Price paid: C$ 159
Purchased from: Boîte à Musique
Features — 9
Made in China (year unknown). 1x ECC83S from JJ Electronics. Powder-coated steel chassis.
Front panel controls (from left to right):
- Power on/off toggle switch
- Headphone jack (1/4" stereo)
- AUX IN (3.5mm)
- Tone (roll left for bass boost, leave it center for flat, roll right for treble boost)
- Input (1/4" stereo)
- Regulated DC 15V 2A sleeve-negative power supply
- 1x Min 4Ohm speaker output jack (1/4" stereo)
- 1x ECC83S tube
- 1x Power converter
- 1x Power supply cable
Sound — 9
This suits my style perfectly. When I decided to make the switch up to a tube amp for that rich velvety analogue tone, I knew where I was going. I wanted to be able to play crystal clean and let the effects shine through uncolored, and be able to just bring the amp and use its gain. I didn't want to buy different amps for different needs.
When I first checked this out at the shop, I was looking to pair it as a half stack with the little 8" Orange cab. When I came back to buy it, they were sold out of micro cabs, so I had it paired to a Randall RG8 8" cab. A solid little cab for sure. Now I run this through a Marshall MG412B I picked up used locally. Definitely has more bottom end and presence with the larger speakers. But rest assured, the 8" is plenty loud enough to make ears bleed.
The clean settings (only 1 channel on this puppy) are absolutely great. I can play nice and loud without the gain crunching it up. To get a good clean tone, dial the volume up max, and slowly increase gain until you reach your desired volume. My typical clean setting is Volume 10, gain somewhere around 2-3 (the third and fourth hash marks on the dial. The first is 0, like the E line on your fuel gage in your car).
The gain control is your best friend. It will decide where you are on the spectrum of clean, overdrive, fuzz, crunch, up to distortion. The more gain you use, the less volume you need. I typically play full gain distortion for metal, so I set the volume down to 0, then the gain all the way up. I slowly turn up the volume knob until I reach a good volume. Usually Volume maxes out around 1 with the Gain up to 10. I played it at Gain 10 Volume 3 in the music shop to test drive it in the middle of the store, and the store-front windows were rattling.
The only qualm I have is the EQ. The "tone" knob either boosts the low end, or the high end, or changes nothing. You can't say, leave the mids and boost highs and lows, or leave the lows and boost mids and highs. I would have gone for a 3-band EQ with individual boost/cut for lows, mids and highs.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The only gigs I've played were fairly short, but I have played the amp for hours at home with no problems of overheating or anything like that. Being a hybrid (tubes only for the pre-amp, with the power-amp being handled electronically) probably helps keep temperatures down. The handle seems well plated and is nice and sturdy, too. Tough rubber feet look like they'll last the life of the amp. The knobs are plastic, but that's probably a good thing. The knobs stick out of the amp, so should it fall, I would think the plastic knobs will crack rather than the metal shafts in the pots behind them. The paint seems as tough as that on stomp-boxes. This will totally survive gigging.
Overall Impression — 9
I play everything from gospel to metal, and this amp is what I play that through. Apart from the EQ (or lack thereof) this amp can get pretty much any tone you want to your cab. Were it stolen or lost I might opt for a 2-channel amp. I can't fidget with the settings mid-song to go from clean to dirty. I either play straight into the amp dirty, or through stomp-boxes into the clean amp. I love the tone! It adds something to covers of songs recorded through Oranges, even if it isn't the EXACT same model. I hate, like I said, that it only has one channel.
When I went to the store, I had a budget, so they didn't really want me trying the 2k$+ full sized heads. But I did play a few different guitars through the amp, and its character shone through despite the varying inputs ('80s Ibanez S with stock passive pickups, ESP MH with EMG 81+85, and a Strat clone with SSS, all guitars in all PU configurations). I had checked online and nothing really seemed to arrive at the shins of this amp. For the price-point, or by features, nothing comes close. Give it a proper EQ and another channel, and this would be worth its weight in gold.