Price paid: $ 750
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Features — 9
Before beginning this review I should clarify for those who don't know why I listed this under Fender and not SUNN is because this is NOT an authentic SUNN amplifier, it is a Fender amp released under the SUNN trademark. It is essentially not even a Reissue because it is a COMPLETELY different amp from the O.G. With that being said, don't let any of that dissuade you from getting this amp because it has a lot of great stuff going on and is most likely THE BEST high gain head Fender has ever put out (mostly comparing to the EVH and MH series).
At its core this is a 100 watt 2 channel amplifier with an FX loop. It weighs around 60 lbs so it's about the same weight as a dual recto. It also has a built in attenuation which allows you to switch from 100 watt "Arena" mode to 25 watt "club mode." However, I assure you, this is the loudest 25 watts you'll ever hear. There's a few more features that make me REALLY like this amp for studio and stage use. One is the XLR output which I LOVE because it doesn't have speaker emulation. Let me explain this. If you want to record this amp without worrying about mic placement, you can take the XLR output and send it directly to your audio interface and then use cabinet impulses on that signal. You can do this with many amps by sending the FX loop from your amp to a direct box, then to your interface, however, that technique does not capture the poweramp distortion which is often what we equate with "tube warmth." With this amp I get do either technique. This amp also has 2 inputs which I rarely see on other amps. One is an "Amp In" which lets you connect another preamp and also COMPLETELY bypasses the preamp section of the amp. It also has an "Amp Out" which is like the send of an FX loop in that it's only sending the preamp section. Fender advises in the manual of the amp that for "arena" volume you use 2 or more of these amps together. By linking the Amp In and Amp Out jacks you can control all the settings from one amp and get double the power. One day if I'm ever the last man on Earth and managed to some how acquire 3 or more of these, this is going to happen.
One more feature that I find EXTREMELY useful. The FX loop as dedicated volume controls for both send and return volumes for each channel. This means that you can link the send straight to the return with a short cable and then use these as a clean volume control. I'll explain why this is so useful in the sound section.
Sound — 8
I couldn't give the sound higher than an 8 because the amp honestly has a few quirks. These quirks in no way make the amp any less usable, but while some are easily remedied, others limit your sound possibilities. I'll start by saying I used to own a Mesa/Boogie Mark III and then an Orange Jim Root #4 Terror. I've since sold both amps (I actually traded my Boogie for this). While the Boogie was almost annoyingly tweakable and the Orange was super simple, this amp is a healthy in between. Not only that, but I find I can easily get the sounds that I liked from both of those amps without any of the sounds I did not like.
Let's start with Channel 1. When I first played channel 1 I admit that I jumped. This is the clean channel, and it is the channel on this amp that MOST closely resembles the Original SUNN Model T. It's not quite there but is good it's own way. I jumped because this channel is exceedingly loud. Even on the club setting this thing is monstrous. The only controls are bass, middle, treble, and volume. When you turn the volume passed 5 it doesn't really get louder anymore (thankfully). The volume basically becomes a gain knob at that point. Turned all the way up you're in Plexi town. HUGE and rich Marshall-y mid range grit, low end thunder, and top sparkle. This is actually my favorite sound available from the amp and when boosted with my BBE Green Screamer or a fuzz easily gets into sludge and doom metal territory. That's pretty much all there is to channel 1, but honestly channel 1 alone was worth the price I paid for this amp. I should also mention it's extremely low noise even when cranked.
Channel 2 is significantly different. I really don't know what other amp to compare it to. It's sort of like a 5150 in the fact that there is a PLETHORA of gain on tap but it is less buzzy sounding. Literally there is no reason to ever turn the gain knob passed 3 or 4 depending on your PUPs. This channel is also more noisey. At first when I played their amp there was a really audible low frequency humming on this channel, however, after changing all the preamp tubes this issue resolved. There was still SOME noise but the signal to noise ratio was greatly decreased. The sound itself of channel 1 is very edgy, but in a good way. With the gain set right, you can get some really thick and tight palm muting sounds and it does big crunchy chords really well. The low end attack is really impressive. The highs are not as smooth as channel 1 which makes this channel really good for metal. When I say it's good for metal I mean it could definitely handle ANY kind of metal including today's more extreme sub-genres. The EQ is very responsive which I also like, but I recommend starting with all the knobs at 1 instead of starting them at 5. Then turn each knob up slowly until you like what you hear. I never need to go passed 6 on any of the knobs. I should have mentioned this earlier, but the presence control is kind of weird. Anything below 7 is WAY too dark for being heard in a mix. Might be good for doom, but your best bet is to leave that knob between 7 and 9. I put mine at 8.5.
