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This article was originally published in issue #63
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In the 7-watt mode with the preamp set to “Hi”, we were able to crank it up for some glorious crunch that put me immediately in mind of Keef’s raunchier moments.
The sweetest clean and crunch tones delivered with unbelievable punch.
Lots of clever tonal tweaking options.
Beautiful reverb and tremolo.
Gain freaks will need a pedal or two.
Output Power Modes: 60w / 20w / 7w
Built-in Reverb and Tremolo
Dimensions: 54w x 30h x 26d cm
Nick Jennison reviews the latest release from Hamstead Soundworks, one of the UK’s finest builders of guitar amplifiers and effects pedals. Adding to their highly successful Artist Series of guitar amplifiers comes the Artist 60+RT. This new design takes the brand's sonic concepts to the next level with power, dynamic range, versatility and clean headroom, while retaining all the essential characteristics that the Artist Series amplifiers are renowned for.
The term “pedal platform” is rather overused these days - and I’d argue, rather misunderstood. Many players think of a super-clean, high headroom amp with comparatively little of its own character, but that’s not always the best fit for your pedals. What really makes a great pedal plat-form amp is the ability to tailor the breakup and attack characteristics to suit your favourite dirt boxes.
The Hamstead Artist 20 achieved this wonderfully - it’s full of delicious vintage-inspired character and chime, but it’s open and forceful enough to project in a band mix. The Artist 60 is more of the same - literally! The 60-watt power section delivers the same dynamic and punchy response of the 20, but it can achieve significantly higher volumes before it starts to compress. For those of us with loud drummers in our lives, this is just the ticket.
The Artist 60 takes inspiration from the very first AC30s, in that it runs a pair of cathode biased EL34s in the power stage. The family resemblance is very evident in the immediacy of the attack, but there are none of the “holes” you’d expect to hear in an AC30’s voice. The lows are similarly “tucked”, but the mids are smoother and more even across the frequency spectrum, making the artist significantly more friendly for a variety of pedals. Indeed, everything we threw at it sounded fabulous, from honky boosts to filthy scooped fuzzes. The “voice” control adds another level of tonal tweakery, with a variable midrange boost that flatters scoopier, muff-style fuzzes and also doubles as a very musical sounding solo boost. There’s also a three position bright switch, which is a very welcome feature. On many vintage amps, I find the bright switch to be too brash when it’s engaged, but too wooly when it’s off, so having some middle ground is very welcome, espe-cially when working with gain pedals.
As much as spectacular as the high-headroom cleans are, dropping the wattage turns the Artist 60 into an altogether different animal. In the 7-watt mode with the preamp set to “Hi”, we were able to crank it up for some glorious crunch that put me immediately in mind of Keef’s raunchier moments. Throwing on the “voice” switch, the extra high mid poke evoked shades of Brian May’s early work. Boosting this configuration with an overdrive pedal yielded some seriously chewy lead tones that had me grinning from ear to ear.
The “+RT” tag refers to the Signature reverb and tremolo circuits sported by both the 20 and 60-watt models in the Artist range, and my word what a welcome addition these features are. The tremolo is as smooth and musical as any I’ve come across, and the reverb sports something I wish more amps would include - a tone control. With the addition of this one simple feature, we were able to conjure dark washes of ambience, surf-approved splash and so much in between. There’s also a switch to select the position of the reverb and tremolo in the signal chain - reverb into tremolo for true vintage authenticity, tremolo into reverb for a smoother and a more lush delivery.
To make things even more appealing for the pedal-heads out there, the preamp gain, voice, reverb and tremolo are all footswitchable, and can be controlled by any pedal switcher with external switching capabilities (such as an ES-8 or a GigRig G2), meaning you can tailor the amp’s response and tone to match every pedal on your board.
The Hamstead Artist 60+RT is a seriously impressive amplifier. It speaks like an idealised version of a vintage combo, but the heavy aluminium chassis and beautiful wiring are more Aston Marin than AC30. If you’re looking for the classiest tones delivered with severe authority, look no further.