Price paid: £ 999
Purchased from: Matchetts Music, Belfast
Sound — 9
The one thing that jumps out at you about this amp is the clean tones. The Bassman tone is fat and loud with low end in spades, the Vibrolux tone is more articulate and bright, it even manages to make my EMG loaded ESP sound like the cleanest of clean Les Pauls. The Vibrolux channel is the one I use most. The amount of low end on the Bassman channel makes it slightly pedal-unfriendly however the Vibrolux channel is more measured, the natural voicing is more even and has enough head room to handle even the most crowded pedal board. The one problem is that there is only a two band EQ on the clean channels which means I need to add in some mid range with a Boss GE7 but on the whole, the clean channel is the best I've heard. The notes are defined and there is plenty of high end without sounding piercing. The Bassman channel, as I mentioned, is thick and loud however it manages to maintain the definition between each note even with the bags of low end. Flipping over to the overdrive, you get one of the best blues tones I've heard. Plug in a Strat and it screams 'Texas' at you, you could bang out the SRV licks all day long without ever getting tired. Be warned however, don't be tempted to crank both gains equally, this is an amp that suffers from high gain mud. The secret is to keep the fat gain reigned in as much as possible and the volume and bright gain roughly equal. This especially true when using humbuckers, the 12" speaker and big enclosure make this amp very fat so when using humbuckers it's best to keep the bass in check. Hit the right sweet spot with the three band EQ and you'll get pure 'Chicago' tones, smooth bass notes, clear and defined highs with just the hint of distortion. Playing this amp, you get the feeling that they built this with pedal freaks in mind, the both the Vibrolux and Overdrive channels give a great platform for those of us in the metal brigade. If you want a modern, pedal defined metal tone, go straight for the Vibrolux channel and plug your distortion pedal of choice right in. If a more dirty, gritty tone is what your after, take an Overdrive pedal, Switch to the overdrive channel and set the gain low using the pedal to Drive the amp and play QOTSA to your hearts content. As long as you keep the bass and gain in check, this amp can produce just about any tone you could ever need and the clean channel gives you a great starting point for your pedal driven tones.
Overall Impression — 9
I originally put a deposit down on this amp, planning to pay it off at the end of the month, however it left such an impression that I went in the next day and paid it off. I compared it against a Blackstar HT 20 and whilst the Blackstar was great, the Fender took my breath away. I use a few different pedals including a Boss SD1 and a Dunlop Cry Baby and they work beautifully with this amp, though a bit of fiddling with the EQ was needed first but when I got there it was worth it. The one thing I wish this amp had was wheels, it is ridiculously heavy (a good 30-40 kg) and is very difficult to manoeuvre. However, the pain of transport is worth it once you plug in and realise that this amp is truly exceptional and a future classic for sure.
Reliability & Durability — 8
This amp, as the price would suggest, is built of the finest quality components. The 13 ply plywood is durable yet excruciatingly heavy and a set of wheels would not have been unwelcome. The tubes on this amp are never run too HOT and should last for good while. The electronics look solid and all the connections look to have been finished neatly and professionally. I would depend on this amp 100%, the quality of the workmanship and materials is second to none and can take a real beating. However the weight is an issue when gigging.
Features — 10
This is a three channel, 60 watt combo powered by 2 6L6 power amp tubes, 6 12Ax7 and 2 12At7 preamp tubes. I play styles from smooth BB King style blues right through to Gojira-esque technical metal, this amp has versatility, with the right pedals, to handle these styles with ease. It also features a two-stage cascading gain on the overdrive channel, one being a brighter, lower gain control and the other being a fat, high gain stage. There are also two separate clean channels, one based on the Fender Vibrolux and the other based on the Fender Bassman. The 60 watt power is plenty, but the cool thing is this amp can run at quite low volume levels without sounding horrible. Other features include; a spring reverb control, an effects loop and a line out for connecting to an external cab. It includes a Celestion G12 Vintage 30 and is made from high quality 13 ply plywood.