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This article was originally published in issue #40
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Taurus Amplification is a Polish company which has been innovating in the amplifier market for some years now, producing fully fledged amplifiers in a lightweight floor unit form factor, designed to sound and function just like a standard head or combo but at a truly portable size.
The Stomp Head 5 is the latest iteration of this concept and features a three channel design, each with independent EQ controls and a large number of tonal features that put most full-size amps to shame. The unit is surprisingly light in weight at 2.65kg and at only 330x205mm will fit on the average pedal board with ease. This small, but fully featured, all analogue amp gives you a 12ax7 pre-amp stage with Clean, Classic Lead and High Gain Lead channels matched to a 90W power stage running Taurus’ own Master Tube Design technology that allows for this level of power output in a small chassis. The power can be dropped to 40W for smaller venues or recording via the speaker outs or the included record out with Celestion Vintage 30 style speaker emulation built in. This line out can be run both with and without the speaker simulation simultaneously.
The Stomp Head 5 is laid out in a very intuitive fashion with a slew of controls that are very easy to use. The clean channel features Bass, Middle and Treble controls plus Gain and Volume for sparkly cleans up to light crunch tones. Also included are Bright and Mid-Range push switches for further tone shaping. The Classic and High Gain Lead channels each have Drive, Treble, Middle, Bass and Volume controls plus the same Mid-Range push switch and a three-way Dark to Bright switch for lots of tonal control. The master section contains a very effective Noise Gate (although the amp is very quiet in operation, even at higher gain settings), Boost and overall Master Volume control.
Five high quality footswitches select between each channel and operate the Boost and a Mute function, producing an amp that has a lot of controls but is very straightforward to use. Around the back you’ll find the usual speaker out with automatic selection for 4, 8 and 16 Ohms, the line out, serial effects loop, external control inputs for channel selection and boost switching plus a power (90W/40W) switch and a selectable +6dB input gain boost for low output guitars. The final switch selects between Normal channel operation and an extremely cool Mix mode where all three channels are mixed together at once for some unique sound options.
The build quality is superb, as it needs to be with an amplifier that lives primarily on the floor. The fully metal casing and chassis are pretty much bomb proof and feel like they’d survive some serious abuse on the road. The controls and switches are all very solid and well mounted, giving you the reassuring feeling that this thing is built to last and won’t fail in the middle of a gig. Channel switching is immediate and feels good with no pops or clicks and all the dials are very responsive with easy to read settings and a good range of motion for precise dialling of your tone.
Plugging into the Stomp Head 5 is a great experience. Starting with the clean channel plugged into out studio 4x12 cab loaded with Vintage 30s it was immediately apparent that this is a great sounding and feeling amp. The cleans are highly dynamic and responsive with access to super clean sparkly tones and edge of breakup loveliness to dark Jazz tones and light crunch tones all from this single channel. The bright and mid range switch are great for extra options making this a very versatile channel that gives a great impression of things to come with the Stomp Head’s other two channels.
Moving on to the Classic Lead channel you are presented with some lovely crunch and bluesy tones that are full of low end thump without getting muddy and retain all the dynamic response of the clean channel. The three-way bright/dark switch is superb for taming the highs or adding brightness to different guitars and the channel has a very usable amount of gain that never strays into the realms of fizziness at all. Channel three has an insane amount of gain available and definitely has much more of a footing in the modern, mid-scooped metal territory. Super thick saturated lead tones can be achieved here too by using the dark setting and even at the highest gain settings the Noise Gate wasn’t required. The Mix mode is a superb idea, offering all three channels together for developing some amazing tones where clean definition can be added to high gain tones with whatever channel mix you desire, adding even further weight to this amps already impressive tonal portfolio. All in all, the Stomp Head 5 is a fantastic sounding amp with a great feel and a huge range of tones on offer, covering almost every tonal base you could require.
Taurus has crafted a really superb solution here for a genuinely portable amplifier that can fit onto a pedal board without sacrificing features and tone. For a fully featured three channel amp the price is very attractive too, representing great value for this level of control, tone and build quality. Taurus has been producing the Stomp Head series for a while now but the Stomp Head 5 is easily the best amp the company has produced so far and is a seriously cool, professional product that deserves a lot of recognition. Superb!