The electric guitar could not exist without some manner of power output to a speaker. Speakers existed before the advent of the electric guitar, but it was the amp circuitry that sealed the deal and made the guitar what it is today.
Craftsmen started pushing the envelope with quality amp heads or amp/speaker combos in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, with most vintage and sought-after electronics emerging from that era. These include the Dumble Overdrive Special ($28,000+), The Fischer Trainwreck ($18,000+), and the 1958-’59 Fender Twin ($11,000+). There are some modern-day classics, including the 1987-89 Marshall Silver Jubilee 2555 Full Stack ($4,000+) and the 1996-’99 Matchless DC30 ($4,000+). However, rarity and demand diminish considerably after that.
My music and compositions lean more toward rock, with some jazz and blues influences, and this amp handles it all – mellow to heavy fuzz. I do tend to use the clean channel most of the time, as I use various effects (drive, distortion, etc.), which can sound messy on a drive channel. The drive channel does sound respectable, but when you have access to a lot of different gear, you tend to use it. Doing so necessitates a cleaner channel.
I’ll begin with the usual features found on many amplifiers, then delve a little deeper on the unique features of this $800 head. There are two channels, one being clean and the other that allows gain for that distorted drive sound. The clean is very rich in tone, as it should be and the drive channel delivers a good touch-responsive punch, although not overly raunchy or fuzzy – more of a vintage drive with a bit of extra graininess to boot.
The clean channel has a volume, bass and treble control. The second channel utilizes a treble, bass and midrange EQ; its gain knob is very wide ranging, from subtle to a clear scream. The transition from mild to hard drive as you turn up the gain is very smooth indeed.
This amp has an AC selector switch to make it compatible with any line voltage in any country. It also has a 315mA Fast Blo fuse to protect the internal amplifier circuits against damage caused by a shorted output tube.
There are two speaker cabinet outputs, in case you want to run a pair in stereo, and you can select between a 16, 8 or 4 ohm setting, depending on your cabinet size and number of speakers. And, as with most amp heads, there is an effects send and return.
All of the above are usual fare, and all work to full satisfaction and sensitivity. However, the following points are what make this amp head very appealing, particularly for the price.
Both channels boast a ‘tight’ and a ‘bright’ switch. The tight switch cuts out the deep bass to better balance the tone. Use of this feature would depend on how well your guitar handles the lows whether clean, distorted or using other effects, and whether that response is clear or a bit muddy. I typically use this function to help cut through the mix and to make my low end punchier and more audible through the drums and bass.
The bright feature adds high end and sparkle. I find this more effective and useful than turning up the treble to a comparable amount. It really does add sparkle, as Egnater suggests, and has a different characteristic than straight treble. But with the two combined and adjusted (both bright + treble) you can get some very different tones.
Both channels have separate knobs to adjust the amp from only 1 watt and up to 30 watts. This allows you to set each channel’s power individually! Now, why would you want to do that? For example, the lower the wattage (although you don’t hear much if any difference in volume output), the harder the amp will work at a given volume. That means the clean channel experiences a bit of breakup when pushed and the second channel experiences more overdrive and definition/detail in the notes.
Both channels have different knobs for a nice clean reverb, which can be turned on or off via the included footswitch (which also doubles as a channel switcher). By adjusting the amount/mix of reverb via the knobs, you can control the amount of reverb to each channel individually. The reverb feature on this amp also has a ‘spillover’ feature, which means no matter the mix level, you get a very natural occurring decay even when switching channels – not an abrupt cut-off.
The next two features are my favourites. First, besides the usual ‘standby’ switch, to allow silence when not in use, there is a ‘silent record’ option. This means you don’t hear anything except where the ‘record out’ XLR balanced line is connected. If connected to a cab, the cab speakers remain silent. In effect, if you have your amp head’s line out connected into a mixing board or some other medium, and you are using recording software, you can have your sound coming out of dedicated headphones via the mixer or through monitor speakers. This is a studio musician’s dream and a real plus for recording musicians who do not want to mic a cabinet. And you do get great sound results since the frequency response curve of this output very closely mimics the sound of a mic’d speaker cabinet.
The next feature is what has been putting Egnater at the forefront for affordable amp heads; it offers a ‘Tube Mix’ of both EL84 and 6V6 tubes, which can be mixed in any combination. You can have 100% EL84, which gives a very British tone (thick and fuller); or you can have 100% 6V6, which gives a more American tone (cleaner and sharper); or you can allow for any mix with the turning knob, e.g., 90% British and 10% American, or 30% British and 70% American, etc.
There are not many drawbacks to this amp, particularly for the price. More features always could be added, and so based on what it does offer the only downfalls would be:
1) The appearance is very retro, with a black and cream coloured covering and a tweed style front and cream buttons. If wanting a more modern look, then this boutique head may not sit well aesthetically.
2) A musician may prefer the response, sound or tonal qualities of a different head (fair enough), although with the tube mix, the tight, bright, EQ functions and variability in wattage output, many different tones and qualities are possible. Some heads are engineered and dedicated to metal, blues, or country players, for example, and so the diverseness may not be quite specific enough for some tastes.
3) When the Tube Mix tone knob is at 12 o’clock (equal mix of both EL84 and 6V6), volume is at its highest (30 watts). But when integrating any mix of the tubes, volume goes down, as low as 20 watts when utilizing 100% of either tube. This may be a problem for some musicians who require the most volume and may not get it when desiring a lot of one tube type and less of another.
Egnater has stepped up to the plate with their line of amplifier heads and combos, and I recently have used the Rebel-30 head in my home studio. This head is an extension of their award-winning Rebel-20, but with several new features to offer greater flexibility.Brian Johnston
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