Price paid: $ 350
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Features — 8
I am sure that anyone who has stepped into a Guitar Center in the last few years has seen the compact mess of knobs and switches that is Egnater's Tweaker series of heads. Designed primarily as a jack of all trades low wattage studio amplifier, the Tweaker series is a vintage voiced, low-mid gain treasure trove of just about any sound you can dream up outside of modern metal tones. Running on two massive KT88 power tubes and 4 12ax7 preamp tubes, The Tweaker-88 takes it a step further by doubling the wattage of its closest counterpart, the Tweaker 40, and adding a separate high gain channel. Each channel runs off of a master EQ (Treble, Mids, Bass) and has its own set of switches during the gain stage that influence how the amp will perform and sound. Each channel also has an accompanying "voice" switch which lets you choose from three different amp styles: American, which emulates Blackface-era Fenders, AC, which emulates a Vox AC-30, and British, which emulates classic Marshall Plexi tones. On top of that, each channel comes with its own volume boost which also its own controllable gain boost. The back of the head sports your average ohm selection to match up to whatever cab you like, inputs for the Tweaker-88's 4 button footswitch, and a buffered effects loop (which can be controlled by the footswitch).
The Tweaker-88 is a rather inventive jack of all trades, and, despite its abundance of options, remains relatively easy to use. The only drawback is that the amp voicing switch is tied into the master EQ and not the separate channel controls. This makes a bit of a compromise in live settings because you can either have that Marshall crunch or that Fender clean but not both.
Sound — 8
The Tweaker-88 is a vintage voiced amp that sounds its best in clean to mid-gain settings. I play with a Gibson LP with P90's and both the Fender and Marshall settings sound absolutely wonderful. They aren't going to stack up exactly with an old Twin or Plexi, but for the price its like getting 98% of those two amps in one. The switches on each channel are very responsive and not only change the sound of the amp, but how it responds to your guitar playing. The overall sound of the amp is a bit dark but it can easily be EQed out with a little patience if that's not your thing. That being said, the Vox setting is a wash. It neither sounds like an AC-30 nor occupies the middle ground between the other two settings on the voicing switch. Instead it is a rather mushy and lifeless afterthought on an otherwise excellent amplifier.
Another great thing about the Tweaker-88 is that it takes pedals like a champ. The darker vibe of the head makes it especially adroit for overdrive pedals as I normally find my ODs to be a bit too trebley without an added EQ in the chain. The Tweaker evens that out making even dimed overdrives still sound smooth and rich.
The only real drawback is that with the high wattage set up running through two rather clean and tight style of tubes, it takes some real volume to get the best tone from the amp. That's not to say that its low volume tones are superb, but when comparing the sound at 10 o'clock to, say, 3 o'clock there is a massive difference in overall quality.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The Tweaker-88 is compact yet heavy as all hell. I run it through an Egnater Vengeance 4x12 and the head weighs more than the cabinet. It feels like it can take just about any beating the road could throw at it. The fact that there is a fair share of plastic on the amp is a bit of a concern, plus that it is Chinese made, but everything fits securely and is rather snug (no loose tubes or inputs). Compared to the other Tweaker models, this thing is meant to be played live and Egnater seem to have kept this in mind. The only thing that is a pain in the ass is that the bias adjustment is in a beyond awkward place in the inside of the amp. It makes regular maintenance and making sure everything is up to snuff harder than it has to be, but I assume that this design has to do with the smaller size of the head itself compared to most other 80-100 watt units.
Overall Impression — 8
So far the Egnater Tweaker-88 has tackled everything I've thrown at it. Chimey post-rock, done. Punky powerchord cruch, piece of cake. It even likes to play with all sorts of dirtboxes. Hook up a muff and a switch it over to the American voicing and it can get you close to that early Dinosaur Jr. fuzz. Throw an overdrive onto an already dirty channel and you can play everything from Maiden to Dismember depending on how tight or loose you have the settings at. It's a wonderful platform to play with beyond just the stock configurations.
If you can find it on sale or used, there's really no better amp in that 400-700 dollar range that can touch this for not only the amount of sounds you can get out of it, but for its wonderful tone as well. That being said, if you're planning on buying it new for its full retail of 900 bucks, buy an old silverface Twin or a used JCM800 since really not much else is going to beat that.