The Defender Review

manufacturer: Kustom date: 09/28/2011 category: Guitar Amplifiers
Kustom: The Defender
Kustom ushers in a new era in guitar amplification with The Defender, an EL-34 or 6L6-powered, 50-watt tube combo amp that provides an intoxicating blend of smoking tones and special, boutique-style features.
 Sound: 9
 Overall Impression: 8.8
 Reliability & Durability: 9
 Features: 8.3
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
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reviews (4) 18 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 9
The Defender Reviewed by: leondb, on june 18, 2008
4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 499

Purchased from: Cheap Sounds

Features: This is a fairly new, affordable tube amp from Kustom Amplification. No frills, no thrills, basic 50 watts, single channel amp, powered by two EL34 tubes, with three AX7 preamp tubes, and a Ruby Reverberation unit. There's a bright Switch and a boost knob (pedal sold separately). It would be nice to have an extra channel and a headphone jack, but I wanted affordable tube with awesome cleans and classic rock overdrive. As far as wattage goes, 50 is perfect for the venues our band will be in. // 8

Sound: I'm playing out of a PRS SE Singlecut. I think this amp is perfect with this guitar. The majority of the songs are classic rock, and it covers it perfectly! It also would be ideal for the blues. We cover songs from the '60s to now. The heavier songs (Godsmack, Local H, etc) call for a distortion pedal. The cleans are wonderful. I don't plan to use the reverb too much, but I can honestly say it sounds impressive compared to a few SS ones I've used. Break up is great when the volume is set pretty high, and I've been keeping the master volume switch on because I can't turn it up at home. I'll add comments to this (breakup with the master volume bypass switch) later when I turn the MVB switch off for practice. // 10

Reliability & Durability: This will be my new gig amp. I feel I can rely on it. It's big but not nearly as heavy as a half stack! It feels like it's built like a tank (pine wood tank). The master volume bypass switch, as well as the bright switch, seems small. It would have been better if they made it thicker so it's sturdier. // 9

Overall Impression: We cover classic rock, '90s rock, and current rock bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Cult, STP, Velvet Revolver, GN'R, etc. It fits just right for most of the songs, but like I said earlier, this is more suited to classic/blues rock. I've been playing for about 15 years now. I'm happy with this amp! It has just what I need for what I play. I wouldn't mind a headphone output jack. // 9

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overall: 9.5
The Defender Reviewed by: unregistered, on september 28, 2011
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 400

Purchased from: Pocono Music Exchange

Features: This is about my 12th amp ever owned in 25 yrs (some tube some SS --- Crate, Roland VGA, Line 6, Holmes Bluesmaster, Univox, Fenders, etc, etc). So I don't have a lot to compare it to as some other people here, but I am just a hobbyist and never gig. However, this is my first ever amp review so bare with me... I was looking for a good basic amp that could run clean and get dirty when needed. I wasn't looking for effects as I have many many pedals for that already. If you're looking for cool effects this is lacking, but it does have a few goodies it does very well. Controllable top end. Unlike some other amps I have used you can run this at various volumes without losing playability. It can be played low and still "feel" as though you're pushing it. The volume drives the pre-amp tubes and master drives the mains (EL342). This can also be bypassed. First time I was able to achieve this well without a separate pedal. Speaker is reasonable. 16 ohm Eminence stock. I have no plans to change it yet. The amp can be configured to take 16, 8, or 4 ohm speaker configurations with a simple switch change. Reverb is pleasant but a tad on the dark side. Better than most of my other amps for sure. (BTW... On a side note, I put a MOD brand reverb for $20 in my Crate V18 and it blows away the Accutonics... Just FYI). The Defender has three 12AX7s and two EL34s. The EL34s can be replaced with 6l6's and can be easily biased with simple switch. I have not yet tried this. The tubes are easy to get to as well. There is only one input and no effects loop. For me that is fine... I don't use them even on amps that have them. Controls location. This is where it shines for as well. I got the one they just discontinued. The controls are in the font where they should be! Why do some higher end amp manufactures insist on putting controls in the rear top deck? This amp is nice with the controls on the front. Can be placed under a shelf and can be access easily. For me this is a big plus. Unfortunately, they changed the model and this now changed ugh! Although the new 50 has some more features. // 9

