Price paid: $ 139
Purchased from: local store
Sound — 9
This amp comes up with about every sound I can think of. I can get a clean tone which is definitely clean, if a little sterile. Distortions range from a touch-sensitive overdrive (~10 o'clock gain on tube drive mode) to ridiculous levels of distortion fringing on fuzz on the maxed-out metal modes. I use the acoustic simulator as the clean channel because it counteracts the abundance of (slightly annoying) upper mids that my humbucker-equipped guitar (Ephiphone SG-style) puts out. The problem is, this effectively gets rid of the functionality of a 2-channel footswitchable amp. The absolute best thing about this amp is it's level of noise. The first thing I did when I got it was turn up all the knobs to see the kind of noise it would make. There was a soft hiss (like an endless shh) that quickly disappeared beneath the quietest playing. If you use the headphone jack, the hiss disappears altogether and all that's left is the pleasing tone of the amplifier itself. The clean channel breaks up at remarkably high volumes (~4 o'clock on the JC clean), but I believe I may be the unlucky recipient of a slip in quality control; however, I am fine with simply turning down the volume a little. As far as the distortion goes, I'm not sure exactly what face-melting is defined as, but on extreme gain settings, my friend over the phone actually had to ask me what instrument I was playing. This might be good or bad, I suppose.
Overall Impression — 10
Whatever music I'm playing, this amp can follow because it models (with decent accuracy) all of the amps I would want to play on. If it was stolen, I might not buy it again because I would like more volume (cube 30/60, perhaps? ). I love the tones on this amp, and the fact that with just about everything I can think of to do with my sound, this little baby can pull it off. I hate that I can't directly connect it to a recording console without it shutting off the internal speaker, making a hassle to monitor myself while recording. My favorite feature is definitely the TUBE Drive mode, which is like having a dynamics expander before the distortion, making the distortion more touch-sensitive. With my guitar's volume dimed, I can go from disappearing in the fuzz to nearly clean just by controlling the force of my hand. This adds a whole new dimension to playing. Overall, I see this amplifier as perfect for me, with the one exception of wanting some more power. Even there, however, there is good. When the clean starts to break up and the speaker distorts, I know that I should turn the volume down because I'm definitely damaging my hearing anyway. This amp is great. I highly recommend it.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I believe this amp is going to last me for a very long time. I will try my best to make sure of that, because it's sound is what really piqued my interest in guitar-playing once again, just like I hoped it would. Other than the mediocre speaker, Everything feels tough. I wouldn't gig with it unless there was a PA handy to supply the volume.
Features — 8
I play whatever hits me at the moment, from my friend's favorite funk records to some arena-rock mega-distortion lick I just came up with. The various preamp modes are nice because I can think of a tone, twist the lead tones knob and have an approximate tone down in a couple seconds. One of the features I never use is the Power Squeezer. Don't listen to the hype about "maximum sustain without maximum volume" (as Musician's Friend puts it) - all it actually does is limit the power from the amp from 20W to 2W, as outlined in the manual. One little problem with it is, I used to use it, turning it on and turning the volume up accordingly. When you turn the amp off, then back on, it doesn't re-enable the Power Squeezer, giving potential for surprising volume. I have used this in a couple of jamming situations, and although infinitely better than trying to be heard over a small jazz band with a cheap acoustic, I found myself a little let down. Also, after cranking it up by myself, I found that (at least on my specific amp) at about 1:30 on the volume knob without Power Squeezer on, the speaker couldn't seem to handle the power. However, don't discount the volume; this is quite a small amp capable of much higher volumes than those needed to play at home or with a friend.