Price paid: $ 600
Purchased from: Player's Guitar (used)
Sound — 8
I use a PRS CE24 with the stock PRS pickups; the guitar itself can do everything from blues to metal. I'd say this amp complements that pretty well. I keep the master volume cranked and adjust the channel volumes as needed so I get some nice power tube distortion along with preamp gain. I like to use the low gain channel with the coil splitter setting on my guitar for a nice sort of bluesy tone; depending on the EQ and gain settings, you can go anywhere from Buddy Guy to BB King. On the treble pickup I get sort of an Angus Young sound, so I like to use this channel for a lot of classic rock. The high gain channel is just great. Certainly not the best on the market, but it gets close. Combined with my Morley wah and some decent delay, I feel myself getting closer to that perfect lead tone I've always been searching for. It reacts great to my wah pedal; I've had a few people tell me it sounds sort of Cantrell-esque. And I almost forgot to mention: METAL! The amount of gain on this amp is absolutely insane. The bass response is very punchy, and the highs cut through great. It's got a mid scoop feature, but I don't like the idea of neutering my tone, so I haven't touched that particular knob. The clean channel is where I was really impressed. If you've never heard the song "Broken Wings" by Alter Bridge, go look it up right now. That's what the clean channel sounds like. Nice and smooth with great lows. I find the bright switch tends to make the amp sound kind of slappy, so I don't really use that particular feature. My only real complaint is the clean channel tends to clip at high volumes (5 and up on the channel volume with the master cranked); when going from a smooth fingerpicked part to power chords I tend to get hit by a sudden wall of bass frequencies, making it impossible to hear the actual notes I'm playing no matter how easy my attack is. Overall the amp is a little noisy; I get a lot of buzzing when I'm not playing, particularly on the clean channel, and the high gain channel lately has been a bit more squealy than I'd like. Also, the amp was really dark sounding when I got it, so I swapped the stock 12at7 in the PI position for a 12ax7 to brighten it up. Other than that, though, good sound for the price.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, it's a good value for what I paid. Having used mainly solid state effects before buying this amp, the improvement was simply eargasmic. If you think delay and wah is almost one pedal too many, this amp should suit your needs just fine. Not the best out there, but certainly good for the price. The only thing that worries me is reliability. I'm seriously considering trading this head in for one with less features and better construction; when it comes down to it, I'd be fine with two channels, one rectifier setting and no reverb as long as my amp could make it through the show.
Reliability & Durability — 4
This is where I get pretty nervous. I have had this amp break down before, though I'm not sure whether or not this was due to neglect. I bought it used, and it was pretty clear that the guy who had it before me never so much as changed the tubes. Anyway, one day during practice I just heard a pop and suddenly no sound was coming from my amp. I wasn't even pushing it at the time; I was on the clean channel at a fairly low volume. Took it to a tech, and he said there's a lot of cheap connectors on the PCB; turns out B52 used push-in connectors rather than just soldering the wires in. He said between the cheap connectors and the fact that so much STUFF was crammed on one board, there was a huge arc at some point which jumped across the board and fried some of the connections. Luckily enough, no components were actually damaged, but I still ended up paying $100 for the repair. Probably a contributing factor in this was the tendency of this amp to heat up to ridiculous temperatures after an hour of use; without a fan installed, the knobs closest to the power tubes were literally unbearable to touch after a while. Anyway, it works fine now, but I can't help but feel a little paranoid at shows. I always keep a spare head with me just in case.
Features — 10
3 channels, tri mode rectifier, reverb, separate EQ for clean and distorted channels, and an effects loop. The footswitch has four buttons; one for channel switching (between clean and distorted), one for gain switching (high gain or low gain), one for the reverb, and one for the effects loop. I mainly keep it on the tube AB rectifier mode; it's a nice balance between the warmer tube sound and the tighter SS rectifier mode. I don't use the SS mode much but I guess it's good to have in case the rectifier tube Burns out. The only thing I could possibly want more from this amp is a separate EQ for the high and low gain channels, but for what I paid, I'm satisfied.