JCA20H Half-Stack Review

manufacturer: Jet City Amplification date: 01/12/2011 category: Guitar Amplifiers
Jet City Amplification: JCA20H Half-Stack
2009 Jet City jca20h half stack. Made in china. 1 channel, although a very versatile 1 channel amp.
 Sound: 9
 Overall Impression: 9.3
 Reliability & Durability: 9.3
 Features: 7.3
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
 Users rating:
reviews (3) pictures (2) 23 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 8
JCA20H Half-Stack Reviewed by: hydraone, on january 12, 2011
9 of 10 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 350

Purchased from: ZZounds

Features: Hello, people considering buying a JCA20h, and people who've recently purchased one and are seeking confirmation!

Don't fret (Well, do. Open strings are boring). This is a good amp, a great amp if you consider the price point. Of course, there will be a nice white space for me to ramble about how much I love this thing at the bottom. Let's break it down! (Not like that. Disco is dead.)

- 20 Watt all-tube head. I bought mine with a spiffy matching 1x12.
- The amp is the JCA12h. The cab is the JCA12s.
- Probably an earlier 2010 model, as all of the newer ones have plastic rocker switches for Standby and Power, and mine has the older metal toggles.
- 1 channel.
- No, there's no channel switching. Put your hand down, jackass.
- No foot pedal either. You want to wait in the hall?

The single channel I can accept. To be fair, it is versatile enough for anything from blues to hard rock. If you know how to use the volume knob on your guitar, you have all the channels you need.

- No effect loop. (Ouch)

I wish it had an effects loop, I admit. You can have it modded to add one. (But this review isn't about the potential of an amp, is it?)

- No headphone jack.

Eh. Doesn't bother me.

They keeps cost down by nix-ing extra features. If you absolutely need them, look elsewhere. (And pay extra)

- It has some knobs on the front. They turn (gasp!). From left to right, you have your input jack, your Preamp Gain, Bass, Mids, Treble, Master Volume, Presence (It's a top boost), Standby switch, Main Power switch, and a really, really bright blue LED. Nothing groundbreaking. All the knobs go to "9". This may be a subtle joke, as all the rest of Mike Soldano's amps crank to "11".

Nobody really knows what the prominent "333" logo means. Popular rumor says that the company was founded by 3 guys, at 3 in the morning, over 3 beers. But the world may never know.

I use this amp at home, at band practice, and small gigs. It has more than enough power for all of this. It's only 20w, but it's a loud, all tube-y 20w. It doesn't have a ton of clean headroom. The tubes break up fairly early. If you need sparkling cleans at deafening volume, this isn't for you.

All in all, I give it a 6 for features. Don't whine, it's only fair. Should have been expecting this.

I'm sure the cab plays a part, but you're going to have to wait. I can't talk about Sound here. That's down there. // 6

Sound: See, this is where the amp gets to shine. After the mean grade I gave it for features, I can make it up here.

- I'm currently using a Schecter C-1+. Dual stock coilsplitting humbuggies.

(The coil split is really nice to have, by the way. Since it's only one channel, prospective buyers should make sure they're up to the task of learning the ART of going from a smooth, bluesy tone to full rip-roaring Br00tlz, using only the controls on their guitar. It's worth it.)

- I play light blues to heavy metal, and everything in between.

This amp really shines for classic rock tones. It's voiced pretty uniquely, but it's a good unique. Think modern British.

- Using the preamp gain, you can make it sound good at bedroom practice levels. Obviously not as good as it would be if you had full power tube distortion going on, but it's acceptable. Still beats the hell out any modeling amp.

- At standard volumes, it sounds just as good as a halfstack 5x it's cost. Seriously.

- I already mentioned a lack of clean headroom. Repeating for the sake of clarity. Don't come hunting me down when you can't pump out the intro to "One" at 100db without some dirt.

- The distortion is brutal. Not Br00talzz. If you plan on using it for death metal, you'll need a a pedal of some sort.

- The cab is loaded with an Eminence 12 incher (giggity). Supposedly custom voiced for the cab. Handles 70w, 16ohms. It's no Mesa Recto 4x12, but it's better than any other I've heard at this price.

I can't really overstate the quality of the sound of this tiny thing. Look of videos on the YouTube. Go try one. // 9

Reliability & Durability: Built like a rock. Not much else to say. The tolex is high quality, all the panels fit tight together, the knobs feel solid, the input jack is sturdy metal (*cough Bugera*)

Never broken down on me. The tubes are still stock. When those need to be replaced, you can just drop in a new pair of EL34s, as it (Allegedly) has a fixed bias.

