic it if you need more. It has incredible sounds, touch sensitivity, and harmonic richness. Add pedals to suit your needs.
        I’ll take an amp like this any day!?


  2. Holy crap! This is the most guitar centered website that I have ever run into. I personally do not play guitar ever since I was a kid, but I am now getting back into it and I decided to do a little bit of research online to get more familiar with them as I have now started playing recently. I really appreciate this website and this article to because it’s what brought me to this website. Thank you so much

    • Hi Misael,

      Thank you once again for your comments!

      I’m so thrilled that you like my website. Stay tuned because really you haven’t seen anything yet! 🙂

      That’s so GREAT that you are going back to playing the guitar.


    • Hi, Florian

      I’ve played through this amp with a multi-effects unit, and the digital delay sounded good. I didn’t kick in the reverb. It’s an awesome hand-wired amp, and I love that it has the master volume control, but an effects loop to put the time-based pedals would have been great.



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