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This article was originally published in issue #27
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Randall Amplification is a long-standing and well-respected name in the world of Heavy Metal amplification, with artists including Dimebag Darrell, Scott Ian and Nuno Bettencourt all associated with the brand throughout significant portions of their careers. Whilst the company really made its name at the forefront of the development of solid state amplification, these days they’ve teamed up with renowned amp designer Mike Fortin to bring us several all-tube amplifiers including this one, the appropriately named Thrasher.
Having spent a good amount of time with this amplifier at the Guitar Interactive studios I can confidently state that it is definitely one of the leading amps available today for contemporary Metal-style players. A two channel amplifier, channel one is the main gain channel and it really sets a new standard of control over every element of the gain structure of the amp with no less than four (yes, four!) gain knobs. Aside from the main gain control, there are also separate low-frequency and high-frequency gain controls; the LF gain gives precise control of the bottom-end allowing the user to find the perfect balance between super-tight response and chunkiness. The HF gain adds additional treble to the gain section of the preamp to allow the player to find the right level of bite and clarity - when cranked full the highs are absolutely screaming without being overly harsh or painful.
As if this wasn’t enough control there is also a fourth gain knob which is activated by the foot switchable boost, adding more gain and compression to allow unreal levels of saturation for screaming lead tones. There’s yet more control over the exact placement of the tone within the sonic spectrum with the mid-shift switch which places a spike in the EQ of the amp in a lower or upper-mid frequency (or will create the famed metal ‘mid-scoop’ in the central position), and a superbly responsive 3-band EQ which really allows you to get specific over the details of the tone.
Channel two is an extremely flat-response clean channel, which is wide-open for sculpting your own sounds but can also be cranked with the gain to produce a pleasing old-school 1970's Rock crunch. It also features an independent 3-band EQ and another mid-shift switch as found on channel one. While I felt that this channel was more than adequate, I spent the vast majority of review time on channel one which I suspect will be closely mirrored by most users of this amp!
All of the sound is being slammed out of a 120 Watt power section that comes loaded with 6L6 power tubes; the amp does feature dual bias ports on the back so it’s possible to switch out tube types and mix up different matched pairs which means even more control over the final tone of the amp! It also features every imaginable combination of 4, 8 and 16 Ohm outputs, an emulated output for running the amp direct to front-of-house, a raw output for running the amp into your own speaker emulation and a series/parallel effects loop that has a spillover function. This means that delays and reverbs will naturally fade out after the loop is bypassed and is a highly musical feature that I wish more amps could incorporate.
All in all, this amp is absolutely stunning. The sheer versatility of the gain in Channel one is every extreme metal players dream; as an experienced player in this genre I immediately recognised the virtues of the mid-shift switch and extra gain controls which mean that you can turn up to a gig with this head and regardless of any conditions that might conspire against you (including borrowed cabs, strange room acoustics and over-enthusiastic drummers!) the Thrasher will allow you to easily dial in alterations to your sound to compensate. Most importantly, regardless of how you set it I found it to be almost impossible to get a bad Metal tone out of this amp. Considering the sheer quality of sounds available, I also feel the price of the Thrasher is extremely competitive.
In a market where many companies are focusing on versatility, Randall should be applauded for being unashamedly Metal. If you’re looking for something to play in a function band, a Pop group or a Jazz gig this is probably not the amp for you. However, if you’re looking for something to crush skulls and offend the moral majority with then there are very few amps out there that will get the job done as satisfyingly as the Randall Thrasher.