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August 5, 2012

EVH 5150III Review

Filed under: Amps — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:07 am

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see:  EVH 5150III Review

When Fender launched a new amplifier featuring a new “EVH” logo and the traditional “F” next to the 5150 III logo, questions were certain to rise. Rumors said this new monster is made for metal. There are too many secrets surrounding this new amp — it’s time for me to jump into my van and find out the truth.

EVH 5150III

The front side of the head distinguishes itself by the number of distinctive signs — an “EVH” logo, a “Frankenstein”-inspired design, a Fender logo and the 5150 III name. What a mystery this new product is! I call in the famous “doctor” Robert Klaptone to help us understand all those “religious” signs. “EVH” is the acronym of the famous guitar player: Edward Lodewijk (aka Eddie) Van Halen. The man was a Peavey endorser from 1993 to 2004 when he regularly used the 5150 (which is also the name of one of his albums), renamed “Peavey 6505” after the separation from Eddie. Since then, Eddie joined the Fender artist roster, but with a quite unusual agreement. Mr. Edward founded his own brand called EVH leaving the full manufacturing process to Fender. This is the reason why both EVH and Fender logos are so close, while “5150” reminds the LP (and the sound of those days) and “III” just means three channels.

Now that the context is cleared, let’s have a closer look to the beast….

Rock is Not Enough

Fender offers a very good product to all big-sound fans (and all Eddie fans). This small racing engine goes for about $1,333 (MSRP), which is quite affordable for an all-tube 3-channel 50W amp. We missed a small reverb to bring warmth to the sound. And let’s don’t forget the difference in output level in channel 2, which makes it almost impossible to use on stage or during rehearsals. I recommend this amp to all musicians who are looking for a big sound, reliability and good finish quality!

Advantages: 
  • The price
  • The finish
  • Compact and sturdy
  • Three channels for good versatility

Drawbacks:

  • Volume difference between channel 2 and the other channels
  • No reverb
  • Sound a bit too straight

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see:  EVH 5150III Review

June 18, 2012

Orange OR50H Review

Filed under: Amps — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 6:48 am

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see Orange OR50H

The OR50H is not a new product. It belongs to the “Pics Only” series launched in 1972. It’s a legend in amplification history and its “so British” sound had a great impact in the destiny of the manufacturer. Now Orange has decided to reissue a limited version of the amp for its 40’s birthday. The idea was a great success and Orange decided to add this amp indefinitely to its product range. After this short story, it’s time to unpack the amp.

Time to Suffer

Orange OR50H

Since I’m rather small (I wonder why people call me “Willow”…), the cardboard box seems giant. I open it and discover a monster (21.6″ x 10.2″ x 9.4″) inside. After warming up I take out the 42 pound amp, which is almost the same weight as its brothers with the same output power. I put it on top of my small 2×12” speaker cabinet. The finish quality is perfect. The wood housing is sturdy and protected with a thick orange vinyl covering that will easily withstand the attacks of wild animals and hysterical groupies. The front panel has the typical look of the brand. It is equipped with only six controls described with pictographs instead of text, like the original ’72 amp. That’s the reason for the nickname of the amp: “Pics Only”. The front panel features two 1/4″ inputs (the first one for your guitar, the other one for the footswitch), a Gain control, a 3-band EQ, a HF Drive setting, and a Master Volume, plus a Standby and a Power switch. The control panel is simple and it looks nice — living up to the reputation the brand has earned throughout the years.

Orange OR50H

The rear panel also looks interesting: power outlet, two fuses and three speaker outputs (two 8 ohm plus one 16 ohm). So, you can connect either one 16-ohm, one 8-ohm or two 16-ohm speaker cabinets (one to each 8 ohm output). The design matches the legend: sturdy, beautiful, simple. No nonsense under the hood, only heavy-duty components: two EL34, three 12AX7 and two massive transformers! Now you know why the amp weights so much! It’s time to start strumming.

So let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

This OR50 amp made in England brings us back to the roots of the typical Orange tone — which makes us very happy! Do you like vintage tone and old-school distortion? This amp is for you! With its sturdy construction and 50 watts of output power, this amp will follow you to every gig and rehearsal, and even to your home thanks to the Master Volume control. But unfortunately, this amp is not affordable for everyone: it goes for about $1700 — quality has a price.

