Price paid: C$ 499
Purchased from: Long-McQuade
Sound — 9
I use the Darkhorse almost exclusively in 2 watt 12AU7 mode, both for home recording and for practicing and playing around. I play the following guitars through the Darkhorse: American Standard Strat and Tele, an Epiphone Les Paul Studio, a Hagstrom Viking, and a PRS SE One Korina. I love the sound of the Darkhorse for rock and blues-rock. It really gives you a nice crunch. What it doesn't do is metal-type really high gain. With my fenders on the USA setting, the Darkhorse stays bright and clean, only beginning to break up with the gain near the max. Switch it over to Brit and the tone stack moves from after the preamp (USA) to the middle of the preamp (Brit) and you get more breakup. The fenders still tend to hold their cleans for most of the range. The Pure mode takes the tone stack out of the equation entirely, giving you a gain and mid boost in the bargain. Switch over to humbuckers and you get some really good overdrive crunch. In USA mode you can get some nice creamy cleans with the gain down around 9 o'clock or so, but crank the Darkhorse and the breakup is warm and harmonic. The sound with the gain and master both dimed is terrific. And loud. Switch to Brit and the Drive gets a bit fuller and fatter. In pure mode the humbuckers sound like little monsters. The P90 in the PRS just loves the Darkhorse, with a crunchy clean available in USA mode, right up to punk-rock snarl in pure mode. I'll mention that the 6v6 mode fattens up the sound just a touch, and gets loud. Very loud. It comes with a little hum from the transformer, which is absent in 12AU7 mode. In 15 watt 6v6 you can dial up a nice clean humbucker sound with good volume. I just don't use the 15 watt mode much, though, because I love the sound of the Darkhorse completely cranked, and it is a bit too loud in 2 watt mode already.
Overall Impression — 9
I play rock and bluesy punk-rock. I play at home in a spare room/studio that has no walls shared with neighbors, so I can play loud. For recording and playing at home this amp is splendid. The warmth and crunch, and the wide spectrum of sound you can dial up are really a pleasure. With the amp in 15 watt mode you can get plenty loud for small venue gigging, or just mic the Darkhorse for any size gig. This amp is affordable and has a terrific tone to it, and I'm very satisfied with it. Now and then I wish it had built-in reverb, but it takes pedals very well, so I can just add on to the front end.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I've had this amp for a little over a month, so I can't comment on the long-term reliability, but it's a solid little amp. It has an all metal chassis, with an easily removable cage surrounding the tubes. It has a 2-year full warranty, and from what I've read, Traynor stands behind their amps. It also came with a padded carrying bag for the amp.
Features — 9
The Darkhorse is a 15/2 watt switchable tube amplifier. It has 2 12AX7 tubes in the preamp, and either 2 6v6 power tubes in 15 watt mode, or 1 12AU7 power tube in 2 watt mode. It has a Gain control, Bass and Treble, and a Master volume. It also has a Brit/Pure/USA 3-way switch that allows you to change where in the circuit the tone stack comes in, or to remove it from the circuit altogether. It has one channel, no effects loop and no reverb. This is a straight-ahead tube amp, but it really covers a lot of sonic range. The 2 watt mode is particularly useful for recording or playing at home, but don't let the 2 watts fool you: cranked it gets loud. I play it through the matching Darkhorse cab with a 12" Celestion Greenback.