Having switched on, the little yellow control-panel
pilot comes up about 20 seconds later – there's no Standby. This amp
isn't the quietest we've tried: the background noise has an audible
50Hz content (perhaps, technically speaking, the result of induced
fields caused by the heater connection rails running parallel either
side of the valveholders). Oddly, it vanishes when the power's flipped
Without a footswitch the amp defaults to Channel 1, so in we go with the Strat and all controls set to halfway. The results are immediate – a huge bottom-rich sound at the limit of the amp's clean capacity. Pulling back to 3/10 volume calms things down, revealing a Vox-y top-boost character with similar interactivity on the tones, nice sustain and an enhanced middle register. Looking for that twangy attack on the bottom strings that defines the top-boost causes us to max the Treble control – but even then the sound is balanced towards the low end, with trebles of the silvery rather than steely kind. Advancing the volume has the Greenbacks blowing serious air, encouraging use of the Bass control.
The amp keeps its composure as it goes into saturation and beyond, but above a given loudness, the chassis – which is parked directly behind the speakers – starts to join in a bit. It's a trivial thing compared to the ambient mayhem that’s normal at levels like these.
The half-power switch gives a useful volume and headroom reduction but measures much less than 15W on the bench. This isn't discouraging, as apparent half-power is always much less than real half-power, which isn’t actually very noticeable. The full bass drops away and the amp sounds less open-voiced, but it’s not a bad imitation of a 10W amp.
Channel 2 offers a wide choice of tone and gain settings, but it seems there's a certain amount of duplication of function. For instance, Treble and Presence produce similar effects, as do Boost and Gain. Footswitching out the Boost calms a lot of the crunch/lead capability even with Gain maxed – they both need to be dialled in to get the channel cooking with a Strat. Channel 2 carried us through solo work decently enough with an SG, but the mix of clarity and well-defined crunch that characterises the market leaders in this area of amp tonality is not easily got by using this channel. It’s better to overdrive Channel 1 through the 15W setting, with volume limitations a possible issue if you want to use it live like this.