Price paid: C$ 700
Purchased from: Avenue
Sound — 7
I use this amp primarily with a G&L ASAT and a Gretsch G-5120, though I've been known to use it with an EMG loaded ESP Eclipse and an EMG loaded Epiphone Les Paul. I use the amp as my clean amp at wedding gigs, so it gets to play a variety of music ranging from polka's and waltz's through to 60's rock. The clean channel on this amp is a real gem. It has a very nicely balanced tone; its not too bright, but it also avoids any flubby-ness in the bass. It is a little bit darker than Vintage Fender amps, but it is arguably more usable as a result. A real bonus of the clean channel is that it stays clean longer than expected, allowing you to run the amp a little bit hotter, which is very nice. The controls, though shared between the channels, allow you to quickly alter the character of the amp between songs or during guitar changes. The reverb is okay; it works well enough at lower settings, but it gets sloppy when pushed past 3 or 4. The distorted channel is a disappointment. At lower gain settings, it is possible to coax out a reasonably good chording sound; think clean with a little added bite. It is a little thin, but careful use of the controls can help to pull it into line. Increasing gain, however, leads to fizziness. The amp simply sounds trebly and thin. All the tight bass is gone, replaced with thin and crackly treble. With very aggressive control use, it is possible to approximate a nice, thick lead tone, but doing so renders the clean channel muddy. Like most Fender amps, this one absolutely loves effects. Using tremolos, reverbs, choruses, vibratos and other more "vintage" type effects is just gorgeous, the amp loves them. More modern effects are treated just as well. Extreme effects, however, should be used with care; it is easy to overwhelm the amp with more extreme effects and you'll get a muddy tone doing so. As far as using distortion pedals goes, moderation is key. Overdrives seem to work quite well (some better than others), as do mid-level distortions. Think classic rock as a maximum, any more and you get mud. Overall, I'm pleased with the amp. I bought it for its cleans, and it performs more than adequately in that regard. It is very quiet in operation and the reverb, though limited, is usable. However, the distortion really ins't very good, and I would discourage people from buying this amp with the intent of using the distortion.
Overall Impression — 8
I use this amp as both my practice amp and, for the past 16 months, my clean amp at gigs. It has been absolutely Stellar in this capacity. It always sounds good, on the clean channel at least, and it has never required any sort of repairs or servicing. For the money, I think this is one of the better gig-worthy American sounding amps on the market. That being said, it has the distinct limitation of having rather poor distortion. Therefore, I will be careful in recommending the amp to other players. If all they want are cleans, or if they want a foundation on which to add effects, this is certainly an excellent option. However, for somebody who requires one amp that can produce a variety of sounds, I would look elsewhere. This amp is a one-trick pony, though it is really rather good at performing its trick.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The amp has so far been very reliable. In the 16 months I have owned it, it has seen 30 or so live gigs, as well as daily home practice work and it hasn't so much as made a funny noise. It seems to be very well designed and built, and all the components are reasonably high quality. Though I am quite confident in this amp, I refuse to play without a backup (as of last week, this amp is the backup) simply because tubes always seem to go at bad times. That being said, I do not worry about this amp what'soever.
Features — 8
This amp was made in Mexico in, I think, 2008 or 2009. My particular model is the Python Special Edition, which is the same as any other Hot Rod Deluxe except for the Celestion Vintage 30 speaker and the python covering. The features on this amp include: 2 channels; clean and distorted, a more gain Switch for the distorted channel, high and low gain inputs, 3 band eq, presence control, master volume and gain controls for the distortion channel, volume control for the clean channel, a single reverb control, a bright switch, effects loop, a footswitch (included) to Switch between channels and to toggle distortion/more gain and an 8ohm external speaker jack. The amp is a 40 watt 1x12 combo, but it is a little on the big side. The cabinet is an open back design. The amp uses 12AX7 pre-amp tubes and 6l6GC power tubes. The reverb is a short-tank spring driven unit of unspecified origins. The amp came with a cover and features an adequate top handle.