Price paid: $ 399
Sound — 8
I run my Schecter Tempest Custom with a Jazz/59 hybrid neck and JB bridge into the input. The Traynor is connected to my 1x12 cab with a Blackshadow MC90 speaker. I also run it with my Celestion Greenback from time to time. Before this I've played the Line 6 Spider II, Peavey Valve King, the Vox Night Train, Orange Tiny Terror. I also own a Mini Rectifier and a Fender Princeton Chorus so I am familiar with how different amps sound like. One of the biggest features for the Traynor Darkhorse is the 3 switchable tone modes. For a 15W lunchbox, it's surprising how much headroom you have (I'll get to that in a minute). The cleans are immaculate in the American mode. In this mode, you get the Fender like tone that works really well for blues and jazz. There is a very nice sparkle and as you turn up the gain and volume, the amp stays clean with that nice glass like quality. It's not as chimey as the Vox (which I actually really like). In the British setting we get the rough aggressive growl that we associate with a Marshall. Now I must say, in the British setting, the amp does a fairly convincing job of a Marshall like tone, but it's not dead on. As you turn up the gain and volume, the amp doesn't crap out on you and sound flabby. In Pure mode the tone stack is completely bypassed and you get the raw tone from the preamp section directly going into the poweramp section. It's really nice to have this feature and really makes this amp very versatile. Prior to this amp I was playing the Tiny Terror. The Tiny Terror is a very nice amp. It's aggressive and has a HUGE attitude. One thing about the TT though is that it's lacking in the clean department. Now I know, why would you care about cleans if you are playing a tiny terror? Well again, though the TT has a really NICE aggressive tone, the problem with the lack of cleans is it that it's hard to be dynamic in a song. To be able to cut through my drummer and other guitarist I have to crank it to where it's already breaking up before I do anything. The reason I wanted the Traynor is the headroom it has, even at 15w. How don't get me wrong, I still don't play sparkly cleans (if I did, I would have kept the Night Train). The Darkhorse allowed me to dial in my tone and volume JUST before break up. I can use my picking dynamics and strumming to vary the distortion I get from the amp. Distortion wise, the Darkhorse is very nice. Even when the amp is pushed, you can hear your tone without being muddy. Dialing in the tone in British mode allowed me to get it close to the Tiny Terror's aggressiveness. It really outshines the TT in terms of Bass delivery. Although the Darkhorse isn't over the top aggressive, it's still very beastly. The amp is very versatile but it still has character. The Vox Night Train is also versatile but lacks character, it's not very good at any one thing. The Traynor however, is really good at cleans and in all the respective categories (American, British, Pure). Here's how I would compare the amps that I've owned: ---------------------------------------------- Vox Night Train - Too Sterile, the Chimey-ness is so prevalent. Orange Tiny Terror - Great Distortion tone, low headroom for cleans, that's why some classifies this amp as a 1 trick pony. Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier - Awesome modern metal tone, nice pushed tone, and a fairly good clean tone. (but seriously why would you want to play clean through a Mini Rectifier?) Traynor Darkhorse - a Great amp that's very versatile. The cleans are really nice, and the distortion has a very good bite.
Overall Impression — 9
My band plays rock and metal. The Traynor definitely fits the bill. I run a pedalboard with a Compressor, a Keeley Blues Driver, a Keeley Pro Co Rat, a LPB-1 booster and a Deluxe Memory Man. I used to be a pedal head but then I saw the light and learned to use my amp's distortion. The Traynor takes pedals real well but also has it's own character that allows me to shape my tone. If This was stolen I would probably buy another one, but since there are so many other lunchboxes out there, I might try something else. I was on the fence about this amp for a while since I loved my Tiny Terror so much. But after playing it, I must say, it really fits the bill and opened up a lot more possibilities for me tonally. I wish it had a foot switch though to switch between the USA, British, and Pure modes. But I can live without it too (Coming from the TT, which is the simplest Lunchbox amp there is, anything more is really just bells and whistles).
Reliability & Durability — 9
The amp is built very nicely and it seems very rugged. I don't see any flaws with it so I will definitely gig with out a backup. The thumb screws that holds the Tube cage can be lost, but the only other alternative is to use screws, which means you can't easily replace your tubes. Traynor also includes a very detailed users manual as well as the amp schematic online. So any amp repair guy can look at it and fix the amp, should I need it repaired. I've done some research online as well and it seems like Traynor has great customer service. So I'm pretty confident that I won't be disappointed.
Features — 9
The Traynor Dark Horse is a beautiful little amplifier. 15W/2W switchable amp with 2 - 12AX7 preamp tubes and 2 6V6 Power tubes with the 15w setting and the 12Au7 is used with the 2W setting. A very simple amp, single channel, no FX loop, no Footswitch, reverb, etc. The Front Panel has a Gain knob, a Bass Knob, a Treble Knob, a switch for the 3 tone control, and the master volume. 15W sounds little but in fact it's quite loud. This amp is easily giggable over a drummer and the weight is very manageable. Now if you have a crew hauling your stuff and you play at a stadium without micing your amp then 15w is not enough. But since I almost always mic my amp at gigs so it's perfect for me.