Sound: Sound is where it's at. Very controllable clean to grit. I tihnk very comparable to the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. I actually chose this over a used HOT Rod at the same price as the new Kustom. Both great amps but the tone was excellent on the Kustom for a new amp I just had to go with it. Best way to describe is that the tone surrounds you and you just don't want to stop playing. Best amp for blues and classic rock tones I have ever tried hands down. I have no mod plans for this one. Plus this can play loud or quite and as I mentioned... It doesn't significantly loose the tone or feel at different volume levels. // 10

Reliability & Durability: Don't know... Too early to tell... Plus I do not gig. No reason to think it wouldn't hold up. It is also a solid pine box not ply. Seems solid to me. I will post back if come across anything breaking down. OH... There is this... I did get a microphone tube rattling around... I never had this happen before and didn't know what it was making the noise so I called Kustom and was told of a local service place... They took me within a hour and replaced the bad tube at no charge to me. This place said that Kustom brand stands behind their warrettee better then some others. So if it does break I am not too concerned I guess. // 9

Overall Impression: Bottom line... If you want cool built-in effects or heavy metal tones this is not your amp. If you want a classic style plain ballsy tube amp this is a very good pick. Think Hendrix and SRV in a box! Of course if Hendrix got his paws on this it would be shattered and lit on fire... With love. I suggest to go play it before you buy it. It really is warm and fun to play. I know the big guys (Guitar Center, Sam Ash, etc) sell them but don't normally carry the Kustom line in stock. You may need to check local stores to try it out. I would never have come across the line if my local store didn't have it sitting right there. Once I tried it I was hooked. No brainer. Hope this helps! // 10

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overall: 8.8
The Defender Reviewed by: unregistered, on july 16, 2010
0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: £ 100

Purchased from: New From Ebay Shop

Features: This review is for the Kustom Contender, the Defender's little brother. I bought this brand new Kustom Condender 18w Hybrid combo from a music shop on ebay. I've read good things about it elsewhere on the net, and although I can't find many video examples out there, I thought it'd be worth a shot as it had 70 knocked off the retail price. It's a small, solid pine, boutique styled practice amp with stitched vinyl covering, and a thick leather handle. Controls provided are Volume, Bass, Treble and Master, as well as Bright and Master Volume Bypass switches. Speaker duties are handled by an 8-inch, 8-ohms, Eminence designed "KEI EPIC" driver. Other features include a headphone socket, external speaker socket, plywood baffle, jewel light, vintage-style power Switch and of course... a 12ax7 tube in the preamp section. The Kustom Contender is very unusual. It's unusual because the moment you pick it up and start to handle it, you feel like you have something very special in your hands. Put simply, it feels EXPENSIVE. Even though a sneaky peak inside revealed that the knobs, pots and tube are PCB mounted (what else would you expect at this price? ), they have still managed to pull the boutique style off. Toggle switches snap into place, and pots are reassuringly stiff & weighty when you turn them. OK, it's never going to last like a real hand-made, hand wired boutique practice amp, but then it doesn't cost 700 either. It's a small practice amp, so with this in mind I'm pleased the designers decided to keep things simple. Controls are fairly clear (would prefer chicken-head knobs), easy to use and effective. This no-nonsense approach means it's easy to just plug-in and go! Perhaps the only thing I would add is a reverb, but a pedal soon fixes that. The important stuff (like gain, speaker & headphone socket) is there. // 9

