Price paid: $ 479
Purchased from: eBay
Sound — 8
I typically use my Fender Strat with it as it sounds better than the cheap humbuckers in my other guitar. I use a Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET and a Visual Sound Route 66 for dirty sounds. Between my Strat and the amp, it aptly covers any tone I want short of a very hard rock sound. I use it to cover my Indie and alternative rock niche which it suits just fine. The normal channel is warmer and cleaner while the top boost channel is more strident and easily overdriven, so there's a reasonable amount of tonal options. By itself, the tone is the familiar chime and jangle of a Vox amp. The cranked up overdriven sound is more raw and messy sounding than an AC30 which is more refined and clean sounding to my ears. It would suit a wide range from old 60s music to, clean blues, to some bluesy rock by itself, but I use it set clean with a little breakup and add overdrive via a pedal or two. Works like charm. Think of the more amp-like sounds off of a Switchfoot album or maybe certain Foo Fighters tones, and you get the idea for the sounds you can get with pedals. It's very crunchy yet clear with nice chime at the same time. Do note that this is not a metal amp. You can get some nice distortion when you goose it with an overdrive pedal, but this is not for drop C breakdowns and skull crushing tight distortion. This is a classic British amp that can jangle and chime all night. I wouldn't say that there is a lot of clean headroom before the tubes start to breakup. There really isn't a lot and it will start to overdrive at around 10'oclock on the top boost channel and at around 11'oclock on the normal channel, both played with a Strat. However, diming the master volume does yield a tremendous amount of volume considering that this is only a 15 watt El84 tube amp feeding into one twelve inch speaker. It's not unrealistic to expect enough clean volume for any small to medium sized venue as long as you can apply a microphone. The only thing is, this amp can be very bright. It's a lot better once the Greenback breaks in a bit, but it can still cause some harshness when using pedals for dirt. I performed the simple bright cap mod to the top boost channel and now it's more smooth and usable with pedals, whilst still retaining a lot of brightness.
Overall Impression — 8
I'm very impressed with it the amp. I have thrown blues, jazz, funk, and lots of different rock at the amp, and it has held up well. While I also like to play more heavy styles, it definitely fits the more Indie and alternative rock niche I was wanting to fill. I've been playing for about six years but I'm just now starting to amalgamate some proper gear. I'm using my strat, a Line 6 DL4, TC Electronic Nova Repeater, Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET, Visual Sound Route 66, and a TC Electronic Polytune with it, all with good results. I would later look into a more modern sounding amp to suit other styles, but it fits the milder range of my playing just fine. I would certainly want another one if something happened to it, but I might look into a Fender just for a different flavor and more potential for a pedal platform (definitely favoring the easier breakup from the Vox though). I compared and looked at other amps in the price range and a little higher, but it seemed like they were compromising to fit a wider range of sounds or didn't quite do what I wanted. This one was it for the sounds I had in my head.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I can't speak definitely on this area of critique, since I haven't had it for years. I can state that the amp seems to be built well and the insides look good and well put together. It has performed admirably onstage without any unusual noise or faultiness and cuts through the mix nicely. I haven't brought a backup amp along, but I think it's a smart thing to have a backup plan for when things go south, no matter what you play. So far so good though. I expect only the normal tube changing as long as I take good care of it.
Features — 8
This is most likely a model from this year or perhaps last year. It has a top boost channel and a normal channel that you must be plugged into to use (choose it and plug the cable in), master volume, a tone cut knob for the whole amp, depth and speed for it's built in tremelo, reverb with a level knob, two band eq and volume for the top boost channel, and volume for the normal channel. On the back there is an input to plug in a footswitch for the effects on the amp, and an input for running either an external cab or an extension cab. I find the amp to be surprisingly versatile if you will simply work with it. This is not a channel switching head with three channels that have tone switches and independent three band eq for each channel, but the seemingly few features it sports are highly functional. The eq is doing something and the tone cut knob is another important variable that will effect how you set your eq. The tremelo adds nice depth and shimmer to your tone and the reverb can add a lot of mood and depth to your tone as well. Even the balance between your volumes is important (although I like it with as much master volume as possible, no matter what). The only thing that I can really say is that the reverb is pretty uncontrollable. It is either slight or very cavernous with a long trail off. I suppose that can turn people off, but I'm not a reverb junky. If I wanted that much control, I would buy a nice sounding pedal as there are many quality reverb pedals out there. It's very simple, but it is what it is. Although, some might be turned off by the simplistic design.