Price paid: £ 700
Purchased from: Rimmers Leyland
Sound — 9
A brief history lesson first. The man who designed these amps, Mr Bogner, has been hired by steve Vai to personally tune his amplifiers to his preferences, and has been commissioned by Eddie Van Halen to build his amps from scratch. And it shows. Here's my story of how I bought it. I went into the testing room of the music shop and there was a 100 watt Marshall valve amp about five feet away from this. I plugged into it and it sounded okay, and had some serious gain on it. The guy who worked at the store who was called Marius pointed to this amp and told me to plug into it for comparison. I was skeptical as I hadn't heard the name before. The moment that I turned the gain up, not even half way it sounded fantastic, far cleaner than the Marshall had as well as sounding thicker and darker at the same time, yet still allowing me bright tones. The biggest surprise though was when I looked at the volume and power switches, and saw it was louder than the Marshall at a lower volume setting on low-power mode. This amp finally gave me a clear idea of what sound I wanted to make my own. And to me it is now an indispensable part of my sound. This is a classic rock amplifier, not a metal amplifier. So if you want to play in a Slayer tribute band I would suggest a Line 6 valve amp, as they are genuinely brilliant metal amplifiers. This is all the gain you could need from a rock amplifier though, and this does sound thicker than a valve Line 6 that I've used live before. It can sound as clear and beautiful as rain, or a rough and hot as a volcanic eruption, and all the sounds in-between. Blues, rock, funk, jazz, metal, this amp devours the lot. Generally noise only becomes a problem when you're right in front of it, but it's easily overcome and not a problem when you're playing a song. just once you want it to be quit you might need to flick the volume down or use a noise-gate. The clean channel is by no means distorted by high volume levels, it just gets louder. Any change in tone is strictly controlled by the dials on the amplifier. Distortion can be upped by the boost button without making a volume change, which is a nice touch when you don't want to keep adjusting the volume all the time. DiMarzio pickups and Seymour Duncan hotrods are the pickups I mainly use through it, and the distortion is very well handled using these. I've not played every guitar in the world through it, but I can't see there being any major problems.
Overall Impression — 10
I play classic rock, blues, metal and occasionally the bit of jazz, classical or funk. This amp does everything I want and need it to do live and in my home. I have been playing for about 4 years now and have just made the step up from transistor to valve amps but this is definitely the right amp for me. I tested line 6, Fender and Marshall amps before choosing this one. Would I have asked anything looking back? Not really, as the amp has the versatility to change to what you want it to be while remaining itself. If it was stolen, I'd track down the thief and steal it back after sello-taping the thief's hands to his front door. I don't think it's something easily stolen though, and he'd find my les paul lodged in his right ear if he tried. I absolutely love the thick tones this amp can deliver, and I feel that's it's major selling point; where most amps of this size have a surge of power and tone, this has a flood. I compared it with other amps like line 6's and marshalls and fenders and this blew them all away. It was thicker and sharper than the marshall, cleaner than the fenders, and as dark as the line 6's. As I said the only thing missing is a noise-gate, but I already have one, and it could get in the way for some players. Overall, this amp is the amp to be beaten in my opinion. Maybe some Blackstar or Mesa Boogie valve amp could beat it, but they're far more expensive, especially in the valve regions. For it's price, this is a top of the range item in my opinion. I won't sell it, even if I get another amp for live gigs.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Yes, this is very reliable. Obviously the tubes may blow out and require a replacement job, but that's the way it is for all tube amps, so you can't have a go at it for that. I bought it used and flung it straight into a live performance without any issues presenting themselves. It's very sturdy, and has been built to a much higher standard than most amps that I've seen. No breakdowns yet, and I have been using very high distortion, so don't think I've been soft on it.
Features — 8
From the beginning I'll start with it's dimensions. 2 x 12 Ext Cabinet: 58 lbs. 25.75W x 26H x 10.25 D inches Head: 41 lbs. 25.75W x 12.25H x 10.25D inches It has Two main channels built into the amplifier, and has two main power modes, either full 40 watts power mode or 20 watts lower power mode, which is actually quite useful when you're either playing a smaller gig, or practicing at home or simply looking for a less aggressive sound. The low power mode exerts(theoretically) less stress on the tubes in the amp, making them last longer, and when you're practicing with it at home this is a very good thing. And don't think that half power means half volume. Oh definitely no! This amp has two speakers in it's cabinet, which makes it sound incredibly thick in comparison to similar amps of other makes that don't have this setup. It has a clean(gold) channel and a dirty(mercury) channel, both capable of being switched between by the foot-pedal that comes with the amplifier. The clean channel also has a minute amount of gain that can be added to it by a crunch Switch on the head. This is very clever as it allows for very subtle gain perfect for blues tones, which have been something of a rare commodity among the amps I've played. They're either blasting full distortion or completely clean, but there's little in between, but that certainly isn't the case for this amp. It has a separate option input-output double input loop for the effect pedals you might be using if you prefer them to be more subtle. It also has switches to add more brightness and deep-end to the sound of your guitar if you are using one that naturally sounds a bit too dark to your liking or a bit too tinny. In-built effect loops include three different types of reverb and three different types of delay with adjustable parameters for both, and a tap button for the delay function. I have used this amp live and it is just what I need for the moment. I'm not saying this would fill a stadium, because it's unfair to expect an amplifier of this size alone to be able to do that. But medium sized venues I think would certainly be no problem for it. The power and gain it produces are fantastic, and there's a boost button for those who want just a little bit more from it. It's a tube amp so the tubes have to be replaced periodically, but that's to be expected from any tube amp really. Really the only feature I wish it had would be a noise-gate, but with my pedal of choice having one built in, it's not a problem for me. If you have any problems with the noise with this amp between songs, Switch to another channel either on your guitar or the amp with a lower volume to cut out the high-end squeal. It's simply doing it's job as a valve amp though, i.e. giving you all the feed back you want without blowing up.