Price paid: $ 125
Purchased from: CL
Sound — 6
This is the most important and where this amp really falls short. It's been a hobby of mine to buy low watt tube amps when I find a deal on them. Even if I later trade them or sell them it is fun toy to experiment with. I got this one for 125$ nearly half the price of it's used value. However my review will be based on the sound quality of it's retail value. This amp to me sounds cheap and thin. The distortion is similar to a Bugera Vintage series tube amp (another inexpensive tube amp maker) where instead of sounding crunchy and crisp or beefy and dark it sounds fizzy, when you turn the gain up higher you never really get a well defined distortion it is more of a fizzy fuzzy sound. That's a harsh judgment on this amp but I feel it is fair because I have owned many small comparable amps that cost just as little and sound worlds better. The reverb almost makes this amp interesting because it is a very good reverb. I had to turn the bass up to maximum on this and it still lacked that fat deep tube sound that a player chooses tube over solid state for. A Blackheart Little Giant sounded much much thicker and louder. Vox Night Train, Orange TT, and Marshall Class 5 blow this away in every regard. One thing people ask about these amps is "is it loud enough to gig with". This amp at 20 watts doesn't have alot of power. The Fender Hot Rod Deluxe at 30 watts is louder on 2 then this amp is on 6-7. I think it sounds more like a 5 watt valve amp but with more clean headroom than a 5 watter. The Champ in this class by my experience has been the 15watt Egnater tweaker. Taste and preference may steer your towards Vox, Marshall, Orange. Which are also good amps. Another thing I noticed is the EQ does not make as drastic and wide a difference in tone then many other amps I have played. I would lump this JCA amp right up there with Bugera and Behringer in terms of sound quality. If you Drive it really hard with a good guitar and a poor cable it might even be able to sing made in china to you, I don't know why Soldano wants to have his name attached to this amp.
Overall Impression — 7
I dislike it except for the reverb which does stand out to me. The reason I recommend against it because of the price to sound quality ratio. I don't have thousands of dollars to spend on great boutique amps, and I through bartering over the years have found some great gems out there between 200-500$ on tube amps and this is definitely not one of them. A 7 is a fair score for this amp it's not completely terrible but keep in mind, why buy a 7 when in the same price range you can find a nine or a ten. As for styles of music and appropriateness of this amp for a certain genre or style. That doesn't really feel relevant to me here. If you play blues, rock, country, hard rock your gonna run into same limitations with this amp regardless. In closing this is the advice I would give a consumer looking to research buying a good amp at this price point and wattage. Avoid this one and look at Vox Night Train, Egnater Tweaker (my favorite), Orange Tiny Terror (more expensive but sweet sounding), a Marshall Class 5, a Blackheart amp (overachievers for their price). I would even go so far as to say the Vyper, Mustang, and Spider modeling amps have certain a certain appeal because of their low price and high feature ratio.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The appearance is top notch. Good eminence speaker, decent specs. I have not had it long but I would suspect it's decently built amp in terms of dependability.
Features — 7
Clarification this review is for the 20 watt combo which is essentially the same as the stack. Features are pretty standard for a straight forward low wattage tube amp. The precense gives you a bit of tone shaping ability. The most redeeming feature about this amp, is the quality reverb it has. Even with it all the way up it sounds very natural and not overpowering. To me it sounded better than pedals used on others amps that are better than this amp.