Price paid: £ 519
Purchased from: Coda Music, Luton
Features: For those of you who may not have heard of Cornford, they represent one of the last British manufactures in amplification. Each one is hand built in Whitstable (I believe) in the south of England and each bears it's own hand written serial number. Before 2009, Cornford amps were fabled for there amazing tone and, arguably, their hefty price tag; a problem the Roadhouse range sought to change. Still handmade and tube powered, the Roadhouse incorporates PCB (printed circuit board) technology, which helps bring the cost down to a more affordable retail price of 699. The front panel of the Roadhouse houses an Input jack, 3 band EQ (Bass, Middle and Treble), a Boost Control, Gain control, and a Master Volume. Unlike most other amps, the effects loop is also housed in the front panel, offering easy access to this feature. The back panel houses standard features you'd expect, along with an impressive array of speaker output jack sockets (1x4 Ohm, 2x8 Ohm and 2x16 Ohm). The Roadhouse is a single channel amp, with a boost function to get to the "overdriven" setting of the amp, but more on this later. The boost function can be accessed by a switch on the front of the amp, or by a footswitch, included when purchased. A final cool feature about the amp is the on/standby/off switch. Usually this is broken into two separate switches on most amplifiers, however the guys at Cornford have put all functionality into one switch. But enough of the features! How does it sound? // 10
Sound: Initially, I was blown away with the tonal scope of this amp. I tried it through my Ibanez S470 with two DiMarzio Evo's and stock single coil. In the past, I have played through amps that failed to bring out the character of these pick ups; the Roadhouse responded to each of them with amazing clarity. The single coil that used to sound weak suddenly had a purpose, allowing funk breaks to blast out when I rolled the gain down on the amp. When I flipped to my neck pick up, I could get a smooth tone with just the right amount of bite. Flip to the bridge Evo and crank the gain, you get a lovely, fat overdriven sound, with a perfect blend of bass and top end. However the real beauty of this amp lies in the detail. For best results, I think you need to spend a little more time tweaking the EQ and gain then you perhaps would with a Marshall for example. But by no means is this a bad thing. With the small tweaks, you really can dial in any sound and achieve the authenticity of the particular genre you're going for. Don't get me wrong, this amp doesn't offer complete tonal versatility. I certainly wouldn't recommend this amp for those who want to play Metal-and-only-Metal. That said, the amp does offer enough gain to satisfy any types of rock and I wouldn't hesitate to use it to play metal myself.
I do want to take a moment to assure any worries you may have about this amp being a single channel. This goes back to what I was saying about having to spend a greater time EQing the amp. As it is a single channel amp, the gain will affect both your sounds (traditionally your "clean" and your "dirty" sound). I'm hesitant to use the word "compromise" as this sounds like you're sacrificing tone, but I find with a little tweaking you can get it so you have a reasonable clean sound and a good lead sound with a touch of the boost switch. However if you want the best overdriven sound you can get from the Roadhouse, you will have to sacrifice your clean a little. Funnily enough, there is less of a sacrifice when you dial the gain down to get a pure clean, and hit the boost switch; a softly overdriven sound can be achieved. // 9
Reliability & Durability: Due to being a relatively new purchase, I'm afraid I can't offer any gigging experience with the Roadhouse. That said, I wouldn't hesitate to gig without a back up. I get The Feeling I would want to be more careful with it than my previous Marhsall JCM, but perhaps that's because you have to invest in care when you purchase a hand made amp! // 10
Overall Impression: For me, this amp is getting pretty close to something perfect. It responds to the players playing in a way I haven't experienced before, and really is sensitive to not just what you play, but HOW you play it. I would recommend this predominately for a guitar with humbuckers, as the overdriven sound really comes into it's own here, but that's not to say it neglects single coils. When I play my Strat through the Roadhouse I get a lovely, bluesy "classic Strat" tone and can still crank the gain up for more distorted, lead driven moments. This is Cornfords cheapest model, however I would still put it in a league well above products in the same price range. I'd urge you to try before you buy with these amps, as Cornfords may not be your cup of tea. I'm certainly more than happy with mine. // 10