Price paid: A$ 650
Purchased from: 5 Star Music
Features — 8
Made in the UK in 2012 (?) All Class-A tube amp. Its one of the later models where they have cleaned up some of the issues they had with the earlier ones and added a power reduction switch on the back. Its pretty basic - Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass, Headphone Jack, output. A master Volume or Gain would have been perfect because getting that beautiful crunch from this amp means you really need to crank it, but believe me, the sound you get from this at high volumes is breathtaking. I got the creamy white model and it looks beautiful with old piping around the edges.
Sound — 10
Like most of these reviewers, I play blues/metal/rock. My main squeeze is a Gibson Les Paul Standard 2013. I've been playing for 20 years but not being a regular "gigger" I never owned a real tube amp and have always used Marshall solid state combos. So after years of bedroom playing I wanted to finally make the transition from solid state to tube amp. Obviously being 5 watt, this one seemed perfect, particularly given that it has the ability to switch down to a quieter mode and not deafen my wife and kids. Well, my goodness this thing is loud. I put it on a sturdy shelf about head-high in my study and cranked it. I had to back out of the room because I thought my ears were seriously going to start bleeding. The problem I found is that even at a deceptively meagre 5 watts, it was way too loud for my humble home as the controls are so basic (Bass, Middle, Treble, Volume) that to get the crunch / distortion I was after you need to crank it just like those old school amps. But I cant complain, when I did crank this thing, I could finally see what all those pretentious, elitists tube amp snobs were hollering about on internet forum posts over the years. Because the sound that came out of this cranked baby just blew me away. Harmonic overtones, blah blah blah, I don't know what that really means but this unit is so responsive to the way your fingers actually sound fretting the strings its amazing. When you smash out some big power chords, it absolutely thunders. Play some softer lead melodies without adjusting for volume and its just purrs or screams purely depending on the intensity with which you fret the board. Obviously using humbuckers in my Les Paul, its breaks up easier than single coils but when it does start to break up, it just crumbles so beautifully - Cream, early Van Halen, Sabbath, Page, Slash are all effortlessly dialled in the cranked zone. The only problem I found personally with this amp is that I love my distortion thick and soupy and to get that sound – which this amp can do easily - I had to crank it which wasn't practical given my circumstances. So I tried a few stomp boxes in front of it. I used an EH Big Muff Pi, a Tube Screamer and finally a Boss Turbo Distortion unit – all of them sounded ridiculously awesome. The Boss Turbo Distortion won out in the end but with any of these I was able to get "god-like" overdrive tones from this amp at very low volumes. As far as clean is concerned, and at the risk of sounding single-minded, I haven't really pushed it. Not having on-board reverb or chorus limits it's versatility but as evidenced with my distortion pedals, it plays beautifully with external effects so a chorus or reverb pedal in front of it should really shine.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Reliability? Well it has Class A glass tubes inside it so go figure. Anyway the cabinet it pretty damn solid and you just got to be careful I guess but I've lugged my other Marshalls to gigs and parties over the years with no problems. Straight out of the box, when you switch it on and the tubes warm up you get an alarming odour that smells a little like a burning "new car stank," which I guess is to be expected with a brand new unit but that disappears quickly. I got the white one purely because it was the last one in the store but it looks lovely and retro sitting up on a shelf in my study.
Overall Impression — 9
To sum up, this unit has totally overhauled my tone and even the way I play particularly if you are taking the step from solid state to tube. Having to crank it to get that beautiful crunch and distortion was initially, for me a drawback until I discovered just how well it plays with stomp boxes. This amp would be the perfect recording amp. When you consider that many of those early blues rock albums were recorded in the studio with little low wattage Fender tube amps similar to this one. Home practice with a stomp box to overdrive it at low volumes works extraordinarily well with this baby.