Switchblade Head review by Hughes & Kettner

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Features: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.9 (29 votes)
Hughes & Kettner: Switchblade Head

Price paid: € 1500

Purchased from: Musikcenter

Sound — 10
This amp is hard to EQ. But it's worth the time. I play in three bands, one is a Symphonic/Progressive Metal band (Think In Flames meet Dream Theater with some Skillet in it). With that band I use a PRS Custom22 tuned to D standard (or Drop C) and a Schecter C-7 Blackjack 7-string, both with passive humbuckers. I dwell mostly on the Ultra channel for both lead and rhythm tones and I've never gotten so many compliments on my tone before, I know people Who play MESA's and Peavey's Who've thought about jumping ship and buying the Switchblade instead. It is a sick metal amp for sure (just ask Queensrche or Candlemass). I play a lot of heavy riffing and leads interchangeably in this band and the amp keeps up both high and low. I use the Hughes & Kettner slant cab with Vintage 30's btw. My other band is more of a rock/funk outfit (Think Bon Jovi meet Chili Peppers), in which I play a HSS Warmoth Soloist in standard tuning. A lot of my rhythm tones are played with either the Neck or Middle Singlecoils. For this I use the Crunch and Clean channels more extensively. The Crunch channel has a really gritty, Vox-y type tone with singlecoils, and almost bordering on Metal chug with humbuckers. The Clean channel is very clean, but with a good range of Gain to give a nice blues grit in the Boost mode. I tend to often use a longer, U2-like delay aswell as a high-rate flanger effect simulating a leslie to draw out some really nice ambient tones aswell. With this band I do use my rhythm and lead sounds from the other band aswell though (the Ultra channel), as they clean up very nicely with singlecoils, and the added bottom of the Ultra channe is really nice to have for certain riffs. My last band is a cover band, playing mostly 80's rock type hits (Toto, Bon Jovi, Gary Moore etc.) but with Disco numbers, Stevie Wonder, Beatles, Rockabilly and whatnot, typical cover band. This amp covers the lot, especially with the built-in effects making it possible to for example set a nice slapback rockabilly sound, a reverb-drenched surf sound, a classic rock distortion and so on, all saved in the footswitch and available at any time.

Overall Impression — 10
Overall though, I love this thing. Just the sound of it is a good enough sales argument, but add to that the "128 Channels" and built in FX, that's a pretty hefty bonus. I've played MESA's and Marshalls and Peaveys and any number of brand-name amps and I'm not saying the Switchblade sounds "better" than all of them, but it can sound like all of them. And none of them has come close to the Live functionality of this amp. Guys like Allan Holdsworth, Tony McAlpine, Alex Lifeson and Michael Wilton all rave about this amp and I can see why. I can't think of any genre for which this amp wouldn't be appropriate. It's a cover guitarist's dream, because it can do any type of sound. So if you play in many different bands, do sessions or simply have one very versatile band, I'd really recommend this amp.

Reliability & Durability — 9
I have to admit that the amp, being quite heavy and so full of technology, seems a bit fragile. It's probably only paranoia, as I've read about Hughes & Kettner's absolutely brutal quality control (throwing around amps in concrete halls and whatnot), and given the fact that I've owned it for only about 2 months I can't give you any specific information. One big grudge I have though is the footswitch. The MIDI cable is hardwired into the footswitch, making it a huge hassle if the cable was to break. And when lugging around heavy amps and drums on stage aswell as running around trying to put on a good show, that cable takes a beating quite often. You're also left with an assload of cable (it's very long), that you have to wind up and unwind for every transportation, unless you want to get it entangled and even more likely to break.

Features — 10
The previous reviewer went into great detail on features so I'll stick to the basics. 4 channels (Clean, Crunch, Lead and Ultra, each one with a gain boost), sharing one row of controls (Channel volume, Pres, Treb, Mid, Bass and Gain) aswell as controls for Reverb, Delay and Modulation (Chorus, Flanger and Tremolo). The AWESOME thing about this amp though is that all the parametres (EQ, Gain, FX and so on) are PROGRAMMABLE and stored in presets in the included MIDI footswitch. So there's no need for separate controls for each channel. The programmability, in practice, turns this thing into a virtual 128 Channel Tube Amp. Oh yeah, baby. 128 Channels. With independent settings. And all Tube. This is nothing special on modeling amps or POD's or whatever but as far as I know it's a first when it comes to Tube amps. I don't think I'll ever use 128 different sounds but it has proved valuable because I can set up separate sounds tuned for each of my guitars, aswell as have both Rhythm and Lead sounds on the same channel (in my case, the Ultra channel), but with completely different settings aswell as added Delay on my lead sound. 100w is a bit overkill, I've gigged on a few really large outdoors events for hundreds of people without going past 3 or 4 on the Master. However, the Blade sounds very good even on low volume so that's never been a problem. You can leave the Master alone and tweak the Channel volume to get a good house volume.

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