Now for the stuff I don't like. I thought the amp was broken at first because Channel 2 is substantially quieter than Channel 1 in terms of output. For example, Channel 1 with the volume on 2 is loud enough to be heard well above a drummer while the volume on 2 on channel 2 is probably loud enough to play along to a loud recording in your bedroom. There is a remedy for this which I mentioned in the features section. The FX loop is a powerful tool on this amp mostly because channel 1 and 2 have independent volume controls in the FX loop. This lets you use the FX loop volumes as Master volumes for each channel. If you were wondering how I was able to play with Channel 1 with volume on 10, this is how I did it. Turning both volumes on the clean down to 1 allows you to crank the channel 1 without drowning out your band. If you want to keep channel 1 clean you can do that 2 by keeping the volume on no more than 2 and turning the FX loop volume up. This is also how I get my channel 2 to compete with channel 1 in turns of output. The only problem I have with this is if I'm playing a show and I wanna go from the Channel 1 distorted sound to the channel 1 clean sound it isn't possible. The best I can do in that situation is lower the volume on my guitar to take off some distortion. This didn't break the amp for me because this is basically 2 amps in one. One amp is as versatile and sounds as good as a Plexi, while the other is more typical of other 2 channel amps where I can get a very good distortion sound (but not as nice as a Plexi) with a good clean sound and footswitch those. This amp well deserves an 8 out 10. When I say this amp can handle any genre of music, I mean if you dial it in right, it really can. The only thing it may not be great for is twangy country sounds.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The amp seems solid. Like I said there was a problem with one of the tubes but loading it up with JJs sold any of those issues. The construction is solid and the metal grill on the front is REALLY sexy looking. I like this amp's grill because it doesn't make it look super "metal" like Rectifiers and 6505s. It's a really "classy" metal look. I can't comment on the reliability of true SUNN amplifiers, but I've never heard anyone complain about Fender amps having reliability issues so I doubt this one will. I will say when I used to drive around my Mesa Mark III I would occasionally hear some rattle from the amp. Not sure what that was, all I know is this one is dead quiet and everything is secure.
Overall Impression — 8
This is my third tube amplifier and my favorite. Before this I used a Mesa/Boogie Mark III which I found you had to tweak too much to get a great sound out of. After that I owned a Orange Jim Root Terror #4 which was great for bringing to practice with the band and playing at home, but did not have the headroom required for live playing. This amp is perfect for my needs. Tons of sounds available. Very rugged. Very loud, and it takes pedals really well. I don't see myself selling this one because in 10 years or less it will be considered vintage and I believe over time these will become more sought after. I play in bands that 10 to play venues with crappy sound systems or basements. These amps are perfect if you're in a similar situation because you'll have plenty of volume to fill the room without miking your amp. I'd recommend them primarily for that or studio use. They are a little bit hefty and maybe even too loud for practices, but if you need it loud, you want this.
Finally before wrapping this up consider the price range of this amp. They usually sell on the used market anywhere from $1000 to $1500 depending on quality. If you can find one under $1000 like I did, DO NOT HESITATE unless you're not strong enough to carry it out the door.
This amp is for people who like: Hard rock, indie, heavy blues rock, any kind of metal especially doom metal, sludge, stoner rock, or heavier.
This amp is not recommended for: Funk, country.
Comparable amps in price range: Orange Thunderverb, Peavey VTM, Marhsall JCM900 SL-X or 2 Channel JCM800s, Laney GH50L. (High gain, British-voiced amps with FX Loops).
I own and use this amp with Schecter guitars using EMG 57 and 66 pickups. The cab is a Carvin Legacy 4x12 with Vintage 30 speakers. This equipment is critical to my perception of this amplifier and should be taken into consideration with my opinions.