Advantages: 
  • Sturdiness
  • Finish
  • Ease of use
  • Very effective controls
  • Sound
Drawbacks:
  • Price
  • The British tone isn’t for everyone
  • Lack of reverb

To read the full detailed review with sound samples see Orange OR50H

November 28, 2011

Orange Dark Terror Review

At AudioFanzine, we are acutely aware of all the small terrors unleashed by Orange. We already reviewed the Tiny Terror (the first model), the Dual Terror (two channels) and the Bass Terror (four-string player version) — now comes the Dark Terror.

This time, the orange ripened in a cellar and didn’t see the light of day for a long time — the orange is very sour. Behind its black look, the design is based on the Tiny Terror with a metal housing and three controls. It also has the same features: a 15 watts power stage and only one single channel.

But, apart from the color, where is the difference with the Tiny Terror?

We will come back to this later, but let’s have a look at the product first…

Black is Black

Orange Dark Terror

No need for a detailed hardware description: everybody knows what it’s all about. It still looks very rough, the small gig bag with the Orange logo is also there and we were lucky enough to get an Orange speaker cabinet with the same dark finish. The latter uses a standard 12″ Celestion Vintage 30 speaker. The speaker cabinet weights about 44 lbs and has the following dimensions: 20.5″ x 17.7″ x 11.8″. The amplifier head weights 15.4 lbs, versus the 11 lbs of the Tiny Terror (is black paint 4 lbs. heavier than white pain?). The dimensions are compact enough (11.8″ x 6.7″ x 5.5″) to allow an easy transportation in the subway, on a hot-air balloon or on foot.

The front panel is not surprising and it features the exact same controls as the Tiny Terror: Guitar input, On/Off and 15 Watts/Standby/7 Watts switches, a nice red lamp indicating the unit is on, and the three controls for Volume, Shape and Gain. As you might have noticed, the EQ section still includes only one single control. And we will see below that this is not necessarily a disadvantage…

Orange Dark Terror

The rear panel allows you to connect three speakers: a pair of 8-ohm speakers and a single 16-ohm speaker. Orange had the brilliant idea of adding an FX loop (with a 12AT tube), which was dearly missed on the Tiny Terror.

Under the hood you’ll find not two, but three 12AX7 tubes in the preamp stage. This is the main difference with the Tiny Terror, which uses only two preamp tubes. On the other hand, the power amp stage with a couple of EL84 tubes is exactly the same in both amps. Orange doesn’t provide more information in this respect. So, let’s have confidence in our ears!

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

With the Dark Terror, Orange offers us a more nasty Tiny Terror for fans of dirty and dark music. The head has the same assets as its older brother: sturdiness, ease of use, gig bag, and a hard rock/metal ready sound. We really liked the Shape control and the fact that we had enough gain to get very a fat tone. Musicians who love clean sounds shouldn’t bother trying this amp out — we even ask ourselves why on earth have they read this review up to here! For all others, the price is somewhat high ($650 for the head plus $380 for the speaker cabinet) but true love doesn’t know any limits…

Advantages: 
  • More gain!
  • Easy to transport
  • Gig bag included
  • Ease of use
  • FX loop
  • Really convenient Shape control
Drawbacks:
  • Not really suited for clean sounds!
  • Rather expensive for 15 watts

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Orange Dark Terror

July 19, 2011

Fender Super-Sonic 100 Review

We reviewed the Fender Super-Sonic 22 combo in September 2010, and it seduced us with its numerous positive features. A few months later, the American manufacturer decided to complete its range and launched the 100 Series including a 100-watt amp head, two speaker cabinets and a combo amp. Today, we want to examine the head closely…

The new 100 Series brings not only more output power, but also some very welcomed changes like an additional clean channel and a Notch Tune control in the lead channel. But let’s start at the beginning…

Unpacking

Fender Super-Sonic 100

Unpacking is rather painful because of its weight: 53 lbs. are no joke! Later on you’ll understand why the Super-Sonic 100 head is so heavy… The design is very nice and the head is available in two different finishes: Black/silver or Blond. We received the Blond version, which is a good thing because we like it better. However, the finish presented a minor problem: on one of the corners of the birch plywood cabinet, a small piece of vinyl covering was not perfectly glued. It’s a small detail but it’s a pity for an amp in this price range. The amp isn’t what you’d call compact (10.53″ x 26.25″ x 10.5″) but it includes many accessories: a nylon protection cover, a very rugged 4-button footswitch and a comprehensive user’s manual with diagrams.

