Price paid: $ 457.482
Purchased from: Soho Soundhouse, London
Sound — 9
If had I listened to this amp and known nothing about it and someone told me it was a valve amp, I would have believed them. The tone produced by this amplifier is very impressive. I play a Squier Standard Stratocaster and this amplifier makes it sound incredible. However without some tonal fiddling, the sound produced can be quite piercing, this is mainly due to the high treble that the Strat produces. I play a mixture of all sorts of music, from Jazz to Rock to Metal and I am yet to find a situation that this amp cannot handle. However, with this huge tonal variety, it takes quite a while to familiarize yourself with it. Once you have grasped it though, finding the right tone becomes quite intuitive. The manual provided also gives a few tips on tones. They even provide some standard settings which are quite fun to play about with. The clean channel is not very loud. By which I mean, flicking the mod switch to clean produces a very quiet sound. It is possible to get a pretty clean tone by fiddling around with other settings, but essentially a truly clean sound is not very loud. A very slightly distorted sound however can reach some pretty impressive volumes. The distortion on this amp can range from a very slight pleasant warm sound to a really gritty valve driven like sound. There is a slight noticeable hiss, which becomes more and more noticeable as you increase the drive and volume. Although I am yet to come across an amplifier which doesn't do that to an extent. Plus I have never noticed it in recordings. The spring reverb is quite something. I had always settled for digital but spring reverb is pretty cool. The only problem with it is that it freaks me out when the amp get moved very quickly (e.g. kicked, knocked). As the spring reverb (even if it is not being used) makes this sound as if something very expensive just broke, nothing has though. However the sound is not that loud and would not be noticed during a gig.
Overall Impression — 9
Tech21 is a company based in New York City. They actually only have a total of seven amplifiers in their range, five if you don't count the three varieties of the TM60. This is the bottom of the range (since the TM10 has been discontinued), however it should not be taken lightly. I have been playing for over three years. I bought this amplifier as from day of researching around Denmark St. and Oxford St. this was the best amp in the price range (100-300). The tonal variety of this amp is truly impressive. A large amount of fun can be had purely messing around trying to find all sorts of interesting tones. If this were stolen or lost I would definitely buy it again, or perhaps upgrade to something like the TM60 if it offers similar tonal variety. There are only two things that I wish this amp has and that is a pedal for changing channels and perhaps some digital effects although getting some effects pedals is not too much of a hassle. Overall a wonderful amp for practicing, recording and gigging in a small-ish venues.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This amplifier is pretty solidly built. It has a strong cabinet. The main amplifier section has a metal case and the speaker cabinet is made of a strong plastic. It all feels pretty solid. What does always worry me though is the open back which leaves the speaker and hence speaker paper fairly exposed. However I'm sure that if you treat the amp with care this is not a problem. I would definitely gig without a backup although I would not recommend swinging a guitar into it Townsend style.
Features — 9
The TM30 is essentially the same as the TM10 with the exception of the the TM30 being 30W and the TM10 being 10W (the TM10 has since been discontinued and replaced by said amp). It has the standard features of most standard combo amps. It has volume, an equalizer (low, med, high) and of course a knob for 'Drive'. It might also be worth noting that the EQ is active, so instead of just cutting like most amplifiers, the EQ on the TM30 both boosts and cuts which I think is really useful. The TM30 also has an Accutronics 3-spring reverb which is really quite impressive. The TM30 also incorporates Tech21's prided SansAmp pedal system. The heart of the TM30 is a modified version of the SansAmp GT2 pedal design. This is the real selling point of this amp. The amplifier is solid state however it is made with 100% analogue components. For those of you Who do not know of the SansAmp system, it is a Tube Amp Emulator. The SansAmp system on the TM30 has 3 factors which affect the sound, they are: amp, mod and speaker. These each have three options. The TM30 has a 10" specially designed speaker which actually produces a lot of volume. Quoting my friend 'Its very loud for such a small thing'(physical dimensions: 14.5"w x 13.5"h x 10.5"d). The manual that it comes with informs me that it is capable of driving a 2x12 or a 4x12 cabinet. The TM30 has a direct XLR output and a 1/4" output for headphones or recording. This makes it very good for recording. Tech21 actually considers this model to be their Direct Recording combo. However the amp only has one input. There is an effects loop and instructions in the manual on how to set up your pedals. The only thing for features that lets this amp down is the lack of on-board effects. It would have been nice to have had a few digital effects like a chorus or a flange, but this is nothing too much as it is clear that the focus of this amp is the clean tone and distortion. Aesthetically it has a slightly Vintage look about it and the chicken head knobs are a nice touch.