X100B 2x12 Combo review by Carvin

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 5.9 (8 votes)
Carvin: X100B 2x12 Combo

Price paid: $ 640

Sound — 8
I have a Sterling Ax20 Music Man Axis knockoff. (2 Vintage output humbuckers, standard tuning.) I play classic rock and blues rock mostly. (ZZ Top, Them Crooked Vultures, Skynyrd. You get the picture). This amp is not designed for that music. It is designed for heavy stuff and pristine clean. Zappa and Vai early on used this line of amps. BUT. I can make it work. I like having extra gain on tap if I need it. Andy Timmons does something similar with his Mesa Boogies as he doesn't use much gain from traditionally high gain amps. Don't use the 25 watt setting. It sounds fizzy and crappy. Idk why. The 50 watt and 100 watt options are the way to go. And really there is hardly any volume difference between each option. It's a slight volume increase and clean headroom increase with every Switch up. The clean channel is silent, the distortion channel isn't. What else do you expect? It can go from solid state style clean to stupidly high gain feedback madness. The clean channel gets a bit of hair when its volume is dimed. Otherwise its clear as day. The distortion is compressed on chords but on lead lines the notes seem to bloom out of the amp. Its cool. There are always gainings who crave more gain, but all of you have you tube screamers to push the preamp so you'd be fine here. The reverb is great. The 5 band eq is funky. I tend to use it on the distortion channel with a check mark style EQ. (Low mids being the low point at nearly the bottom of the slider and highs being the highest with slider at the top). The presence control moves from 8-10. The bright Switch makes arpeggios jump from the amp. Doesn't sound like Fender or Marshall distortion. And I've never played a Boogie. Fender distortion just sounds bad to me and the Marshall distortion is brighter and crunchier. The Carvin's distortion is a bit fuzzier and creates a wall of sound at higher gains at big volumes. This is my first tube amp and I think its best at 50 watts with the volume at about 8 (after about 20-30 minutes of tube heat up time.) You can keep up with any drummer at that volume don't worry. I almost got the Marshall Haze, but I was concerned about headroom and the one speaker. And I really don't like the Fender HRD so the Carvin was a good pick for me. (On a side note, I like to think I can get a good Gilmour tone outta this thing. This distortion is a lot like his I think.)

Overall Impression — 9
Nothing is a perfect match for me. I play stuff by Eric Johnson, ZZ Top, Them Crooked Vultures, Stone Temple Pilots, David Gilmour, and some original stuff. This amp is versatile and based on my budget is certainly good enough. I am 17 and have been taking lessons since I was 11 I've own a broken down Yamaha Pacifica, a slightly modded Laguna LE322, and my trusty Sterling Music Man. My two previous amps are some starter Behringer and a Roland Cube 30X. This amp is better than those. If it was lost I wouldn't be able to get the same deal so I probably couldn't get it again. I hate its bulk and its sound at 25 watts. I love its reverb, smooth distorted lead tones, and ridiculous clean headroom. I might try EL34 tubes in it later.

Reliability & Durability — 10
It weighs over 60 lbs. Their website lies. Be careful with the tubes and you won't need a backup. Very solid, hard to carry though.

Features — 9
This amp is brand new never been played. It has 6L6 tubes (like Fenders have) and 12AX7A (aka ECC83) preamp tubes (like Marshalls have.) I haven't looked, but I think I read online these amps come stock with Ruby tubes or something similar. Its 2x12 and can go from 25 to 50 to 100 watts. It has an effects loop, a boost option, and a 5 band EQ. The rest of the features are pretty standard from any 2 channel amp you'll find. I wish it was cheaper. But, I always wish things are cheaper. Features it lacks: any effects (I don't really care though because I have a Boss Blues Driver, a Boss Chorus Ensemble, and hopefully soon I will have a TC Electronic Nova Repeater). I have cranked it to max volume, 100 watt glory once. I was let down. I was expecting my ears to fall off and to lose my balance. Granted I was outside jamming with another guitar player, bassist, and loud drummer, but still (unboosted) I just barely reached the top of the mix. When I added the boost I was loud I'll admit that. Oh and the footswitch is very expensive like 45 bucks extra I think. So dumb.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Regarding the volume thing, and I read a few sources saying that's actually a fault and there's a mod you can do to get more output.
    With a high-gain tube amp like this the whole wattage thing affects the output volume a lot less than you'd expect, and has a lot more to do with tonal characteristics. Obviously, a 100-watt tube stack is louder than a 5-watt 1x10" combo, but for instance, the difference in volume between a 100-watt tube head and a 50-watt version of the same amp is quite small.
    I would like to get one of these, they seem like they sound great. Steve Vai, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, and Suicidal Tendencies all used these.
    I own an old 1986 X-100B, it made some of my Marshall/ Mesa-Boogie cork sniffing buddies respect this amp, because back then it was pretty much their equal ... but at a much lower price. I tried a new used one and it was like mine when it was new, some different modifications were done, like the switches they have now, on mine it was the push / pull pots. Just remember this is a medium gain amp. With the right power conditioning, a noise gate on the pedal board in the front of the amp and another noise gate in the effects loop and Sonic Maximizer this or any amp will sound all sooo good. To push this amp with the digital 32 band Eq, you can have any sound you like : Thrash, Speed Metal, Blues, 80's "Hair Metal" or Classic Rock.
    Righteous, I'm getting an 84' for $250 with the footswitch! I'm ****ing stoked, they say this is the very amp that Steve Vai used on Passion and warfare! From what I understand with a sonic maximizer this thing will have limitless capabilities and ungodly power.. but through a Line 6 cab.. we shall see.