Price paid: $ 2000
Purchased from: Haggerty Music
Sound — 9
I'm currently using a ESP EC-1000 deluxe with this amp with active EMGs. This guitar isnt the best for softer stuff but it opens this amp for modern metal like no other! This amp suits my musical style perfectly. Most of the time I play hard rock and metal when I'm not with my band but I never thought I'd come across an amazing high gain amp with a beautiful clean channel. This amp has a beautiful clean channel, as much as I love Channel 2 and 3, I can stay on this channel for hours on end. 90w with the gain fairly low is best for maximum headroom and no breakup at high volumes and tweed is great for vintage, "tweed" kind of breakup especially at 45w with the gain turned up and Variac on. Channel 2 is great for Carlos Santana and smooth distortion on the verge of breakup in Mark I mode, but on the flip side if you crank the presence and gain it gets very heavy and brutal, usable for metal! Crunch is my favorite setting on this channel which produces a marshallesque (but very different at the same time) kind of well, "Crunch". I get some great Foo Fighters, MCR, GNR, Velvet Revolver, Skynrd, etc sounds out of this channel and much more. Edge is my least favorite mode on this amp, I guess I don't like its voicing but it sounds very strange, only way I use this mode is if the gain is rolled back for a voxy kind of tone. On to Channel 3, my favorite channel of them all! Channel 3 offers 3 modes, Mark IIC+, Mark IV, and Extreme. I use Mark IIC+ the least, not because its bad but because I like a more modern sounding grind and the other two modes suit it better. This is a great mode for rock leads and the such with the gain a little lower than "chug" volume. Sure it can get great Metallica MOP tones but I perfer the other modes, just my preference. Mark IV I would say, has more saturation than Extreme and is a lot more "Creamy" It depends what mode I'm in, I Switch between Mark IV and Extreme quite often. Great mode. Extreme is what I'm using right now. This channel can get Killer modern metal tones such as Killswitch Engage, Death Magnetic Metallica, Bullet for my Valentine, Atreyu, etc. and has the most low end thump out of all the modes, I cry everytime I hit a palm muted chord and hear the area shake. No joke! The clean is crystal, the distortion is brutal and everything else in between is great. No complaints, not one.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall this amp is a masterpiece. Randall Smith did an amazing job making this amp. I've only been playing 2 years but I know LOTS about gear, trying many different amps before buying this. I tried a few Marshalls, JCM800, and a DSL100 and I must say this amp fits my style better than those two. I love the versatility of this amp. It does EVERYTHING I want, beautifully. I couldn't ask for a better amp. No wonder John Petrucci uses 3 of these live now, all the mode combinations must be insane! Take note, when I first tried this amp, it was the combo which I liked but didn't love. When I bought the head and tried it with my 4x12 cab with V30's it shined, I like it much more, especially for metal. I plan to keep this amp for a very long time, even when I get new gear in the future, I doubt it will replace this beast, except maybe the Mark 6 if that comes! Haha. Don't compare this amp to a rectifier, if your after the recto sound get that, but I perfer this amp because it can get just as brutal as a rectifier pounding, just in its own way. I perfer the clean channel on this amp over the roadster's also.This amp doesn't get a 10 because I don't believe in perfection, theres always small tweaks that can make something better, but this amp gets a 9 because its as close to perfect as anything I've touched. Great amp.
Reliability & Durability — 8
This amp looks very durable and is well built. If I HAD to I would probably gig with it without a backup but come on, every tube amp can have some freak accident with tubes and whatnot mid gig so its best to have a backup, even with this beast. This amp has never broken down, but I haven't had it all that long, only 3weeks.
Features — 9
Ok this amp was made in 2009 and it is VERY versatile. It covers every style I play which includes blues, alternative, classic rock, modern rock, oldschool metal, modern metal and much more. This amp has 3 seperate channels and you can Switch channels on the fly with the footswitch, which is well built and solid. There is no loud popping when switching channel and no delay. This amp has a Parallel effects loop and a knob to control the level of the effects send and also has the option to hard bypass the loop and use the seperate channel master volumes to control the volume while disabling the Solo control and output. The only feature I wish this amp had was midi switching between modes, something that changed the EQ settings along with it because EQ does not translate cross modes very well. I use this amp at home for practicing and also with my band which plays rock, blues, jazz and the such and it keeps up VERY well. This amp is solid. 10w modes are great for home practicing but do not stand up well with a band so kick it to either 45w or 90w. The Variac mode is great for a Vintage breakup sound in a 10w setting, very creamy! This amp has the Mark Standard Graphic EQ that tailors the sound in any direction you want. It has spring reverb that is alright, but I prefer different kinds of reverb for playing (but I still use it, less hassle!) It has the option to choose between Triode and Diode rectification on channel 3 which makes a HUGE difference. You can also choose to use tube rectification or Diode on channel 1 and 2 depending on your wattage choice. There are so many combinations, It would take me months and possibly years to fully explore this amp.