Price paid: € 180
Purchased from: used from a rehearsal studio
Sound — 10
I play a 1965 hand made Teisco Strat-like guitar with 3 single coils, an Epiphone Les Paul Std with stock pups and a Schecter Hellraiser C-1 with the stock EMG's 81tw and 89r active dual pups. I run the amp through a Marshall MF400 mode four oversize 4x12 400Watt, 8Ohm cab. I've been playing since 1995, several genres: Old blues, funk, reggae, ska, punk, alternative rock, post punk, post rock, thrash, death, black metal. I own a recording studio and I bought this as a second head for versatility, as my Laney GH100L was too british sounding for some styles. The amp is very silent, I never had to use the noise gate even in full-on settings. Besides, everyone who has a real tube amp knows they all have some background noise, you learn to live with that. All amp sims are very convincing. When I play I always feel like it is the real thing. It reacts exactly like my Laney. After you choose the amp model, the controls are like the actual amp. Just turn to manual mode and sculpt your tone in no time. When I record for a production, I can hear the difference from the original amp in solo mode, but only slightly. I can bring it even closer with some detailed eq, in 5 minutes. In the mix, combined with everything else, it is totally convincing. So for me it is like having 11 amp heads, 80% close to the original, for such a small price! For me this is a sure 10.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall this amp was a great buy! I can make any tone I imagine in 5 minutes, with such a variety of features. Combined with some external stomp fx and maybe a treble booster or distortion for versatility, it will keep you experimenting for ever! It feels like a real amp. You don't want presets, you switch it on and turn the knobs until you like it. That's the real deal. I'd definitely buy it again if I had to, even for the full price. For the features, it's still pretty cheap. Being suspicious about simulations in the past, the Valvetronix technology was the first one to change my mind with the ToneLab, because they focus on realistic amp sims instead of packing a ton of effects with a digital distortion. So when I bought this amp I knew what I was getting. Too bad it was discontinued, I think the amp head version is still their best idea so far, even after so many years, because it feels so real, connected to your cab. I'm happy I managed to get one. It's great to play and it's a really versatile tool for my studio.
Reliability & Durability — 9
It doesn't look very sturdy, I wouldn't like to move it around too much. Too many plastic parts and the amp selecting knob is a bit loose I think. Doesn't get worse, it just isn't firm. Overall, the amp does it's job and I leave it alone. However, I never witnessed any problems in sound, performance, etc. It always works great. Not much maintenance is required, just change the tube if the sound starts turning dull. I never had to contact support, I also have the ToneLab LE (same manufacturer, same technology) and they both work perfectly always. I'll just give it a 9 for the plastic parts, although for the price I had it coming and shouldn't complain.
Features — 8
No idea what year it was made. In a way it has 3 channels: You have manual mode, where what you see (knob positions) is what you get, and you can store two extra sounds in two memory slots. So I store a clean and rhythm sound and set the knobs for a lead sound I can use, pressing the "manual mode". The fx loop is very useful for chorus, delays etc, but I also plug my Sansamp PSA-1 or even Vox ToneLab LE straight to the power amp, to use extra preamps if I like. Finally, it has built in fx with various settings. All are nice but I have it set to reverb always and use the loop for delay etc. Still, if I want a pink floyd style Jam and don't have my pedals lying around, I can always use the built-in delay, which is fine. So that's a plus. I don't ask for more features, the amp is already stunning as it is. I know it's an old model, whith less amp sims, but the choice of models was smart and the sound is very convincing so I'm happy the way it is. I rate it 8 though, compared to the 10 for the newer heads, with double the amp sims. Overall, for the price I paid and even for its price as new, I think the features are more than enough, as they are all of excellent quality!