Purchased from: Private party/Craigslist
Features — 5
I found myself the owner of a Johnson RepTone 15 after the Vox Valvetronix AD15VT amplifier I had planned on purchasing ($50) didn't work when testing it out. The Vox powered on, LEDs lit up and you could hear the unit power off and on through the
speaker but no other sounds would play through the speaker. I suspect it may have been be a bad valve, but I am not a technician, and I do not I have the time or money to invest in a fixer upper. I had journeyed up to San Francisco from San Jose (about an hour's drive depending on traffic) and was a little disappointed as you may suspect, but I wasn't too bummed out because I had also planned on doing a some sight seeing in the Haight Ashbury district with my wife and our two
boys (hippie history aside, the cross streets are lined with beautiful, multi-level, 19th century Victorian homes). The gentleman I met through Craigslist for the amps said he didn't want me to go away empty handed and offered the Johnson RepTone 15 amplifier and to name my price. After looking the amp over and testing it out I gave my man $20 for the RepTone as I figured I could always resell the amp after I had had my fun with it.
The Johnson RepTone 15 is a surprisingly loud 15 watt solid state practice amp that stands about 12.5" high, 12.2" wide, 8.3" deep and weighs a little over 13 pounds. It's covered with a dark green carpet like material called Ozite, which the manufacturer claims to be a stain, mold and mildew resistant non-woven material that will not fray or unravel under heavy use. The amp was made in China and the Quality Control sticker on the back says it passed inspection January 15, 2015, so I assume it was assembled on that date or close to it.
The RepTone also comes with a 6.5" speaker protected by a metal grill and control knobs for adjusting Gain (overdrive/distortion), Master (volume), Treble, Middle, and Bass (high, middle and low frequencies). It has 1/4" jacks for Input, Foot Switch, and Headphones as well as an Overdrive button to select between the amplifiers clean and overdrive settings.
Sound — 6
Overall, the Johnson RepTone 15 produces a good variety of tones for any beginner learning how to play guitar: clean, blues, rock, and metal. Mind you, these are "good" tones at best. Guitarist with a more discerning taste or refined palette will be left wanting more. I'd say the amp produces a "full" and "warm" sound, but not what I would call a "rich-full" sound, not does it sound muddy. There is plenty of low end available which is complimented by equal helpings of mid and high frequencies. However, the high end doesn't get beautifully bright like most Fender amps. As far as sound goes, this amp left me wanting more: more definition (a tighter focused sound), more crunch (sounds thin with the low and high frequencies cranked up and the mids set low).
My opinion of the amp’s overall sound was formed by playing each of the electric guitars in my small and humble collection to try and get a general feel of the amplifier's tone characteristics, capabilities and limitations. From young to old the guitars used for this review included a 2016 Gibson Custom Shop 1957 VOS Les Paul Reissue Goldtop, 2011 Korean Gretch 5120 Electromatic hollow body, a 2006 Korean Epiphone Les Paul Custom Black Beauty with 3 pickups, another 2006 Korean Epiphone but of the Sheraton II semi-hollow body variety, and a 1984 Japanese Yamaha SG1000X with Lace Sensor Brent Hinds signature Hammer Claw pickups. I also used a Morley Sapphire Flanger effect pedal with the amp sparingly.
Reliability & Durability — 8
This is by all means a practice amp. It may be capable of withstanding the rigors of performing live in the short term and if playing small venues. The amp will benefit from being mic'd through the venue's' sound system for sure but I wouldn't count on this amp performing in live settings long term. On the other hand, I could see this amp enjoying a long fruitful life in a studio setting.
Physically, the amp looks and feels like it was built well. The control knobs feel like they are firmly secured to the amp, as do each of its 1/4" jacks. The carry strap is as good as any I have seen before and feels more comfortable than any I can remember as the handle has a bit more flex to it. Claims have been made that the Ozite covering will not tear or fray under heavy use. Only time will tell, and while this amp is in my care it will primarily be my #2 amp and will be spared a life of rigorous use.
Overall Impression — 5
Overall, set to clean or overdrive Johnson's RepTone 15 electric guitar amplifier can produce a variety of tones that can pass for jazz, blues, rock, metal, and likely any music style in between. I was quite impressed by its clean channel. However, if my RepTone were lost or stolen I would not buy another one to replace it, I would buy something else (Vox, Peavey, Orange if a practice amp). Similarly, I would not recommend this amplifier to anyone who is serious about learning/playing guitar, there are numerous practice amps out in the market (new and used) that sound way better and have more features for the same price range. But then again, if you are looking for a bare bones guitar amp this may be for you.
In my opinion, the Johnson RepTone 15's best features are its Ozite covering, metal grill and carry handle. The absence of reverb and the fact that the amplifiers overall incomplete sound leaves me wanting more is what I don't like about the RepTone 15. Also, an auxiliary input would be a nice addition to the amp and seems like it should be a standard feature on amps these days. The other amplifier in my collection is a Fender Mustang 1 v. 2 and comparing the Johnson RepTone15 to the Fender Mustang 1 was like night and day. The Fender amp did what Fender amps do and played circles around Johnson's RepTone 15. The Mustang's presets sound dialed in. Long story short, the presets are aptly named. For example, Brutal Metal sounds like Brutal Metal, the Surf Twin sounds like a saturated Fender Twin Reverb dripping Reverb from every note.