Price paid: A$ 1000
Purchased from: Ellaways Underwood
Sound — 8
I have 2 guitars I run through this head, and LTD M-200FM and an Epiphone LP Studio, both stock. The LTD is usually tuned to Drop B and the Epiphone to everything else. I play in a Melodic Death/Core band and this amp fits the bill admirably, my main weapon of choice being the Hot channel but the Clean gets a work out too. The clean channel is very useable, lacking much of the brittleness I've seen in my other solid state gear and the addition of a gain control gives you access to some nice warmer sounds, which while not being as smooth as you might expect from a good valve amp are still very useable. The Overdive mode on the clean channel is a somewhat lack-lustre, not bad as such but it does sound a little thin at times. It works fine for someone like myself Who's main focus is metal and heavier styles but does like amuse themself with classic rock and blues on occasion. Summed up: Useable but if you're looking for something that shines in the clean to moderate gain arena this is probably not your amp. The Hot channel is where this amp really shines. The ammount of gain on tap here is simply terrifying, I usually have the gain control at about 2 o'clock and this provides more face melting awesomeness than any other amp I've ever owned. The level of tone shaping available is also quite impressive, the mid frequency control being the secret to getting the most out of this amp. I've found that keeping the bass control at about 12 o'clock and boosting the lower mid frequencys works wonderfully to achieve a very thick, heavy sound without being boomy or interfering too much with the bass player's end of the spectrum. The X mode function I have to say was frankly dissapointing, seeming to simply suck out all the low end and spike some of the mid frequencys, giving it an almost wah-like vowel sound at times. Although I can see the change in the sound being useful as a lead boost the lack of any kind of volume boost, either controlable or set makes it largely useless for this purpose. This amp gets pushed reasonably hard at rehersals, my band being blessed (possibly) with the loudest drummer I've ever worked with. So far the head has done great, not needing to be pushed even to half way to compete with the reast of the band, I have also been impressed with the way it maintains it's tonal character at high volumes. The other guitar player is using a Peavey XXX head and the Ibanez has gone toe to toe with it in terms of both volume and sound quality.
Overall Impression — 8
Let me be blunt: I freakin love this amp, it's makes exactly the sound I'm looking for and it fits into my band's sound and style perfectly. Before I bought this amp I tried out a fair number of other makes and models: Line 6, Randall, Marshall, Laney, Bugera to name a few and this amp outstripped them all. To sum up, I'd say that if you're looking for the ultimate in versatility or a smokin' blues/rock machine then this amp is probably not your bag. However if you're a player focused on heavier styles and you're looking for tone, volume and plently of control over your sound with the flexability to dabble in other styles then this is an affordable, well built amp that punches way, way above it's weight class.
Reliability & Durability — 9
So far no isues although it's a little early to say with certainty. Being solid state I'm fairly confident that withstanding some huge accident or manufacturing fault there will be no problems. If no problems reveal themselves in over the next couple of months I'd be happy gigging without a backup.
Features — 8
100% Solid State 2 Channels; Clean and Hot with 2 modes for each channel, overdrive for the Clean channel and "X Mode" for the Hot channel. Independant reverb for each channel. Channel, channel mode and reverb switchable from either the front panel or 4 button footswitch (not included) 150 Watt @ 4 ohms 100 @ 8 ohms I bought this head as part of a package with the matching slant front cabinet (4 ohm) As far as I know RRP for the package in Oz is $1195 but Ellaways hacked $195 off without batting an eyelid so don't be afraid to haggle. Each channel is laid out in the same format with the same set of controls: Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Reverb Level and Volume. The Hot channel adds a concentric Mid Frequency control to the Mid level knob that contributes greatly to it's versatility. The amp also features a master Hue control that functions a presence control for both channels.