CPB150 PowerBlock review by Crate

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  • Sound: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Features: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.8 Good
  • Users' score: 8.4 (10 votes)
Crate: CPB150 PowerBlock

Price paid: $ 79

Purchased from: second hand

Sound — 8
When I first got it, I run it direct from my Ibanez SA120 to the Powerblock, and plug it into my stereo 4x10 cabinet, and it was, simply put, quiet for a 150w amplifier, even if accounting that it is a solid state amplifier. Worrying that there was some issues with it, I actually took it to a music store and test it out, using mono output through a 4x12 Marshall MC412 cabinet. It opens up a lot and become louder, matching or even exceeding the volume my Blues Junior can provide. However, I still expect it to be louder. Like many solid state amplifier, it's tone is stertile clean at best and thin at worst. The "gain" knob should be more properly called "sustain", because it only provide a slight distortion (up to AC/DC level but no more), it can make the note sing for hours. The reason this amplifier have such issue is due to the fact that it is designed for a modeller; more precisely speaking, it mainly functions as a power amplifier, and let the modeller or whatever you have in front of the powerblock handle all the tone and volume. For example, when I plugged in the Metal Muff into it, it instantly become Dimebag's Warhead, letting out chainsaw like sounds with loud roaring volume. It was so loud that, in the soundproof booth I am testing my stuff, the manager forced me to turn down the volume on both the metal muff and the powerblock. Same boost in tone and volume when I tried out a Line 6 POD. I have yet to try out tube preamps or tube distortions on it, so I do not know whether it will help retain the warmth characteristic of the tubes, but I suspect so, base on the imitation the POD had let out. So as a guitar amplifier, it's tone is medicore. However, plug in something, be it a distortion or fuzz or modeller or even a tube preamp, and you will have a very loud and nice sounding amplifier system.

Overall Impression — 8
So let me first stae my playing style: I am an all-around; fusion, if you will, but oriented toward classical, blues, and metal. Is it the best amplifier? Not by a long shot. Without a modeller or effect pedal, the Crate is much quieter; my Blues Junior can easily overwhelm it, and the combo also have better tone. But when you throw in a modeller, preamp, or a distortion pedal, this amplifier truly shines, in that it does not color much of the sound from those units. Perhaps this is one of the reason why Dimebag played through the Warhead before using Krank, as it allows an extremely harsh distortion that will not be warmed up by tubes, while retaining clarity in the notes. For a solid state amplifier, it is definitely toward a correct place in the market, one that boost portability with a loud volume; with the increasing gas price and my 5 ft 4 frame, portability is getting more and more important. And hey, with the original price tag of $300, to current refurbish/second hand price of $100, I am not complaining. Still, the fact that my Blues Junior is even more portable (do not need to lug the 4x10 cab) and have better tone, would makes me think that unless volume is needed, I would only use it as a backup. If I lost it, and if I can find one selling up to $200 bucks, I would definitely buy it. Otherwise it could be better to find class D power modules and build an equally portable but louder unit. Remember, the CPB150 Powerblock's selling point is that it is designed for modellers/pedals, and it is highly portable. If you are not looking for either one of them, save up that $100 for something else.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I have heard bad things about Crate, but so far, my only concern is that it is not outputing an appropriate amount of volume. I have tested it first by trying only the left output, then the right output, through my speakers; sounds came out at a moderate level, no too quiet but not too loud. I may have to investigate this further. As to whether I would depend on it: not as the main rig, but I would definitely use it as a backup.

Features — 7
The Crate Powerblock is an attempt by Crate to cash in on the modeller market, back when it seems like the new shat before everyone went back to tube. Therefore, it only have one input channel, with five front mounted controls on gain, treble, mid, bass, and level (master volume); it also have a headphone output for the nighttime practice. In it's back it has a XLR Lineout with adjustable volume, two RCA in, two mono in, with one of them can be splitted into a preamp-out/poweramp-in, and can be used as an effect loop. The preamp, based on Flexwave "modelling" technology, is fed into two class D solid state power amp. It has have three speaker output: 1 mono output rated at 8ohms(bridgeable) with 150w RMS output, and two 4 ohm outputs, one for the right channel and one for the left, with each outputing 75w RMS. Aside from the amplifier itself, it also comes with a padded shoulder bag, with a compartment for storing speaker cables and the power cable it provided. What made this solid state amplifier remarkable is that it is one of the few solid state amplifier that is geared for portability with high output; I can easily carry it with my guitar and hop on a public transit. While it is slightly bigger (but much more heavier) than my Metal Muff, it contains the power transformer right inside the chassis.

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    good review, I just bought one of these for all the reasons you mentioned, I basically wanted nothing more than a power amp. my tone comes from Digitech distortion pedals such as the Black 13 and HotHead. I love how small and light it is, most of all the price. I don't play live, and if I ever did, it would probably only be at a house party / bbq. so for me, this does nicely, definately not for everyone though. and yes, you do NEED effects to go with it. now I just have to find a cheap cab for it, using it with headphones for now.
    I pretty much do the same thing. I run my GNX3000 to handle all the tone and effects into the RCA inputs on the back of the PowerBlock. I then output in the bridged mono configuration into my Mesa 4x12 cabinet. One thing to remember is that if you are not running mono bridged (150 watt) you are only getting 75 watts. Good review.
    they are discontinued now, so if you find one you can probably get a good deal on it.
    I LOVE this power block. Very simple, inexpensive and i get a good sound out of it when hooking it up to my peavey 5150 4x12
    ADDITION: As stated in the manual, "The unit is protected against speaker impedances below the recommended minimum, signal levels outside the proper operating range for the unit, and extreme unbalanced stereo conditions." Believe me, it is actually true. Due to my misunderstanding of he label on a 1960 cabs, I thought it was 8 ohms when using mono. Only afterwards do I realize that it is 8 ohms stereo, 4 ohms during mono. As long as you don't do that too much (which is basically what I did, just accidentally pluged in wrong for one minute), it is a very good backup/stereo amp.
    Great review. I've been playing around 20 years and i use a Power Block almost all the time now, in several bands. Like the review said, you need to have a couple of decent pedals. I got tired of hauling Amps about, most venues have a spare cab lying around or i borrow one of the other bands. Worse case scenario you can DI this thing to the desk. People laugh when you walk in with this thing but by the end of the night everyone wants to buy one. Incidently, Tube Pedals do warm the sound up.
    Great unit, I use it mainly for silent practice with my iPod. I wouldn't recommend it if you don't have pedals to juice up the sound. Plugged into a 4x12 it can get pretty loud, more than adequate for a jam session with a 3 or 4 piece band.