Price paid: £ 260
Purchased from: Thomann Cyberstore
Features: This amp is a 2011 model as far as I know. It is an 120W all tube amp, featuring 4 12AX7 preamp tubes and 4 6L6 (or EL34) power Tubes. Bugera stock it with their own tubes (which are apparently rebranded Shuguang) and in the preamp section of Mine at least they have 2 12AX7Cs, 1 12AX7B and 1 12AX7A. They also come stock with their 6L6GC tubes. This is a review for the amp which does NOT come with Bugera's Infinium technology, neither does it come with the "XL" settings, namely a noise gate, and Hi-Gain/Lo-Gain inputs. This amp also comes with 2 Bugera's Own 12inch Speakers built in (as it's a combo). The speakers make a VERY nice sound, I've tried using the inbuilt cabinet through other amps aswell, and it sounds extremely tight and has excellent response. From what I've heard these speakers are closely modelled on the classic Celestion V30s, and seeing as it's Bugera and this amp is essentially a Peavey XXX carbon copy, you know the speakers will be as near as it gets to identical as well.
The amp comes with 3 channels, clean, crunch and lead. The clean is very clean, almost Fender clean, with the option to turn up the "volume" knob which is more like a gain knob, to give it a bit more crunchy/pushed sound. The crunch channel ranges from a nice bluesy sound, to a good metal rhythm sound, although it's softer with less attack than the Lead channel. The lead channel is definitely a full on metal channel, with almost TOO much gain. It can get you proper thrashy sounds with gain on 3/4 and turn it up to full and (if you have good pickups) you get a really heavy death metal sound, especially with the independant EQs for each channel.
The clean EQ is nice, although the mid knob doesn't do much, the crunch channel EQ is very good, you can get a telephone EQ with no bass, or rumble the floor with it on full, the mid can go down to obscenely scooped, and the treble again is extremely responsive. I'd say with both the Crunch and Lead EQs Bugera have given you almost TOO much choice, apart from the treble, which can occasionally leave you wanting more, although usually that's only if it's turned down (as it is tube so you need to get it hot). I'd like to say that the stock tubes aren't fantastic, they give a funny fizz in the preamp section (more obvious in distortion) although the Power tubes do give a nice tone, and it's got a lot of bass and punch. This amp came biased wrong, so if you buy it, I'd recommend you get it biased (if you live outside of the UK) by a professional. If you live in the UK, it's not illegal to simply bias an amp, they have to do a full service as well, so that'll set you back in excess of 100, when you could buy a bias probe and multimeter for less than that, and do it yourself forever. This bad biasing doesn't help with the fizz sound (which went away mostly once I biased it properly).
The volume control is actually a little too sensitive, as there is so much power from this thing, that if you want to practise in your bedroom, you need to tap it with your finger until it turns down in tiny steps to be an acceptable volume. I really wish that they'd included a second volume knob of some kind, because the channel volume knobs are mostly practically used to balance the volumes between channels. So I think it could have done with two volume knobs, like a fine and rought tuner, just to hit that Sweet spot a bit more easily. I use this amp live. It's excellent, it ALWAYS has enough volume, (never had to have it much past 2.5/10) and if anything a little too much. The fx loop is also good, as you can use it as a solo boost too (set the volumes for send/return to taste and hey presto) This is actually all I use it for. The inbuild reverb is nice, again Bugera giving you almost too much, with it on full being so wet you could drown in it.
As a footnote, the Biasing test point on the amp is SHOCKING! Never use it. It's horribly inaccurate, and will just kill your lovely tubes. Get a probe. // 9
Sound: I use an Ibanez S570, with a Bareknuckle Painkiller pickup in the bridge and the stock INF1/S1 pickups in neck and middle. I find a single coil through this amp to be FAR too noisy, they get a lot of hum, and it makes me wish I'd got the XL version with the inbuilt noise gate, although my Behringer NR300 does the job pretty well too. The other two pickups sound brilliant through it, the self proclaimed "ultimate Djent bucker" really giving the ultimate punch and snarl through this amp, and the searing lead channel (especially in solos) really kicks ass. Neck sounds are really nice through the clean, although not as bright as I'd like, but that might just be the stock pickups as other guitars have sounded brighter through it.
I play a range from acoustic/clean ballads to thrash metal, and with the range of channels this amp is capable of all of them. The clean channel does have a habit of clipping if you use a high output pickup through it (and set it too high in the guitar) but that's very easily sorted by either turning down your volume knob on your guitar, OR using the channel's volume (gain) knob to turn it down a bit. I think the stock tubes are a little cheap. They sound fizzy, and aren't that bright, but with upgrades on tubes this amp really opens up. I personally prefer it with EL34s in rather than the Stock 6L6s. // 9
Reliability & Durability: This amp has had some complaints of durability, I've heard that there's a clip inside all bugeras (made of plastic) that can melt/break and stop the amp from working, but from what I can tell Bugera hav fixed this in the newer models. When I first bought this amp, I had to send it back, as the UPS guys dropped it, and cracked a tube (which I didn't spot until I switched it on) and this promtly blew it up, but once I got a replacement it worked fine. I've had it 4-5 months, with no issues, can't tell you in the long term, but the stock tubes were all working fine when I replaced them (after about 4 months) and otherwise no complaints. I can and Do depend on it, without a backup, for most gigs. // 10
Overall Impression: I play from clean ballads to thrash, and this amp can do it all. I've been playing for 4/5 years, and I also own a Peavey XXX (a fairly old one) but this sits at home in my parents house, mainly unused, because I genuinely prefer the sound of my 333. Peavey were more sensible with the settings than Bugera, and as a result I think the Bugera just allows you that much more, which I really love. I also have an Ibanez S570 with a BKP Painkiller in it. My only regret is not getting the XL, as this has even more options, and the much coveted noise gate. If it were lost/stolen I would absolutely buy it again, although this time as a head, because the combo ways a tonne (34Kg) and is huge, so carrying it around is a nightmare. But I like the speakers so much I'd probably get the Bugera 4x12 cab to go with it. // 9