IC100 Head review by HH Electronic

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  • Sound: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Features: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.8 Good
  • Users' score: 8 (1 vote)
HH Electronic: IC100 Head

Price paid: £ 130

Purchased from: eBay

Sound — 7
I've tried using several guitars with this amp and the clean settings tend to respond particularly well to guitars with low output pickups, particularly lower output single coils. Hi-output stuff like the humbuckers in my 1973 Gibson SG tend to clip the input stage very easily. the "sustain" mode, on the contrary, seems to respond better to higher output. Strange but true. Now the cleans have a nice shimmer and spank to them reminiscent of a classic Fender tube amp, only without the natural compression or "warmth" - but one hell of a lot of clarity. Extremely clean tones, even at higher volumes - I am getting a little bit of a grainy sound from the highs when the volume goes up a little but I think that's the HH cabinet from my VS-Musician combo that I'm using the amp with as it's the only cabinet I have that will handle 100 watts, being more of a combo user - the VS-Musician also does this in exactly the same way once it reaches the same volume, so I don't think it's the amplifier causing it. Given that it is an old solid state, it is rather noisy with the output set to "stage". There is a lot of hiss and hum. This is why the output Switch was fitted, and it does a good job of reducing the noise, but you won't get stage volumes out of it in studio mode.. The distortion built into the amp is very basic and primitive - it's not bad but it's not great either. It's usable, and is very Marc Bolan-esque, but that's about the only thing it can do. It doesn't respond to different guitars in any particular way, except that higher output pickups tend to give it a bit more "oomph". It's just a very rough and ready, gritty rock tone, that does the job. For people who want a bit more versatile distortion, there is some good news - the amp handles overdrive pedals beautifully on a clean setting. The reverb is pretty much a standard spring reverb - not much to be said. The vibrato on the other hand is very nice, especially when combined with the reverb. It has a very warm, analogue sound that can go anywhere from subtle and gentle to a completely ridiculous fast pulsing sound with an almost "bubbling" quality to it. So to summarise the sound, the clarity and transparency of the cleans have potential for a lot of versatility, but the Drive leaves something to be desired, unless you're a fan of Marc Bolan.

Overall Impression — 8
I mostly bought this amp for trashy '70s pop-rock distorted tones which it delivers in spades, so it's a good match for what I was looking for. I've been playing for about 15 years and own several amps including another HH Electronic solid state amp(VS-Musician), some tube amps (I mainly use a Laney VC30), and I've got an extensive collection of guitars. If the amp were stolen, lost, or broke down irrepairably, I'd probably seek out another, or try the IC100's little brother the IC100S, which is a stripped down version that a lot of people seem to prefer to the regular IC100 for its simplicity and for the somewhat more organic tone it produces as a result of having a passive EQ section. The main things I love about the amp are the clarity of the clean sounds, and the dirty edge of the overdrive - it's just a pity there's no control over the overdrive sounds really. The vibrato is fun to play with and when combined with a touch of reverb can get some really nice surf tones. Overall I'm very happy with it, for what I paid for it I could've done a lot worse - although the lack of a gain control continues to bother me!

Reliability & Durability — 9
Since it is an old amp, I probably wouldn't use it without a backup, even though it seems like it's a pretty reliable amp considering how well it is working. The only problems I've had with it so far are a quiet fuzz sound underlining everything regardless of the amp setting which I would suspect is caused by old filter caps, and the vibrato knobs are a bit crackly and have a couple of "dead spots" where no effect occurs but above and below the effect operates as normal. I'm impressed that it still works as well as it does given its age. It looks like only one part has been replaced - the reverb Switch on the 2nd channel.

Features — 7
The HH IC100 was HH's first guitar amp, introduced in 1971 and manufactured until 1976. It was available as a head or as a 2x12 combo, all solid state. I'm not sure what year mine is but it is in excellent condition for its age. The amp features two channnels - one is a standard clean channel with bass, treble, brilliance and volume controls, and a Switch for reverb. The other has the same features except an additional Switch for "sustain" (distortion), and speed and depth controls for the inbuilt vibrato effect. the level of reverb is controlled by a single master reverb knob, and the amp also has an output Switch enabling you to Switch between "studio" (75 watts) and "stage" (100 watts), a feature that was added sometime around 1972 as a primitive means of lowering the noise-floor for recording. Each channel has two inputs - one normal, one bright, although these appear to work like the "hi" and "lo" inputs on modern amps as the bright input just seems a lot quieter, rather than brighter. On the back it also features a "slave output" which I'll be first to admit I have no idea what it actually does, an "output to mixer" which I assume is a line output, "power amp input" which seems like a line input for using the amp as a PA system (I would assume that the output to mixer and power amp input might also work as an FX loop), two footswitch jacks (one for sustain, one for reverb/vibrato), and two speaker outputs - the amp, being solid state, is compatible with just about any speaker cabinet that can handle 100 watts, as it can take any impedance from 4 to 16 ohms. While this amp is loaded with features my only criticism is that the "sustain" function seems like an after-thought. What the Switch does is turns the distortion sound on or off, and that's about all you can do with it. There's no way of controlling the gain, so the distortion is constantly set at "full-on rock 'n' roll" no matter what you do, which greatly limits the versatility of the amp on its own. One of the most interesting features to look at is how the sci-fi silver control panel is back-lit with a flourescent blueish-greenish coloured "electro-luminescent" strip, making the controls easier to see on a dark stage as well as giving off a cool "retro-junk" vibe.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I've had my IC100 combo for for about 20 years now, and there's a trick you can do to adjust the level of drive with the sustain switch on. Plug your guitar into the Normal input of the sustain channel, then use a short lead from the Bright input to the Normal (or Bright, as takes your fancy) input on the clean channel - this will make them run together, and you can balance up the driven and clean tones with the volumne controls to get whatever amount of drive you want! It won't harm the amp at all, I've been doing this since I first got mine, but adds a bit of valvy tone to it (to my mind, anyway). Makes it louder, too. Try it!
    I recently inherited a 50 watt HH electronics 50 series amp/speaker? although I cant find them anywhere on the internet, how much do these go for nowadays anyone know?? cheers
    I think nearly a year on, i need to comment on a couple of things that I said in this review about the sound, based on a few things I have learned from experimenting with this amp a bit more: It has become obvious to me that this amp was not designed to be used with the guitar volume maxed out all the time like most modern solid state amps are. If you roll back the volume control on your guitar until the output of the clean and distorted settings match, you eliminate both the problems with the sound i mentioned - the first being the sensitivity to input-stage clipping on the clean channel, the 2nd being that the drive setting has too much gain that can't be adjusted. If you roll back your volume that sorts out both these problems as well as the thing i forgot to mention about the extreme volume drop when the distortion is engaged. However, this only works well if you're using the "normal" input, as the bright input tends to make the distortion sound grainy and voltage-starved with the guitar volume turned down, for some reason. So it seems clear that the intention behind the distortion setting was to turn the volume on the guitar down for a rhythm tone and then turn it up a little to boost the input volume for solos, and this works very effectively with this amp. I don't know it took me so long to figure this out. So now that i've learned how to use this amp the way they clearly intended for it to be used, i can't fault it. It's just that good. Don't expect to hear anything remotely tube-like out of any HH amp, though
    I bought an ic100 but one of the speakers has blown. I cant find any branding onthe speaker, does anyone know what they may be? Thanks.