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Review: Demeter TGA 2.1 Inverter

July 7, 2014
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Rooted in Demeter’s feature-packed legacy TGA-3 amplifier (still available by special order from the Demeter Custom Shop), the TGA 2.1 goes for a simplified and more streamlined design than its predecessor. It’s a handsome amp, with classic lines, a vintage-style woven speaker grille with white piping, and a slightly angled front panel for increased upward sound dispersion. The classy ribbed knobs, too, contribute to the amp’s retro-modern design, and the rugged handle is comfortable and solidly attached, which is a good thing given that this 1x12 combo weighs a substantial 51 pounds. Inside, the handwired amp is also a thing of beauty, with all components and wiring organized neatly and all workmanship well executed.

As detailed on Demeter’s website, the TGA 2.1 may be ordered in several configurations (22 to 110 watts, class A or AB, various tube complements, with or without a toroidal power transformer, etc.) and is available as either a 1x12 or 2x10 combo, or as a head. The 1x12 combo reviewed here produces 22 watts via a pair of JJ 6V6 power tubes, with four 12AX7s—three Mullard and one Electro-Harmonix—in the preamp section, along with a Triode TF110-48UL Deluxe Style Ultra-Linear output transformer and a ClassicTone 40-18066 power transformer.

The TGA 2.1 is a 2-channel amp, with two variations on the second channel, resulting in three options: Clean, Edge, and Solo—but these are only general designations. For example, cranking the Clean Gain control on the Clean channel results in impressive Fender Deluxe-like overdriven sounds (and pulling the control knob up for Bright provides additional bite). The Edge setting was designed to deliver brighter and higher-gain overdriven sounds, a little like a pumped-up ’60s-era Marshall, and the Solo setting increases the gain yet further, while adding overall girth. The amp comes with an FS-2 Dual Footswitch for toggling between Clean/Dirty and Edge/Lead (but don’t break or lose it, as a replacement will set you back $149).

Switches on the Edge Gain (pull/Boost), Solo Gain (pull/Dark), and Channel 2 Master (pull/Boost, with midrange emphasis) controls present even more gain-staging and tone-coloration options, and although the Treble, Middle, Bass, and Presence controls are global, personally I didn’t find that to be a significant limitation. (Note: according to Demeter the tone controls are boost/cut, with the center position being essentially flat).

There is also a Triode/Pentode switch on the rear panel that decreases the power by 50 percent, as well as altering the amp’s overall character and responsiveness, and a tube-buffered effects loop, with front-panel Send and Return controls. A Voltage Selector enables the TGA 2.1 to run on either 110 or 240V, to facilitate globetrotting users, and there’s a choice of 4Ω, 8Ω, and 16Ω speaker outputs. Conspicuously absent is an onboard spring reverb, which is ironic given that Demeter makes two of the best standalone spring reverb units available.

I tested the TGA 2.1 with several guitars, including a PRS Custom 24 Brazilian, a 1969 Gibson Les Paul Custom, a ’70s Fender Stratocaster, and a Danelectro 59 Alligator with lipstick pickups. In general, I preferred the bolder tones I got with the humbucker-equipped guitars, though the Strat and Dano sounds were also superb, particularly the clean and slightly overdriven ones. The amp’s four tone controls are beautifully voiced, with wide ranges, and they were definitely useful when sculpting tones for specific purposes or compensating for the room generally—but after several hours of experimentation I wound up leaving them more or less straight up, which worked well for all three settings.

In other words, I was able to dial in all the variations I needed—from gorgeous, full-bodied clean tones to vibey crunch and overdriven sounds to searing, super-saturated, over-the-top distortion—just by adjusting the gain staging, engaging the Bright switch on the Clean channel, and toggling between Triode and Pentode operation. Classic and modern rock, blues, country, jazz—you name it, the TGA 2.1 can handle it. And when pushing a 4x12 cab, the amp even does a respectable job of bringing the metal fury. The TGA 2.1 is also pedal friendly, particularly when run clean. Hit it with a little boost and it saturates smoothly without losing definition; blast it with an overdrive or a nasty fuzzbox, and it maintains its sonic integrity.

The TGA 2.1 delivers a huge array of spectacular sounds, features well-designed and easy to use controls, and despite its boutique qualifications, its solid construction should make it highly roadworthy. That’s why it earns an Editors’ Pick Award.

MODEL

TGA 2.1 INVERTER
CONTACT demeteramps.com
PRICE $2,599 retail/$2,099 direct

SPECIFICATIONS

SPEAKER 12" Jensen Jet Special Edition
POWER 22 watts
CONTROLS Channel 1: Clean Gain (pull/ Bright), Master; Channel 2: Edge Gain (pull/Boost), Solo Gain (pull/Dark), Master (pull/Boost); Treble, Middle, Bass, Presence, Send, Return.
TUBES 2 6V6 power, 4 12AX7 preamp
EXTRAS Triode/Pentode switch
WEIGHT 51 lbs
BUILT U.S.A.
KUDOS Excellent sound and workmanship. Diverse tonecrafting capabilities. Solid construction.
CONCERNS No onboard reverb.

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