B-52 AT-100 Review
(Ericseiv | Posted 2009-12-11)
B-52 Amplification has been around for more than 25 years, but only came into the public eye about a decade ago when it released the ST line of high-gain tube heads and the LS series of solid-state amps. Using the success of those models, B-52 Amplification released the AT-100 all-tube head, which is now the company's flagship amp and remains in production today. The AT-100 is a 100-watt, two channel amp(although the gain channel has a voicing switch that essentially acts like 3 channels-more on this in a bit) that uses 4 12ax7 preamp tubes and 4 6l6 power tubes. Each channel has its own independent eq of treble, bass and mid. Other features include high and low gain inputs, reverb, contour and resonance controls. A sturdy metal-encased footswitch is included.
Even before plugging into the AT-100, one gets the impression that this amp is a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier clone. While I would say that younger, cash-strapped guitarists wanting the unmistakable rectifier sound will find a lot to like about the AT-100, there's more than meets the eye with this amp.
Plugging into the clean channel with a Randall 4x12 with Jaguar speakers, one can't help but be impressed with how loud this amp gets without breaking up-no doubt thanks to the hefty 100-watt power section. The reverb is usable-it's not Fender-approved surf wetness but it does the job. There's no gain knob on the clean channel so looking for breakup on this channel is not an option. I'm not a "clean channel guy" but It's obvious that the clean channel on this amp is more than just an afterthought.
Switching over to the gain channel, the user has the option of using Gain 1 or Gain 2-with Gain 2 having a contour knob that radically alters the eq curve. Gain 1 is classic Marshall with lots of midrange and British bark. Even though this is the first gain stage, there's a lot of gain on tap that covers everything from Led Zeppelin to the Ramones.
Switching to Gain 2-which is footswitchable-increases the amount of gain and gives the user the ability to use the contour control. The contour control either increases the midrange for hot rodded Marshall flavors for classic metal like old Metallica and Megadeth, or scoops the midrange for nu-metal Mesa sounds for Godsmack and Disturbed tones. I prefer the contour knob at 12 o'clock for a mix of the cutting Marshall tone and the Mesa aggressiveness. On the rear of the amp is the rectifier switch with tube A, tube AB and solid-state settings. Tube A has a looser feel, similiar to a Class-A amp, while the solid-state rectifier setting tightens up the feel of the amp. The resonance control on the front acts like an extra bass knob and controls the amount of "ooomph" the amp puts out. Be careful with this knob-too much resonance and the amp farts out.
The quality of the AT-100 is acceptable, with solid-feeling chrome knobs that move smoothly. There's plenty of ventilation for the tubes and the tolex is even and well made. With a street price of around $600, B-52 Amplification has come up with an affordable amp that can go toe-to-toe with Peaveys, Marshalls, Randalls and other mass-market high-gain heads. The AT-100 proves that a well-made amp with wicked distortion tones isn't reserved for the rich.