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This article was originally published in issue #60
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The poplar ply construction makes the whole package refreshingly light while providing a warm and deep resonance that belies the cabinet’s small size.
Warm, fat tones across a broad range of gain
For very aggressive tones, look elsewhere.
With a clean channel that delivers full, 3D tones reminiscent of classic American 1960’s and 70’s amplifiers and a lead channel that can be set from slight to very heavy distortion, the PRS Sonzera 20 is a 20-watt combo designed for maximum versatility and in the spirit of vintage amps that allowed you to control your tone instead of the amp being in control. Here is Nick Jennison to tell us more.
PRS have spent the last decade of so zoning in ever closer on their tonal identity. Much like Fender have built their brand around sparkling highs and chiming upper mids, PRS have forged their own sonic signature: namely lush, rich mids and a silky, extended treble without any ice-picky upper mids.
The Sonzera 20 embodies this tonal vision in a tidy and affordable package. It’s a small-format 1x12 combo touting two channels (clean and gain) with a pair of short-bottle 6L6es providing the power. The poplar ply construction makes the whole package refreshingly light while providing a warm and deep resonance that belies the cabinet’s small size. PRS describe it as a grab-and-go combo, and it fulfils this role very well indeed. It’s a one hand carry, takes up very little room (on-stage or in the boot of your car) and puts out a sound much bigger than it’s diminutive appearance would suggest.
The clean channel is a very simple affair with just volume, treble and bass controls. The core tone is very rich, with a plummy low midrange and just a little sparkle on the very top and a slight scoop in the upper midrange. This may feel a little unusual to players who are used to a more “forward” clean sound, although the upper reaches of the treble control will introduce some bite in this range.
Where this softer delivery really shines is with pedals. Overdrives, fuzzes and amp-in-a-box pedals all benefit from the smooth treble and gentle upper midrange scoop. This allows for a natural sounding high-end extension without sounding brash, harsh or spiky.
The gain channel is very similar in character to the clean channel, with a very pronounced low-mid vowel. There’s a very substantial amount of gain available, with a distinctly old-school American flavour - much more “hot-rodded tweed” than “modded Marshall”. As a result, the tone is fat and thick with a very “brown” texture, and the response is saggy and chewy. If you’re into tight, percussive gain you might not feel terribly at home here, but for fat, organic leads the Sonzera 20 is a dream. The “bright” switch introduces a dose of top-end sparkle that will help humbucker guitars stay defined as you wind the gain control up.
The global reverb and presence controls are great for tailoring your tone to whatever space you find yourself in, and while they don’t offer quite as much flexibility as the independent controls on the Sonzera 50, it’s a trade-off worth making for the sheer portability offered by the 20.
As a grab-and-go combo, the Sonzera 20 is just about perfect for a whole plethora of styles, and it’s loud enough for all but the biggest stages. If you’re looking for tight, percussive hard rock or metal tones you may want to look elsewhere, but for fat leads and warm, pedal-friendly cleans the Sonzera has you covered.
Built-in Reverb and Presence
Effects Loop: Series
Speaker: 12” Celestion V-Type