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This article was originally published in issue #13
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So you thought solid state powered modelling amps were the only way to get a myriad different sounds from one amp? Bruce Egnater begs to differ. He reckons he can do it with tubes.
Never was there a better name for an amp! This combo is, just as the name suggests, a 'tweakers' dream, with many, many tonal options. It's a two channel design, sharing the basic bass, middle, and treble EQ, but each channel has four mini toggle switches to play with, consisting of normal-midcut, clean-hot, normal-bright and deep-tight settings. If I was good at maths, I could tell you how many voicing combination options that is, although there is no point in working it out, because there is a also a mini toggle next to the bass, mid, treble pots which voices the amp either 'Brit' (i.e. Marshall), 'USA' (i.e. Fender), or AC (i.e. Vox). So how many tone combinations is that? Well whatever figure you have now is still going to be wrong, because each channel master volume pot also has a mini toggle switch next to it that says 'Vintage-Modern'. If you can now work out the voicing options, you are wasted being a guitarist and should be teaching advanced maths at the local university!
So lots of options but options can easily put off a lot of guitarists. I can certainly sympathise with that. Part of me is very old school, believing that you just need one or two superb sounds from your amp, and all the colour and variation should come from your hands and your playing. The chances are that even though this amp can put out many variations on a theme, you will quickly find your favourite couple of sounds, and probably stick to them. Then again, if you need variation for different musical situations but can't afford a collection of guitars amps and pedals to cater for what might be required soundwise, then surely the options on this amp are a life saver. It is very capable of going from thrash metal to smooth Jazz - and probably more capably than a lot of players trying to do the same!
Inside, we have a pair of 6L6 power tubes and three 12ax7 pre-amp tubes making all the loud stuff, and it would certainly be loud enough for most grown-up musical engagements. It's a bit of a misconception that the tubes make the character of an amp's sound. It's actually more to do with how the EQ section is put together and the thinking behind it, that makes a Marshall all 'Marshally' and a Fender all 'Fendery'. Hence, Bruce Egnater can squeeze many different amp characteristics from a stock tube set up, due to what he is doing at the EQ stage.
To deliver all that tube goodness, the Egnater has a single Celestion derived 12" speaker on board, with the inclusion of an option to an external cab. It also has a switch for 4, 8 and 16 Ohms if you do decide to feed that other cab, which is a very nice touch. There is also a series effects loop, which is footswitchable in or out, as is the channel. It's nice to see a generous length of cable attached to the footswitch as well.
This amp takes pedals well and even the cheapest overdrive stomp box in-line will sound good when it comes to your big moment, because the core sound of the amp is nice, with a harmonically rich sound to build on. Both channels are put together exactly the same, but you would obviously voice them differently with the mini switches and the pre-amp gains. A good compressor in front of a chimey clean channel and fat crunch channel would also add a whole new dimension to the word 'Tweaking'!
However there was a slight issue with our sample, which I'm pretty sure must have been an individual fault. I detected an irritating intermittent jump in gain when I set the amp on its highest gain setting. A lot of the time it sounded crunchy rather than full gain, and when I wiggled the clean-hot mini switch on channel 2, it would suddenly jump in gain and volume amount, leading me to presume that the mini switch was faulty, but I'm guessing. There's no reason to assume this is anything other than a one-off problem but you might want to check it out in person.
In a perfect world, we'd all have a Marshall for when we want a Marshall sound and a Fender for when we want that - and so on. But this isn't a perfect world and as an extremely versatile, nice sounding amp, the Egnater Tweaker 40 certainly can cover many music genres well. Certainly for a purist, it's a better way of getting versatility than most of the transistorised, or even the hybrid, modelling amps out there and you would certainly be very hard pushed to get this many sounds out of any regular tube amp on the market.