Sound — 9
I use an Edwards E-AL-128 (Alexi Laiho signature) loaded with a DiMarzio D Activator X (great pickup with brutal gain and pristine cleans), and run the amp through a Vader 2x12 cab, and as you can guess, I play metal, but I venture into instrumental and progressive quite a bit. The amp, considering you have at least 60 preamp combinations at your fingertips (with each module costing between $150 used and $250 new), not to mention the different preamp tubes you can use with them and the countless combos of power tubes it can take AND MIDI capability, this amp is versatile enough to play literally anything you want and deliver in spades. I'll admit, I haven't played many good tube amps in my 6 years as a guitarist, but after trying a couple of Fender Tube amps, I can honestly say the Blackface not only has a slightly richer sound, but it's also more versatile and fun to tweak than the Fenders (I will still test this out some more though). With the gain at 3 o'clock and up you start getting a mild overdrive that's nicely supplemented by power tube overdrive, great for Blues and classic rock (like early Who). It responds fairly well to picking dynamics here, but I don't care for using the bright Switch with this module. It become piercing on the high strings (if you're strumming hard on the bridge pickup with a bright guitar, with a neck pickup though, it's easier to tame). The SL+ module was chosen with a few things in mind: Iron Maiden, Children Of Bodom, and Nevermore. But remember my statement about it sounding a bit thin? This is because Randall changes the bass capacitor from a.0047uF (pre-07) to a.001uF(recent), to tighten the bass some (more than necessary). Luckily, each module is easily modified, and I happen to have a friend Who is good at soldering, so I plan to change this out, and maybe even add a Switch to go between bass values. Randall basically BEGS you to modify these to suit your taste. This has recently become my lead module, and will suit the job even better after the bass cap change. The Ultra XL is where it's at for any of your death metal needs. Being based on one of the most popular modern metal amps, it can nail the sounds of Arch Enemy (Michael Amott actually uses this module in his Randall MTS), In Flames, Amon Amarth, Dethklok, and (although I haven't tried it yet, but I'm confident of it's versatility) Children Of Bodom's sound on Something Wild (and back before when they were Inearthed). I use this as my rhythm module because I was looking for that Gothenburg melodeath tone, and it's great. It responds much like a 5150 in the tone controls, in that you don't need the gain far past noon to get the distortion you need, and I actually run the bass closer to noon as well, for a slightly tighter sound that still has balls. The Bright Switch, unless the Treble is turned below noon, makes this module sound somewhat thin though, but some people may like that. I plan on getting more modules soon, and I may post individual reviews on them when I do. Regardless, this amp does exactly what I wanted it to, and can do so much more. It's better sounding and better performing than any digital modeler that I've played, even the Spider Valve.
Overall Impression — 10
I play metal, but I soften things up sometimes, and if I ever got another amp, it would be for novelty purposes, shits and giggles, etc., maybe even to run in stereo with this amp. It's got more flexibility than other amps I've tried, and if I ever change what I play (when Hell freezes over), then all I need to do is change my modules. I've played guitar for 6 years, and own three more guitars (a Kramer 610, a Jasmine acoustic, and an Ibanez Artcore), and an Ibanez practice amp that sounds like crap drug through shit compared to this beast. If this amp were ever stolen, first off, the thief better have hit the gym first because this head weighs roughly 75 pounds with the modules in it, and it's slightly off-balance because of the transformer placement, so it would be cumbersome to try and run with. Regardless, I could reclaim it and beat the culprit to a bloody pulp with it if it was ever stolen. If it were lost, however... well it would never get lost, once again because you just don't LOOSE at 75 pound piece of equipment that your guitar is plugged into. However, I might decide to go with an RM4 and RT2/50 rack setup if I did ever loose this amp, if only because of the extra module I would have available to me. When Michael Amott was interviewed and asked what kids Who were looking for great tone should do, he said "Get a job, and buy a Randall". Sadly, I have no job, but I do have a Randall. Try one for yourself if you don't believe me.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I've never gigged with the amp, so I'm not sure about it's reliability. I've heard horror stories of blown fuses and whatnot, but this amp has only given me one problem before. Once, the SL+ module sounded more like a Vintage Plexi, and I played with the switched as much as I could, until finally I heard this swell of gain come out from nowhere, and it played fine. I discovered that either in shipping or from my own clumsiness that one of the power tubes was crooked, so once they cooled down I pushed it back into place and it's never given me trouble since.
Features — 9
I can't tell what year this was made in, but more than likely either '07 or '08, I'll tell you how I guess this later (aside from the fact that I got it new). The head alone with n o modules costs around $1300. The reason the amp was so much is because I got it loaded with a set of modules that wasn't offered at Musician's Friend: Blackface (modeled after a clean Fender Twin) SL+ (the pre-2007 modules were modeled after a Marshall JCM2000, but starting in 07 Randall changed a resistor and two caps giving it the voicing of a JCM800, although thinner than the original, more on this) Ultra XL (Based on the Peavey 5150). The front of the head has a Master Volume, FX level, Presence (power amp highs) and Density (power amp lows) knobs on the front, along with the three slots for your selection amongst the 20-25 available preamp modules. The back sports a power supply with adjustable voltage (so you can play anywhere in the world), a MIDI in jack (for the included 3 button footswitch) and MIDI Through (for a MIDI multi-FX processor), an easy-to-acess bias section for the power tubes, two speaker outs, an adjustable impedance selector (4, 8, or 16 ohms), and two effects loops (one series, one parallel). It comes stock with four JJ 6L6GC power tubes, and three JJ 12AX7 preamp tubes (on the head itself, one is the phase inverter, the others are the V1 and V2, I think). The power section (and the massive, barbell-esque transformers) can handle almost any kind of power tube (from 6L6s and EL34s to the massive KT88). The only tubes I don't think this amp can take are EL84's, but that's what the RM20 is for... Also, the amp is capable of running two different pairs of tubes, such as 2 EL34s and 2 6L6s, thus giving you almost unlimited tonal control over your amp. Each module has it's own Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Volume knobs, and a bright switch. Each is also loaded with the same JJ 12AX7 preamp tubes found in the head. As mentioned before the footswitch is MIDI enabled, so you can use your MIDI effects processor to set some reverb, delay, and/or chorus on your clean channel while you add whatever effects you want to the other channels, and each setting can be programmed into the footswitch. I don't use this feature yet, but I hope to one day. The only feature I wish it had was a power selector (100w, 50w, 20w), but you can take out a pair of the power tubes to bring it down to 50 if you want less headroom (there's not a noticeable droop in volume, though) or if your speaker cab (or speaker, for that matter) can't handle all 100 watts. I use the amp practicing in my bedroom (yes, with the master and channel volumes this behemoth can be brought down to bedroom levels while still sounding fairly good), and with my band. The channel volumes love to be cranked, and sound best when set to noon. The master also likes being set at least to 9 o'clock.