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This article was originally published in issue #8
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Formed in 2008, the Californian company ZT Amplifiers claims that to have achieved a perfect balance of affordability, practicality and world class tone. Well, I can't help but be sceptical when a company makes claims like that, but, ever the optimist, I had my fingers crossed that they'd prove me wrong.
First things first, this combo is small. Make that very small. In fact, at first glance it's hard to believe that this tiny package is capable of making anything louder than bedroom levels, let alone the 200 Watts that it is purportedly able to push out. Well, we shall see.
Looking at the amp you'd also be forgiven for thinking that the 6 1/2" inch speaker is housed within a metal cabinet. It's actually made of MDF, with a silver high gloss finish to give it that metal look and I must say it does look like a very tidy package indeed! Measuring in at a tiny 7.9" x 9.8" x 4.4" (192mm x 250mm x 112mm) and weighing in at 9.5lbs/4.3kg, it is very unlikely to give you a hard time carrying it to and from a gig, as it really takes up very little space. You could stick it in a back pack with a few cables and you'd be ready to go!
Despite its diminutive dimensions, the Lunchbox is packed with lots of genuinely useful features. The amp offers four main controls: from left to right: Ambience, Tone, Volume and Gain. At the rear you find yet more goodies, including a voltage selector, a speaker output, so that you can hook it up to an extension cabinet, a headphone out with headphone volume control (which also doubles as a direct out for input straight into a P.A. or home recording set up), an auxiliary input, so that you can hook up your iPod or mp3 player to the amp for backing tracks and last - but definitely not least - a speaker mute switch which comes in very handy if you want to monitor your direct signal. This is a good range of facilities to find on any amp - let alone on one so diminutive - and suggests that ZT has gone right back to basics and asked itself what do players really need?
So what about the sound? Not expecting too much from such a tiny package? Let me tell you it isvery loud! As I said before, it's really hard to imagine such a big sound coming from such a small amp but believe me, it holds its own - and then some!
And then there's the sheer quality of ZT's sound. Our video demonstrates this to best effect, but starting out with all of the controls in a flat setting produced a superb tone which got me very excited to see what kind of territory I would find myself in with a little further exploration. The answer was that 'Tone' control gave me access to very punchy thick Jazzy type response, all the way right through to bright shimmering cleans and really twangy Country style lead tones, without ever sacrificing the quality. This is very impressive indeed!
Pushing the gain to max delivered a very raw, but classy, sounding crunch, perfect for Blues rhythm and soloing. I personally found it to be ideal with this setting, which I could then clean up via the guitar's volume control.
This amp takes pedals very well too, offering a lovely creamy saturated lead tone with the pedal that we popped in front of it. The 'Ambience' control when on full gives the sound of an open backed cabinet and while it's not a a replacement for reverb, it's great to have it there, just in case you feel the need for a bit more openness in your sound.
You just can't fail to be impressed by this little amp. In fact, it does it an injustice to keep referring to its size as that is really is no indication of what it is capable of.
If you're looking for a very sensibly priced, portable amp with huge volume and world class tone, the 'Lunchbox' may very well be the answer to your prayers. We were impressed. Very impressed.