Tried many amps today (mini round-up review)
I had a really great time demoing a lot of amps today. I happened to be browsing the web for info about Splawns a few weeks ago, and turns out that one of Splawn's biggest dealers lives only about 45 minutes away at his in-house run store, Rebel Amps. Splawns aren't the only thing he deals though. He deals Splawn, Cornford (sadly, none were in at the time), ENGL, Diesel, Framus, Elmwood, Traynor, Voodoo, Wizard, Vigier Guitars, and he is currently looking to become a Suhr dealer.
Anyways, I spent a couple of hours demoing some amps, and I was able to really crank them up, let them breathe, and play them the way they were meant to be played.
First up was the ENGL Ritchie Blackmore ($1600). It has a very Marshall-ish tone, and, it's controls are relatively simple (4 channels). I was pretty impressed. Good cleans, good overdriven sounds, really nice footswitch. It did lack a little of the high-mids prevalent in most Marshalls though. This is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what sound you prefer.
Next was the Splawn Quickrod with El34's ($1800). Let me tell you, this is the tone I've come to appreciate and love. It's basically a Plexi and a JCM800 combined into one, with all the things that the Marshalls lack. The first channel gave a really nice clean channel that offered some really good Hendrix/SRV tones when given a touch of gain. Add a little bit more, and you're into AC/DC land. After adjusting some controls, EVH's esteemed brown sound becomes very achievable (no wonder Al Estrada, from the acclaimed EVH tribute band uses Splawns). OD2 is more like a JCM800, perfect for the whole "shred/virtuoso" style. OD3 is basically like OD2, but with even more gain. I was nailing the Whitesnake and Alice in Chains tones. My dad used to play heavily around Memphis back in the 70's with his Plexi, and he was thoroughly convinced that this is the best amp he's heard since then. Surprisingly, the amp sounds really good at bedroom volumes too. Anyways, this amp screamed, and it's everything a Marshall is and isn't, and then some.
Then I moved onto the ENGL Powerball V2 ($1900). This thing is to Mesa Boogie as Splawn is to Marshall. The Powerball has some really great metal tones. It has that distinctive preamp gain, but it manages to keep from becoming an all-out buzzy mess while still retaining articulation and tightness. If you're into modern metal and hi-gain tones, the Powerball is for you. The cleans were a little sterile, but that's somewhat expected with this amp. I could see this amp working really well with a seven string.
The next amp I tried was the ENGL Invader ($2700). This is basically a Marshall-voiced amp (EL-34's) with a computer on board, no lie. The MIDI capabilities on this amp were endless. The cleans were good on the amp, as were the overdriven/distorted sounds. However, the flexibility and extra "technology" on the amp comes at an extra price. Since I don't use that many effects and MIDI devices, this amp really isn't for me.
Then I had the chance to demo a Voodoo Amps V-Plex 50w ($2500). The V-Plex is pretty much a clone of a very good, classic Marshall Plexi. It hit the Plexi tones probably better than the Splawn, but the V-Plex doesn't really get into high gain territory. You really need a boost with this amp to get an "soaring" type lead tones. The V-Plex nails the Plexi tone, but that's about it. It's a relatively expensive, one-trick pony.
Then I tried the most expensive of them all ($5000), the Wizard Modern Classic, designed by Angus Young's tech. This amp didn't have that much gain (like the V-Plex), but it really had some balls. It was probably the "loudest" amp we tried. If you want to simply move some air, the Wizard is for you. For $5000 though, I couldn't justify the price.
Finally, I tried a little 1x12 Elmwood Bonneville 50w combo ($2700). This little Swedish surprise completely changed my thoughts on combos. If you want a combo that has some serious volume and grit, you would like the Elmwood. Supposedly, the Elmwood is similar to a Mesa Boogie Mark II, which I have never had the chance to play.
When it was all said and done though, I was left impressed most by the Splawn Quickrod and the ENGL Powerball. They are both priced around $1850, and in today's high-end boutique amp market, that's a pretty good price. If you're into modern metal (thrash, death metal, even modern Dream Theater tones), the Powerball is great. However, if you're into the hard rock/80's shred metal thing (Van Halen, Vinnie Moore, Whitesnake, Vai, Ratt, even Trower) like I am, the Splawn is the way to go.
Anyways, I just thought I'd share my experience and thoughts.
Last edited by waylay00; 08-11-2007 at 06:58 PM.