Egnater Renegade 212 65W 2×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp

Egnater Renegade 212 65W 2x12 Tube Guitar Combo AmpA 2X12 dual-channel combo that offers both “Tweed” and “British” voicing.

Egnater’s Renegade is an impressive product. The engineering that went into this amplifier shows a great deal of thought. I actually believe that guitarists were involved in the design of the amp! : – )

It’s a two-channel design with the classic approach: Clean and Overdriven. Each one has its own three-band EQ, as well as “Tight” and “Bright” switches, which help to alter the overall high/low end. Each channel also has its own low-wattage switch, allowing you to push the amp harder and enjoy more power-tube saturation. The mix of power-tubes is what really knocked my socks off. The Renegade comes with a complement of both 6L6s and EL34 tubes. The ability to toggle between a classic “California / Tweed” or “British” voice is a pretty big deal. So far, everything I’ve mentioned can be selected via the footswitch, as can the Reverb.

I think the speakers are worth noting.. There is a Celestion Vintage-30 and a 12″ Elite-80 Speaker “by Celestion”. It’s a somewhat odd mix, but it works. The main thing is that the Vintage-30 is great for glassy highs, combined with a creamy mid-hump.

When using the clean channel, the Renegade is capable of shimmering / glassy tones. The drive channel yields plenty of grit, but can be tamed, which, I think, is an important factor. Between the two channels there aren’t too many sounds that elude this amp. I don’t think it will fare well for those who spend their time playing Metal as it’s just not that kind of amp. But for Blues, Rock, Pop, Country and similar styles, the Egnater Renegade 212 is a top-shelf boutique-ish combo with a lot to offer.

Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40W 1×12 Combo Amp

Fender Blues Deluxe ReissueWant tweed? you got it. The Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue is a classic remake of the “Deluxe” amp that pretty much delivers as promised.

There is not too much mystery here: Fender’s Blues Deluxe Reissue is for Blues players. Of course there is a range of styles that could work fine, but in my opinion, Fender targeted Blues players. Aesthetically, this amp is what most will like: that classic “tweed” look. Sonically, it is mostly a clean amp that plays well with drive pedals.

The clean channel is super clean. If you want any grit, you’ll need to step on your favorite overdrive. It does lack bottom a bit, but for the most part, it’s not too bad, and the “bright” switch does add a nice sparkle to the top end. And the drive channel offers more gain. It won’t exactly put you into “shred” territory, but it is a notch above the clean channel. Both channels are footswitchable, and the drive channel has independent gain and master volume.

At 40 watts, there is enough power here for most rehearsal situations, but you might struggle when going head-to-head with a Marshall or other 100-watt amplifiers. The effects loop is a great feature that you don’t always find in a combo of this size.

Seems like the average price of this amp on all the big online sites is $769. That is definitely not a “budget” amplifier. But as it is in the sub-$1,000 range, you have to wonder: “where did they cut costs?” In my opinion, it’s the speaker. Any time I see something silly like: “Eminence special-design speaker,” I think to myself: “ok, they cut a deal with Eminence for some cheapo model. Also, I believe this model is assembled in Mexico, which is another way in which Fender was able to “pass the savings onto you” : – )

Overall, I’d say that the Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40W 1×12″ Combo Amp is a good choice for Blues, Pop, Funk, old-school R&B or Country. This is definitely not for heavy Rock, or Metal.

Vox Custom AC15C1

Vox Custom AC15C1
Vox Custom AC15C1

For more than 50 years, the AC-15 has been one of the most coveted tools for obtaining the “British” sound

Vox has dusted off one of their flagship models for yet another reissue that offers a great blend of classic features and modern upgrades. The 12″ Celestion G12M Greenback speakers is probably the most notable improvement. You can expect some serious mids and tons of headroom from this speaker. As has been the case for many years, the “Normal” and “Top Boost” channels offer some variety for the overall voicing of the amp. Both of these channels share the master volume and “Tone Cut” controls. This is particularly cool because it means that the Tone Cut control operates on the power-amp level, not the pre-amp. The result is a true tone shaping of the overall amp voice, not the input.

