Switchblade Head review by Hughes & Kettner

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.9 (29 votes)
Hughes & Kettner: Switchblade Head

Price paid: $ 1500

Purchased from: Musicians Friend

Sound — 9
I'm using an American stratocaster HSS, a Epiphone Les Paul Classic, and an Epiphone G-400 all sound amazing through this amp. The reverb sounds pretty good, the effects sound pretty good for being digital, I don't use a lot of effects anyways so I don't require an intensely great sounding chorus or anything like that, but it's nice to have that option right on the amp. I play many styles, my strat is more for bluesy rock tuned in Eb, my LP is used for a more general beefier rock and is tuned to E, and my G-400 is for more heavy metal and is tuned to either D or dropped C. The clean channel is very nice sounding, with the gain all the way up, you get a nice overdrive sound. The crunch channel offers a nice assortment of overdrive sounds, mild OD to more light to medium distortion. The lead channel offers up a little brighter distortion and has a little less gain than the ultra channel. The ultra channel has a darker sound to it. It has loads of distortion. In any channel if the gain is turned all the way up it will activate a boost which boosts certain frequencies depending on which channel you are on.

Overall Impression — 9
I play many styles and this amp is very versatile, it certainly meets all my needs. I have been playing for around 8 years and this was my first tube amp(though I've played other ones). I kind of had to blindly purchase this amp, as no where around where I Live sells them, so I could only go by the demos on the H&K website. I would gladly purchase another one if I had the money. This is a terrific amplifier and relative to other more high end tube amps it is a steal, and the MIDI stored presets makes it extremely easy to get multiple tones for many different types of styles, and switching is just a couple of button pushes. I was thinking about a Krankenstein and some Marshall's, particularly a JCM 800, but in the end, the versatility won me over. The only thing I wish it had was the ability to make my fingers cooperate with my mind and guitar neck.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I have only owned this for a couple months now, but so far everything has been good. I haven't had to bring the amp anywhere so I can't comment on that aspect of reliability. Seems pretty well built to me, of course as with any tube amp I wouldn't suggest just throwing it around.

Features — 10
Truly amazing amp. I bought the 100w head. 100 watts all tube, 4 EL34s in the power amp section and 2 12AX7s in the preamp. 4 channels which are clean, crunch, lead, and ultra. The Lead channel is more of a British voiced distortion channel, while the Ultra channel is more American high gain channel. Built in reverb, delay, chorus, flanger, and tremolo. These built in effects are before the power amp stage, so it doesn't affect the tube tone of the amp. It features the standard 4, 8, and 16 ohms speaker outputs. Effects send and return along with a -10dB switch to adjust the level for the effects loop, cuts 10 db from the send's output level and boosts the returns sensitivity by 10 db, and a button on the front lets you Switch the effects loop from Serial to Parallel and vice versa. An input for optional footswitches to control on board effects. Includes a MIDI footswitch which stores up to 128 presets, but you can use other MIDI controllers, also has a MIDI thru to connect external MIDI processors. I don't use the MIDI thru so can't really comment too much on that. The footswitch is divided up into 32 banks with 4 presets to each bank. Also has a tap tempo for the delay. There is one set of EQ for the amp, these can be set and stored in the footswitch via the Store button. The channel your on as well as all the EQ's are stored with this, as well as any on board effects you have on, and the FX loop. I use this amp at my house (currently between bands) but I figured I'd get the head for the long run, it is very, very loud.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I too have recently bought this head and have been very impressed with it! It has 128 memory locations and comes with 64 pre programmed patches that offer a wide palate of tones and styles. All I did for the first two weeks was play with the different presets! They're that good! Once I got into programming my own presets I found the controls both intuitive and easy to use. The manual, which is in several languages, was helpful for some of the more technical aspects and it also came with a 'fact sheet' about the 64 presets. The effects, while great sounding, Do leave a lot to be desired in the terms of editing specific parameters. The included midi footswitch is ruggedly built and works well, although the cable is hard wired on the footswitch end which is an oversite I hope they correct as it has recently shorted out requiring me to use a different midi footswitch. All in all it is a great sounding amp and is incredibly LOUD! I am using it through a full marshall stack and is fully capable of arena volume levels! I have been playing for over thirty years and owned a lot of great amps but I will have to rank this one as one of the very best!
    Great review! Really detailed but still you made it personal. Cool! I had been thinking of this amplifier ever since I read the review in Total Guitar magazine, but I also had the Randall RM100M Head in mind. They seem to be the best in that price range and with those similar specs.
    The review would probably be more informative if it actually described the quality of the actual sound, and not just list the features... I just bought mine so I don't know if I'm fit to review it yet though, still trying to see if I can dial out kind of an Yngwie-fizz that haunts the distortion, I've heard this is common with Vintage 30's so I hope that's it... otherwise I'll be very disappointed.