TBR5 Hammer 320 review by Rivera

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 7
  • Features: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 4.6 (7 votes)
Rivera: TBR5 Hammer 320

Price paid: $ 1500

Purchased from: Direct

Sound — 10
I use the TBR5 with a CAE 3+SE preamp, and a variety of guitars including an Anderson Pro Am, a Les Paul standard, and a frankentele. I've tried a variety of power amps with this setup, and this is the best, or perhaps second best (with the Soldano SM-100R being the other great one). Even with a lower power tube compliment and using only one side (I use the other side as a backup in case tubes fail) this power amp is hurt-your-ears loud. And it sounds good - the focus knob in particular gives you a means to tune how aggressive and modern your sound is. The TBR5 is more Fender voiced than Marshall voiced, but it copes with high gain preamps well. I play in professional cover bands, as a sideman, and as a studio guitarist. This power amp does what I need for everything from country to metal. I'm sure you've heard that before, but in this case it's actually true.

Overall Impression — 9
For my purposes, this is a very good power amp. I've been a professional player for a long time now, and this is about the best my rig has ever sounded. At $1500 NOS from Rivera, these things are a bargain. I like their sound much better than the VHT/Fryette or Mesa units currently available. The downside to the TBR5 is the weight - 70lbs is a ton to move just for a power amp. I keep in in a wheeled rack, so it's not quite so bad. But it's still by far the most awkward-to-move piece of gear I use.

Reliability & Durability — 7
I don't really know yet how reliable this amp will be. I've gigged it, and it's been fine. But ask me in 5 years.

Features — 7
This amp was bought as new old stock from Rivera in 2010. I think it was originally built in the late 90s. The TBR5 is a two channel rack tube power amp, with each channel supporting 4 medium or big bottle power tubes. The original tube compliment was 4x GE 6550s in each channel, which produced a solid 160 watts per side, or 320 watts total. Mine is configured for 4x 6L6s on each side, and produces more like 100 watts per side. Each channel sports power, standby, volume, presence and "focus" controls. They work like you would expect a power amp to work. The big downside of this power amp is that it weighs about 70 pounds. Better have roadies...

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Even Bigger D
    Other than the obvious difference in that the Knucklehead is a head, and this is just a power amp, I don't know. I've had limited time with the Knucklehead.
    I don't think the Knucklehead is a stereo, don't forget the Hammer 320 is Stereo like two amps in one. with 4 speaker jacks all tube sound.