Every tube-amp designer makes a series
of crucial choices in the course of blueprinting a
new circuit: Will the first gain stage be tight or
loose, hot or clean, bright or normal? Will the tone
stack be voiced toward Fender, Vox, or Marshall?
Will the output stage be vintage-style or contemporary?
With Egnater’s new Tweaker-88 head—the
flagship of a series that also includes the 15-watt
Tweaker and Tweaker-40—several of the most significant
design choices are replaced by switches
with either/or selections behind them, with the
result that you essentially become the “designer”
of the amp you play.
For vital statistics, the Tweaker-88 boasts 88 watts
from a pair of mighty KT88 output tubes (the same
type used in the 200-watt Marshall Major) in class
AB, fixed bias, with four 12AX7 tubes for preamp,
effects loop, and phase-inverter duties. The amp has
Rhythm and Lead channels (selectable via frontpanel
switch or by footswitch) and a shared threeknob
EQ, but there’s also a footswitchable Boost
mode for each channel that essentially gives you
four different gain/volume/tone options. The buffered
effects loop with line/instrument level switch
can also be switched in and out from Egnater’s fourbutton
For all this, though, the Tweaker-88’s front panel
carries only nine controls in addition to the 13
Tweaker switches, presenting a relatively straightforward
user interface for such a flexible amp. Each
channel starts with its own Gain control, with four
switches on each to select between Tight/Deep,
Bright/Normal, Hot/Clean, and Mid Cut/Normal.
The tone stack with Bass, Middle, and Treble controls
has a 3-way switch for USA/AC/Brit (read
“Fender/Vox/Marshall”), and each of the independent
Master volume controls has a Vintage/Modern
switch attached. Finally, each Boost section has its
own Level control and a Clean/Gain switch. For all
the tweakability, any great voice you locate here is
easily repeatable with the flick of a few switches,
and arguably less easily lost than those dialed in by
the myriad controls that many other “all-in-one”
amps often carry. On top of all this, Egnater has
squeezed everything into an impressively compact
package that measures 23e" x 8q" x 8q".
Under the hood, the Tweaker-88 presents a sturdy
example of offshore tube-amp manufacturing. All
circuitry is laid out on a series of printed circuit
boards (PCBs), using consumer-grade components
for the most part. The transformers are chunky
affairs, the filter caps are large and of good quality,
and the sockets for the KT88s are anchored to the
chassis for greater dependability. A fan mounted to
the inside of the back panel helps keep those large
bottles cool, thereby extending their life.
The accompanying Egnater Tweaker 212X
speaker cab carries two custom-designed Celestion
Elite GH-50 12" speakers. Designed specifically
to meet Egnater’s requirements, these units
reportedly offer the tone of the popular G12H-30,
but with a 50-watt power-handling capability. The
cabinet itself is constructed of void-free birch plywood,
with a partially open back.
Tested with a Gibson Les Paul and a Fano Alt
de Facto SP6 with a T-style bridge pickup and a
P-90 in the neck, I found the Tweaker-88 head
and cab to be an impressive rig right off the bat.
There are too many possible combinations of
tones here, depending on Tweaker-switch settings,
to detail them all, but each flick of a mini-toggle
revealed a worthy and very usable tone. The outward
impression might be that the Tweaker-88 is
predisposed toward high-gain, modded-Marshall
style lead tones, but I found the clean and
clean-with-bite tones in its Rhythm channel
to be among the most pleasing of any
PCB-constructed channel-switching amp
that I have played in recent memory, and
usable for any conceivable genre and style
As for the high-gain tones themselves,
though, there is sizzling wail and grind to
die for here, with convincing impressions
of everything from classic Brit-rock stacks
to hot-rodded California shred machines
available according to switch, gain, and
EQ settings. The Tweaker-88’s core tonality
remains strong and true throughout
settings changes, with good clarity and
dynamics, too, and the KT88s yield tasty
EL34-like crunch when desired, as well as
bolder, tighter voices when you need them.
And while 88 watts sounds like overkill in
many gig and studio settings these days,
the master volumes on both channels are
great at reining in levels without depleting
the body of the tone—so much so that you
could make a strong argument for choosing
the Tweaker-88 for the strength of its
bonus features and flexibility, even if your
average playing situation is more suited to
power in the range of the original 15-watt
When you need that power on the big
stage, though, those fat KT88s can pump it
out in grand style, and the 212X cab seems
more than capable of handling it all, sounding
great in the process. Add to all of this
the performance flexibility of the boost
modes, a transparent sounding footswitchable
effects loop, and an extremely reasonable
price, and this powerhouse tube amp
earns an Editors’ Pick Award.
CONTACT Egnater Amplification, 877-EGNATER; egnater.com
PRICE $1,299 retail/$899 street
CONTROLS Lead Gain, Rhythm Gain; Bass, Middle, Treble; Lead Master, Rhythm Master;
Rhythm Boost, Lead Boost; 13 mini-toggle Tweaker switches
POWER 88 watts
TUBES Four 12AX7 preamp tubes, two KT88 output tubes
EXTRAS Buffered effects loop. Dual speaker outs with 4/8/16Ω impedance switch. Cooling
fan. Four-button footswitch included.
SPEAKERS Tested with an Egnater Tweaker 212X speaker cab with two Celestion Elite GH-50
speakers ($429 street).
WEIGHT Head 32 lbs, speaker cabinet 42 lbs
KUDOS Stunning flexibility. Great tones throughout its range. Very compact for its power.
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