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This article was originally published in issue #57
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Power the MT15 up and the interior lights up like some kind of angry metallic demon. On the clean channel, the lights are a cool shade of blue; switch to lead and the lights switch to a menacing shade of red. It looks the absolute business.
Hundred-watt authority in a 15-watt package format
Absolutely bonkers amounts of gain
Clean boost isn’t footswitchable
No onboard reverb
6 x JJ ECC83S Preamp Tubes
2 x 6L6GC MS Power Tubes
PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti Signature Amp
MSRP £490 (UK) $649 (US)
Starting its life with heavier players in mind, but in the end, offering tons to players of all genres. Nick Jennison reviews the 6L6 powered, two-channel PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti Signature amplifier.
If there’s anyone out there who knows how a great high gain amp should sound, it’s Mark Tremonti. In case you didn’t know, Mark is a certified amp nut. Dual Rectifiers, Bogners, Two Rocks, Dumbles, Bludotones, Fender Twins: if it does beautiful cleans, brutal riffs or soaring leads, Mark Tremonti has probably bought it, recorded with it and toured with it in one of his famously enormous live rigs.
The new MT15 aims to offer all of that, but in a lunchbox-sized head and for less than a third of the price of just one of the hundred-watt monsters Mark tours with - never mind an entire multi-amp touring rig. The really crazy part is that it actually pulls it off.
Putting out a deceptively loud 15 watts of power from two 6L6es, and with a colossal five 12AX7s providing the gain, the MT15 is a total powerhouse of an amp. The blacker-than-black metal chassis is host to a control set that’s full-featured without being overly complicated. Each of the two channels has it’s own three-band EQ, along with a volume for the clean channel, gain and master for the lead channel and a master presence control. Channel switching can be accessed from the switch in the front panel or using the rear-mounted footswitch jack.
…And that’s where the fun begins. Power the MT15 up and the interior lights up like some kind of angry metallic demon. On the clean channel, the lights are a cool shade of blue; switch to lead and the lights switch to a menacing shade of red. It looks the absolute business.
Of course, the looks are pretty inconsequential if the sound isn’t right. This is where the MT15 really shines. The clean channel is very, very clean, with a finely judged balance of body and sparkle. The character is distinctly American, with a fairly scooped midrange that reveals a chiming high mid presence and rounded bass - reminiscent of the PRS Archon, or Mark’s go-to clean amp, a Fender Twin. Left un-boosted, it’s pretty hard to make this channel break up - the volume gets pretty unbearable before the onset of distortion. Pull the treble control, however, and everything shifts. The boost introduces a more forward midrange and a crackly breakup, along with a significant volume increase. The effect is subtle, but it’s nice to have an alternative option if you like a bit more hair on your cleans.
The dirty channel is surely the main attraction here though, and oh my does it deliver. Even with all the controls set to noon, the sound is a roaring wall of overdriven ferocity. There’s a growl in, snarling quality to the midrange, but the highs are smooth and extended. Paul Reed Smith is noted for his disdain for “ice-pick treble”, and there’s none of that here. Plenty of articulation and clarity, certainly, but not a trace of abrasiveness - even in the higher range of the treble and presence controls. And of course, there is an utterly absurd amount of gain.
An area where many low-wattage, high gain amps fall down is the low end. The EL84s and 6V6es usually found in such amps have an inherently less low-end extension than their big-bottle cousins, so often it’s necessary to compensate elsewhere in the signal chain. The issue with this isn’t how much of low end available, so much as how compressed the lows are. Too much compression and things become bloated and slow. The MT15, with its 6L6 power section, shines in this department. The bass is huge and percussive, with a tight response on palm mutes and rapid picking, and it stays this way even up to ear-splitting volumes. For an amp this size, it’s a seriously impressive feat.
The MT15 is a very serious bit of kit. The cleans are sparkling and rich, the gain is totally outrageous, and it sounds as big as an amp five times its wattage - and it’s price! Like Mark’s signature PRS guitar, I expect this amp will prove very popular indeed.