Price paid: $ 100
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 8
I use an Epiphone G400 SG with a Duncan PhatCat in the neck and a GFS Mean 90 in the bridge. Also, a metric f^*#ton of pedals. Unlike a lot of people, I want my tone to be shaped primarily by my guitar and my pedals. My amp; s job is to reproduce those sounds faithfully and provide broad eq for adjusting to the room I'm in. Given those parameters, I couldn't ask for too much more than the PowerBlock. It's hella loud, even without cranking the input gain to breakup. Not that there's a whole lot of breakup; The gain knob is more of a presence control up until about 1 o'clock. You can get some light overdrive out of it, but no faces will melt. On the other hand, there's no no noisy crappy fizzy solid state gain sound either. The thing stays fairly musical, even at high levels. I think of it as essentially a power amp with a presence and eq section. A graphic eq pedal will change this amp dramatically, and I highly recommend one. Don't expect to plug in a guitar with nothing else and love the tone. That's not what this is for. I love gnarly fuzz, like Black Flag or QOTSA or even ZZ Top. This amp LOVES pedals. My "preamp" pedal chain: SG -> Boss Graphic Eq -> Washburn Blues Overdrive -> Swollen Pickle MKII. From there it hits a tuner, then several pitch shifters, delays, and other goodies. Tone is mostly in your hands. After that, it's about gain-staging. This amp lets me stack pedals without them turning into mush. When my fuzz is on, and I add the OD, I can hear it. Some amps can't say the same.
Overall Impression — 8
I've been playing guitar for 17 years, and touring now and then for ten of those. I have no plans to take another amp on the road with me. If you're the type whose only "effect" is the amp, this thing might not be for you. All alone, it's not terribly impressive. Perfectly functional, and not at all bad... Just nothing special. If you're a pedal person, this amp is absolutely worth gambling on. Find one cheap on eBay if you can. This amp puts out what you put into it. For someone like me, this amp is a long-sought-after solution. If you're the type whose only "effect" is the amp, this thing might not be for you. All alone, it's not terribly impressive.
Reliability & Durability — 10
How's this for reliability and durability: I have it velcroed to my pedalboard. Never had a single problem with it, it doesn't even get terribly warm. All I need is my pedalboard, my cab, and my guitar. The pedalboard is built into a protective wooden "coffin" for transport, so the amp rarely faces any type of danger or exposure. It will likely outlive me. It used to be the backup for my tube head, until that died mysteriously. Once I realized I was getting the tone I wanted out of this... The other guitar player in my band got one too. He also uses it for bass in his post-punk band. We love them! We use different guitars and pedals, and these amps are very transparent, so there are no issues with sounding too similar. You can still hear your guitar through everything, unlike a Triple Rectifier for instance.
Features — 7
One channel. Knobs: input gain, treble, mid, bass, master volume. Fx loop (which is. Stereo or bridgeable-mono speaker outs (with differing ohm needs and wattage outputs). Xlr line out. Rca inputs for a CD player. Speaker simulator built in. No reverb, no second channel, not much extra stuff. This is a really basic, straight-ahead amp. That is not a bad thing in any way. Personally, I think built-in effects (excluding a decent reverb tank) always sound like garbage. If anyone os going to color my tone it should be ME, not some crap digital fx processor in an amp. So Crate gets points for excluding that nonsense. The speaker simulator though... I'm still not clear on whether this simulator is applied to all outputs or not. I've read forums where people claim to be able to bypass it with a certain cable configuration. I tried it and heard no difference. If there were no speaker sim, and a footswitchable fx loop, I'd give this a 9.