Price paid: $ 249
Sound — 9
When I received the Jet City PicoValve the first thing I did was hook it up to a 1x12 cab, turn the Preamp Gain to a little over halfway and hit an E5 on my G&L Tribute Series S500 on the bridge and middle pickup, and it made my mouth water. I have spent a lot of time with the preamp gain turned up, riffing to old Black Sabbath tunes and trying to learn some Avenged Sevenfold (which would be the newest music I have any interest in) and it really has a great tone for this heavier music. I was afraid that with such great distorted tones, the clean tones would be a let down, but they were satisfactory. I played this amp through a Blackheart 1x12 cab, and a homemade 2x10 cab that a friend loaned me. I played several different guitars through this amp a G&L Tribute Series S500, an Xaviere XV-599, an Ibanez AXD83P, an Ibanez RG350 and a really old (pre 1976) Aria SG copy. I ran each guitar straight into the amp, and I also ran them through an Electro-Harmonix Germanium 4 Big Muff Pi pedal, an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi (different circuit), an Ibanez ToneLok DE7, a Dunlop Original Crybaby, and a Vox Tonelab ST. The PicoValve seems to take every pedal I plug into it very well. I play a wide variety of different music, and with the PicoValve I spent time playing outlaw country, classic rock, early thrash, modern rock, alternative/indie, overdriven blues and post grunge. The PicoValve did well with every style I threw at it, but really seemed to Shine with early thrash and modern rock. The 3 band EQ is very usable on the PicoValve, with a well thought out tone stack on this amp. The distortion on this amp, provided by Preamp Gain, can get gnarly enough for anything short of death metal/black metal. With the Big Muff Pi in front of the amp, I could easily get death metal/black metal tones. The clean tone of the amp is very usable, but I do want to say that I like a certain type of clean tone specifically a good Fender clean tone is an ideal clean tone for me. The clean tone on this amp sounds somewhere in between a Marshall and Peavey clean tone. It is very usable but isn't quite as "chimey?" as I like. I was able to do some interesting things with the clean tone using my Vox Tonelab ST, adding a touch of chorus, etc. Really, the clean tone is good for plug and play almost anything you can think of. Spending some time with the EQ you can get what you want from the cleans - anywhere from outlaw country to some clean Indie chording sounds.
Overall Impression — 9
I play mainly overdriven blues, and early metal and early thrash metal. Lately I've got into some campfire chording type stuff, and some King Crimson in order to work on my rhythm. The PicoValve can get me anywhere I need to go tonally. Before I got the PicoValve I had been using a Blackheart Little Giant, and I really think the PicoValve sounds better across the board but especially for anything from dirty to distorted. If this were lost or stolen I would probably want to try out Jet City's 20 watt combo, but it isn't due to any shortcoming of the PicoValve. I just like trying different/new equipment. I absolutely would recommend this amp to anyone, and especially anyone playing modern rock and metal. While you are going to need more watts for serious jamming or gigging (or I guess you could mic it), this is an absolutely ideal amp for practice, recording and light jamming. The PicoValve really takes pedals well, and this and the really great tube distortion you get from it are its strengths. The Preamp Gain is what really sets this apart from other 5 watt tube amps that I have tried. This allows you to get distortion, and the degree of distortion that you want at any volume. I most closely compared the PicoValve to my Blackheart Little Giant and the PicoValve absolutely stomps it in regards to modern rock and metal. I personally prefer the clean tone from the Blackheart, but I feel like the PicoValve just has a better stock tone stack, it has the Preamp Gain, and it is a little smaller and lighter and seems more convenient to pull it out to practice. It also looks a lot cooler.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The Jet City PicoValve is really made solid good construction, looks indestructible. I've only had this amp for about 3 weeks, but looking at it I really believe it would last virtually forever. I expect, that besides occasionally changing out the tubes, that this amp will just keep on going. I would trust this amp to just grab it and throw it in the back seat when going to Jam with friends.
Features — 8
The Jet City Amplification PicoValve is a 5 watt single channel tube amp with two Preamp tubes (12AX7's) and one power tube (6L6). The PicoValve has a pentode/triode Switch to Switch between 5 watts and 2 watts. There is a Bright switch, Preamp Gain knob, 3 Band EQ and Master Volume. This 5 watt tube head does have a standby switch. The rectifier is solid state. There are 4, 8 and 16 ohm speaker outputs. According to the Jet City Amplification website you can Switch out the power tube for any octal-based tube without re-biasing, but I did not attempt this. The PicoValve was designed by Andy Marshall and licensed by THD Electronics. The head is made from perforated cold-rolled steel, which looks extremely cool and lets you see the tubes glowing when the amp is on. I imagine it could also survive some fairly dramatic falls with that cold-rolled steel housing. The head is smaller than most 5 watt tube heads I have handled. Specifically, I own a Blackheart Little Giant head, and the PicoValve is maybe 2/3 the size of the Blackheart. There is a steel handle on one side of the amp to carry it around by. This has plenty of power for home practice, and should handle jamming if your drummer has a fairly light touch. If I was being picky, it would be nice to have a good built-in reverb. I wish that the PicoValve was available as a combo, also. However, for the fact that this is a 5 watt tube amp head, and for the price you can't expect the reverb, and the combo idea was just something I thought about when I was playing around with it. The PicoValve has all the features you can reasonably expect from a 5 watt tube amp at this price point.