Price paid: £ 189
Purchased from: BASHonline
Features: This is a hybrid tube/solid state amp (tube pre-amp and solid state power amp) 2x12 100 watt guitar amplifier, and I wouldn't be suprised if it had rolled off the production line yesterday, but the year it was made has absolutely nothing to do with how it sounds, so that's not really important. The speakers are 12" Celestion Seventy 80's.
The amp has 2 channels; rhythm and lead (low-gain/high-gain respectively) with gain and volume pots on both, as well as a three band passive EQ (Bass Mid and Treble) per channel. The lead channel has a 'boost' Switch for a gain boost for higher gain distortion settings, as well as a Grind/Punch Switch (which is basicly a mid scoop for those metal heads in the audience). The rhythm channel has a Fat/Lean Switch, which beefs up or thins out the sound as selected, along side an 'Overdrive' Switch, which, to my suprise, adds a mature and subtle amount of soft-clipping to your rhythm sound.
After the two channel strips there is a 'Boost' knob, which is a simple volume boost that adds volume to both channels, why? Not a clue, maybe it's designed to recoup volume after huge EQ cuts, but it's a bit obscure to say the least.
After this, there is the DSP panel, controlling all of your digital effects. This feature of the amp is rather limited in the respect that you only have two parameters; Level, and Tempo. On some settings, like 'Delay', the Tap Tempo feature will set the delay time, but on others, like the 'Octave' effect, it toggles between presets (like down or up an octave).
The amp is heavy, very heavy, not a one-man-job by any stretch of the imagination. I did NOT enjoy lifting (hopelessly fumbling in a vertically orientated fashion) it up the stairs on my own. Weight however, can be seen as reassurance that you have purchased something of substance, and not a monopolistic fad. iPhone anyone?
The back of the amp displays a plate showing you what outs and ins are provided from the rear of the amp unit. These are; Extension Cabinet, FX send, FX return, Footswitch, Tap Tempo Footswitch, and Simulated Cabinet Out (for home recording).
There are plenty of features on offer, but they're not necessarily all the right features. The amp could do with, for instance, a Master Reverb control, so that the amp could have reverb on whilst still using other DSP effects. Also, you really do need more control over the effects, as it's highly unlikely that you will be happy with what presets are on offer. A Master Reverb and a three-pot DSP control panel are the changes I would make.
So, loads of features, but do features make a good amp? No! Lets see how it sounds then. // 8
Sound: I'm using a PRS Custom 22 Artist and my signal chain is;
PRS -> Dunlop Crybaby -> Artec ADL-2 -> EHX Big Muff -> HV100
The sound is great, this amp really does punch above it's weight. For just under 200 this amp is a top-buy for anyone. There are a few set-backs in there though, as with everything.
Hiss! When I first switched the amp on it hissed rather loudly, and after a bit of playing the hiss got quieter, but it's still there. I'm going to go ahead and assume that it's something to do with it being Brand New, with un-stretched speakers, and it needs a good breaking-in. The hiss is also nothing to do with the input, as it's still present when there's nothing plugged in, and when volume pots are at 0. This means that it's inherent in the amp, but after hearing it get quieter with a bit of playing, I'm not so worried, it's no longer loud enough to irritate or ruin a recording, so that's fine by me.
I'm going to mention straight off that I don't think this amp will be good for high-gain US metal, the distortion just isn't that sorta distortion. By all means use this for metal if you're using the rhythm channel with a distortion pedal, there's more than enough headroom going for that sorta thing.
The lead channel is good, the rhythm channel is better. I not use the lead channel as my main Drive channel because it really suits me, and my style of playing (I use the gain just shy of half way, which gives a great overdriven sound that is subtle enough to go clean if I roll back my guitar's volume knob). If I then need to bust out some loud distorted riff, I use my EHX Big Muff in the lead channel. I use the rhythm channel for clean sounds, which it does astonishingly well. I was really happy about this, most amps get a bit glassy when played clean at high volumes, but this channel just sparkles. Rolling off the highs a bit, hitting the 'Fat' setting, and adding a bit of gain for very subtle break-up gives a really mellow and pleasant Gilmour clean sound.
The DSP panel is dreadful, the amp itself is lovely but this really lets it down. The effects add hiss, loads of it, the reverbs are the loudest and the modulated effects are the worst sounding, as they audibly modulate the hiss, so when you're not playing you get a 'woosh-woosh-woosh-woosh' sound going on, very irritating. There are a couple I like though; the delay (especially with a tap-tempo pedal) is very useful, unlike some effects I could mention, and the octave-up is pretty cool too. Octave down is a bit lame; doesn't track very well.
This amp sounds lovely as long as you ignore the effects, which are awful! And for that reason alone I'm gonna deduct a few points, because it's annoyed me. // 7
Reliability & Durability: Judging by sheer weight alone I'd say the enclosure is more than substantial enough to protect the interior from damage. There haven't been any unusual audio artifacts coming from the amp, and it's taken extremely high input signals courtesy of the Big Muff, with the greatest of ease. My one concern would be the push switches, which don't exactly scream durability; they, when handles, can be moved around their sockets like an N64 joystick, I'm not sure if this is how they're meant to be or if I've got dodgey buttons, but they work all the same, no pops or clicks that shouldn't be there. Nothing rattles inside, so that's a good sign. I'd happily gig with it, but I'd probably take a back-up, so it looses a few marks for not having me entirely convinced yet. // 8
Overall Impression: I play progressive rock, and the amp does it for me just fine. I've only had the amp a couple of weeks but I really do like the way it sounds, it sounds more tube than transistor (more like my Class A Carlsbro than my Solid-State Marshall), which is, I suppose, the whole point of it. Despite the dodgey DSP effects I'm going to give this amp a pretty damn good mark, because it was 189 and it plays like an amp three or four times that price.
Sorry for any gramatical errors I may have made, I know they Drive me nuts when I'm reading reviews. // 8