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This article was originally published in issue #12
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Hayden may be a relatively new name to the guitar amp scene but it comes from the long established Ashdown bass amp company. So how does it stack up, we asked? Michael Casswell ignored the pun and got on with his review.
Have you have heard of Ashdown bass gear? Good, because Hayden is the guitar amp brand from the same stable, based in the county of Essex in the UK. Here we have the HGT A20 head, boasting three channels and delivering 20 Watts, which is switchable down to three Watts via the back panel, making it versatile enough for studio use, sensible gig volume and home practice. By yourself in a room, 20 Watts is always deafening but the big test for amp power is putting it in a band situation next to a drummer, and if that's where you plan to use your amp, you might want to consider the 40 Watt version of this head, not surprisingly called the HGT A40! It's not that this amp is quiet - just that drummers are loud and any 20 Watt amp would struggle!
Plugging into the tasteful looking head, we find three channels: Clean, Crunch, and Full Gain, all switchable via the supplied footswitch, and powered courtesy of three ECC83 pre-amp valves, and two EL84 output valves - the classic arrangement. The clean channel has its own independent bass, mid and treble EQ, and can go from super clean to a nice bluesy break up, which would benefit even more with the right compressor and overdrive pedal in front to help things along. Channels two and three both share the same EQ and are where you will find some nice crunch and hi gain tones, great for full bodied Rock sounds as well as high gain solos. Again, you could easily expand these channels with the right choice of stomp box in front of the input and this is a very attractive proposition as this amp takes pedals well, as a good valve amp should.
You also get a contour control pot, that works on channels two and three, which you can treat as an extra flavour to dial in to your EQ settings. I guess they are wanting the contour control to give what we consider a more 'British' sound or a more 'American' type voicing, which it sort of does, but in my book, you just find where it sounds fattest and warmest and then leave it! But it is a nice little feature to fine tune your sound.
The Hayden also benefits from a nicely voiced onboard digital reverb, which sounds somewhere between a spring and plate in its character. It's very usable, and dialling it in to feel it, rather than hear it, adds some nice air around the sound. Around the back we have a series effects loop, two speaker emulated outs (one that mutes the amp and cab once employed) and comprehensive speaker out options.
Our Hayden head was supplied with the matching 2x12 Hayden cab, which seemed to get the job done. It's nicely made, features a pair of 'Hayden Custom' speakers (we've no idea what these are, but they seemed OK) and the only comment I'd make is that I, personally, thought the logo on the front seems a bit large. But that's just my opinion!
In use, the HGT A20 seems to be nicely voiced on the dirtier tones, which give a sort of bark in the mid-range, where the best guitar tones lurk. Channel three was a little hissy, I felt, but it is the hi gain channel, and a certain amount of noise is to be expected.
Hayden is still a relatively new name on the amp scene and has to compete against some of the longer established brands for customers, so, as you can see in our Tech Spec file, it has been priced to tempt. The company behind the brand, Ashdown, is a major force in the bass amplification market, and has the resources to design and support the Hayden offshoot, so we will watch with real interest to see how it develops.
In all, this is a versatile and very nice sounding 20 Watt head, which also comes in a 1x12 combo form, or as a more powerful 40 Watt head with a 1x12 combo version. Before spending your money on the more obvious brands, I would suggest you hunt down a Hayden amp to try as a comparison. It certainly deserves to be on your audition list.