Under the hood we discovered seven 12AX7 tubes for the preamp stage (the Super-Sonic 22 had only five preamp tubes), four 6L6 power tubes (twice as much as in the 22), and a pair of 12AT7 tubes for the reverb. This makes a total of 13 tubes — hopefully this won’t bring any bad luck! In short, this head is fully packed with valves, and also with a solid-state rectifier and a big transformer! Now you know why it is so heavy…

Now, let’s have a look at the front and rear panels.

Front

Fender Super-Sonic 100

The front panel provides controls for the two clean channels (yes, there are two, didn’t I mention that before?), for the lead channel and for the reverb. The controls of the clean channels are very simple: 3-band EQ (bass, mid, treble), gain and volume controls. A switch to the right of the gain allows you to select either the Showman circuitry (Twin Reverb Blackface) or the Bassman circuitry (Tweed Vintage). Note that if you crank up the volume of the clean channel, the gain acts as a single volume control like old vintage Fender amps did. Another switch turns the lead channel on. The latter offers more settings than the clean channel… First of all, it has two gain controls — primary and secondary gain — allowing you to set respectively the distortion amount and sustain. In fact, the second one allows you to thicken the sound and make everything sound fatter. You also get a 3-band EQ and a volume control. But the main new feature in this channel is the Notch Tune setting, which gives you the possibility to choose the frequency affected by the mid band of the EQ. This allows you to go from a typical American sound to a more “British” response and everything in between. As you can hear in the sound samples, this control changes the tone radically and allows you to freely shape your sound. We had already seen similar features in competitor products (Blackstar) and we are happy to find it again on Fender’s Super-Sonic! Let’s close this front panel overview with the reverb, a spring Accutronics system like on the small 22-watt combo we already reviewed: Why change a winning team?

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

There is no doubt that this amp will make many 6-string addicts green with envy after they read this review. This amp head is very close to being perfect: it provides a wide range of clean tones, it can deliver a good crunch sound and offers a very versatile lead channel thanks to its Notch Tune control. Add the spring reverb, the effect loop, the auto-bias facility, the damping control, the 25-watt mode, and the 4-button footswitch and you get a perfect amp… if you can afford it! In case you like Fender’s clean tone (but not only) and have the money, don’t hesitate and go for it!

Advantages:

  • Look and reliability
  • Available in black or blond finish
  • Two complementary clean channels
  • Crunch sound
  • Very effective lead channel
  • Notch Tune control that increases the possibilities greatly
  • Accutronics spring reverb
  • 100 or 25 watt selection
  • Perfect 4-button footswitch
  • Auto-bias
  • Damping control
  • FX loop

Drawbacks:

  • Rather expensive
  • Rather heavy

To read the full detailed review see:  Fender Super-sonic 100

September 28, 2010

Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15 Amp Head Review

We have recently seen the birth of some tube amp heads for electric guitars sporting a reduced size and weight, such as the Vox Night Train. This amp head format allows guitarists to enjoy their sound without breaking their back lugging gear to and fro. So now it is Mesa Boogie’s turn to launch its own portable version of a tube amp head, the Transatlantic. It’s up to us to test all of this and see if Mesa Boogie has succeeded …

Let’s Unpack

Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15

First thing we notice out of the box, the very small size of the machine: 12 3/8”W x 6 3/4”D x 5 7/8”H, weighing only 12 pounds.

A “carry on” is provided with the head, just to remind us that this is a transportable amp head format. There are pockets everywhere for storing goodies found at the bottom of the box:

  • A footswitch with a button (Channel ½)
  • An HP cable long enough (about 5 meters)
  • A conventional AC power outlet

The head has a retractable iron handle iron gives it a “Lunchbox” look.  This is not the best example for ergonomics in action, but it deserves to be there (after 45 minutes in the crowded subway, my hands longed for a plastic handle). The Design and the buttons “gas cooker” style provide an unusual looking product, a bit out of time, vintage, but at the same time utilizing modern materials such lots of metals.   Finishes are well cared for and we don’t notice any defects, the “Made in USA” has its effect.

Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15

The highlight of the show is when the head is turned on: a blue light emanates from the bowels of the beast to dazzle the eyes.   Question of taste, I think it looks a little Jacky-tuning, but this sensation disappears when the sound comes out of the speaker.  We would have liked the option to disable the effect of “Neon 205 GTI”…oh well!   Let’s forget this episode in bad taste (which may be felt only by me) and move on to the bowels of the head.

The Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15 is equipped with 4 preamp 12AX7 type tubes, and two EL84 type tubes for power amplification.  Patented technology provides three power modes for the amp section, selectable via switches on the front. In the 5 Watts mode, the head is working on a Class A tube power, 15 Watts mode, two tubes are used in Class A mode Push-Pull, while in 25 watts mode 2 tubes operate in Class A / B power .

Now let’s get to the settings …

Conclusion

It was a pleasure to test the Mesa Transatlantic amp head, once I passed the halo of blue neon light. We like the sound it delivers, rather vintage type, bluesy or rock, as one wishes.  However, we lament the lack of extreme sounds with gain galore for playing a proper palm mute. With all the little options that the amp front panel and independent channels offer, we come to find a pleasant sound very easily.  It can also be well used both during rehearsal, as well as in concert with 25 Watts and a footswitchable channel.  In short, if it did not cost the modest sum of about $900, the average guitarist would be in heaven and it would have been easier to swallow this pill.  Apart from that, the guitarists looking for a portable head with a distinctive sound, yet with many options, will be delighted!

Advantages:

  • Successful design
  • 2 Channels
  • Tweed Sound
  • Small size
  • Convenient carry bag
  • Quality Manufacturing
  • Palette of sounds through the front panel switches
  • Adequate power for rehearsals and acceptable to neighbors
  • Footswitch included

Drawbacks:

  • Neon Blue “Jacky tuning”
  • No FX loop
  • Push / pull for the master / cut
  • A bit expensive
  • No extreme sounds

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Mesa Boogie Transatlantic TA-15 Review

April 21, 2010

Jet City JCA20H Amp Review

When famous guitar amp developer Mike Soldano is leading a fully new brand of affordable tube amps it is hard not to pay attention. We tested the characterful and very affordable 20-watt amplifier head from Jet City.

Jet City JCA20HCompact tube amps are trendy right now. We’ve already had in our hands a large number of small combos with up to 5 watts of power, like the Fender Champion 600, and also compact, easy-to-use and affordable amplifier heads like the Orange Tiny Terror. Jet City plays in the latter category with its all-tube amps sold at prices terrorizing all competitors. Once you find out that Mike Soldano (from Soldano!), a guitar amplification guru since the 90’s, stands behind Jet City, your mind is set at ease regarding the quality of the products. Moreover, Jet City’s philosophy is simple: no bells and whistles, just the basics in order to offer high-quality gear conceived in Seattle and manufactured in China at a reasonable price. Actually, the 20-watt head on review here has a price tag of $330 and seems to have everything to seduce many guitar players…

Let’s start by unpacking the beast!

Soldano on Sale

Jet City JCA20HAs soon as we saw the compact amp’s controls, we were positively surprised by its blue and black design, typical of the brand. Instead of resorting to a backward-looking, vintage look, Jet City offers a straight, modern and tasteful amp. That’s something we can’t say about all amp manufacturers! The amp’s serious construction is based around a multiple wood cabinet, a 16-gauge, cold-rolled steel chassis and a very nice vinyl covering. The plastic handle facilitates transportation of the 21.3 lbs, 9x9x19.5″ head to your rehearsal room, a friend’s place or Spain (or even Norway!).

Under the hood you’ll find a preamp stage with three 12AX7 tubes and a power amp with a pair of EL84. Nothing but standard, tried and tested features: why change a winning team? The rectifier uses integrated circuitry, and the 20-watt power stage can match a 16 or 8 ohm speaker cabinet.

Now, let’s take a look at the front panel controls…

Conclusion

Jet City JCA20HJet City attacks – in the literal term of the word – the compact tube-amp market with a small, all-tube and characterful 20-watt head. The manufacturing and design quality are faultless, the Soldano-like sound is a delight and the price is just amazing. Add to that its brilliant and characteristic look and you get an amplifier head with moderate output power and no useless controls that, true, is somewhat limited (it has only one channel, no reverb or FX loop) but it can certainly do its thing pretty darn well. Finally, it has a rock spirit: plug and play and you’ve got the tone. For a first attempt, it’s a real masterwork!

Advantages:

  • Value for money
  • Soldano-like sound
  • Manufacturing quality
  • Conception
  • Very nice look

Disadvantage:

  • Only one channel

To read the full detailed article see:  Jet City JCA20H Review

March 2, 2010

[NAMM 2010] VHT Special 6 Guitar Amp Head

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