Sound: It's a small, inexpensive practice amp so please keep this in mind when reading my views on volume/tone dynamics etc. Volume... More than you'd think from 18w S/State and an 8" driver. Crank it, and it's loud enough to get you into to trouble with adjoining neighbours. There's more than enough there for a home environment. Out of curiosity I tried it with a couple of my cabs. The difference was simply jaw dropping. Now we're talking proper loud! Cab it, and you can rehearse with a loud drummer, no problem. Tone... Vintage. Nice cleans & overdrive, but no more. Cleans are good, not modern glassy cleans, just regular Vintage cleans that start to break up as soon as you add a little gain. Ok then, on to the gain... Vintage gain. Bluesy. Get the picture? Push a little harder on the gain and move into overdrive. Vintage overdrive. Crunchy. Actually that's not fair, it will do distortion with humbuckers and gain on full (think AC/DC and you won't be far off), but it's still Vintage in tone. Don't be put off by the lack of modelling. My Boss ME-70 works a treat on this little amp, and at least the cost of the amp went into it's construction, and not a bunch of cheesy effects. Dynamics The 12ax7 in the preamp section does help the dynamics a little, and you do get some essence of valve-like feel, but next to my genuine valve amp this little Kustom feels closer to solid-state. Dynamics feel rather compressed, and there's a sense of a lack of headroom. On par with other hybrid amps. Noise There's rather a lot of it when you push the gain or master volume over to maximum. Hum & hiss, but mostly hiss. Now don't get me wrong, it's not over the top for a solid-state amp. I've owned S/S amps in the past that have cost 3 times more, and they've been no better. I just think it's worth a mention in case you are under the illusion that this is a high quality valve amp. It isn't. Tone Here's where I think it fares better. It does have a valve like tone (albeit in a slightly fizzy solid-state sort of way) but it's defiantly up there. Given the price of this amp it's pretty amazing. It's defiantly a sound you can fall in love with, and it matches perfectly the look & style of the amp. I hate to keep using the word vintage, but that's what it is, and I like it! // 8

Reliability & Durability: The Kustom Contender is a cheapie. Like all cheap amps made these days, everything is PCB mounted - so treat with care. However, the solid pine cab is VERY well made for the money. If you're alright with other consumer goods, you should get many years out of it. I would't get too "rock 'n' roll" with it though. No throwing it out of hotel windows! // 9

Overall Impression: I'd rather have a quality practice amp like this that does a few tones really well, than a cheap, fiddly modelling amp that sounds bad at almost everything. This is a real amp with it's own character. It's something that won't date easily. Something you could look after and keep, for more than 5 minutes! It's something you will feel proud to own, even if you have much more expensive amplification. Things are a little more confusing at the recommended retail price. I have seen a shop selling this amp for nearly double what I paid for it. At that price you could buy a real valve amp like a Laney Cub 10 or a Vox AC4. They probably aren't as well made as the Contender, plus they don't have as many features (I'd really miss the headphones socket and so would my wife). Also, valve replacement & biasing can be a real pain, but they are true valve amps. As long as you're realistic about what a hybrid amp is good and not so good at, this little gem could be perfect for you. // 9

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overall: 7.8
The Defender Reviewed by: EasyMucy, on august 17, 2010
0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: € 400

Purchased from: A BAND

Features: It's a Chinese version (I guess), it was imported from Germany, the rest I don't know. It's no-nonsence tube amp, a box, a speaker and 5 lamps (I think, I didn't bother to count). I bought it when I saw that Van Zants use Kustom. That was just about all the information I needed. // 7

Sound: The sound is about the same as the box itself: direct, raw, strong, no nonsence. The original speaker was very tipically "Chinese": too direct, too screamy, mid-range-only, low only on finesse. So the first thing was to replace it with something of superior quality. So I got in touch with Lorantz (Australia), told them I play blues with power riffs, like George Thorogood & The Destroyers and they sent me a top-of-the-line 75 W speaker. Simply steroids. Compared to original speaker, I have much more powerful and rich sound but the amp is now using less than 50% of power and drive, all other knobs are in middle position. I don't think I have the guts to try what happens when one turns all the knobs to the right... // 8

Reliability & Durability: The only thing I'm sorry about this amp is - it's Chinese. And if the Chinese cheapo-crapo-amplifayo sounds this awesome I can't imagine the quality of the original US Kustom amp. It's been a while now and I'll have some work done on the lamps, one started to rattle a bit, but no sweat. The machine WORKS. :) // 9

Overall Impression: I'm a rocker with Thrash Metal background, enjoying some blues as a relaxation. This amp knows no excuses: it's aggressive, direct, raw, powerful, and when you want some gentleness, just Switch to neck pickup and it'll purr like a cat. It is good such as it is, but in time you can upgrade it with some better speakers (it has a handy Switch for the ohms at the back), some better tubes, it could get you further. Only shame is the footswitch though, it could do with some more knobs... It cannot compete with Music Man or high-end Marshalls, but the blue-blood amplifiers also cost about 5 times more... My recommendation: put it on a top of another single-speaker box and you'll get some serious piece of kit for very few bucks. // 7

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