Price paid: $ 800
Purchased from: Musician's Friend
The short version is it's a Chinese made Soldano HOT Rod 100.
The long version is that it's a 2 channel, all tube, 100w amp with 4 5881 (6l6gc) power tubes and 5 12ax7 preamp tubes. Channels controlled by footswitch.
It has 2 channels, Normal and Overdrive: The Normal can get crisp and shimmering clean for smooth jazz or chorusy heavy metal clean passages, slightly distorted for a bluesy sound, or mid-heavily distorted for some classic rock or old metal. The Overdrive channel is based off the Soldano SLO circuit, which defined the sound of 80's hair metal, but has more than enough gain to cover pretty much any genre of metal out there.
Is it versatile? Hell yes. If you play in many different bands and need a versatile amp that can do it all, this is it, and is arguably one of the most versatile 2 channel amps in existence.
I had, however, one major issue, and that was the FX oop. If you are familiar with Soldano amps, you'll know that the FX loops run at line level, the level that most rack gear runs at. This renders pretty much all pedals alone useless in the FX loop, unless they are capable of running at +4dBu. However, there is a very useful (though not perfect) gadget that you can use that shifts the levels back and forth between Line and Instrument level, the Ebtech LLS-2 which is $70 new. I no longer use this box, as I now own a TC Electronic Nova System, which allows the level to be changed depending on your FX loop type. // 8
Sound: The real question is "yeah, well how's it sound?" Trust me, it sounds amazing. It's a Soldano HOT Rod 100, just made in China, it has to sound awesome.
The amp's sound isn't really directly comparable to any other popular amp (besides Soldano, obviously). A lot of people compare it to a Marshall because of its strong midrange voicing, but it's not as angry and gritty due to its 6l6 power section. The best way to describe the Soldano sound is that it's right between a Marshall and a Mesa. Mid-heavy but somewhat round and American sounding. It's a great amp to get if you are looking for a different sound from usual.
I mentioned the channels earlier, but I didn't mention how good they sound. The cleans aren't Fender cleans, they're not Roland JC-120 cleans, but they're good, despite what people say. It distorts easily with high output pickups, so it's best to use it with single coils. Also keep the preamp knobs WAY down, and you have a great clean sound. No reverb, but that can be added in the FX loop, if your verb unit is +4dBu, of course. Otherwise, you'll need a shifter.
The overdrive channel is based off the Soldano HOT Rod's Drive channel. With the gain fairly low, around 2-3, it gives a good classic rock rhythm, at 4 it puts out great sounding hair metal-esq leads, and when it's at 5 and above, you've got full blown modern metal distortion from the mouth of hell, WITHOUT a boost. It's a good metal sound
Though for some reason, there is a misconception from many that this amp can't do metal without a significant boost, and some retards have even had the nerves to say "don't expect metal or even CLOSE distortion from this amp, can't/won't do it without a lot of help". Anyone who thinks this amp isn't capable of doing metal is beyond high on something. I use this amp with 3 guitars: a Fender Mex. Strat with HOT Rails in bridge, a Charvel Wild Card, and a Charvel Model 4 with a Jackson RR3 neck and DiMarzio X2N. I very rarely, almost never turn the gain past 6 on the Drive channel, and I play metal ranging from progressive-thrash to melodic death/black metal.
If you are unable to get good metal distortion or anything close out of this amp, WITHOUT a boost, then either your amp is defective, or you are defective. It has more than enough gain for ANY situation.
Now, some metal players care for a tighter, more compressed sound that is usually heard in modern metal often produced by a Peavey 5150/6505. Clean boosting the amp tightens up the gain a good bit, but takes away a lot of dynamics, so if you enjoy clarity like I do then you might not like clean boosting it. I often play without a boost except when I play leads.
Understand though, while this amp can put out face-melting metal sounds, it won't sound like your typical modern metal guitar tone. If you prefer sounding like everyone else with the typical Peavey 6505/Mesa Rectifier tone, you might as well go with a 6505 or used Dual Rec. This amp is for people like me who like to sound different from the norm and not sound overly generic, which is one of the main reasons why I wanted it.
The other reason I wanted it was because years ago, when I was 13, I went to guitar center for the first time, and the best amp I played there out of everything I tried, which included Dual Recs, Marshalls of various models (except for the god-awful MG), and the new-at-the-time EVH 5150 III, was the Soldano HOT Rod 100+. Unfortunately, it was also the most expensive of all the amps they had, so my hopes of ever getting one were lost. Thankfully, when I found out about the Jet City models, I was happy to hear that the 100w model was a HOT Rod 100 clone. While I will admit it does sound faithful, I can't say it sounds exactly like a Soldano. Maybe with a tube swap and resistor mod, it would be perfect, but it sounds great either way, and I highly recommend it.
While this review is mainly for the head, I also use the matching JCA48S cab. While I'll have to say that it certainly is not the best cab out there, it is an excellent 4x12 cabinet for the price, also considering that it only has "Custom Design" Eminences as opposed to Legends. I might replace the stock speakers with Legends at some point. // 9
Reliability & Durability: For a $700 Chinese-made head, I will have to say that I am very satisfied with the build quality of this amp. Gigs well, holds together well, though I wouldn't advice dropping it or banging it around a whole lot. I'll say than it feels a lot better than say, a Bugera.
I don't like the visual design, however. The blue facecover looks VERY tacky, makes it look more like a toy than an amp. Thankfully, Jet City sells replacement baffles and grilles. I replaced mine with a solid black metal grille. It now looks more like a professional amp than a toy. // 8
Overall Impression: I strongly recommend this amp for pretty much any genre and any purpose. It's versatile, smooth sounding, and doesn't sound generic. If you are looking for a great amp that can go from bluesy jazz to death metal, care for a different sound from the norm, and don't feel like going broke, then this is it. Though its strongest point is the Drive channel. Can be smooth and three-dimensional but intensively brutal at the same time. This amp is a serious deal. // 9