Purchased from: ebay
Features — 10
The Budda Superdrive 18 combo is an 18 watt little powerhouse of an amp. It has relatively simple features compared to most amps. But it does everything you need it to and nothing more, making it much more user friendly and easy. it has 2 EL84s, 3 12AX7s, and one 5U4 rectifier tubes. It comes stock with a decent Budda speaker but I put a WGS ET65 in it. The front has a standard on/off switch, a standby switch, Master (pull/channel), Bass, Mid (pull/modern), Treble, Drive, Rhythm (pull/bright) knobs and a standard input for guitar and foot switch for channel changing. This may seem like minimal controls but there are many different sounds you can dial in. The back has a great effects loop, slave out, and 2 speaker outputs with a 16/8/4 ohm switch. All in all the amp appears to be very basic, but it has all the features you'll ever really need. And not only that, but everything is provides is done extremely well.
Sound — 10
This is hands down the best sounding amp I've ever had the chance to play through. It has a very pleasant tone that doesn't really resemble any other amp exactly. The rhythm channel has an incredibly warm and exposed tone. It can be very Fendery at low setting with a mid scooped eq, or Voxish at medium setting with more mids, and can get all the way to a thick plexi distortion when turned up. This channel has the best edge of breakup tone I've ever heard in my life. It is extremely dynamic and reacts to your playing like no other. At medium settings it will be very clean when picking soft, but when you hit it hard it has to most pleasantly gritty crunch. The lead channel has a beautifully fluid sustaining gain that has an amazing amount of tonal potential between different settings. It has an amazing chewy and spongy quality that makes it addictive to play. Set low it's similar to a plexi. Set higher it sounds more like a JCM800, but there is more gain on tap if you want it. The lead channel has a somewhat dumblesque sound with a lot of mids. The tone of the amp in general is very boxy, but in a good way. There is a noticeable cutoff below 100 hz and there's minimal presence in those really piercing high frequencies. Though high harmonics jump out of it with ease. The EQ is very easy to use and it's basically impossible to get a bad sound out of it. I get the best tones when I crank the mids up a significant amount and then set the bass and treble to the point where I get a good amount of thud and attack. Though like I said, even with the bass or treble way higher than they should be the amp never gets flubby or ice picky. For that reason this is one of my favorite sounding amps.
I think of the master volume as more of a second gain stage than a master volume. Yes, it does affect the volume, but it doesn't change the power tubes (which are always cooking). The master adds a wooly saturation that can only be produced by tube amps. My favorite settings are Master: 9-2, Bass:10:30, Mids:3, Treble:1:30-3, Drive:10-2, Rhythm:10-2. I can't preach enough on how great this amp sounds. There's nothing else in this price range or wattage that even comes close.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The amp is built solidly. A pine ply cabinet with an aluminum chasis. You could throw it down stairs and it would look no different. The only area of reliability and durability where it's lacking is how fast it wears out tubes. Power tubes only survive 6 months of regular playing and preamps usually microphonic between 6 months to a year. In many ways this is a good thing because it's pouring all that tube juice into the tone and not saving it in a cold sterile sound. Two EL84s and 3 12AX7s are less than $50 so bringing a spare to gigs is easily worth the tone. No matter what it's reliable as long as you're prepared, and it delivers in consistently great tone on a daily basis.
Overall Impression — 10
This amp is a fantastic match for my playing, but I'm almost positive it would be a great match for any style. It's got great cleans, beautiful bluesy tones, dynamic edge of breakup, unmatched crunch, smooth lead overdrive, crushing distortion, all the way to tight metal tones. It covers many famous guitar tones, all while retaining it's own "Budda" flavor. It takes pedals better than I thought was possible for an amp. I have about 15 pedals on my board and many are shifted in and out regularly. Not only does it take every pedal well, it makes them sound better than they do through any other amp. I'm not sure how Budda did it, but that effects loop is immaculate. For 18 watts it's incredibly loud. There's more than enough volume to gig with and it will keep up with a loud drummer at rehearsal no problem. That combined with it's 40lb weight makes it my go to when I'm playing out anywhere. If I had to choose only one amp for the rest of my life this would be it.