Price paid: $ 504
Purchased from: Stiff Amplification
Sound — 10
I play a Washburn X50 Pro FE with Madhouse Walter pickups in the bridge and neck, an ESP X-Tone PC-1V with Alnico Pro II pickups in the neck and bridge and a Jackson SLAT XMG Q 7 seven string with EMG 707's in the neck and bridge. I am running the head through a Blackheart 1X12 cab with an Eminence Swamp Thang speaker in it. The amp achieves more sounds than I thought it would. I had been playing through a Blackheart Handsome Devil and I was tired of using distortion pedals to get my gain. I thought would get a new amp for gain and keep the HD for cleans. I wanted an amp that can get heavy tones on its own. This amp can certainly do that, but I was also surprised at how good the cleans are. The cleans blew my expectations away. They are not Fender, sparkly cleans. If you want Fender cleans, buy a Fender. The cleans are so good, I'm not sure if I will hold on to the HD or not. This amp can certainly handle blues, rock, hardore or metal. With the gain around noon, it can handle Venom, Evile, Gwar, Slayer, or anything else along those lines. Lower the gain down and it can handle bands like Angry Samoans, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Sasquatch and the sickabillies or any other bands along those lines. The clean sounds are great, I wish I had a guitar with single coils because I bet this amp could handle playing some surf tunes very well. But bands like The Living End, Desendents, Buddy Holly, and the Talking Heads are easy to get. It is not very noisy at all. I play in pretty small room, so feedback when the gain is kranked is to be expected. The voice knob really gives the gain channel a wide variety of possible tones. The voice knob turned down gives the tone a very dark and gritty character, while turning it up decreases the bass and gives it a more sharp/cutting edge distortion. This amp has enough gain on tap to meet anyone's needs. I have a bunch of pedals, but my favorite way to play this amp is plugged straight in, on both the clean and dirty channels. I couldn't be happier with the tones that I am getting out of this amp and I don't see myself even thinking about getting a new amp for a very long time, if ever. If you are a pedal enthusiast, it plays nice with every pedal that I own, even my Black Forest OD, which in my opinion is very picky about what amps and guitars it is going to sound good with.
Overall Impression — 10
I mostly play metal and this amp suits it perfectly. I also like to play punk, garage, rock, and blues and the amp handles them all beautifully. I have been playing guitar for about 5 years now. I wouldn't say that I am good, but I don't suck either. There is really nothing that I had wished I had asked about before purchasing the amp, because I did ask several questions. Tony has his email posted on his site and I asked him several questions before I made the purchase. Tony answered my questions quickly and personally. I would certainly order a new one immediately if it were stolen. The thing I love the most about it is the range of amazing tones I can get. Clean, dirty or outright brutal, it does them all incredibly well. There is really nothing that I hate, but do wish it had metal input jacks. One of my favorite features of the amp is that it is plug and play with tubes. No need for biasing. The 50 and 100 require biasing when changing tubes, but the 20 watt does not. Another favorite feature is that it doesn't matter what OHMs your speakers are. There is no switch or matching up or anything. The amp can handle, 4, 8 or 16 OHMs witout having to make any adjustments. I was looking for an amp that can achieve killer high gain tones on its own. I looked at the Mini Rec, the Tubemeister, Vengeance, Baron Snot Watt, Dark Terror, and JR Terror. I chose the DirtHead because it can get as good or better tones than any of those and was half the price of some of those amps and it is made here in the US, not in China. If you're looking for a lunchbox amp that sounds good at low volume, can get a wide range of tones, can get really loud if needed and can handle pretty much any kind of metal you're looking to play, then look no further than Stiff Amps. The DirtHead is a darker voiced amp, but Stiff also produces 2 other models - the FistPump and the 90-AD. This not a honeymoon, all top scores review. I have had this amp over a month, have played the living hell out of it and I still need to change my shorts everytime I'm done playing. I am absolutely in love with this amp. Video from YouTube:
Reliability & Durability — 7
This amp is small and built like a tank, except in one aspect. The input jacks are plastic, not metal. I don't like plastic input jacks and would have surely paid even an extra 50 bucks for the amp if it had metal jacks. If I were a gigging musician, I would replace them immediately, but since my amp just sits in my room and no one touches it but me, I am not that concerned and didn't consider it a deal breaker. I mean come'on, 500.00 bucks for an amp that sounds this awesome, just replace the jacks, your're still coming out way ahead of the game pricewise. If it had metal jacks, I would it give it a 10 on this catagory, but since it doesn't, I can't, so I'll give it a seven, because the inputs are cheap enough and easy enough to replace yourself and the rest of the amp is bulletproof.
Features — 8
I paid 504.00 for the amp and that included shipping. The amp was built in late 2012/early 2013. If you didn't know, Stiff Amps was founded by Tony Krank, former founder of Krank Amps. I got the 20 watt version of the DirtHead, but there are 50 and 100 watt versions also. The amp has two channels and comes with a footswitch. The clean channel has knobs for volume and tone. The dirty channel has knobs for bass, mid, treble, volume, gain and voicing. There is a presence knob located on the back of the amp. The amp has a tube driven FX loop that can be bypassed and the FX loop volume can be used as a master volume. The amp runs on 2 12AX7's in the preamp, 1 12AX7 in the fx loop and 2 6L6 tubes in the poweramp. No need to bias when changing tubes on the 20 watt version. I am a home player that doesn't gig, so I wasn't worried about gigging volume, if I was, I would have bought the 50 Watt version. This amp can achieve volumes that will shake walls and I was actually surprised at how loud it is.