Price paid: A$ 1335
Purchased from: Blackwood Guitars, Singapore
Features: This is a 2008 amp, I got mine in the 3/4 of 2008. It features 2 channels, a clean and distorted. I won't use the official "Kleen" in this review, becuase it reminds me of a detergent we have here in Malaysia.
It's a 2 channel class A/B mini-stack with three 12AX7 preamp tubes and three 5881 power tubes. It features a gain structure that is altered from it's predecessor, the Krank Rev Jr\. The gain structure is supposed to be based off the Rev+, but since I've never tried the latter, I can't comment.
The channels are footswitchable, with a 2 band eq (bass and Treble) and a master for the clean channel. The distorted or Krank channel has a master, gain, bass, mids, treble and a parametic mid sweep. That's for the front. The rear has a presence, active effects loop, a FX boost for the effect loop, ohm selector and voltage selector as well. Overall, it features quite a bit of goodies to work with. It may be sparse for someone Who has used Mesas or some of the other amp. There's no DSP effects, no bright/mid toggle. However, I was looking for basic high gain amp with a decent clean channel and minimal buggery in terms of extra effects. I'll use my pedals for flexible effects.
For most practice and home situations, 20 watts class A/B is plenty. I could neither afford a Mesa or Marshall stack, nor use it practically. For me the amp is versatile and practical because I don't blow out my windows when I use it, and it has stripped down features, but not excessive basic features. I can still somewhat reasonably crank the amp, but it sure as heck doesn't sound as soft as a 20 watt, it sound somewhat closer to 30 or 35 watts. I really had to crank the amp to level 6.5 - 7 before the tubes started to clip nicely. For features, I'd give it a 9 becuase it's a cute mini stack that has a heck lot of gain, and sufficiently basic features that I'm not scratching my head trying to adjust everything to get my tone. However it still has sufficient features that makes the tone shapeable. What I would really have like was a switch so that I can turn it from a class A/B push-pull to a class A single-ended. // 9
Sound: I play mostly heavy-metal, classic music as well as some chinese pop muic. This amp has got balls to the wall gain for the heavy metal, and reasonably punchy cleans for classic. However, when it comes to chord heavy song pop with a lot of sturmming, the distorted channel is simply to in your face to dial in a gentle overdrive. I would say it simply can't do low level overdrive. For the classical music, I have to use some pedals, but the amp takes pedals in it's effects loop like a duck to water. However, throw the pedals in front of the amp and the sweep knob makes your life a living hell. If you love pedals in front of amp, look away, this isn't the amp for you, unless you love twiddling and tweaking knobs.
Out of the box, this sounds slightly better than solidstates, hybrids and modellers in it's price range. It takes a lot of tweaking to get an awesome tone. I spent half a day before I started to reach the sweet spots, but once you understand how the eq and the gain structure works, it's simple. However, if you have difficulity with getting to that sweet spot, it just sounds flat and uninspiring, and the tone sounds uniform no matter how you spin the dials. However, once you get it, this amp sings. I realised that the problem lies largely in the fact that the eq values are quite close to each other, and that tweedling one knob has limited effect on it's own, but once you get a feel, you realise that once you tweak one knob, you have to go another knob to shape another part of the tone and then another knob and on and on... it's a hassle sometimes. Plus the sweep knob has a huge impact on the mid range, which makes things even more complex. Without some patience, this amp will have you pull hair in no time. That is probably what gave rise the "love or hate" comment commonly associate with Krank amps.
The gain goes from non-existent to heavy to banshee with no restroom stops in between. Want a rock sound? better get some pedals. To compound the "dialing in a good tone"problem, the gain structure is not linear, it seems to have a compound gain structure. For example, moving the gain from 0 to 1 increase the gain by 1, but moving the gain from 1 to 2 may increase the gain by 1.5, and then moving the gain from 2 to 3 may increase the gain by 2. So what happens is that you might dial in a good sound with minimal distortion, then you reach for the gain, and you then you realise the tone goes all crappy on you. Oooo the fustration starts to set in!
However, once you start to understand the dynamics of the eq and the gain and preamp dials, the amp really starts to sing. I have gotten Marshall sounds, some moderate gain Peavy sounds and somewhat similar to Mesa sounds from it, of course I still needed pedals, but hey for a non-modelling amp, I consider such reasonable flexibility awesome.
Oh, another thing, you'll really need to crank and cook the tubes (pre and power) to get it to sing. Play the amp on a 2 and it'll make you wanna throw it out. Thin, fizzy, ball-less, bass-heavy, weak mid range tones curse the amp at low levels.
An Ibanez RG with Evo2 (neck), Lace Sensor Hot Gold (Middle), D-Activator X (bridge)
An Edwards Alexi White Scythe with a Bare Knuckle Mircle Man
An Edwards Alexi E-Al-166 Pink Sawtooth with Passive EMG-HZH2
In my effects loop I run:
Guitar -> Preamp -> (Effects start) Korg Pitch Black -> Morley Bad Horsie 2 -> Fulltone OCD -> Red Witch Empress -> SubDecay EchoBox (Effects end) -> Power amp
I get a whole load of differnt sounds to play low gain blus, clean classical to outright kick your face in death metal. It does most well. However You just won't get Steve Vai-ish tones. // 8
Reliability & Durability: Haven't had it broke on me. However at one point, when my friend was around my place, we start to push the amp, and suddenly the level dropped, we had to crank it to a 6 to get what sounded like a 2 before. Email Krank over 4 months ago. I'm still waiting for the reply. // 5
Overall Impression: For my play, I love the amp, of course that's with the pedals considered. Without the pedal, you have 2 channels, clean and brutally painful distortion. At the very least you'll need an eq pedal to tweak your tone. I've used guitar rig, Amplitude and some modelling software as well as some Line 6 products. Today I've thrown all that out the window and only use this amp. it's loud, it in your face but at the same time it handles pedals well. it's a 20 watt all tube amp, with the exception of Blackheart and the Egnater Rebel 20, there aren't many other amps you can look for if you are look at:
1. All tube;
2. Low wattage
All in all, plus it's cute appearance. it's a keeper for me. I may try the Egnater Rebel 20 next, but for now, this will suit me fine. Only feature I would like, to be able to turn this into a class A single ended 5 watts, because this amp still sounds louder than 20 watts. Are you reading this Krank? // 9