Though I already played on valve amplifiers, I never owned one of these because it is rather incompatible with neighborhood, and city life in general. Especially when the neighbors are not that fan of music. Even my solid state Hugues & Kettner (Silver Edition 40 W) rarely has the possibility to be pushed out loud… Last time I did it scared the potential buyer for the flat next to mine. Yet, for a couple of years now I’ve started to be curious about the new trend in guitar amplification which is low wattage tube amps. Low watts but loud enough to overload grandma’s hearing aid device though!!
Disclaimer: This post is highly subjective, and it just does reflect my impressions about these amps while I was at Musikmesse without any technical consideration nor advice.
Well back to my point, I’ve started to look over low wattage tube amps, and I was kind of dubious about these. Especially, most 5W combos were not as adapted to my use as I would have think, and I was expecting a little bit more… Not a lot more just a little bit. And there came the low wattage stacked amps that have woken up the G.A.S. demon:
- Ibanez TSA-15H
- Vox Night Train
- Mesa Boogie Trans-Atlantic TA15
- Egnater Tweaker
Well, while I was at Musikmesse I had to check out these little monsters by myself. Let’s rule out the Vox Night Train just because it was not possible to try it at Vox booth (like most of the gear on display there). But I will probably check it out later in a shop because I’ve a heard a lot of positive feedback about it.
This amp was full of promise especially because it featured the famous Ibanez Tube Screamer circuit in it. So, no need to add an overdrive pedal as it is already built in the amp. I don’t know if it is because of the environment for testing at the Ibanez booth but I’ve been rather disappointed by this amp. Something about thickness in the sound was missing to me. I mentionned this on Twitter, and Peter of I Heart Guitar kinda felt the same about it, though he thinks that it could be revealing itself as a recording amplifier (to sum up his words). I would say it is something to check out further because an amp with a tube screamer OD couldn’t be bad…
Mesa Boogie TransAtlantic TA-15
The day I’ve tried the TransAtlantic was a crowdy day at Mesa Boogie… Yet I had the possibility to try it with a PRS guitar (don’t remember the model). As there were about 10 people waiting for any occasion to kick me off of the amp, it was rather impossible to check it in details. It has too many settings, and switches for different voicings to make it easy to try in a couple of minutes. My overall feeling about it is that it has a modern kind of tone which I like. But I’ve been rather disturbed by all the settings possibilities, and I might have missed many points about this amp. What I know for sure is that I would like to spend a couple of hours with this bad boy to check it further.
Well I don’t know if the Egnater booth environment (spacy, less crowdy), and the time spent on the Tweaker (about 20 minutes) had an impact on my feeling about this amp… But as a matter of fact the Egnater Tweaker is the amp that seduced me the most. I found it easier to check out the settings, and less disturbing than the Transatlantic (it has less switches too). The tones I’ve got from it either clean or lead are clearly fitting my expectations, and needs. I particularly liked the fact that is easy to generate harmonics with this amp. It also appeared to be the most versatile amp of the 3 I’ve looked over. I don’t think it is natively made for heavy distorted sounds but nothing prevents you to add a distortion pedal for such a purpose.
Here is a short video of the Tweaker… No shred, just a few chords strummed in clean and crunchier tones…
Searching on Youtube will allow you to find more vidz of the 3 bad boys.
If I were to buy one of these low wattage bad boys, I’ll definitely put my eggs in the Egnater Tweaker basket… As a matter of fact I think I have G.A.S. for the Tweaker. Dammit!