Many amp companies out there set out with a goal or vision, and that’s definitely the case with ZT Amps. They started out in 2008 with the goal of revolutionizing the small amplifier market. The result was a line of top quality, portable, compact amps that kick out a serious amount of sound. The ZT slogan says it all - "The Loudest Little Amps In The World".
The founder of ZT Amps is Ken Kantor. He has won more than a dozen different awards for design and engineering. After building amps for more than 30 years he is what you might call an acknowledged expert in the field.
ZT Amps may be a fairly new amp company, but they’ve already produced a number of different amps. The Lunchbox is one of their main designs. It comes in three varieties, the Lunchbox, Lunchbox Cab, and the Lunchbox Acoustic. This little amp weighs less than 10 pounds, but it has a peak output of 120 decibels. The same is true of the Club, a larger amp that expands on everything that makes the Lunchbox rock. Stay tuned as we will be featuring write-ups on the Club and the Lunchbox shortly.
Vox Amplifiers has introduced the TB35C1 and the TB35C2, two new amps created as part of their collaboration with top boutique amp maker Tony Bruno. Bruno is widely known for his unique and great sounding amps, of which he has personally hand-built more than a thousand of them. His amps have been ranked as some of the best in the world, so it’s no wonder the two he designed for Vox are getting great reviews. Bruno has been a friend to Vox for years, working with the company during the 90s on the AC30, the Night Train, and the Vox Custom Series.
In the past, Vox worked mainly on refining the British amp circuit, recreating that classic sound. However, the TB35C1 and C2 are distinctly American, something Bruno helped with. His hand-built prototypes captured the exact sound Vox wanted, and the final products are perfect for genres like country and blues. The two amps are designed to be user-friendly and include a number of different ways to customize your sound. These features include the Macho Switch, which boosts the mids and the gain. The Macro Switch aims at keeping the purity of your tone while giving your solos a little extra boost.
These two Vox/Bruno amps are all-tube amps and, besides the Macho Switch, also feature high quality reverb, a bass boost, and master volume bypass. They’re two great amps from a legendary amp designer and top quality amp company.
The Reason Amplifier Company was formed when two men, Obeid Kahn and Anthony Bonadio, realized they had the same dream. Bonadio had been thinking of building an amp, but he wanted it to stand out and be something different. There were just too many amps out there that were essentially clones of each other, and he didn’t want to build yet another one. Kahn, in the same town, had just built a circuit that was unique. The two soon met, and when they saw they were both working towards the same goal, they joined forces to create the Reason Amplifier Company.
Kahn had worked with the St. Louis Music Company for several years. There, he designed a number of tube amps for Crate and Ampeg, plus got experience running the business side of an amp company. He also built amps on the side, and he quickly gained a reputation for creating amazing products.
Bonadio, likewise, worked for a number of prestigious amp companies while chasing his dream of building his own amazing amp. He first based his own amp company out of his basement, but he always knew it would become something more.
Kahn’s circuit was similar to that of a multi-channel amp, but with several key differences. It is what powers Reason’s StackMode, which arranges two independent channels in a series, which allows for some real unique tone combinations.
We will feature the specific models in future articles, but for now you can hear a sampling in the videos below.
The Goldfinger 45 from Bogner Amplification is a powerful amp designed to bring out the range of textures possible with a 6V6 tube. It features two channels aimed at providing vintage voiced guitar sounds with the flexibility that all Bogner amps tend to have. For one, this amp can be scaled down from 45 to 30, 18, and 9 watts. At 45 watts the amp has plenty of clean headroom. The clean sound on this amp is really spectacular, which you can really hear in the 2nd demo video below. On the lower watt settings you get a nice warm breakup at lower volumes. The two channels are labeled as the Alpha channel and the Omega channel, and both feature a variety of switches and controls that let you tweak and dial in your own customized sound. The amp also features a number of pre and post effects loops to really make your sound your own. The post effects loop can be set up to work in series or in parallel.
The pre effects loop is something a little different. It is a tube buffered pre effects loop that, when not engaged, will give you only your guitar’s tone without going through any switches or relais. When it is engaged, you get a number of different effects, all easily controlled and customized.
The amp is available as a head, as a 1x12 combo, or as a 2x12 combo.
Looking for a powerful Plexi style boutique amp that is very, very flexible? You might have had a hard time finding one, but your search may now be over. The Blackstar Amps Artisan 100 watt amp imbues the boutique 100 watt amp design with a flexibility rarely seen in these types of amps. There’s a lot you can do with an Artisan 100. One of the features that gives this amp its versatility is the Voice control switch. This four-way switch gives you many of the tonal options that vintage high wattage amps originally had. However, you’re not just getting one 100 watt amp feature, you’re getting sounds that range from the earliest American amps all the way through the British 100 watt amps created during the 60s and 70s. How does this work? The switch changes the preamp voicing and power amp damping settings to create these different sounds.
In addition to the four-way Voice switch, the Artisan 100 also features hi and lo inputs, an impedance selector, volume I and volume II, bass, treble, and middle controls. This amp uses four EL34 output tubes for power. Each Artisan 100 is hand wired. In general the Artisan 100 does a decent job of capturing the spirit of an old Plexi and offers tonal flexibility that can be hard to find in an amp this powerful.
The Bad Cat line of amps is fairly diverse. The Bad Cat Cub II and the Cub II Reverb are small amps, but are perfect for a lot of situations . Bad Cat Amps are known for their clean, warm sound, but with the ability to get a nice array of overdriven tones too. One great feature of the Cub II is that it’s built very, very solidly. This amp was built to be a workhorse. It’s also compact and light-weight enough that you can stow it in the trunk or back seat when going to a gig and still have room for more.
The Cub II, which is powered by 15 watts, comes with or without reverb. It features one channel and two inputs. The amp features a volume, cut, reverb, and master volume. You’ll also find a five-way rotary tone switch or an interactive bass and treble control. The amp is powered by a 12AX7 tube in the pre-amp section and two EL84 amps for main power. The amp weighs 55 pounds and measures 24 inches long by 18.5 inches high by 10.75 inches deep.