I'll end up taking it to a tech for the first time, just to be sure of this. Hard to trust the internet with my amp.

(Yeah, that's right. I just told you not to trust me. Don't listen to me. At least for that part.)

Would and have gigged with no backup. Built like a tank. // 9

Overall Impression: So, we've reached the part where I ramble about how much I like it. Let's see if we can structure it a bit better than a ramble.

- It suits my style perfectly. Great match. If I want to go Uber Br00tz, I have to line up my Bad Monkey.
- I've been playing for 7 years or so. I'd say I'm qualified to produce a review like this.
- I own a 30w Vypyr. I use it as a footstool now.

- I wish I had learned more about the different front baffle options before I ordered it.

There's a whole host of different colors available from the Jet City website. My favorite is a perforated black metal grill. So you can see the glowing t00bz inside. Mmmm, t00bz...

Oh, if it was stolen, I'd hunt the guy down and string him up by my 20ft lead. Then I'd take my cable back. I like it. Definitely buy again. Or possibly the 50w head, because I hear it's a whole different animal, tone wise.

I love the tone. I hate the lack of a loop. My favorite feature is the "On" switch. Because that's how I make sweet tonez come out.

I compared it the Bugeras in the same price range. No comparison really. Sound and build quality wise.

So there ya have it. One long, rambling, but hopefully informative review of my current amplifier. But hey, you don't have to trust me. I'm just some dude on the internet you've never heard of.

(That was for drama. Trust me. Try this thing out.) // 8

Was this review helpful to you? Yes / No
Post your comment
overall: 9
JCA20H Half-Stack Reviewed by: twistedsista521, on august 11, 2010
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 499

Purchased from: guitar center

Features: 2009 Jet City jca20h half stack. Made in china. 1 channel, although a very versatile 1 channel amp. It has preamp/gain bass, middle, treble, volume and presence. I use it for small gigs and for 20 watts of all tube power it gets very loud. I would in fact change the speaker in the cab (if you get the jet city 1X12). // 8

Sound: This is where the amp shines. I play an Epiphone les paul through it and it is on the brink of metal. In fact if you were going for just an 80s metal tone or classic rock tone, this is for you. All you have to do to get metal is run a pedal through it, and it takes pedals very well. Now if you want beautiful cleans this isnt the amp for you. It is fairly quiet though I've tried quieter. // 9

Reliability & Durability: This thing could go on the road and be very reliable. I would feel comfortable taking it to a gig without a backup. It has never broken down, although geting new tubes for it would be a major plus. I'm pretty sure I could drop this amp and it would be alright (don't try it it may not) because the tolex on it is made tough. // 9

Overall Impression: I play anything from acdc to dokken to metallica and this amp does that all without even having to use a pedal. Although any harder than that and I'd get one. I wish this amp had reverb and two channels. It would be my favorite amp ever if it did. I chose this over a Bugera v5hd and a Blackstar something or another (it was crap)and this amp shone over them both. Although the Bugera does have much better cleans. I would definately buy this amp again if it was stolen. // 10

Was this review helpful to you? Yes / No
Post your comment
overall: 9.3
JCA20H Half-Stack Reviewed by: horser4dish, on june 27, 2011
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 350

Purchased from: American Musical Supply

Features: I purchased one of the newer JCA20H+112S ministacks about three weeks ago, and have played with it enough to feel confident writing this review. It's got the plastic power/standby switches instead of metal ones, which means it's one of the newer runs (Jet City never actually said when they switched over, so I can't give an exact date). I was actually kind of disappointed in that respect: they're not nearly as satisfying to turn on (until you strum, but that's something different), and the brilliant blue light that everybody loves is, for some reason, hidden behind the power switch. Other than that, it's your everyday JCA20. Made in China, three 12AX7 preamp tubes, two EL84 power amp tubes are under the hood. From left to right, the amp's front features an input, a few knobs that change how the amp sounds (preamp/gain, three-band equalizer, master volume, and presence [a treble boost]), and then the two switches. Single-channel, no effects loop, and while you can purchase modified versions from Jet City that add those things, I did not. So far, I don't miss any of them, either. // 8