As one might expect, the power tubes are EL84, which means plenty of UK “Snarl”. The speaker resistance can be switched between 8 and 16 Ohms, which comes in handy if you plan to use an extension speaker. The built-in reverb and tremolo sound ridiculously warm and lush, and can be toggled remotely during stage time with the Vox VFS2 footswitch.

Low-wattage amplifiers are one of the most overlooked and under-utilized tools out there. For recording, it is so helpful to be able to crank a 15-watt amp, and get all of that lovely “stuff” that oozes out of a tube amplifier when it is run at near full-throttle, without driving everyone else in your band (or the engineer) crazy!

Vox Custom AC15C1 Product Page

THD Flexi-50 50W/20W Class AB Amplifier Head

THD Flexi-50 50W/20W Class AB Amplifier Head
THD Flexi-50

Is it really possible to get a tweed sound and a British sound out of the same amplifier? yep, you bet. The THD Flexi-50 does both and a whole lot more.

Few would argue that most amps fall into one of two categories; 6L6 (tweed) and EL34 (British). There are certainly a few other options out there, but for the most part, it’s a two-party system when it comes to power tubes. There are a few amps out there that can accommodate either tube type, but you need to know how to bias an amplifier, or pay someone else who knows how to do it. This is like a health-club membership: you’ll pay for that features, but you will never use it.

THD Flexi-50 50W/20W does double duty and you do not have to be a rocket scientist to switch hit. THD boasts that this head can accept not only EL34 or 6L6, but “…accepts almost any preamp and power tubes in any combination….”  That’s a mighty big claim, but they have never given me a reason to doubt them one bit.

The fact you can step this head down to 20 watts is given away in the name, but is nonetheless, a very cool feature. In full power mode, it is a very loud 50 watts. It ships with three 12AX7 pre-amp tubes, and two EL34 power amp tubes, for plenty of UK snarl. A first experiment might be to swap out the 12AX7 tubes for 12AU7 or 12AT7 tubes. Both are a bit mellower than 12AX7 and might yield some nice tones.  Although this is a single-channel amplifier, there is a foot-switchable boost section, with its own dedicated gain and tone control. I could go on and one, but this is the kind of head that you don’t talk about, you try. Sure, it’s a bit pricey, but if you are in the market for a high-end 50watt head and have some wiggle room in your budget, it’s worth a very close look.

Helpful Links for THD Flexi-50 50W/20W Class AB Amplifier Head

THD Product Page

THD THD Flexi-50 Instruction Manual

Line 6 Vetta II Combo Guitar Amplifier

Line 6 Vetta II
Line 6 Vetta II

As digital modeling amplifiers go, the Line 6 Vetta II is at the head of the class.

This amplifier is extremely well designed, well made and sounds fantastic. At 150 Watts, there is more than enough volume and headroom. Whether you plan to use the Vetta II for live performance or recording, the feature set provides plenty of tools that allow you to sculpt your sound as you wish.

The Vetta II is literally two amplifiers in one. At first glance, one might say: “Well, it’s just a stereo amplifier”, and this is true. But more importantly, it is designed so that you can have two completely different sounds going on at once. Of course, you’d probably choose two sounds that are somewhat alike, but in theory, you could have a clean Fender Twin sound and a cranked Marshall Plexi tone combined into one. The combined sounds become one named and saved preset. This is amazing. Just imagine all the possibilities.

Not only does the Vetta II have over 70 classic amp models, but over 80 classic stomp box models as well. It would take you a very long time to run through all the possible combination. Taking things even further, there are 28 cabinet models. Even though this amp has two 12″ speakers, you can choose a 4×10″ cabinet model, or an open-back 2X12″ cabinet model. the end result is that you completely re-think the standard amplifier model and see the Vetta II as more of a tone shaping tool.

