Sound — 9
I'm running this guitar with a myriad of guitars, the majority stock but a few set up with aftermarket pickups such as my Jaguar that uses Seymour Duncan Cool Rails or my EMG Equipped Jag-Stang. My style is a very 80's type metal sound, think Twisted Sister or early Van-Halen, very balanced Midrange and Low end with a tastefully cranked high end. The sound I tend to go for is a "Brown Sound" kind of sound but with Fender Lows and Highs, this amp delivers, it's the closest thing I've found to the sound I want. The cleans can be very Fender like and sparkly, I usually tone down the midrange on the cleans to get a glassy tone, sort of like Robert Cra or old George Lynch era Dokken. Properly Biased the amp only starts to break up at eight or so on the volume dial. Most of the time I run this amp with the EQ straight up, with maybe a slight boost on the low and mids on the lead channel because I use the two different channels to get the same range of gain out of two different styles of guitar (Humbuckers = Crunch channel, Singles = Lead channel). I use the FX Loop as a solo booster, because it keeps my sound the same beautiful tone I have, but jacks up the volume. I have more of a variety of sounds, many of which I have not used yet in youtube vids or recordings yet. The scooped midrange is insane on this thing, perfect for the darker of the metal Genres (Thrash, Speed, Death, Gothic, whatever your bag is). I did not mention the gain levels yet either, which are insane. I'm usually only halfway to 3/4 of the way up on the post gain levels on the lead and crunch channels, but when I want that extra push over the edge, it is there. This amp is one of the quietest I've used when cranked up loud. The noise gate does the job it was intended for (not full on noise gate, but removing some of the more audible hiss from the signal). I just leave the gate up at 100% all the time. Overall, this is like my dream amp in features and sound... Now to the fun part below...
Overall Impression — 8
I play all around several styles of rock, and so far this has been the best amp I've had all reliability issues not-withstanding. Despite the repairs I'm hoping it lasts me awhile because to come this close I'd need a celebrity endorsement, and even then it'll just be a beefed up copy of the 33XL. I've been playing for 14-15ish years, I've owned mostly cheap Peavey and Epiphone pawn shop grade gear because nothing else was cheap enough without getting a credit card or taking out a loan, and currently my only other amps are a Crate head in the same wattage and a Behringer V-AMP Pro I use for home recording. Check out my gear page on my profile for the rest of this stuff. If it were stolen or lost, I'd just get one of the newer ones that supposedly has the issues I listed above resolved, particularly that nasty clip-on transformer fix, but of course, only if I can try it out first to find the "sweet one", my ears are VERY picky to say the least. I've compared it to a lot of high end amps (Marshall JCM2000 Triple Super-Lead, Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier, Mesa Boogie Heartbreaker, and the Marshall JVM Series amps), and it was either this, or save for 20 years to get the other amps, especially in this economy. Outside of this, the closest thing I've been able to find is the $2-4000 Marshall TSL.
Reliability & Durability — 7
This, is where the Bugera amps start to hit their downfall. I had the amp for 6 months, no problems. Before I go on, you must understand, my treatment of amplification (and music gear in general) is only short of guys like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Ted Nugent, SRV, and Ritchie Blackmore. I turn my amps up loud, they do get banged around quite a bit, if I get pissed at them they do suffer a dent or two eventually. Hey, I have this philosophy, play nice with me, and I'll play nice with you, durability and reliability are a must. I depended upon it without a backup for about 8 months, six of which were totally trouble free on the original tubes. The last two (January and Febuary) were riddled with problems... - The speaker cable that came with the amp started going bad at a gig. I have a profound hatred of "molded connectors", I prefer something I can unscrew and resolder. I have since replaced it with a high quality Monster Cable. - The high gain input jack broke, but amazingly still works as long as you use a heavy cable with a weighted end to push the plug against the contacts inside. Apparently this is not a "chassis ground" amp where the jacks are concerned. Would bother me more but I seldom need that 6db boost the Hi-Gain jack gives. Especially considering my #1 axe has active pickups. - I had a few Bias problems, the replacement Mullards I have in there now were running at the wrong bias current, which caused early distortion and a dull sound (I'm guessing they were too cold). Since I bought a bias probe and used that to bias, the problem has gone away. The default port is inaccurate, and many of the readings from that port vs the probe made no sense (though I could balance the levels between the two at 41.9 VDC/mA DC). Plate voltage can run from 380 to 480 on these amps depending upon tubes. - The final killer was the rehearsal where the famous "burning transformer clip" issue rose it's ugly head and my tubes no longer lit up an hour into rehearsal. I went on a rampage throwing the amp around and cussing it. Took it home, stayed up till 5 a.m. The next day soldering, tightening, and removing that plastic clip and soldering the wires to the board as should have been done. The volume increased exponentially, my bias got a lot better, and my sound quality improved, what can I say. Other than that, many people whine about the plastic knobs, I jabbed the clean channel with the headstock of my Fender Jaguar one night at a gig when it failed (the cable/loose jack failure), Jaguar was fine (as usual, Jaguars are tough guitars, just watch Cobain with his). The plastic volume knob flew off the amp without even breaking, a fan in the audience brought it back up to me after the show. The reason through all of this I have not sent the amp into warranty repair is even as fast as Bugera/Behringer reportedly is, it's not fast enough as I had a ton of shows booked and no backup amp to use. I eventually picked up a Crate GT1200H as my backup amp. Also, I'm rather skilled at electronic repair so most of the problems weather mine or the amps have been relatively easy to fix in hindsight, enough to make me feel sort of daft looking back. I'll give it a seven, given a few things one could watch out for (many listed on BeerChurch's blog at this site), it can be quite a good solid amp, but it takes some TLC and fiddling to do so. I'm guessing that's where the price cut comes from.
Features — 9
Long time reviewer on Harmony Central as Mad-Mike, here's an updated review of this amp. Now the specs..as per my usual format. - 120 Watts - 4X EL34 Power Tubes, 12AX7 A/B/C input tubes - 3 Channels: Clean, Crunch, and Lead - FX Loop, also doubles as a solo booster - Line Out in back for direct recording - Default Bias Port (NOTE: INACCURATE) - 4 Button Footswitch, Ken Keys sold me the wrong one though 262) - Footswitch handles channel switching and FX/Solo change - Clean and Crunch channels have a Gain/Mid booster (XL buttons) - Digital Reverb (mounted on an expansion inside amp) - Prescense Control (global) - Global Master Volume I use this amp in my current two bands for studio and Live. It has more than enough power as long as the tubes are properly biased, which can be an issue for these amps as they have a bias port that is inaccurate. You're best bet is to get a Bias probe or Tool of some sort, such as those sold at Eurotubes. So far I use all the features as this amplifier feels like it was designed for me (for the most part, see reliability). I bought it for almost $1000 complete with the Bugera default 412WH-BK 4X12 cab. Recently I have swapped this out for gigging with a Peavey 412M from the late 80's with Celestion speakers that are said to be a little like V30 Greenbacks. I'll give it a 9 here, as it's about as close as you can come at giving me all the features I want in an amplifier. Nothing to me is a perfect 10, the perfect 10 just does not exist.