Sound: I play one of two instruments through this amp: a 2009 Fender Standard Stratocaster HSS and an Ibanez AS73B (an ES-355 copy). Musically, I'm all over the place: clean and twangy country, dirty blues, toneless pop music, Hendrix and Clapton, 80s metal, modern metal... Pretty much everything drop C# and above. This amp really sings with lower-gain stuff. With the gain knob just under 3, it's just on the edge of breaking up, and your pick attack decides how clean or crunchy the sound is. Around 5 or 6 (I can't decide which works better) it's good for a "Purple Haze" sort of sound. But once you start heading up into the 8 and 9 (the highest the JCA20's knobs go) range, that's borderline metal. Now, I'm not a big metal player, so it's probably not perfect for it, but it passes with the right EQ and a bump of the presence knob. Speaking of which, that deserves its own paragraph. The knob labeled "Presence" is a top-end boost. At 0, you have what I suppose is the "normal" tone of the amp, which is ever-so-slightly muffled. There's no major change in the sound until you start to hit 4 or 5. At that point, the amp sounds normal to me. From there, the highs start to come out more, and I usually leave it at 7.5 or 8 to get my metal tones. Above 8, however, you need to be careful. The amp starts to literally screech when you pick (fingers or otherwise), and at full-blown 9 every other sound is overshadowed by the obnoxious, shrill sound of... I would say it reminded me of a dying cat. It's very unpleasant. Test it out, if you want, but keep the volume low. Now, as I said above, it "passes" for metal with a treble bump, slight mid scoop, and presence at around 7. I would not recommend this as a metal amp, however, since you'll have to stick at least one pedal in front of it to get the sound you're probably looking for. What it is very good for is something that you would use a Marshall for. My understanding is that this amp was based on the Soldano Astroverb, which is itself based of a hotrodded Marshall that Soldano loved. There isn't a crazy amount of clean headroom, and while I don't gig, I wouldn't be surprised of your "clean" tone with this had some dirt in it once you really cranked it. The JCA20H is "excellent" for a Hendrix or Slash type of sound. To reiterate: do not buy this amp for any -core or heavy metal, you will no doubt be disappointed unless you just want a speaker you can plug your distortion pedals into. On the other hand, it's great for mid-gain rock, which is what I was looking for (hence the 9 rating here instead of something lower). // 9

Reliability & Durability: As I said above, I don't gig. No band. Just me and my amp. However, it seems very reliable. While I was moving it to my basement after unpacking it, I bumped the head into a wall and was scared for a moment. Then I noticed that the wall was dented a bit, and I gave a sigh of relief. While you should take of care of your gear, that doesn't mean the JCA20H isn't a solid piece of equipment. There's a pretty thick metal grill in the back so it doesn't overheat, but it's not chickenwire by any means. Definitely a durable amp all around, including the plastic buttons I dislike. While they're not as satisfying as their metal counterparts, they also don't feel cheap at all; the plastic is thick (the blue light is not nearly as in-your-face behind the power switch) and you can just slap them on or off without a problem. Despite the fact that it's made in China, it does not feel cheap at all. Low-end Squiers suck. Low-end Epiphones suck. A Jet City is, in a way a low-end Soldano, but I would not have been surprised if they had been on their own. It doesn't feel like a toy, and nothing's mis-measured or flimsy. I have heard several discussions on the UG forums that amp techs are impressed with the build quality after learning that it's Chinese. In no way should you hold that against this amp, because it hasn't affected the construction at all. // 10

Overall Impression: I play a lot of dirty clean and mid-gain music, which is what this amp was built for. It's a bit on the British side of the spectrum, but you can center it more with the right EQ, so it's quite versatile in that respect. I've been playing for a year, and bought this once I was sick of my Spider IV 15, after spending several hours at various shops testing other tube amps. As I said, I'm slightly disappointed in the Switch from metal to plastic switches, but it's nothing to cry over. They're just switches, and they work just as well for turning the amp on. In terms of love/hate, there's nothing I dislike about this amp. It has enough gain out of the box for my tastes, and like most tube amps, is responsive enough to my guitar's volume and my pick attack that I don't miss the second channel. If it were to get stolen (say, at college), I would strongly consider selling a guitar to buy it again; at this point, I've found "my sound" in this amp. Originally when I went amp shopping in person, I compared the Jet City to a Vox Lil' Night Train, an Egnater Tweaker, and a Blackstar HT5. The Night Train sounded very, very muffled compared to this thing. The Tweaker was nice, but had a lot of options that I would never use. The Blackstar was too small, and the ISF knob seemed to just be a sort of top boost/mid scoop over top of a Night Train like "British" sound. The Jet City sounded the best to my ears over that assortment. // 10

Was this review helpful to you? Yes / No
Post your comment
Only "https" links are allowed for pictures,
otherwise they won't appear