Test guitars included a Fender Strat w/Duncan Vintage Staggered pups (w/custom de-stagger) and Callaham bridge; and a Gibson Historic 67 V w/sheilded Duncan Alnico IIs, coil taps, phase switch, ToneStyler tone control, pure silver wiring, and a TonePros bridge. Zaolla Silverline guitar cables and jumpers, and Monster speaker cables were used throughout. Test speakers and cabs included an Orange 4x12 w/Celestion Vintage 30s; Marshall 1x12s w/Vintage 30s; Mesa Theil 1x12s w/EVs; Mesa Recto 1x12 w/Mesa/Celestion 90; and a Kustom 1x10 w/Jensen P10r. Test pedals included an RMC Picture Wah, ZVex Fuzz Factory, H.B.E.Germainium, ToneBone Classic, Mesa V-Twin (with 5751 tubes), ect., etc..
The tone is pure Class A all the way. There is absolutely no 60 cycle hum; and with nothing plugged in, youll actually have to crank it to 10 and get your ear next to a speaker to hear any air from the tubes. Regardless of what kind of guitar you play, youll hear YOUR guitars tone in a way which can only be described as fat, warm, and full of harmonics. And thats just the clean tone. With its solid state rectifier, it has the punch of a much larger class AB tube amp, but compresses perfectly when pushed into a clip.
With the volume full up, you get great power tube grind. Individual notes within chords retain reasonable definition, and the individual tonal character of each test guitar was able to shine through the signature distortion of the EL-84 power tube. Speakers like the EV or the Jensen P10r made a significant difference in the apparent brightness of the amp when compared to a warm Celestion Vintage 30, so keep this in mind when searching for the perfect speaker for your rig. In fact, a very pleasing tonal balance can be heard from 2 Vintage 30s at 8 Ohms each, wired in series for a 16 Ohm load and plugged into the 8 Ohm jack on the amp; plus, an 8 Ohm EV plugged into the 4 Ohm jack. When the EV and Celestions are separated across the room, notes seem to hang in the air with a ghostly 3D image that is totally hypnotic.
Although you may find yourself plugging straight in just to hear that perfect, unadulterated tone of your guitar; this amp LOVES being pushed hard by pedals. Dont be deceived into thinking this is amp a one trick pony. This amp works WITH effects instead of against them and that actually made it easier to work with my own pedals when dialing up that sound. The amps natural distortion isnt too compressed as is, so it can take really hot overdrives and fuzz pedals with ease. This amp lets you hear the character of distortion and fuzz pedals, even when the amp is already fairly distorted.
I love to play the dynamics of an amp, and I found the balance between the Sovtek 12AX7WA tube in the preamp, and the Sovtek EL-84 tube in the power amp is as near perfection as I can ever hope to find. The same tone with more preamp gain and crunch is easily obtained by using a Sovtek 12AX7WXT+ tube. More clean headroom can be attained with a Sovtek EL-84 tube rated on the harder side and a lower gain preamp tube. Chinese or Czech tubes will offer varying differences in character and dynamics, and I also tried 12AT7s and 5751s, but I found this particular amp likes bottom shelf Sovtek tubes best for my style, which is great because the bottom of my spare tube box is full of em.
Got it only 5 days ago, but Ive already bumped it really hard a few times. Its not that heavy, Im just clumsy sometimes. Fortunately for me, this amp has a protective tube cap on the 12AX7 and a spring clip on the EL-84; and thanks to the metal corners on the cab, my amp is just fine and the tolex is still unblemished. Id love to do a gig with it, even without a backup, but only if I can mic it to the PA.
Ive been playing tube amps for 42 years, and this Epi head has got to be the best-bang-for-the-buck tube amp Ive ever seen, heard, played, or owned. Ever! From bluegrass or jazz to heavy rock, this amp is flat out FUN to play, and its exceptional tone is available to all for the ridiculously low price of 99 bucks. I already have too many amps, but would I buy another if this one were stolen? Are you kidding me? I want another already! God bless you Henry J.