Now that you have your tone worked out, you can move on to post-signal processing. Yes, the Vetta II includes studio-grade post processing models that allow you to fine tune your sound as if it were being put through a studio mixing board. There are 64 factory presets and 64 user presets, so you have build a nice library of your own sounds for later recall. There is also an input for a Line 6 Variax guitar, just in case you are using one. While the price tag might be a bit high, this Line 6 Vetta II is simply a world-class piece of guitar engineering and definitely worth a look before you make your final purchase.

Music Man RD 50 Head

Music Man RD 50 Head
Music Man RD 50 Head

I’ve been ranting and raving for years to anyone who will listen that Music Man amps are some of the greatest. Unfortunately, you are in for more of the same.

This rant is about the much overlooked RD-50 Head. I must admit that I never even knew these things existed for a long time. If you can believe it, I actually found one in a pawn shop on 7th Ave and 23rd street in New York City. These kinds of things really don’t happen so much any more as Guitar Center and Sam Ash have pretty much put everyone else out of business. But in this case, there I was in this pawn shop, surrounded by cameras and cheap jewelry. I saw this little mini head that had the Music Man logo. I scratched my head: “….this ain’t an HD-130… what the hell is this little thing…. I didn’t know Music Man made a head this small…”

I then realized that it was the guts of my little RD-50, just no speaker. The guy had some horrible horrible guitar and I had to try it out using some kind of strat copy from hell. The reverb didn’t work so I nicke & dimed him down to something rediculous like $150. Yes, I got this head for $150. I think it cost me about $50 to get the reverb fixed, so the head ran me $200 total. I don’t need to tell you how much I love the RD-50, so you can assume that my rant about the tone of this amp is the same. What is so cool is that this head is so small and reasonable in weight that you could actually carry it to a gig. This is assuming that there is a speaker cabinet at your gig that is up for grabs.

If you are a fan of Music Man amps and are looking for another great alternative to dragging around your 2×12, this head is worth an eBay search.

Fender Cyber Twin SE

Fender Cyber Twin SE
Fender Cyber Twin SE

Ok, so they pretty much invented the analog guitar amplifier. They perfected it and pretty much any guitarist would agree that few are better. So, why they heck would anyone use a Fender digital modeling amplifier? …’cause it’s a great amp, that’s why.

I’ll admit that I really resisted this stuff, I really really did. In principal, it just goes against everything I believe in. But then again, when the “Frying Pan” guitar was first put out by Rickenbacker, I’m sure it was met with the same disdain. Same for the Solid body electric, the Flying-V, The Explorer, the Parker Fly, etc… So, I decided to lighten up and just enjoy the amplifier and there is a lot to enjoy.

They certainly start off on the right foot with two 12AX7 groove tubes. In fact, I think they did it just to shut me up. Probably not, but I like to think so. You really have to find humor in the fact that when you switch between pre-sets, the knobs actually turn so that they physically match the saved settings. This is a bit much, and it introduces more moving parts than need be, but then again, why not… nobody ha anything repaired anymore, you just throw it out. So, what the heck, ok, moving knobs.

The “artist-authored” presets is a very cool feature that features saved patches from such noted ax-masters as Gary Hoey and Greg Koch. This is certainly a time-saver if you want to get started right away with some classic sounds. As far as volume goes, at 130 watts, this thing is ridiculously loud. It’s modeled after a Twin Reverb, so naturally, loud loud loud. It’s full stereo, so the patches can involve some very cool twin channel effects such as stereo chorus or ping-pong delay. There is also a hum reduction feature, which helps to minimize that annoying 50/60Hz buzz. pretty cool stuff here. You will need a small army to transport the damn thing, but if you happen to have such resources or you plan to just leave it in the house, this is an amp worth checking out, the sounds are actually pretty good.