Named for the famed Italian motorsports track, the Monza is a 1x10 combo that features the simple layout of one channel and a set of Drive, Tone, and Volume controls. The amp sports hand-wired circuitry that is neatly laid out on a glass-epoxy board, with the pots, jacks, and sockets for the entire complement of tubes mounted to the aluminum chassis. The birch-ply cabinet is clad in carefully applied red covering, which looks sweet with the white piping and brown/black basketweave grille.
Flipping the amp around, you can see the attenuator unit that is mounted on the side of the cabinet. Situated between the amp and the Eminence Red Fang 10" speaker, the optional Brake-Lite attenuator ($149 installed) reduces the amplifier’s output via its 5-position rotary switch. The amp has 4Ω and 8Ω speaker jacks, and the latter is used when connecting to the internal speaker.
What makes the Monza different from a lot of other amps is the way in which its controls are configured. In a typical setup, the Drive control would set the gain level and the Volume control would adjust the overall level. With the Monza, the Volume knob can be used independently of the Drive control, and you can get a lot of overdrive just by turning it up. With the Les Paul and PRS guitars, the multi-dimensional grind begins to assert itself as the Volume knob gets toward nine ’o clock, and it’s distortion city from there on. And here’s when the Drive control comes into play, as the lowend gets beefier and the saturation intensifies as you start turning it up. The Monza has lots of cutting power, and even with humbucker-equipped guitars I found myself keeping the Tone control at around eight ’o clock to elicit more buttery distortion sounds.
The cool thing about this amp is that its tones stay nice and tight at higher levels of overdrive, and the upfront presence, quick note attack, and muscular dynamics provide a feeling of playing something with much more power. And if you need more volume than the single 10 provides, running the Monza into a 2x12, 4x10, or a 4x12 cab will significantly enhance its loudness and sonic mass. (The Monza is also available as a head for $1,149 street).
Having an onboard attenuator is an unusual feature, but since the Monza has no “master” volume in the classic sense, and no means of lowering the wattage, the attenuator is very handy for keeping the loudness in check when using high Volume and Drive settings. That said, even in the most attenuated setting, the Monza is probably too loud for gained-out bedroom jamming. Dr. Z’s Mike Zaite obviously didn’t want to compromise the tones by building in too much attenuation, and the good thing is that you can use the lowest output setting without losing the Monza’s cool overdrive vibe. The Monza is a real ass kicker if you’re into the distortion side of things, and when you factor in the relatively low cost of this U.S.-made amp, it’s a compelling package for blues players and rockers who want portability and performance.
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